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Posts Tagged ‘comic strips

“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed”*…

Perhaps because they– we– are not, there has arisen a culture of shaming. Charlie Tyson considers the rise of online humiliation…

“Men punish with shame,” wrote the sixteenth-century poet Thomas Wyatt. It is the “greatest punishment on earth, yea! greater than death.” Other forms of punishment—torture, solitary confinement—may do more to break the body and spirit. But the primitive power of shaming, and the reliability with which shame punishments are administered informally by the community as well as formally by the state, make it an especially disturbing mode of discipline. The ubiquity of shame punishments across many cultures—from the penal tattooing of slaves and criminals in ancient Rome to the stocks, pillory, and cucking stool of early modern England to the practice in modern China, only recently outlawed, of roping together suspected sex workers and forcing them to march barefoot through the streets—alerts us to the likelihood that we are dealing with a human propensity that can never be banished, only contained.

An ambient culture of shame saturates the online social environment. On such platforms as Twitter or TikTok or YouTube the risk of humiliation is ever present. Some online performers have neutralized the threat of cringe through stylized self-embarrassment: comedians riff on their own narcissism; dancers engage in cartoonish slapstick, reminiscent of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin (as if, on the internet, the history of cinema is replaying itself ), ensuring that they pie themselves in the face before anyone else can. The rest of us, fated to play “ourselves” before an unknown and fickle audience, must improvise other defenses.

Cancel culture, callouts, online harassment, mob justice, accountability: all of these terms refer to structurally similar phenomena (the targeting of the one by the many, in front of an audience), yet none offers a neutral description. What is decried as “cancel culture” is sometimes just spirited criticism; what is endorsed as “accountability” is sometimes gratuitous and cruel. Given the confusion and sophistry that mar discussion of online shaming, it is worth keeping two facts in mind. The first is that, regardless of one’s views about the merits of shaming in any one case, we have devised a social-technological structure in which persons can be selected virtually at random and held up for the scorn of thousands, as in the cases Jon Ronson recounted in his 2015 book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The second is that these shame-storms occur not in a public square, as Twitter is sometimes misleadingly dubbed, but in spaces controlled by private capital. “Egged on by algorithms,” Cathy O’Neil writes in her book The Shame Machine, “millions of us participate in these dramas, providing the tech giants with free labor.” Pile-ons increase engagement. Our fury pads the purses of tech capitalists.

Skepticism about public shaming was once widely shared by leftists and liberals, on the grounds that shaming threatens dignity and tends to target stigmatized groups. Article 12 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that people deserve protection from attacks on their “honour and reputation.” Shame campaigns might be deployed effectively, and justly, in response to harms committed by corporations or governments. But shaming citizens was another matter. A good society was supposed to defend its members from humiliation.

These days, shaming is more in vogue. Many commentators on the left, while rejecting the shaming of vulnerable groups (queer people, poor people, people with disabilities), see the technique as a valuable way of shoring up social norms. Some argue that it’s an effective response to racist and sexist behavior. Tressie McMillan Cottom recently argued in The New York Times that shaming is a corrective to a white-dominated culture: against the backdrop of a more open and diverse public square, “shame is evidence of a democratic society operating democratically.”

Yet in its insistence on conformity, shaming, even when harnessed for ostensibly progressive ends, has a conservative flavor. Indeed, though the American right may complain about cancel culture, it has an undeniable taste for public shaming. The right-wing Twitter account Libs of TikTok, for instance, has gained more than a million followers by holding up queer and trans people as objects of disgust. The account’s method is to rip videos from TikTok (featuring, say, gender-fluid teenagers talking about their pronouns), a strategy that should remind us that our theater of shame is not a single toxic website but an entire networked architecture. Conservatives have also enlisted the force of law to shame transgender people, as with bills mandating genital exams for young athletes whose gender is disputed. The ascent of Donald Trump, whose principal qualifications seemed to be his immunity to shame and his gusto for shaming others (as when he mocked a reporter’s disability and taunted Michael Bloomberg for being short), confirms the political resonance of shame in our present moment.

Structural problems in how the online world is organized have also deformed our thinking about shame. The most popular social-media sites are commercial platforms flooded with advertising and propaganda and run by black-box algorithms that exploit shaming campaigns to boost user engagement. A neutral public square this is not. The wide reach of digital life means that one’s reputation can be muddied in a matter of minutes; the speed and scale at which this can take place make today’s online shaming dynamics different from past forms of shame punishment. Technology companies have handed us weapons of reputational damage that are invariably set to hair-trigger alert. The result is an atmosphere of surveillance in which the threat of humiliation has emerged as an effective tool of social control…

A provocative analysis, eminently worth reading in full: “Theater of Shame,’ from @CharlieTyson1 in @YaleReview.

(Image above: source)

* Jonathan Swift

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As we mind our manners, we might recall that it was on this date in 1896 that Richard F. Outcault‘s comic strip Hogan’s Alley— featuring “the Yellow Kid” (Mickey Dugan)– debuted in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. While “the Yellow Kid” had appeared irregularly before, it was the first the first full-color comic to be printed regularly (many historians suggest), and one of the earliest in the history of the comic; Outcault’s use of word balloons in the Yellow Kid influenced the basic appearance and use of balloons in subsequent newspaper comic strips and comic books. Outcault’s work aimed at humor and social commentary; but (perhaps ironically) the concept of “yellow journalism” referred to stories which were sensationalized for the sake of selling papers (as in the publications of Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, an earlier home to sporadic appearances of the Yellow Kid) and was so named after the “Yellow Kid” cartoons.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 18, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Then we got into a labyrinth, and when we thought we were at the end, came out again at the beginning, having still to seek as much as ever.”*…

Can you identify this painting’s creator?

On the heels of Wordle‘s extraordinary success, there have been a rash of variations: e.g., Crosswordle, Absurdle, Quordle, even the NSFW Lewdle.

Now for the National Gallery of Art, another nifty puzzle: Artle.

Enjoy!

* Plato, Euthydemus

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As we play, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that Mandrake the Magician first appeared in newspapers. A comic strip, it was created by Lee Falk (before he created The Phantom)… and thus its crime-fighting, puzzle-solving hero is regarded by most historians of the form to have been America’s first comic superhero.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 11, 2022 at 1:00 am

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me”*…

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology has a large collection of some of the most important apparatus and objects related to psychological science and practice covering the past 150 years.  There are brass chronoscopes from the 1800s that measured reaction time in one-thousandths of a second.  There are a variety of rat mazes, tachistoscopes, and Skinner boxes.  The “shock” machine used by Stanley Milgram in his famous obedience studies is in the Center’s collections as are a Bobo doll from Albert Bandura’s research, guard uniforms from Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison study, a surrogate monkey head from Harry Harlow’s studies of love in monkeys, and one of B. F. Skinner’s air cribs.  The Center is always looking to add to its collections, including items that were of questionable scientific value.  One such item is the Psycho-Phone [pictured above].

Similar in principle to audio devices today that play messages during a person’s sleep, for example, alleging sleep learning, the Psycho-Phone was the invention of Alois Benjamin Saliger (1880-1969) who patented his machine in 1932 as an “Automatic Time-Controlled Suggestion Machine.”  The device was essentially an Edison-style phonograph with a timer that played the contents from a wax cylinder during the period of sleep.  Saliger believed that the messages delivered during sleep would enter a person’s unconscious and have a powerful influence on the individual’s behavior…

The machine was quite expensive, selling for $235 in 1929.  That would be the equivalent of $3,250 in 2017.  It came with several wax cylinders, each with messages relating to a different theme; one was labeled “Prosperity”, another “Life Extension,” and a third “Mating.”  Eventually Saliger expanded the record library to more than a dozen titles, even one in Spanish.  According to a story in The New Yorker in 1933, the message on the Mating recording included the following statements: “I desire a mate.  I radiate love.  I have a fascinating and attractive personality.  My conversation is interesting.  My company is delightful.  I have a strong sex appeal.”  Saliger was convinced of the effectiveness of the Psycho-Phone noting that 50 of his customers reported finding a mate…

From the annals of self-help: “The Psycho-Phone.”

[TotH to Ted Gioia (@tedgioia)]

“Stuart Smalley”

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As we get better every day, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that Mandrake the Magician first appeared in newspapers. A comic strip, it was created by Lee Falk (before he created The Phantom)… and thus is regarded by most historians of the form to have been America’s first comic superhero.

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“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety”*…

 

advice

 

What should a woman do when her husband chooses to spend time with his new pet monkey, rather than sleep with her? How does one counsel the mother who is so concerned about her daughter’s girlfriend that she’s considering casting a spell as a last resort? What about the wife who walks in on her husband of 23 years having sex with her brother? And what of the more mundane issues? Say, family squabbles over coarse behavior, or an ambivalent heart?

For more than half a century, Dear Abby—America’s longest-running advice column, first penned by Pauline Phillips under the pseudonym Abigail van Buren, and today by her daughter, Jeanne—has offered counsel to thousands of worried and conflicted readers. Syndicated in more than 1,200 newspapers at the height of its popularity, it offers an unprecedented look at the landscape of worries that dominate US life. The column has been continuously in print since 1956. No other source in popular culture has elicited so many Americans to convey their earnest concerns for so long…

The good folks at The Pudding have pored through 20,000 letters to the advice columnist tell us about what—and who—concerns us most: “30 Years of American Anxieties.”

For another fascinating example of the work at The Pudding, see “A brief history of the past 100 years as told through the New York Times archives.”

* Aesop

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As we agonize over anguish, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that Blondie Boopapdoop (her surname derived from the 1928 song “I Wanna Be Loved by You”) and Dagwood Bumstead were married in Chic Young’s comic strip, Blondie.

The strip had started in 1930 as a chronicle of the adventures of Blondie, a carefree flapper who spent her days in dance halls along with her boyfriend Dagwood, heir to a railroad fortune.  Dagwood’s parents strongly disapproved of the match, and disinherited him, leaving him only with a check to pay for their honeymoon.  Thus, the Bumsteads were forced to become a middle-class suburban family.  As the catalog for a University of Florida 2005 exhibition, “75 Years of Blondie, 1930–2005,” notes:

Blondie’s marriage marked the beginning of a change in her personality. From that point forward, she gradually assumed her position as the sensible head of the Bumstead household. And Dagwood, who previously had been cast in the role of straight man to Blondie’s comic antics, took over as the comic strip’s clown.

Blondie source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts”*…

 

pogo_comic_1050x700

During the 1950s, Walt Kelly created the most popular comic strip in the United States. His strip was about an opossum named Pogo and his swamp-dwelling friends. It was also the most controversial and censored of its time. Long before Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury blurred the lines between the funny pages and the editorial pages, Kelly’s mix of satiric wordplay, slapstick, and appearances by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev, J. Edgar Hoover, and the John Birch Society, all in animal form, stirred up the censors.

Taking place in a mythic Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo satirized the human condition as well as McCarthyism, communism, segregation, and, eventually, the Vietnam War. The strip is probably best remembered today for Pogo’s environmentalist’s lament, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Pogo was syndicated from 1949-1975, reaching its peak readership of about 37 million readers in the mid-1950s, when it was carried by 450 newspapers. The strip’s popularity put editors and publishers opposed to Kelly’s content in a pickle…

A story of sly satire: “The Most Controversial Comic Strip.”

* Walt Kelly

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As we agree with Pogo’s friend Porky Pine “Don’t take life so serious, son, it ain’t nohow permanent,” we might recall that on this date in 1859, Norton I distributed letters to the newspapers of San Francisco proclaiming himself Emperor of North America…

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

– NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.

180px-Emperor_Joshua_A._Norton_I

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 17, 2018 at 1:01 am

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