My new collection of political cartoons and essays, Twilight of the Assholes, is now available for pre-order on the Fantagraphics site, and several previews of the book have been posted on Flickr, Facebook, and Youtube. It contains nearly 300 pages of hilarious cartoons and incisive essays undimmed by the passage of time. It also has an introduction by my favorite living political writer, Matt Taibbi.
The official New York release for the book will be on February 17th, with a slideshow/reading at The Strand bookstore at 7:00 P.M., to be followed by beers at Burp Castle. It would make me look good if some people showed up.
Also I now have a Facebook page. Be advised I will friend no one.
For more information, see our new FAQs page.
"Why'd You Invade Iraq?"
I know just exactly what you're probably thinking. You're thinking: Aw no. Poor guy. He's still stuck in the '00s. He's gonna be like one of those pathetic old yippies still writing protest songs about Vietnam. But guess what: the Iraq War's still going on! Ha! You probably forgot about it, didn't you? Now who's out of touch, 'man'?
In truth this cartoon was inspired not by any recent developments in Iraq--which I, too, tend to regard like The Simpsons, a show I know is technically still on but haven't watched in years--so much as by my recent viewing of The Wire with some friends. The Wire, more than any other work of art I can think of (except maybe Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities) is plotted in a way that comes close to capturing the the arbitrary and chaotic workings of real life. (One reason I could never write fiction is I could never figure out how to construct a plot that conformed to the Aristotelean demands of drama while still bearing any resemblance to reality.) In a storyline about a mayoral race on The Wire, for example, a city murder witness is shot, which the challenger uses to highlight law-and-order issues; the incumbent, on the defensive, tries to slow the investigation, which is also revealed, and the controversy changes the course of the election. Later we learn that the witness was killed accidentally by someone doing some target practice blocks away, but by then it doesn't matter. Events have unexpected consequences; the consequences compound one another, amplify and distort and echo in ways no one could have foreseen.
I thought of this during last week's sound and fury over the shooting in Tucson. A kid suffering from mental illness (pretty clearly brought on or exacerbated by abuse) develops deranged fixations on currency and grammar and shoots a congresswoman; liberals turn it into a toxic-speech issue to attack the right; the right howls as if shot themselves, bemoaning the politicization of this tragedy; Sarah Palin rises to the tragic occasion by complaining that everybody hates her; the President delivers soaring oratory about puddles in heaven. But nobody (except Palin and Obama) conforms conveniently to their assigned roles in the narrative; the assailant's ideology, such as it is, isn't easily pinned down as rightist; the congresswoman is pro-gun and owns a Glock herself; a week later, one of the shooting victims--who are, by definition, heroes all--threatens to kill another politician.
One difference between The Wire and real life is that in real life nothing even dramaturgically satisfying ever happens at all. But in both cases, you have all these characters, from junkies and drug dealers and crazy unemployable dropouts to mayors and congresswomen and Presidents, each of whom has his or her own different agenda--some of them petty, some insane, most of them self-promoting, a very few of them actually noble--and what we call history is nothing more than the sum total of all these agendas colliding and taking on their own unpredictable trajectory, which invariably bears little resemblance to anything anyone would've wanted.
At the time of the Iraq invasion, nobody I knew could understand why the Bush administration ws so determined to use the excuse of 9/11 to invade a country that had nothing to do with it. None of their given casus belli added up, they contradicted each other, and frankly no one even seemed to be bothering to try all that hard to convince us. Everyone had their own pet theory: Oedipal grudge match; revenge for the assassination attempt on/humiliation of Bush I; couldn't hurt the poll numbers; long-bomb gambit to democratize the Middle East; install another permanent U.S. military base in the Perisan Gulf; Peak Oil. Because we were kept ignorant and powerless as a populace--lied to as a matter of policy, our protests ignored--we succumbed to conspiratorial thinking, imagining that there was one clear-cut agenda and a well-conceived plan. Whereas in retrospect it seems clear that the invasion of Iraq was more like a perfect storm of bad ideas; Paul Wolfowitz was inspired to overthrow a genocidal dictator by his own family's history in the Holocaust; Dick Cheney undoubtably did it for profit; Cheney got poor ole George convinced it was his personal destiny and the will of God; and Donald Rumsfeld probably did it because in secret he likes to be made to wear pretty things and peed on and wanted to prove that this did not make him any less manly.
Whether their motives were righteous or venal, highminded or base, noble or ig-, in retrospect the obvious verdict is that they were all morons--yes, even the distinguished fellows and visiting scholars at think tanks and deans of international studies schools. They were morons because the whole moral, political and practical purpose of their scheme depended on its going exactly according to plan. Which nothing ever does. The Latin phrase for this logical fallacy would be Duh. Some of them were halfway intelligent; some of them may even have been well-intentioned; but they lacked imagininaton, and this is a fatal flaws. What we learn from history is that it never turns out like it's supposed to. And the one thing we know for sure about the future is that it won't be like we think.
P.S. Oh man I almost forgot: did anyone else note, in a recent news story, that Dck Cheney has no pulse? That's right: his heartbeat is now maintained by an external heart pump, and medically he no longer has a pulse. I guess it's just like a continuous even flow. He is gradually completing his transition from human to cyborg to robot. Once again reality outstrips parody in its perfect metaphors. As Obi-Wan said: "He's more machine than man now--twisted and evil."