March 09, 2002
The Laughter Of His Enemies

The ancient Greeks thought that one of the worst things in life was to be forced to endure "the laughter of one's enemies" (Medea's words). Ted Rall should know, after the parodies by cruel Jim Treacher and Sneaking Suspicions, crueler (and slyly anonymous) Gizmosis, and cruelest of all Protein Wisdom, whose title, 'Terror Prick', will forever be Ted Rall's true name in my mind. (For those who come late to this, U.S.S. Clueless provides a link to the original offense that will not give Rall a hit, while Tim Blair quotes more damning Ralliana.) Indulging in such laughter without being subject to it was of course one of life's little pleasures for the ancient Greeks. Though rather unChristian, the attitude persists. As you will see, I am certainly not immune to it.

Protein Wisdom's diagnosis of Rall's problem is a mere guess, though an amusing one. Though the two are not mutually exclusive, I would guess that Rall's inadequacy is not so much sexual as professional. Surely it's the fact that he'll never be Jeff MacNelly, or Gary Trudeau, or even (God help us) Herblock that really enrages Rall. Whether we compare basic drawing ability, visual and verbal wit, or plausibility and decency of the political attitudes implied in each strip, Rall is not competent to shine MacNelly's metaphorical shoes. Deep in his heart, or whatever organ fills the place in his chest where normal human beings have a heart -- perhaps his spleen or an extra loop of large intestine --, Rall must know that he can't draw, that he's not funny, and that his political opinions are vicious and, wherever they can be checked against reality, demonstrably wrong. These are the inadequacies that have embittered him. Of course, he may be sexually inadequate, too: who would ever want to find out, or would be willing to admit it afterwards?

Three tangential questions:

1. Does he really have a wife? I'm dubious, especially when he assures us that if he died, his wife would certainly not appear on television to mourn him. There's only one way he could be absolutely sure.

2. What should we call the genre of the Gizmosis and Protein Wisdom parodies, in which successful cartooning requires no drawing talent at all? Visual sampling? Minimalist collage (only two parts)? How about karaoke cartooning? As with the musical kind, the performer provides only the words, and must fit them to the style and musical/pictorial background. But here the words are different.

3. Not to give Rall any ideas, but what is the legal status of a parody in which only the words are not borrowed from the target? I have graphics editing software: can I be a parody cartoonist, too? Do I have to scan the picture and reshade it, or draw a copy by hand and modify it -- do they even sell tracing paper any more? --, or will a dot-for-dot electronic copy of Rall's work with my own words inserted count as my own work? Instapundit is a lawyer: maybe he can tell us.

I certainly hope the Rall parodies are legally unimpeachable. After all, besides his other unpleasant traits, we already know that Rall's a litigious bastard. The Ted Rall-Danny Hellman lawsuit (Gizmosis provides links) reminds me of the old Lillian Hellmann-Mary McCarthy lawsuit, which ended only when one of them died. (It's odd that both should include Hellman(n)s. If they were related, we could all nod our heads sagely and say "what goes round, comes round".)

Legal clarification: In calling Ted Rall "a litigious bastard", I do not mean to say, imply, or suggest that he was born out of wedlock, nor to allude in any way to his abandonment by his father. Illegitimacy and abandonment are not the same thing, and I am merely stating that Ted Rall is prone to filing lawsuits ("litigious") and a worthless, contemptible, evil human being ("bastard"). And that, Terror Prick, is protected speech! Hahahahahahahahaha!

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 09, 2002 10:20 PM