Comedy as a Weapon of the Left
How is it that leftist mockery of conservatives became a staple of popular culture? One of the major sources of the attitude that now pervades the dominant media of our time is a man named Herbert Lawrence Block, aka Herb Block, aka Herblock.
As a political cartoonist, Herb Block used comedy and mockery with cunning skill. Throughout his seventy-two year career, he helped influence the political landscape through thirteen presidential administrations.
Born (not surprisingly) in Chicago, with a father and brother also involved in the newspaper business, Block projected his own brand of ideology for decades. Sometimes he stood on the right side of history -- crafting imagery attacking American instigators like Father Coughlin and Huey Long, and later standing in favor of the Civil Rights movement. Other times he was on the wrong side, supporting progressive policies and New Deal reforms. And in his true oxymoronic style, even while he was attacking McCarthy, he created his 1953 Pulitzer Prize winning cartoon on the death of Stalin which is lauded as one of his greatest works. It portrays the Grim Reaper telling Stalin upon his death, "You were always a great friend of mine, Joseph." Ironically it's even posted on the Democratic Underground website, where one commenter calls it "grave dancing," and another responds, "I'll keep that in mind when I grave dance over (Dick) Cheney...His victims, they were many."
After being drafted in WWII and spending two years in the army drawing cartoons and writing press releases, he joined that joyful glee club of liberal ideology, The Washington Post, where he remained until his death in 2001. A lifelong Democrat, he mostly used his creative powers to attack Republicans. He was in his glory during the Nixon years, winning a Pulitzer Prize that he shared with colleagues who conspired to bring down a president.
In retrospect, Block's greatest nationally inflicted harm was mocking America's response to Communism. Only six weeks after Joseph McCarthy announced he had a list of known Communists, Block began a propaganda campaign that would change American history forever. In a 1950 Washington Post cartoon, he officially mounted his campaign against McCarthy coining the term "McCarthyism." The cartoon depicted Republican senators pushing an elephant towards buckets of tar representing a platform consisting of a smear campaign.
The concept that Joe McCarthy was a nut job on a witch hunt has been consistently taught to every generation since. In his 2007 book, Blacklisted by History, The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy, author M. Stanton Evans "dismantles the myths surrounding Joe McCarthy and his campaign to unmask Communists, Soviet agents, and flagrant loyalty risks working within the U.S. government. Evans's revelations completely overturn our understanding of McCarthy, McCarthyism, and the Cold War."
Thanks to people like Herb Block and his ilk, McCarthy became an American laughingstock, allowing communism and socialism to become "cool" in Hollywood, while Conservatives became unofficially "blacklisted." Sixty years later his methods of using humor and sarcasm for social influence are a template for those still seeking to destroy conservative values.
Block's unyielding support of gun control and unquestioning belief in climate change also succeeded in influencing public opinion. According to the Herb Block Foundation, he won a total of four Pulitzer Prizes.
To help further his ideological legacy, the foundation awards its own 'Herblock Prize.' Among recent winners are editorial cartoonists for The Washington Post, Politico, and a weekly cartoonist for the Daily Kos political blog. The foundation is funded with $50 million he bequeathed to, "encourage the art of editorial cartooning and to support charitable and educational programs that help promote and support the causes he championed," ensuring his influence lives on. And while most of us hadn't heard of freshman Senator Barack Obama in 2005, he was the guest speaker that year at the Herb Block Prize & Lecture Awards Ceremony.
Affectionately nicknamed "Herblock," his humorous deflections enabled the Communists of yesteryear to train subsequent generations of America-haters, capitalism-detesters and democracy destroyers.
It's an art all liberal ideologies have been perfecting since Herb Block drew his first cartoon. From Bill Maher to Tina Fey, Steven Colbert, and Jon Stewart, the left presses the grapes of comedy into a fine wine of vintage derision and acrimonious scorn for those they disagree with. Shows billed as "political programs" like Chris Mathews' Hardball, and "live news coverage" like Lawrence O'Donnell's The Last Word, are nothing more than yellow journalism on a comic soapbox. Rachel Maddow takes the prize for her inability to deliver one sentence that's not dripping with sarcasm and mockery. If anyone claims to watch her for "news," you can be sure they have been educated in nothing more than her personal opinions.
Comedy, sarcasm and satire are the successful weapons of the left, despite their poor ratings. Air America couldn't make a go of it. Among cable news ratings, unabashedly liberal news channels MSNBC and CNN fair abominably compared to the self-professed, "fair and balanced" Fox News. So how did they do it? How did the Socialists and the Communists and the Progressives and the liberals, and every name they go by, succeed in brainwashing Americans? One little joke at a time. Jokes filled with bitterness and lies that spread through universities, office cubicles and bars across the country and permeated the minds of low information voters.
The tables are turning with Obamacare however. A majority of cartoonists seem to be hammering Obama's "Unaffordable" Care Act, while cartoons that proclaim things like "Let thousands get sick and go broke and be a burden on already strained social services because you hate Obama," are definitely in the minority.
Liberals are like schoolyard bullies picking on the new kid. By skillfully employing baseless ridicule they eventually convince the entire school that the new kid is an idiot to be shunned. Never mind the fact that they've never taken the time to get to know him or collect the facts. The destruction of Sarah Palin by condescending interviewer Katie Couric, and comedian-with-an-agenda Tina Fey, was a prime example. A shocking number of people still believe Palin said, "I can see Russia from my house."
In this way, the greatest country in the world has been eaten from within by agitators that have the emotional maturity of second graders. The worst part is that we capitulated to these juveniles as we failed in what should have been our parental-like roles as defenders of our founding principles. We say, "Why take them too seriously, after all they're only kids, right?" or "What harm can they do?" We invoked no authority nor enforced any discipline. We made the grave mistake of deciding to be their friends instead of their teachers. Unfortunately when we walked into the classroom, we found a chaotic revelry straight out of Lord of the Flies. The children took control by ganging up on everything that was right and decent and good and giving it the Bronx cheer -- An infantile, but historically efficacious strategy that began, at least in part, at the end of Herb Block's pen.
Susan D. Harris can be reached at http://susandharris.com/