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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 01/15/2011

TUCSON TRAGEDY: O'Reilly asks: Is Nate Beeler a pinhead or a patriot?

By Michael Cavna

Since last weekend's tragic shooting in Tucson, two polarizing cartoons have particularly stirred debate: One by NYT-syndicated Jeff Danziger, another by the Washington Examiner's Nate Beeler. On Tuesday, Comic Riffs interviewed both cartoonists about their work in response to the Arizona rampage.

Beeler's cartoon, notably, was a response to all those -- especially some editorial cartoonists -- who he believes would, with full intellectual dishonesty, spin the tragedy into a partisan event. As Beeler told us: ""They exploited these nonpolitical murders to create vitriolic partisan cartoons denouncing vitriolic partisanship. As keepers of the public trust, cartoonists should be smarter than that."

Some readers objected to Beeler's depicting the shooting victims to make his point, especially a small figure that the reader can interpret to be 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

What Beeler surely wanted readers to understand was the undiluted power of his point: It is outrageously heinous that pundits assign partisan blame and seek political gain from the "carnage." By depicting the victims, he wants us to share his moral outrage.

Objecting to its visceral power, it seems to me, is to deny the force of its very message.

Now, Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly is asking his viewers whether Beeler drew his cartoon too soon after the tragedy. In other words, is he "a pinhead or a patriot"?

No matter their responses, positive or negative, readers must rightfully understand Beeler's cartoon within its larger context -- as a response to a response. To not interpret it in context is to take the pinhead's approach.

By Michael Cavna  | January 15, 2011; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  Bill O'Reilly, Jeff Danziger, Nate Beeler  
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There is no denying the visceral impact of Mr. Beeler's cartoon. I had similar concerns and discussed them with friends in a less graphic nature. Certainly, other rational Americans have been doing the same. The question is, How appropriate was his illustration?

One could argue that Fred Phelps was expressing his own form of outrage by announcing that Westboro Church would picket young Christina's funeral. Thankfully, he chose not to act on that threat (and yes, I understand that he succeeded -- once again -- in rankling public ire).

My point, to quote a friend in Tucson reacting to Phelps' initial decision, is, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Posted by: dtdbiz | January 16, 2011 10:47 PM | Report abuse

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