Doonesbury tackles McCarthyism

By Phil Plait | February 20, 2011 11:30 am

The long-running comic strip Doonesbury does a lot of political humor of course, so it was no surprise he went after J. McCarthy today. After all, McCarthy used an environment of fear to terrify people into behaving contrary to their own best interests, ramping up an imaginary problem into a national concern, and putting thousands upon thousands of lives at risk of being destroyed.

No no no. Not Joseph. Jenny.

Tip o’ the syringe to the eight gazillion people who sent me that link, including my brother Sid.


Related posts:

- Getting sick of Jenny McCarthy
- Bill Gates lays it on the line about vaccines
- Jenny McCarthy still thinks vaccines cause autism
- Jenny McCarthy: spreading more dangerous misinformation

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Humor

Comments (56)

  1. Narvi

    Sometimes, I sit down and think about the fact that in 2011, more than forty years after man first walked on the moon, people CHOOSE not to protect themselves or their loved ones against infectious diseases. It’s a scary thought.

    More than that, it sounds unbelievable. If I’d read something like this in a science fiction novel, I’d say it was silly and unrealistic.

  2. QuietDesperation

    Sometimes I agree with Trudeau and sometimes not, but there’s always been something off-putting about his artwork for me. Never been able to figure out what it is. I can’t think of another strip that has that effect on me.

    Sometimes, I sit down and think about the fact that in 2011, more than forty years after man first walked on the moon, people CHOOSE not to protect themselves or their loved ones against infectious diseases. It’s a scary thought.

    I’m not sure if you are under thinking it or over thinking it, or what men on them Moon have to do with it. They are choosing not to expose their kid to a rick of autism. Yeah, the risk is not actually there, but they think it is. Most people are generally rational creatures- even the guy blowing himself up for jihad might expect the next thing he sees is some sort of childish paradise.

    *Ignorance* is the real culprit here. I’m not sure what you find so unrealistic about that. Just another day with the human race.

  3. Narvi

    Well, my point is that it took all that knowledge to get people off the planet, and it’s frightening that at the same time, people are uninformed enough not to vaccinate. The information and ignorance is so unevenly distributed.

    But you’re right, I should have expressed myself more clearly.

  4. Chief

    Nice to see more authors joining the side of truth.

    I’m curious why nobody has come forward to charge the deniers with aiding in the responsiblity of the preventable deaths of minors (and others). From what I understand the laws of the UK will count against the deniers and they would have to prove they have not caused harm. Wouldn’t some serious lawsuits take a lot of the air out of the bogus witchery and help prevent needless deaths.

    It’s really funny (and sad) that even though she says it is causing autism, the other side of the coin is that by not getting the injections, deaths are occuring. Isn’t death worse than autism and she doesn’t pickup on it. (athough I wouldn’t wish either on anyone, though death is kinda unavoidable in the long term). I guess if she ever said something to the effect of death being the result of what she spouts, we go back to paragraph one….

  5. Ah, we need a link to the Jenny McCarthy bodycount!

    It’s frightening to think that in her own way, she may be responsible for more actual death and destroyed lives than Joe! http://jennymccarthybodycount.com/Jenny_McCarthy_Body_Count/Home.html

  6. Lars

    there’s always been something off-putting about his artwork for me. Never been able to figure out what it is.

    Maybe “soullessness” is the word you’re looking for? The song “Plastic Man” by the Kinks comes to mind.

  7. Martha
  8. Snowshoe the Canuck

    Amazing that a few inches of space in a newspaper can carry more factual information and have a greacter impact than any article in the rest of paper.

    Well done!

  9. Genesius

    [pedant mode]
    “Doonesbury”. Not “Doonsebury”.
    [/pedant mode]

  10. Jest

    @QuietDesperation:

    I’ve ALWAYS thought the same thing, and I think it’s the eyes… it looks like everyone in the strip is somehow related to Helen Hunt.

  11. Daffy

    I LOVE Doonesbury. Always have. Poignant, funny, clever, insightful. Who cares about the style of drawing (which, last I heard, Trudeau doesn’t do himself anyway)?

  12. Tip o’ the syringe to the eight gazillion people who sent me that link

    I saw the strip yesterday (they deliver the Sunday comics with the Saturday paper) and sent you the link. Was I at least among the first bazillion? :-)

  13. Ron1

    Phil,

    If you want to refer to her as “an execrable steaming pile of offal that doesn’t come within a glancing blow of the truth” well, that’s OK. But, to refer to her as a McCarthy wannabe is a little over the top.

    Cheers

    ps. (and now for a little trolling/hijacking …) If you want to use Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a McCarthy wannabe, then you’d be right.

  14. Andrew W

    Off topic, but I’ve just heard about the up-coming film Apollo 18, according to a program called ET (which, as far as I know doesn’t stand for Extraterrestrial) It’s being produced for conspiracy theorists that have got bored with ‘the moon landings were a hoax’ meme. In this movie we discover why we didn’t go back after Apollo.

  15. Bruce

    “McCarthy used an environment of fear to terrify people into behaving contrary to their own best interests, ramping up an imaginary problem into a national concern, and putting thousands upon thousands of lives at risk of being destroyed.”

    Sounds like he was a global warming alarmist.

  16. TheBlackCat

    *sigh* seems the denialists are not longer satisfied trolling global-warming threads, they seem to be bent on derailing unrelated threads as well.

  17. Ron1

    @15 Bruce

    Jeez Bruce. My attempt at trolling had at least a little linkage to Phil’s original post. Perhaps you should go back to sticking your thumb up your ass and rotating for a while.
    ta ta.

  18. Sometimes I agree with Trudeau and sometimes not, but there’s always been something off-putting about his artwork for me. Never been able to figure out what it is.

    When you figure it out, start a blog about it. Until then stop being a dilatory tool.

  19. Messier Tidy Upper

    @14. Andrew W Says:

    Off topic, but I’ve just heard about the up-coming film Apollo 18, according to a program called ET (which, as far as I know doesn’t stand for Extraterrestrial) It’s being produced for conspiracy theorists that have got bored with ‘the moon landings were a hoax’ meme. In this movie we discover why we didn’t go back after Apollo.

    I like Ben Elton’s Stark theory :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stark_(novel)

    explanation for that. ;-)

  20. I don’t get it. Really, I mean, I understand what she is talking about, but I guess the “playmate” thing is somehow an inside joke and I don’t have enough information to understand it. By the way, this happens often whenever I read a Doonesbury strip.

  21. IanS

    @Johnnie,
    Jenny McCarthy became famous as a model in the playboy porn magazine, such models are collectivly refered to as playmates or bunny girls.

  22. Lars

    *sigh* seems the denialists are not longer satisfied trolling global-warming threads, they seem to be bent on derailing unrelated threads as well.

    Where I come from, they’ve been doing that for years. They’re almost worse than creationists.

  23. Monkey

    @DW #18 – not sure why you pulled the dilatory tool out of the basket of insults, but I thinnk QuietDesperation made a valid point…perhaps im misreading your post, in which case I apologize. But if I read it right, put the thesaurus down and chill.

    @Jest….I am going with the noses, then the eyes.

  24. Zyphane

    @IanS: Actually, Playboy Bunnies were waitresses at the now-defunct Playboy Clubs. Playmates are the monthly centerfold.

  25. Randy A.

    QuietDesperation (#2) says: “*Ignorance* is the real culprit here.” I completely agree.

    The cure is education.

    If you agree, then call your elected officials and demand more funding for public education. (Wait till tomorrow — they all have today off.)

  26. mike burkhart

    First off for all those who get a good laugh off of my spelling mistakes the jokes over I bought a electronic spelling ace to help me unless I miss a spelling mistake when I proofread there wil be very few. I like Doonesbury ,one of my favorite comics. And as I have said Jenny McCarthy should be charged with practicing medicine without a licence . I mean what medical sohool did she graduate from? As for Joe McCarthy ,I think that was before Doonesbury was created.In a Doonesbury book it said the creator created it in ccollege and called it “Bull tales” when he published it in a newspaper he changed the title nameing it after the main character Mike Doonesbury. The comic came out in the early 60s.

  27. Steve Huntwork

    Jenny McCarthy = Joe McCarthy?

    Phil, your ability of conducting scientific “quality control” is now getting down to a new low level.

    It this what you actually intended with this posting?

  28. blf

    Jenny McCarthy = Joe McCarthy?

    What’s the problem with this equality? Both are uninterested in evidence, facts, or logic; both engage in hyperbole; and neither has the interest of the community in mind . The former Senator also destroyed careers and repudiations; the former playboy bunny seems to be trying to do the same. Both rely on proven liars.

    (As an aside, that isn’t quite how I read Phil’s comment, but that’s neither here-nor-there.)

  29. CB

    That a deliberately superficial and high-level statement could apply to both, perhaps prompting an amusing confusion between the two J. McCarthys, is not the same as “equals”.

    I sometimes fear the art of compare & contrast is becoming lost as binary thinking overtakes the internet.

  30. Patrick 2

    @15: Bruce, Bruce! Oh, maybe you can help, since you seem gung ho on talking about global warming.

    1) If global warming is a hoax, who started it?
    2) What is the intended goal of getting people to believe in global warming?
    3) What do climatologists, politicians, corporate spokespersons, environmentalists, and others get in return for contributing to the hoax by acknowledging that global warming is real?
    4) Why do the perpetrators (whoever they are) feel that the best way to acheive their goals (whatever they are) is to get thousands of scientists to commit fraud, the greatest of all scientific sins, for thirty or forty years about something which, if the deniers are to be believed, any armchair climatologist can see through with no expertise whatsoever?

  31. Daffy

    Doonesbury started in the early ’70s, possibly VERY late ’60s in a college publication.

  32. TheBlackCat

    @ Patrick: please don’t feed the troll.

  33. ggremlin

    i was wondering when someone was going to make that connection, but please stop.

    Joe McCarthy was a monster who destroyed people lives without a thought. Jenny McCarthy, as wrong as her is, is just a mother trying to find answers and believes she is helping people with a problem. As popular as she is she will never reach the level that Joe McCarthy did.

  34. Joseph G

    @33 ggremlin: On the contrary, I’d argue that Jenny is far worse. For one thing, Joseph McCarthy was right on one count – there were in fact Communists and Communist sympathizers attempting to influence policy in our government. Evidence has since shown that at least a few of those people were on McCarthy’s list – certainly the sympathizers if not a few actual spies.
    Jenny, on the other hand, is categorically wrong on all counts – vaccines causing autism, chelation therapy curing autism, the works.
    In addition, while Joseph McCarthy’s methods may have ruined lives, he wasn’t directly responsible for the deaths of children. Getting slandered in front of the Senate may be unpleasant, but dying of whooping cough is a good deal more unpleasant.
    I agree that comparing the two is a bit unbalanced. Jenny has caused far more harm then the late, disgraced senator.

  35. Kris

    @30 Patrick2:

    Actually, Bruce @15 is spot on. Please do yourself a favor and read the proposed COP15 agreement. You may realize that it would do nothing to actually reduce CO2 emissions, while significantly benefiting certain organizations trading derivatives. Curiously, a major stockholder in one of these organizations is also the maker of a well known AGW alarmist movie. Interesting, eh?

    Oh, and yes, global warming is real and caused by human CO2 emissions. Surprised, huh?

  36. Kris

    @28 blf: “Jenny McCarthy = Joe McCarthy? What’s the problem with this equality?”

    During the Cold War, multiple left-wing political organizations in Europe campaigned for unilateral nuclear disarmament. Historical research has demonstrated, that these organizations were in fact funded by the Soviet intelligence using covert, and not-so-covert channels. (E.g.: A French journal, Liberation, was at the time edited by some prominent left-wing activists; the Soviet government purchased massive number of copies and distributed them to libraries in Eastern bloc countries). To make matters more interesting, the French cultural elite has been almost completely affiliated with these left-wing movement — e.g. Liberation was edited by none other than Jean Paul Sartre.

    So in retrospect, the danger imagined by McCarty was real. His problem was that he was shooting blindly, and nailed a lot of innocent people.

  37. Steve Metzler

    37. Kris

    I don’t think cap & trade is going to solve the AGW problem either. But that’s not what Bruce the troll was saying. Seems like he doesn’t believe AGW exists at all. And he was way OT to boot.

    BTW, Kris, if you believe AGW is real and is caused by human CO2 emissions, then why do you label An Inconvenient Truth as ‘alarmist’? Thou doth protest too much, methinks. And in doing so you reveal your true colours.

  38. Joseph G

    @Steve Metzler: For what it’s worth, I generally agree with Kris re: carbon trading, and I don’t deny any of the mainstream scientific AGW findings either. Skepticism of specific carbon trading schemes (and how open they are to corruption) and acceptance of the consensus view of AGW are not mutually exclusive opinions.
    I haven’t seen Inconvenient so I can’t comment on whether or not it’s alarmist, but if you go far enough, you can be alarmist about anything, no matter how real a threat it is, so I wouldn’t be terribly surprised.

  39. Kris

    39. Steve Metzler:
    “Kris, if you believe AGW is real and is caused by human CO2 emissions, then why do you label An Inconvenient Truth as ‘alarmist’?”

    Because the famous CO2 graph scene is intentionally misleading. Gore carefully avoids defining the relationship between CO2 concentration and temperature, so people naturally assume that it is linear. So when he shows the CO2 spiking, the audience reaction – and you can see it in the movie – is “OMG, we’re gonna fry!” Also, the vertical axis on his graph does not start at zero, which overemphasizes the CO2 increase. So the scene is manipulation at its finest. In reality, each doubling of CO2 results in the increase of temperature by 3K (or whatever the current best estimate of climate sensitivity is). This is a major problem, but far from catastrophic.

    Another problem with climate alarmism is that it is completely counterproductive. First off, the climate is not yet in equilibrium, so even if we stopped emitting CO2 today we are still committed for further warming, until the new (higher) equilibrium temperature is reached. (IOW, we are colder than we should be given the present CO2 concentration). Second, fast reduction of CO2 emissions is technically impossible. The alarmists say that if draconian CO2 reduction measures are not passed, then X billion people will starve due to AGW. Problem is, that the proposed drastic measures would starve Y billion people, and from the look of it, X ~= Y. IOW, we have painted ourselves into the corner and we have only bad solutions and worse solutions.

    So basically the only workable way out is to start building nuclear power plants as fast as we can (and pray we didn’t massively underestimate the climate sensitivity and won’t trigger too much positive feedbacks before we hit the new equilibrium). But, curiously, the very groups who support the CO2 reductions are the same ones which oppose nuclear power, and instead try to force expensive dead ends like carbon storage and trading.

    Of course, Al Gore doesn’t tell you all that, because he wants to sell you his pet idea of CO2 trading. And that’s the problem.

  40. Steve Metzler

    My pre-paid hour is about to expire, but:

    In reality, each doubling of CO2 results in the increase of temperature by 3K (or whatever the current best estimate of climate sensitivity is). This is a major problem, but far from catastrophic.

    Sorry, but is is catostrophic.

  41. Kris

    Oh, and speaking of CO2 reductions, if you actually look at the carbon cycle, you will see that there is a certain amount of human-produced CO2, which the CO2 sinks can accept without increasing the atmospheric content. This is about 40% of current emissions, IIRC, so getting there would not be easy, but it is non-zero, as some alarmists claim. (And we should remember that zero-emission economy is impossible).

    BTW, there’s a very useful site called globalwarmingart.com which has a lot of useful graphs, including temperature changes for different emission scenarios.

  42. Kris

    42. Steve Metzler: “Sorry, but [3K by 2100] is catostrophic.”

    All the analyzes I have read identify the 6K and above realm as catastrophic. 3K implies major economic and social problems, however. And, even the 6K increase doesn’t make the planet uninhabitable. (Although there are claims that going above 6K would trigger massive CH4 release, giving us Venus).

  43. Joseph G

    @42 Steve Metzler: You pay for the intertubes by the hour!? What manner of hell is this??
    @Steve and Kris: Ah, semantics :D C’mon, you’re both right.
    There’s “catastrophic” as in the catastrophic economic downturn we’re in right now, or “catastrophic” as in “bands of heavily armed men wearing scavenged sporting equipment and tribal paint, riding motorcycles around a parched wasteland, raiding scattered camps of survivors.”

  44. MartinM

    The alarmists say that if draconian CO2 reduction measures are not passed, then X billion people will starve due to AGW. Problem is, that the proposed drastic measures would starve Y billion people, and from the look of it, X ~= Y.

    Do you have any actual evidence for that claim?

    Oh, and speaking of CO2 reductions, if you actually look at the carbon cycle, you will see that there is a certain amount of human-produced CO2, which the CO2 sinks can accept without increasing the atmospheric content. This is about 40% of current emissions, IIRC, so getting there would not be easy, but it is non-zero, as some alarmists claim.

    Doesn’t work that way. If we reduce our emissions to 40% of their current levels, those emissions will still be partitioned between the atmosphere and the various sinks. To limit warming to about 2K, the reduction in CO2 emissions needed is closer to 90%, IIRC.

  45. Kris

    “Do you have any actual evidence for that claim?”

    Thought experiment: ban China and India from increasing CO2 emissions (i.e. GDP). Assume rising food prices due to AGW.

    “To limit warming to about 2K, the reduction in CO2 emissions needed is closer to 90%, IIRC.”

    Possible; it’s been several months since I studied the matter, so I may not remember the exact numbers. The point is however that the target level is non-zero. Anyway, if you want to stop at 2K you need a different emission target then if you want to stop at 3K or 4K (or 6K). The problem is that, IMHO, the lower targets are not achievable anyway (barring a nuclear war destroying 90% of industrial capacity), so going after them only prolongs the decision paralysis. And we _are_ running out of time.

  46. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew W (14) said:

    In this movie we discover why we didn’t go back after Apollo.

    That’s easy. Money and apathy.

  47. Nigel Depledge

    TBC (32) said:

    @ Patrick: please don’t feed the troll.

    Do you mind if I poke him with a pointy stick instead? ;-)

  48. Nigel Depledge

    Wait a sec, how did this thread stop being about vaccines?

  49. Nigel Depledge

    Erm … oh, I just noticed I haven’t commented about Phil’s blog post, only on other comments so far.

    Anyhow, vaccines are a Good Thing, on account of preventing vast amounts of suffering, pain and disability.

  50. Joseph G (#36):

    For one thing, Joseph McCarthy was right on one count – there were in fact Communists and Communist sympathizers attempting to influence policy in our government. Evidence has since shown that at least a few of those people were on McCarthy’s list – certainly the sympathizers if not a few actual spies.

    “Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.”

    Back then, you probably could have torn several pages out of any large city’s phone book and come up with a list with “at least a few of those people” who were “Communist sympathizers”. (And you could probably do that today as well.)

    So, who would you rather have “attempting to influence policy in our government”? A “communist sympathizer”, or a “young Earth creationist”?

    And, as for global warming, everyone knows it’s due to the drop in the number of pirates. Though perhaps Ms. McCarthy would claim that vaccines cause global warming?

  51. QuietDesperation

    Douglas Watts Says: When you figure it out, start a blog about it. Until then stop being a dilatory tool.

    Wow! That was really called for. So sorry I offend your… er… whatever it is in your little mind I offended, Mr. Net Cop, sir.

    Martha Says: I always thought The Family Circus was a bit off:

    They may be melon headed monstrosities, but my beef with zombie comics like Family Circus is they take space on the comics page away from potential new talent.

  52. Joseph G

    @Ken B: “Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.”
    I almost used that expression. It’s very appropriate here.

    So, who would you rather have “attempting to influence policy in our government”? A “communist sympathizer”, or a “young Earth creationist”?

    Do I have to choose? How about neither? Both are attempting to impose ideologies that are contrary to our societal values of personal freedom and rational inquiry.

    To be clear, I’m not saying that McCarthy was a saint, just that being wrong 95% of the time still gives you a better record then that of Jenny McCarthy :P

  53. Joseph G

    @Quiet Desperation: Did… did he just call you a… speculum?
    That’s definitely a new one. Yes, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that particular assertion made… um… ever.

    Regarding comics, I’m amazed at the huge amount of talent to be found in webcomics. Obviously some are lousy, but the good stuff does tend to float to the top. I’d be fully prepared to tell dead-tree comic pages to go screw off, if it weren’t so difficult for webcomic artists to come up with a viable funding model. Syndication is still the thing to shoot for, it seems.

  54. QuietDesperation

    @Quiet Desperation: Did… did he just call you a… speculum?

    I thought he meant I was wasting time with my quip about the strip’s artwork, but his attempt to use a big boy word misfired a bit. Dilatory is more deliberate procrastination than idle timewasting. But, hey, Sir Douglas Watts’ time is valuable, so, of course, I was *way* out of line in putting words on the intertoobs that took precious, precious milliseconds from his important life as message board hall monitor.

    I’d be fully prepared to tell dead-tree comic pages to go screw off, if it weren’t so difficult for webcomic artists to come up with a viable funding model.

    I didn’t care much for Cathy, but when Guisewite retired, she ended it. Period. Unlike Lynn Johnston who seems to be just redrawing her old For Better Or For Worse strips, or the vast Peanuts Empire which is just endless reruns. For pity’s sake, people, go buy the books if you need your stupid Peanuts. Let some new talent have a chance.

    Yeah, I read The Comics Curmudgeon blog a lot. ;-)

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