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Cartoonist Receives Death Threats Over "Learn to Speak Teabag"

by Mark Fiore

Cartoonist Mark Fiore writing on on his blog:

The death threats keep coming this fine morning.  I guess the Tea Party crew is determined to have "death panels" one way or another.  The dustup started because of this cartoon:


"Learn to Speak Tea Bag" ran on my usual client sites, including NPR, which really set off the guys over here, here (note Condi giving child flowers down by "donate" button), here, here and here.  Before you could say, "due to a pre-existing condition, your health coverage has been denied," there was a full-fledged viral campaign by right-wing media outlets and blogs to jump, scream and shout about this animation.  Which, to me, is just great!

I say that not because I get some thrill out of receiving emails that are in all capital letters or have more exclamation points than letters in the alphabet, I say that because one of the most important functions of a political cartoon, or political animation, is to foster a discussion.  With thousands of comments posted, loads of emails and tweets, discussion was definitely fostered, and then some.  It's the "then some" that worries me.

Of course discussion on the web is not known for its civility, but it finally dawned on me the strangeness of receiving death threats at the same time a crazed Somali extremist tried to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Muslim extremist, meet Tea Party extremist.  Tea Party extremist, meet Muslim extremist.

That is not to say all people who associate with the Tea Party movement are killers, just as not all Muslims from Somalia are killers.  I have very good friends from Somalia, and I have wonderful relatives in Idaho who are pro-gun, anti-government conservatives. 

People in this world, my dear Tea Baggers, are not always categorized into easy boxes of Left vs. Right, Socialist vs. Patriot. 

As a matter of fact, I myself am a left-leaning, pro-gay-marriage San Franciscan, Catholic, anti-Bush, anti-Nader guy who guts his own fish, has cut down trees with a chain saw and took political science classes with Mary Cheney.  Is your head imploding yet?

Surprisingly, one of the aspects of the animation that seems to really enrage the Tea Party set is the term "Tea Bag."  Their claim is that the cartoon uses "bag" instead of "party" in order to take a cheap sexual shot at the Tea Party patriots. You can do your own research on the alternative meaning of "tea bag," I won't link to anything here.  Oh, except maybe I should link to some Tea Whatever sites that use the very term that appalls them so.  Here a bag, there a bag, everywhere a bag bag!  (Too bad the sexual angle eliminates any discussion of why the Tea Party crew thinks attempting to reform a disastrous health care system amounts to Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, etc.)

Another aspect of the rabid criticism is that NPR, an organization living high on the hog thanks to the mother's milk of government (animal metaphors, all around!), should not be funding my anti-Tea Bagger cartoons with taxpayer money.  But alas, NPR does most of its villainous work using sponsorship, pledge drives and good ol' fashioned Capitalism!  According to the NPR site, a tiny one to two percent of their yearly funding comes via grants from crazed Socialist organizations like the National Science Foundation, CPB and (gasp!) the NEA.  After all is said and done, the amount of taxpayer money that changed hands because NPR posted "Learn to Speak Tea Bag" was about, um . . . two-dollars and twenty-five cents.  If you want to dig deeper into NPR's financial statements, they are publicly available here.

If that sort of taxpayer funding bothers you, you definitely should avoid any taxpayer-funded city streets, return your government-sponsored digital converter box and avoid doing business with any bank that owes its existence to a taxpayer bailout.

To all of you who have written emails and comments, I really wish I could respond to every one of you.  I truly appreciate your taking the time to write, even if we may be on different sides of the political fence.  If there is one thing that my politically mixed San Francisco/Idaho background has taught me, it is benefit of continuing a discussion even if you don't agree.  Too often these days, the Left and the Right immediately shut down if you are deemed to be from the opposing camp.  Here's to good discussion even if we don't agree.

Now please don't kill me :-)

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