Thursday, November 19, 2015

Matt Bevin's Strange Way of Saying His Family Is Off Limits For Political Cartoons

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin has been aligned with other Republican governors in saying he will do what he can to keep Syrian refugees out of the state.  In both this election and his previous run for Senate, Matt Bevin played up his large family which includes four children he adopted from Ethiopia.

With that in mind, Lexington Herald-Leader cartoonist Joel Pett published the cartoon to the right.   It shows Bevin shaking, hiding under his desk with a map of Syria and news of Paris on the floor, and an aide holding up a picture of one of his kids saying "Sir, they're not terrorists..., they're your own adopted kids."  The cartoon's intent is, of course, an attack on Bevin's blanket fear of Syrian immigrants, who like his own adopted kids, are simply hoping for a better life in the United States.

Pett has been criticized, and I think rightfully so, for mentioning Bevin's kids in this manner in the cartoon.   Perhaps there were more tasteful ways he could have handled the family comparison, but this wasn't it.

Had I been Matt Bevin, I would have taken the high road and told Pett that it was tasteless to include mentions of his family in the cartoon, and that I hoped the Lexington Herald Leader would raise the bar in their political criticism and moved on.

So what did Bevin do?  He posted this on Facebook:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed, today, the Lexington Herald-Leader chose to articulate with great clarity the deplorably racist ideology of "cartoonist" Joel Pett. Shame on Mr. Pett for his deplorable attack on my children and shame on the editorial controls that approved this overt racism. 
Let me be crystal clear, the tone of racial intolerance being struck by the Herald-Leader has no place in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and will not be tolerated by our administration.
There are two ways to look at this statement.   The first is that Bevin decided to respond to the Herald-Leader using Bevin's family to score a cheap political point by using his family to score a cheap political point. The second is that Bevin is not bright enough to understand that the point of the cartoon was not the literal meaning of the words at the bottom of the cartoon.  

I suspect it's the first.   It's a classic GOP move to pivot from what actually is and instead create your own reality.  Where exactly is the "racist ideology", "overt racism", and "racial intolerance" of Joel Pett and the Herald-Leader in this cartoon?  Where is the "attack on (Bevin's) children?"   There isn't any.  But it's enough to simply suggest it.  Bevin's supporters aren't going to dig too deeply.  Indeed, the GOP's political echo chamber and media attack machine is already reshaping the reality of this story, with Red State's Eric Erickson misrepresenting the cartoon as comparing Matt Bevin's kids to terrorists, and a Washington Times headline reading, "Lexington, KY newspaper cartoonist hurls racist mockery at Gov.-elect Matt Bevin."  

So what about Bevin's accusations?  Is Joel Pett a racist?  A quick search of prior cartoons reveals the deep racism of his work as shown here:





Out of curiosity about the perception of the Bevin cartoon, I showed it to my teenage daughter. She was able to grasp that it was an attack on Bevin's hypocrisy at rejecting Syrians in need, and not a statement that the cartoonist views Bevin's children as terrorists. I would have to guess that Bevin's older kids probably get it too. And Bevin, his advisers, Erick Erickson, and the numerous pundits who will come out of the woodwork tonight and tomorrow certainly do as well  

With that in mind, what are we to make of a man who expresses his anger at his family being used in an editorial cartoon by falsely claiming its an attack on them? In trying to twist the reality of the cartoon to make his family (and by extension, Bevin) look like the intended target of the cartoon, it appears that Bevin is saying to the world that newspapers shouldn't be using his family as political pawns.  

That's his job.