Bruce Tinsley is an idiot, but you gotta give the man his props: He's an idiot with the world's best business plan:
1. Draw an insufferably pompous right-wing political cartoon about a reporter who is also a duck;
2. Get prickly conservatives around the country to call local newspapers to lobby for its inclusion on the grounds that "It doesn't matter if it's funny -- you liberals run that commie Doonesbury strip, you should run something for balance!"
3. Collect syndication checks for the rest of your life without ever having to be original, insightful or humorous.
The result is Mallard Fillmore, an unintentional parody of conservative thought that could better be described as affirmative action for clueless right-wing cartoonists... or propaganda for the barely literate.
Mallard is a unique phenomenon in the history of American political cartooning. Nobody actually likes it -- but it survives because conservatives have made its presence on the comics page a litmus test of fairness. Newspaper editors don't really mind, and having it around lets us run Doonesbury without having to listen to as many dumb-ass phone calls.
But irony may have finally gotten the better of the tepid Mr. Tinsley. This morning, after several days of referencing the fact that Jon Stewart's best-seller America: The Book poked fun at his strip, Tinsley finally pinched off this turd in the nation's punchbowl.
Now, how is it that a political cartoonist doesn't understand the most basic element of his trade? Is he completely unfamiliar with the concept of satire? But that's too easy, and it only leads us back to the most obvious conclusion, reachable years ago: Tinsley is a moral and intellectual dwarf on stilts.
And why even bother with the taste issue, another hanging curve ball? Tinsley feigns the role of the innocent victim, and then responds to this perceived slight by calling Stewart a child seducer and sexual criminal. Now that's humor!
No, let's get to the meat of this: This morning's cartoon is utterly misleading in its primary claim, which the cartoonist asks us to take seriously. He claims Stewart "tried to DECEIVE people into thinking (the phony cartoon in the book) was a REAL ONE!"
Right. And there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, too.
The Mallard Fillmore strip in America: The Book appears on Page 160, where it is the sixth of seven cartoons in a section on political cartooning (No. 5 satirizes Doonesbury's dry style, while No. 7 mocks those stupid folding panels from Mad Magazine)
Here's the introduction: "Some of today's cartoons celebrate the current administration rather than poke fun at it. At the forefront is reporter-duck Mallard Fillmore, who is the White House's best friend among cartoon waterfowl."
The phony strip shows Mallard in three typical poses: 1. Walking in front of a factory reading a paper; 2. Addressing the audience in a head-and-shoulders shot; and 3. Closer up, reacting with mild surprise.
Here's what he says: 1. "Liberals want to tie the hands of industry with more environmental legislation." 2. "Why must we punish our most productive citizens with an income tax?" and 3. "Ooops! I forgot to tell a joke!"
Yep. That's Mallard Fillmore in a nutshell. And only a purposefully offended idiot would fail to grasp that all the cartoons in the section are jokes, just like the phony political campaign button in an earlier chapter that reads "Yo, Fuck McKinley."
But as we've already stipulated, Tinsley is an idiot. An unfunny, thin-skinned, dishonest idiot whose M.O. is an unearned, self-pitying chip on his shoulder. He is one of the nation's chief purveyors of the Liberal Media Bias meme, a hypocrite who holds himself up as an example of folksy underdog integrity. And now it turns out he's a mean, dim-witted jerk who just doesn't get it. At all.
In America, one can be right or wrong, regretful or brazen. Depending on one's personality, one may be any combination of these things and still be successful. But to miss out on the joke? Ah, now there's a mortal sin.
Tinsley's pathetic and dishonest swipe at Stewart reveals his inner ugliness, and the only laughter it produced is directed at him. Even his "fans" may start backing away from him now, lest they too be identified as unmitigated dolts.
Tinsley is the Jeff Gannon of cartoonists. Let's beat the Christmas rush and start laughing at him now. Congratulations, Bruce, on your first funny comic strip.