Cartoon: Debate Us You Cowards!

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This one was fun to draw! Probably the most challenging thing to draw was the coffee shop counter in panel 3. As a cartoonist, there’s a balance to be found here: You want to draw enough detail so that it’ll feel right and recognizable to readers without them having to think about it, but not so much detail that readers look at the setting more than at the characters.

I’m never going to be great at drawing backgrounds, but I’m getting better, and that feeling of gradual growth is honestly so much fun. I’m so lucky to have this job! (Thank you, patrons!)

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There’s a funny cartoon I’ve seen around, mocking the kind of political cartoon where we see the characters speaking for the point of view the cartoonist disagrees with, yelling and waving their hands and being angry, while the opposing character – the one the cartoonist agrees with – is calm and reasonable.

And when I say “I’ve seen it around,” I mean that people have posted it on social media as a response to cartoons I’ve drawn that fit that pattern.

(I really wish I could find this cartoon to show it to you here! But I can’t find it at the moment. “Political cartoons about political cartoons that show their political opponents as angry” just isn’t a fruitful google search string.)

Anyway, yes, guilty as charged – it’s a trope I’ve used a lot. So I wanted to do a cartoon in which the characters I disagree with are calm and collected, while the characters I agree with were angry arm-wavers.

And the “civil debate” issue – the constant demand that even bad-faith trolls, or outright racists, must be accommodated whenever they ask to debate – is perfect for that framing.

Look: I LOVE debate. I was obsessed with competitive parliamentary debate in college. I used to spend ten or twenty hours a week debating people online. I have to discipline myself NOT to do that nowadays, because I want to get other things done. (Although I admit, I’m not as fond of debate as I used to be).

But no one is obligated to debate anything. In particular, no one is required to debate their own human dignity with anyone. “I’m not going to debate that with you” is a perfectly reasonable response, even when said angrily.

Journalist Jesse Singal recently got egg on his face on Twitter, responding to someone asking if slaves should have debated slave owners by implying it would have been disastrous if former slave abolitionists had said “I refuse to debate with people who don’t see me as human.”

(I think Singal eventually deleted his tweet, while denying that he had been mistaken in any way, but the tweet was preserved in screen captures, such as this one of Noah Berlatsky responding to Singal).

Singal is a very prominent and admired voice, and his attitudes are not unusual. The “debate me!” crowd really seems to have no idea of how change actually happens – nor of how debilitating such debates can feel.

By the way, in case anyone thinks the argument I attribute to the Jordan Peterson fan in panel two is a strawman: It’s not a strawman. (At some point, I might do a cartoon of nothing but ridiculous, extreme things Jordan Peterson has said.)


This cartoon has four panels, each of which takes place in a different setting, and with a different set of characters.


A man wearing a polo shirt and jeans follows a woman down the street. The woman is wearing a hoodie and is walking a small dog. The man is talking cheerfully, doing the “explaining with my hands” palms up gesture; the woman is looking back at him out of the corner of her eye and has raised her voice testily.

POLO SHIRT: So you see, when you “transgenders” insist you’re women, that’s you forcing society to along with your delusions. Let’s discuss this.


DOG (in thought balloon): Jerk!


A woman and man are walking on a path in a park, the woman walking away from the man. The man is bald-headed with a van dyke beard, and is wearing a t-shirt with a big exclamation point on it, and an open black vest over the shirt. The woman has tattoos and blue hair.

The man has a friendly smile and has raised one forefinger in a “professor explaining a point” style; the woman is holding up a smartphone and speaking angrily.

VEST DUDE: When men aren’t allowed to hit women, men have no means of controlling crazy women. If I may quote Professor Jordan Peterson-



A customer at a coffee shop, a blonde woman with curly blonde hair, is chatting with a friendly expression with the barista. The barista, who is Black and wearing cat’s eye glasses, is waving their hands and yelling. The customer has a “Q,” in the same font as the “Quilette” logo, on the back of her shirt.

CUSTOMER: There’s no need to get mad. I just want to politely debate whether or not Black people have genes that make them stupid.



Three characters from the previous three panels – Polo Shirt, Vest Dude, and Customer – are sitting around a round table with coffee cups on it. They are all looking annoyed and unhappy.

POLO SHIRT: These “identitarians” are so rude!

CUSTOMER: Why won’t they debate us?

VEST DUDE: They’re cowards!

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106 Responses to Cartoon: Debate Us You Cowards!

  1. 101
    nobody.really says:

    Black children are both far more likely to live in single parent households and far more likely to have unmarried parents, with the latter suggesting reduced long term investment. You can blame racism and lack of opportunity, but fact is this change happened as racism became less prevalent and opportunity for black people increased. However, you act as if the norms that you advocate having nothing to do with it, despite the evidence strongly suggesting that they do.

    Not following this.

    As I understand it, the rate at which black women having kids out of wedlock has declined since about 1970. But the rate at which MARRIED black women have kids has declined faster—ergo, the ratio of these two figures has grown.

    Are you arguing that “the norms that you advocate” prompt married black women to have fewer kids? Or, at least, cause the rate at which they have kids to decline faster than the rate at which single black women have kids?

  2. 102
    nobody.really says:

    I’m also absolutely floored by some of the areas in the USA with Scandinavian levels of upward mobility- places like the Mormon parts of Utah. I can’t see how Mormon culture isn’t a big factor there, especially when one considers the low social and educational spending in throughout the state. My larger point is that culture matters, and the sooner we all accept this, the better we’ll get at actually improving outcomes….

    Oh, I expect that Mormon culture is a big factor–but a big favor in what, specifically? Does Mormon culture cause upward mobility? Or does it cause people who can’t achieve upward mobility (and maintain other Mormon norms) to flee (and perhaps stop identifying as Mormon)?

  3. 103
    Kate says:

    I don’t know what Mormon culture does for the Mormans, but my understanding is that it often makes life deeply, deeply unpleasant for non-Mormans, based on the reports of, and my own brief visits to several non-Morman friends who live in Salt Lake City (which I would expect to be more tolerant than the suburbs and rural surrounds).

  4. 104
    Mandolin says:

    I know Mormons for whom the culture was bad. They left, mostly. Some didn’t.

    I know plenty of Mormons who are happy in it, also.

  5. 105
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Oh, I expect that Mormon culture is a big factor–but a big favor in what, specifically? Does Mormon culture cause upward mobility? Or does it cause people who can’t achieve upward mobility (and maintain other Mormon norms) to flee (and perhaps stop identifying as Mormon)?

    Good question. I think it’s a possibility that Utah acts as sort of a filter, but I think it’s unlikely given the state’s net migration. That info is probably buried in the census, and also Chetty’s work, since he’s also studied the affects of people moving on social mobility. I wish we were at a Q&A session with him (this is why debate is good)

  6. 106
    LimitsOfLanguage says:


    The cost of raising a child has increased by 40% from 2000 to 2010 alone. Middle-income, married-couple parents spent $233k in 2015 on average and by now it probably exceeds a quarter million. This reflects the disaggregated inflation, which shows that most of the things that you spend a lot more money on when you have kids (college, healthcare, child care) have increased in price (much) more than earnings have increased. Note that I’ve shown before that those earning increases actually went mostly to the top of society, while wages have been (increasingly) stagnating for the lower and lower middle class.

    This stagnation is not for lack of trying. Work hours and education have increased for workers in all segments of society. Note that having to spend a larger part of your life in education means that people earn wages for a shorter period. So, more education in itself means a lifetime income decline, unless it results in higher wages. It also means that wealth accumulation happens later.

    The result of these changes is counter-intuitive, as you’d expect that people at the top of society would have the highest fertility, but they don’t. The increased student debt, the concentration of good jobs in places where housing is very expensive, the longer work hours needed to have a true career, etc; means that high potentials put off having children until very late. Besides, studies have shown that wealthier women place greater importance on attracting a wealthy partner than poorer women, while more wealthy men actually place less importance on their partner having wealth than poorer men. With the increasing educational gap and young well educated women earning more than well-educated men, this makes it hard for these women to find acceptable partners at a relatively young age.

    I strongly suspect that reduced relationship stability plays a large role as well. When most people still got married and marriages still lasted, having children was a relatively low risk affair. The wife could expect the husband to stick around to provide and the husband could expect the wife to stick around to care for his children and allow him access to them. In the new world, where society doesn’t enforce norms that much and people thus have to be much more self-motivated to sacrifice for others, it is far more important to ‘vet’ your partner, by observing them for some years.

    Then at the other end of society, you have poorly educated people, who have very little chance of ‘winning’ meritocracy or to set up their children to do well in meritocracy. Since they cannot build up decent (or any) wealth, they have no hope to get enough for that $250k that is needed to set up children for a decent shot at success. So they have no incentive to wait with children to build up wealth. Welfare and such may also encourage the poor to have children, giving another reason not to wait.

    What seems to happen among black people and probably poor people in general, is that they have children in a relationship relatively soon, but then break up often. Then the women often find a new partner who wants biological children and so have children with him, etc.

    Note that the above link shows some evidence of how non-marriage parenthood results in less commitment, with unmarried fathers providing economic support less often. In general, the data seems to suggest that there is less ‘grit’ in society, with lesser willingness to sacrifice personal well being for the well being of children, less willingness to ‘tough out’ difficult patches in relationships, etc.

    As I said before, low relationship trust may cause a feedback loop, with low trust causing people to invest in relationships less and not as quickly, be more likely to cheat/leave, etc, which in turn causes less trust, which…

    It seems to me that individualism has been a major factor in reducing ‘grit’. Of course, there have been positive aspects, like women being less accepting of abuse. However, the cost has also been substantial. What I object to is the implicit or explicit claim that this cost doesn’t exist.

    Anyway, to answer your question: the relatively few married black women are probably mostly well-educated, who, like many well educated middle class whites, think that they can win at meritocracy by copying the upper class. So they act like the Obama’s (met in 1989, married in 1992, first child in 1998). The issue is that fewer and fewer people seem to do that and/because the rewards of doing so have been declining.

    PS. Note that ‘black people’ is a decent proxy for less educated and low income, but if you look at the graphs & statistics, many of the same things happen to other ethnic groups, just less pronounced, since those tend to have better average education and incomes.