Cartoonist Receives Death Threats Over "Learn to Speak Teabag"

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
, which really set off the guys over here, here
(note Condi giving child flowers down by "donate" button), 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.


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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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