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Posted at 6:30 PM ET, 01/11/2011

TUCSON TRAGEDY: Cartoonists diverge on whether to go partisan

By Michael Cavna

azbeeler.jpg (Image: courtesy of Nate Beeler)

Washington Examiner editorial cartoonist NATE BEELER can abide his colleagues using the Tucson shooting to make a political point. What repulses him, however, is what he views as willfully misconstruing the facts to turn the tragedy partisan.

"I watched as some of my cartooning compatriots callously ignored the facts and used this tragedy to make political attacks," Beeler tells Comic Riffs via e-mail. "It might be acceptable to use the facts of an incident like this to make a strong point on politics or policy, but that's not what happened. These cartoonists shirked their duty to readers."

In these polarizing times, some cartoonists reacted to the shooting of Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, especially, by immediately taking up sides.across the political aisle.

"They exploited these nonpolitical murders to create vitriolic partisan cartoons denouncing vitriolic partisanship," Beeler says. "As keepers of the public trust, cartoonists should be smarter than that."

In Beeler's view, some of his cartooning colleagues were just as guilty as many pundits and televised shouting heads of turning up the Sterno flame on heated partisan rhetoric -- this as shooting suspect Jared Loughner reportedly had no singular ties to the political left or the right.

"By every account I've read, the gunman, who experts say is likely schizophrenic, acted alone and without a coherent political agenda," Beeler says. "And yet, cartoonists whose intellects I've always respected chose to implicate political movements or figures in the killings."

Concludes Beeler: "By ignoring this fact, these cartoonists exhibited willful blindness and intellectual laziness."

azstein.gif (Image: courtesy of Ed Stein)

Veteran cartoonist ED STEIN, whose cartoons are carried by United Feature Syndicate, says he's curious to see how his artistic peers respond as the facts continue to come to the fore.

"As far as my colleagues, most of the work I've seen was what you'd expect right after an event like this: expressions of horror and sadness," Stein tells Comic Riffs. "Some cartoonists, however, jumped right into the partisan fray, accusing the left of politicizing a tragedy. Others went right after Sarah Palin and Fox News. I think those were premature at best, and did nothing to calm the polarizing debate."

"I'll be interested to see how many of us back off of the partisanship and look for some common ground. ... We all want the other guy to search his soul."

Dozens of Post readers were particularly inflamed by a JEFF DANZIGER cartoon that was part of a "Drawing Board" collection of Tucson tragedy illustrations.. In response to the tragedy, Danziger -- who is syndicated by NYTimes Worldwide -- drew a shooter pulling the trigger from within a teapot, metaphorically tying the Arizona crimes to the Tea Party movement. (The Post says the gallery, while spotlighting the reactions of cartoonists, does not imply endorsement of any of the cartoons.)

Danziger tells Comic Riffs he stands by his partisan cartoon.

The shooting suspect "wasn't a member of the Tea Party ... ," Danziger says, "but I think the point still is, the Tea Party's influence is larger and there's political pressure to take a violent stance toward big government."

"It's that kind of thoughtless approach," the veteran cartoonist continues, "that affects some nutcase like this -- this psychopath, this sociopath. In a place like Arizona, where everyone's gunned up to the nostrils, the Tea Party influence is still there."

Beeler is not a Tea Party supporter, either, but he has a very different take on invoking the movement in a Tucson cartoon.

"Now, I'm not a member of the Tea Party ... ," Beeler says. "I'm a journalist who makes a living drawing his opinions. What that means is I need to be rigorous in my research of all sides of an issue before reaching a conclusion -- knee-jerk is the last thing I should be.

"With this tragedy," he continues, "we can have a discussion about guns or mental- health services. We can always talk about civility in politics, as I believe that's a virtue. But trying to pin these six senseless murders on political enemies is a shameful act and a dereliction of duty."

GALLERY: The nation's cartoonists react to the Tucson shooting

TUCSON TRAGEDY: Arizona cartoonist apologizes for remarks on CNN

By Michael Cavna  | January 11, 2011; 6:30 PM ET
Categories:  The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  Ed Stein, Jeff Danziger, Nate Beeler, Tucson tragedy  
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Mr. Beeler makes a valid point with his cartoon but I find the graphic nature of the illustration exploitive and distasteful, particularly what appears to be a young girl in the foreground. Surely he could have come up with a less literal and more creative depiction than this.

Posted by: dtdbiz | January 12, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing the cartoons! I was compelled to create a visual commentary of her political rhetoric myself and on my artist's blog at Drop by and let me know what you think.

Posted by: dregstudios | January 12, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

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