Cartoon: The Right-Winger’s Guide to Labor Economics


For want of a shoe the shoelace was lost. For want of a shoelace the shoefly was lost. For want of a shoefly the flyover states were lost. For want of the flyover states the state of grace was lost. And the only way to get the state of grace back is to support these cartoons on Patreon. Weird how that works.


This cartoon really started out with what ended up as panel 4 — I wanted to make fun of the idea that high unemployment could be linked with laziness. But – at least, in what came to my mind as I was working on this strip – the laziness thing never seemed to become an entire strip. (Maybe I was just too lazy to figure out how. Ba-dum-dum. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.)

So instead I made a cartoon that‘s really just a grab bag of some pop economics ideas about labor that too many on the right seem to believe.

I decided that I liked this cartoon better as one character monologuing rather than having a different character in each panel. Since just one figure talking at the reader could get visually boring, the challenge is to make each panel look and feel different, even though they’re really just the same thing six times in a row.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has six panels. Every panel shows the same man, a white man with a mustache and thick hair that’s going white around the temples, who is speaking to the reader in front of an abstract color backgound. He’s wearing tan slacks, a light blue collared shirt, and a red striped necktie.

PANEL 1

A caption at the top of the panel, in big red letters, says:

A RIGHT-WINGER’S GUIDE TO LABOR ECONOMICS

The man in the necktie is looking sincere, his hands pressed together in front of him almost like he’s praying.

MAN: CEOs are infallible and holy and the government must get out of their way.

PANEL 2

The same man is suddenly exploding with anger, stomping his feet and waving his hands and yelling.

MAN: Workers are the worst! They need the constant threat of unemployment, homelessness and starvation to do anything!

PANEL 3

In a closer shot, the man looks out at the reader with an expression of bewilderment, as he shrugs.

MAN: If Luisa’s boss is illegally paying her $3.50 an hour, then $3.50 is exactly what she’s worth! I can think of no other explanation!

PANEL 4

Now the man has switched into a wise-professor-explaining pose, face calm, a finger raised to emphasize his point as he speaks.

MAN: High unemployment happens when millions of people get lazy all at once. It stays high until they all suddenly stop being lazy. Until the next recession, when they’re lazy again.

PANEL 5

A sudden, extreme closeup shows the man‘s face contorted with furry as he yells. (Wait, no, contorted with “fury,” not “furry.” I don’t know or want to know what being ”contorted with furry” is.) We can see that he’s trembling, and a little caption with an arrow pointing at him says “trembling with rage.”

The background, which up until now has mostly been a cool light purple, is bright red/pink in this panel.

MAN (yelling): When unions force rich people to pay employees more, that’s literal armed robbery!

PANEL 6

The “camera” pulls back to a full-figure shot, and his expression is now calm and smiling and a little smug. He’s got his arms crossed and is standing with one foot on the heel in a jaunty sort of pose.

MAN: Everything I say is the objective truth because I am super logical and definitely not just rationalizing my ideological beliefs and if you don’t agree then you suck at economics! LOL!


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Economics and the like | Leave a comment  

Check Out My Favorite Bit of January Fifteenth

Hey everyone, 

It’s been about six weeks since my novella, January Fifteenth, came out. I can hardly believe the amazing and generous reception it’s getting. Thank you to everyone who’s read and/or written about it.

Recently, I wrote about “The Voices of January Fifteenth” as part of My Favorite Bit, a feature on the blog of the awesome Mary Robinette Kowal where authors talk about some of the pieces of their projects they love most. 

graphic with text on the left and front cover of January Fifteenth on the right. text reads: My Favorite Bit, What Authors Love About Their Books. book cover of a person walking down an alley with an umbrella and the following text: January Fifteenth, “Money Changes everything–except people.” Rachel Swirsky, “One of the best speculative writers of the last decade.” –John Scalzi

What I loved most? Developing the characters’ voices.

January Fifteenth is written from the perspectives of four different women as they go through the day when they collect their Universal Basic Income payments that will help support them through the year. Each character has a different way of thinking about and interacting with the world. I love figuring out how to embody that in prose.

Here’s a couple snippets from what I wrote at Mary Robinette’s:

HANNAH

Hannah’s on constant high alert. If fear causes fight, flight, freeze or fawn, Hannah’s in the freeze camp… Anxiety makes some people terse, but Hannah’s sentences are long and detailed. She’s too nervous to decide at a glance whether something is a threat or not.

JANELLE

Janelle and Nevaeh are a blast. They’re quick-witted chatterboxes. Even inside her head, Janelle plays with words, goes on dramatic tangents, and trawls for jokes… Itried to balance the lengths of the novella’s threads, but it’s definitely not split into perfect quarters. Janelle and Nevaeh are part of the reason why. They want to talk forever. 

book cover of a person walking down an alley with an umbrella and the following text: January Fifteenth, “Money Changes everything–except people.” Rachel Swirsky, “One of the best speculative writers of the last decade.” –John ScalziThe full piece has more about Hannah and Janelle, as well as about the other two characters–Olivia and Sarah. 

Once again, here’s a link to my post. Check it out, along with the other wonderful content on Mary Robinette’s blog.

January Fifteenth is available in stores and through several online booksellers, including Powells, Booksamillion, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Bookshop.

Posted in Fiction, January Fifteenth, Mary Robinette Kowal | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: Regarding Those Largely Imaginary Cis Men Pretending To Be Trans Women


If you enjoy these cartoons, then you’d be interested to know that many of history’s most famous people are also huge fans of my work, including Abraham Lincoln, Ada Lovelace, Margaret Thatcher (who wrote me only last week to let me know that I am objectively the greatest artist in all of history), and Ulysses. And all of them support my Patreon. So be like them!


This isn’t the most important or the most prominent anti-trans argument. But it’s one I’ve heard a whole bunch of times over the years, and it always bugs me that even taken on its own terms, it makes no sense. Nothing about restricting what bathrooms trans people use can stop predatory men from being predatory, or cis men from lying.

The entire argument is a pretext (even if not everyone making the argument is consciously aware that it’s a pretext). For the proponents of these laws, the mere existence of trans people is threatening, and so any law that strikes at and ostracizes trans people – even if the arguments are gibberish – is supported.

And that, in the end (literally in the fourth panel) is what this cartoon is really about – not a single nonsensical argument, but the way that this and other arguments, boiled down to their essence, are rationalizations for othering and harming trans people.

They also like fear mongering with that image of predatory men wearing dresses while attacking women – an image that goes back in pop culture at least as far back as Hitchcock’s Psycho, and probably much further.


I asked Frank Young (my frequent collaborator who does colors) to give the right-hand character colored streaks in her hair, and I really love what he did with that.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels, all featuring the same two characters, who are chatting on a suburban looking sidewalk.  The character on the left is a blonde woman with neat, shoulder-length hair, a white shirt with a black collar, and a purple skirt.  The character on the right is a woman with straight hair on top, dyed in streaks of orange and greenish-yellow, while the hair on the sides is orange and buzz-cut.  She’s wearing below-the-knee shorts and a tank top, and one of her arms is covered with tattoos.

For the purpose of this transcript, I’ll call these characters SKIRT and TATTOO.

PANEL 1

Skirt is talking animatedly to Tattoo, smiling and stretching her arms it to make her point. Tattoo listens with her arms crossed and a neutral expression.

SKIRT: Bathroom bans aren’t about screwing over trans people. They’re about protecting women from cis men. Otherwise, cis men would pretend to be trans to get into women’s bathrooms.

PANEL 2

A slightly different angle, so we’re now seeing Tattoo from the back. Skirt continues to smile as she explains; we can’t see Tattoo’s face, but from her body language she’s disturbed by what she’s hearing.

SKIRT: That’s why we need a law saying people can only used bathrooms that match their sex at birth. And if it just happens to harm trans people… that’s only an unfortunate side effect.

PANEL 3

A close up of Tattoo shows her frowning as she thinks, one hand rubbing her forehead.

TATTOO: Even if that were a real problem, with your law couldn’t cis men just say they’re trans men to get into women’s bathrooms? Wouldn’t it make it easier for them, since they wouldn’t need dresses or makeup?

PANEL 4

Skirt takes a step back, looking a little irritated and holding up a hand in a negating gesture. Tattoo, looking angry, is holding up her hands and yelling.

SKIRT: But if we look at it that way, there’s no reason to screw over trans people.

TATTOO: WHY IS THAT A PROBLEM FOR YOU?


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 30 Comments  

Cartoon: Equal Opportunity, Not Equal Outcomes


If you like these cartoons, you’ll probably also like sticking your toes into a mud bank and wiggling them until the neon worms come to nestle between your toes. If you can manage to stay like that for 30 hours straight despite the exhaustion and increasing pain from not moving (lifehack: bring a pillow to sit on), you’ll gain the power to walk across water. The downside is, you’ll leave glowing neon footprints everywhere you go, making it easy for the secretive government agency to track you down and throw you into their secret facility for studying people with powers. And the worst part is, the smooth-faced people in low-end businesswear who run that agency don’t like cartoons at all. So to pre-emptively get revenge on them, remember to subscribe to my patreon before they lock you up. (And say hi to the neon worms from me!)


“We should want equal opportunity, not equal outcomes” is something I’ve heard people say for decades, especially regarding the racial wealth and wage gaps.  It’s something that sounds extremely sensible until you really delve into it – and, many times, people don’t delve.

Despite the harshness of my cartoon, I don’t believe that everyone who has ever said “equal opportunity, not equal outcomes” is a racist. But there are racial implications to the idea that need to be unpacked.

What does “equal opportunity“ mean? Martin Luther King Jr, in his book Why We Can’t Wait, wrote “It is obvious that if a man is entered at the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some impossible feat in order to catch up with his fellow runner.”

Equalizing opportunity is a worthwhile goal – but it’s difficult. Truly equalizing opportunity would require making radical changes to our society at many levels – in inheritance laws, and education, and health care, as the cartoon points out. And in many other ways – we’d have to look at housing, at access to jobs, in access to financing, and so on.

(And we’d have to ask what to do about intangible inheritances – the advantages aside from material goods someone gets by being the child of people who are already well-off. Like learning from example, since birth, to be fluent with navigating systems set up for well-off people; like speaking with an accent that says “I am well off and must be treated well” to stores and employers and government officials. I don’t know how we’d even start to equalize that stuff.)

But usually, if you bring these things up, it becomes clear that virtually no one who says “equal opportunity” wants the changes required to equalize opportunities. On the contrary, they’re usually defending the status quo. They’re arguing against affirmative action, typically, but also against other ideas meant to mitigate the effects of racism, like reparations.

What they’re saying, in effect, is that we should just declare that opportunities are now “equal” because the laws are equal, and therefore current-day racial inequality isn’t something we can or should try to fix. Dig a little deeper, and many of them subscribe to so-called “race realism” – the view that Black people are inherently intellectually inferior and so cannot and should not hold an equal place in society. (A more genteel version of the same argument made by slavery apologists in the 1800s.)


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows the same two people walking on a path on a hillside as they talk. The person walking in front is a Black man, with a mustache and beard, wearing a t shirt with a sort of smiley face on it, except the face has a neutral expression rather than a smile. The second person is a white man with black hair in a tidy haircut, and a plaid sweater-vest over a collared shirt. For purposes of this transcript, I’m calling these two characters TSHIRT and VEST.

PANEL 1

Vest is speaking seriously as he talks to Tshirt. Tshirt is very enthused about what he’s hearing, smiling big and spreading his arms expansively.

VEST: It’s stupid to expect equal outcomes, because not everyone is equal. Some people are just born with less ability than others. What we need is equal opportunity.

TSHIRT:  “Equal opportunity” sounds great!

PANEL 2

A close-up of Tshirt and he turns to look at Vest, enthusiastically smiling as he holds up a finger while making a point.

TSHIRT: Let’s start with a massive inheritance tax. Nothing‘s a more unequal opportunity than some people being born with millions while others start with nothing.

PANEL 3

A longer shot shows more of the environment; we can see plants with long leaves in the foreground, and trees in both the foreground and background. Tshirt, still very enthused, slaps a fist into a palm as he anticipates what might be done.  Vest looks panicked, holding up his palms in a “whoa there!” gesture, eyes wide.

TSHIRT: We can use that money to make other opportunities equal. Like free college! And free health care for all! And—

VEST: STOP!  I didn’t mean any of that stuff! I just mean Black people are less intelligent so we shouldn’t try to fix race inequality!

PANEL 4

Tshirt, looking calm but also angry, has turned to face Vest, with his hands on his hips. Vest has turned away from Tshirt, arms crossed, nose held high in a snooty expression.

TSHIRT: Oh, so you’re just a complete fucking racist.

VEST: Intolerant reactions like that are exactly why I prefer to say “equal opportunity.”


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: Fight Medical Tyranny!


If you’re enjoying these cartoons, you might also enjoy being on a lush tropical island where friendly locals come up to you with a dish of fresh strawberries, which is for themselves, because they’re not here to serve you and mean sheesh why would you even assume something like that? Anyway, those locals all support my patreon, and maybe if you did they’d give you a strawberry.


The point here is obvious – if vaccinations are a terrible imposition on freedom, then why isn’t forced childbirth? A tiny pinprick is nothing at all compared to forced birth, after all.

I can already hear the right-wing objection – “if forced childbirth is wrong, why isn’t forced vaccination also wrong, you lefty wokescold libtard snowflake cuck?”

And the moment the government begins criminalizing turning down a vaccination and threatening to throw people in prison if they turn down the shot, I’ll be the first to say that’s going too far. But of course, that’s not happening.

It all comes down to not treating women and trans men as fully human with all the rights everyone else gets.

In our society, no one can be forced to give up bodily autonomy to provide another person with body parts or any sort – no one is legally forced to donate blood or a kidney to save another person’s life. Not even if that other person is their child.

The idea of involuntarily taking one person’s body (or parts thereof) to save another person is so repulsive to us, it’s a trope in horror films and is considered a human rights violation.

Even corpses have the right not to be involuntarily used like that. If I don’t want my body parts to be donated to save lives, then it’s illegal to take the parts, even if I’ve died.

Everyone but pregnant people.


The biggest hitch, creating this cartoon, was that when it was 75% done I suddenly realized that it was very similar to a cartoon from four months ago, “We Must Ban Treating Meningitis In Kids!”  Ooooops. This has happened before, and as long as the subject matter and art is different, I don’t mind – I do a lot of these cartoons, and it’s natural that some tropes recur. But usually those “repeats” happen years apart, not just four months!

I thought about throwing this cartoon away, or at least putting it in a folder for a couple of years. I decided not to for two reasons: First, right now is when cartoonists (and everyone else) should be banging the abortion rights drum and banging it often.

And second, I like this cartoon a bit better than I like the meningitis cartoon. The set-up is less strained; it’s at least imaginable that some readers won’t see where the cartoon is going before reading panel four. (Although I’m sure most of you did see where I was going, because y’all are sharp.) Plus, panel two! Drawing panel two was so fun!


I wasn’t sure how to color this cartoon, and I asked folks on Discord for advice, which eventually led to the decision to make the big glove in panel two blue. I had originally colored it red, which I liked because it seemed so threatening. But people pointed out that blue is a more iconic color for medical folks to wear. I liked the red, but less than I like clearer storytelling, so blue gloves won.


After some discussion with supporter Darren Zieger (thanks Darren!), I’ve decided to go back to having a five-day gap between when I post cartoons online and when I post them in public. That’s what it was when the Patreon began, and the reason it shifted to a gap of months isn’t that anyone asked for that, or that I planned it. It just sort of happened that I put off posting in public, and put it off, and put it off, until the gap was months long.  (I’m pretty sure it’s an ADHD thing).

I really hope everyone’s okay with that!


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. Each panel features the same character: A white guy with a windbreaker (one of the ones where the sleeves are a different color than the body), open over a t-shirt with a big number “1” on it. He’s talking directly to the reader.

PANEL 1

This panel shows the man on a blank background, speaking directly to the viewer, raising his hands for emphasis. He has an aggrieved expression.

MAN: A forced vaccine mandate is a slippery slope to totalitarianism!

PANEL 2

The same man, but now he’s holding a shield (painting in an American flag motif), which he’s using to fend off a HUGE vaccination needle being aimed at him by a GIGANTIC hand. The hand is wearing a blue latex glove, of the kind that many nurses and doctors wear. His word balloons are at an askew angle, for drama or something, but also because doing it that way let me fit in the word balloons without blocking off the drawing of the giant needle. Cartooning secrets revealed!

MAN: We can’t allow liberals to steal our right to make our own medical choices, based on our own values and religious beliefs!

MAN: Everyone must stand against tyranny!

PANEL 3

The man leans very close to the “camera,” so close that the top of his head and the bottom of his chin are both cut off by panel borders. He now looks angry, and he’s raised his voice. The background has turned red, reflecting his anger.

MAN: Even if the vaccine saves lives, government still doesn’t have a right to deprive individuals of our freedom!

MAN: Never! Never ever EVER!

PANEL 4

The main is smiling gently and raising a palm at the reader. The background appears to be a cozy living room; we can see framed pictures on the wall, a comfy couch with a couple of throw pillows on it, a side table and a potted cactus on the floor.

MAN: Unless they’re pregnant, of course.


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc | 16 Comments  

Cartoon: Anything to Fix the Housing Crisis!


If you like these cartoons, then you’d probably like my cousin Edna. And if you like my cousin Edna, you’d probably also like her special tuna noodle casserole made with tabasco sauce. And if you like my cousin Edna’s special tuna noodle casserole made with tabasco sauce, then the police are interested in talking with you about an incident on Berlington Circle Avenue last Tuesday, but they say you’re not a suspect and no need to hire a lawyer. But if you do hire a lawyer, cousin Edna knows a guy. And that guy supports these cartoons on Patreon.


There’s this thing I do in my cartoons where, anytime part of me decides to do something to save time, another part of me immediately rush to fill that void.

Like, “this cartoon doesn’t need backgrounds. Not every cartoon needs to have a background. Calvin and Hobbes often didn’t have backgrounds.” (My personal guide to if something can be good cartooning or not is usually “did Calvin and Hobbes do it?”)

…Which led to the decision to not do backgrounds. What a timesaver!

…Which led to the decision to take advantage of the faster drawing time by adding in two more panels, meaning four more figures.


At this moment, I’m actually pleased with the art. I feel like the body language and the inking doesn’t look as stiff and over-controlled as my stuff often does.

(To be clear, I don’t really think my work is unusually stiff and over-controlled, as comics go. But it is stiff and controlled compared to how I’d like it to look.)


I can’t believe that after (mumble mutter) years doing political cartooning, this is the first time I’ve done a cartoon about nimbyism!

The housing crisis hurts, and in the end, the only way of addressing it is to build more housing and make our cities – especially the cities that lots of people want to live in – denser. It’s as simple as that.

But it’s also impossibly complex to implement, because the system in the US for building more housing has so many places where changes can be vetoed. And when most of your life’s savings are tied up in a house – which is the situation many homeowners are in – any change can seem threatening.

(And of course, there’s also racism and classism in the mix. There always is.)


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has six panels. All the panels show two women, one with spiky hair and one with curly hair, talking to each other. The spiky-haired woman is wearing a red and pink striped v-neck tee shirt, shorts, and sneakers. The curly-haired woman is wearing an orange tank top and a purple skirt with a pattern of large dots.

PANEL 1

Spiky is looking distressed, holding her hands to her head; Curly looks determined, pounding her palm with her fist.

SPIKY: The affordable housing crisis gets worse every year!

CURLY: Let’s fix this – I’ll do anything!

PANEL 2

Spiky is enthusiastic, lifting a pointer finger in the air as she makes a point. Curly turns away, holding up a palm in a dismissive way, looking annoyed.

SPIKY: Our biggest problem is the zoning laws. If we allowed taller buildings with units reserved for low-income–

CURLY: I don’t want to live close to those people!

PANEL 3

Spiky is taken aback, and makes her new point with a lot less confidence in her body language. Curly keeps her back turned to Spiky and crosses her arms.

SPIKY: Um… Let’s at least ban single-family zoning. If people could build “granny apartments”–

CURLY: That could change the “feel” of my neighborhood.

PANEL 4

Spiky clasps her hands in front as she makes a new suggestion, almost looking like she’s begging. Curly has turned back to face Spiky and looks angry, arms akimbo.

SPIKY: If we got rid of minimum lot sizes…

CURLY: Ugh! Houses built close together are ugly!

PANEL 5

Spiky makes another suggestion, looking unhappy, and Curly angrily rejects that suggestion.

SPIKY: How about eliminating parking minimums for new housing?

CURLY: And make parking spaces harder to find? Never!

PANEL 6

The characters are drawn smaller, as if we’re exiting this scene. Now Spiky looks annoyed, and her arms are akimbo. Curly looks cheerful and spreads her palms as if she’s making an obvious point.

SPIKY: So when you said you’d do “anything”…?

CURLY: Anything that doesn’t change anything.


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 50 Comments  

Does Dieting Work? An exchange of letters with Helen Pluckrose

This is an online debate Helen Pluckrose and I had at the unfortunately defunct website letters.wiki in 2020 and 2021. I’m posting it here for preservation. I’m not sure I got all the formatting right, but I did my best with it.

I haven’t changed the words at all, even where I’d like to.  :-)

Thanks to Helen Pluckrose for her kind permission to reprint her letters here.


Does Dieting Work?
By Barry Deutsch & Helen Pluckrose

5 Letters


Letter 1
By Barry Deutsch
Created 26 May ’20

Dear Helen,

Hi! I’m writing to respond to your open letter, “on Fat Scholarship and Activism.”

A thousand words seems cruelly scant to me, but I’ll do my best.

For space reasons, I won’t dig into our “obesity vs fat” semantic disagreement. I suggest we each use our preferred word, neither making a fuss about the other’s choice. (Ditto for “fat acceptance” vs “fat activism.”)

Part 1: Your charges against the fat acceptance movement.

Your criticisms of fat acceptance are a mix of cherry-picked examples and uncharitable readings.

For instance, you say where fat activism “could oppose discrimination against obese people in the workplace, it goes on about ‘romantic discrimination.’” But the linked article contains only three paragraphs about “romantic discrimination,” a fraction of a much longer piece. (And do you really think cultural components of attraction aren’t worthy of being written about? I can’t agree.)

Your claim that fat acceptance “doesn’t do this kind of work” – meaning opposing things like workplace and medical discrimination – is staggeringly wrong. I could provide a hundred links of scholars and activists addressing those issues, but since time  is limitedhopefully just ten will prove my point.

Your other indictments followed a similar pattern, but with only 1000 words, I must move on!

(This article by Angie Manfredi, aimed at teens, is a non-comprehensive but accurate overview of fat acceptance’s goals. And Yasmin Harker created this useful bibliography of academic works about fat rights and fat discrimination.)

Part 2: Why I’m Generally Anti-Diet

We both want to end stigma and discrimination against fat people. Where we disagree (if I’ve understood correctly) is that you think fat people should try to not be fat, and that fat people are by definition unhealthy.

Accepting for a moment, for argument’s sake, that fat is unhealthy, that doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that most fat people should try not to be fat.

First, I’ll stress that no one is under any obligation to maximize health. Exercise and cooking can take time, space, money, and mental energy which not everyone has. And people can legitimately prioritize other things.

But some fat people do wish to prioritize their health. Shouldn’t those fat people be encouraged to lose weight?

Some should – people with specific, serious conditions that weight loss could help (even if they’d still be fat).

But for 99% of fat people, I’d say not. The evidence is clear that weight-loss plans don’t work for the large majority. Most never lose a significant amount of weight – certainly not enough for a fat person to stop being fat. And usually whatever weight is lost – or more – comes back within five years. This causes mental anguish, because failure to lose weight, or to maintain weight loss, easily turns into self-hatred. If the person tries multiple times (as is common), the physical effects of yo-yo dieting can be very harmful.

Wayne Miller, an exercise science specialist at George Washington University, wrote:

There isn’t even one peer-reviewed controlled clinical study of any intentional weight-loss diet that proves that people can be successful at long-term significant weight loss. No commercial program, clinical program, or research model has been able to demonstrate significant long-term weight loss for more than a small fraction of the participants. Given the potential dangers of weight cycling and repeated failure, it is unscientific and unethical to support the continued use of dieting as an intervention for obesity.

Am I saying fat people who want to be healthier should give up? Absolutely not. I’m saying becoming healthier doesn’t require futile attempts to lose weight.

Please look at this graph. (Source.)

It shows likelihood of mortality as it relates to weight and four other characteristics: fruit and vegetable intake, tobacco use, exercise, and alcohol. These are sometimes called the “healthy habits.”

On the left side of the graph, fat people who practice no “healthy habits” – smoking, no veggies, immoderate drinking, no exercise – have a much higher mortality risk than so-called “normal” weight people with unhealthy habits (although the “normals” have elevated risk too).

On the right end of the graph, fat people who practice all four healthy habits have a mortality risk that’s just barely higher than their thinner counterparts. More importantly, we can see that fat people who practice all four healthy habits benefit enormously, compared to fat people who don’t. (“Normals” benefit enormously from these healthy habits, too.)

Most fat people can’t permanently lose enough weight to stop being fat. But most fat people can eat more veggies, can not smoke, can limit ourselves to one glass of hootch a day, can add moderate exercise to our lives. These things aren’t always easy, but they are all much more achievable, for most fat people, than stopping being fat.

Achievable advice is better than unachievable advice. There’s a positive way forward for most fat people who want to be healthier – one that’s more likely to work, and less likely to encourage self-hatred, than trying to stop being fat.

One final thought: stigma against being fat may be more harmful than fat itself.

These findings suggest the possibility that the stigma associated with being overweight is more harmful than actually being overweight… Growing evidence suggests that weight bias does not work; it leads to greater morbidity and, now, greater mortality.(See also.)

Could we get rid of weight bias while still holding the belief that fat people must lose weight? I doubt it. Reducing stigma could do more for fat people’s health than reducing waistlines.

There’s so much more to say (harms of dieting; benefits of a Health At Every Size approach; how HAES can help with disordered eating; etc), but I’m out of space.

I hope this letter finds you happy, well, and socially distanced someplace very cozy.

Best wishes, Barry


Letter 2
By Helen Pluckrose
Created 26 May ’20

Dear Barry,

Thank you for responding to my open letter.

They are not cherry-picked examples unless you mean that I am picking examples of elements of fat activism that worry me and only criticising them. This is quite a standard practice.

I know that fat activism and fat scholarship can address important issues but this is why it is so frustrating when it focuses on “fatphobic” discourses instead. I learnt about the connection between poverty and obesity and about medical discrimination in the Fat Studies Reader and these are things that could be focused upon empirically. Unfortunately, it spends much more time going on about fatphobia and how science is bad.

I think claims to be ‘anti-diet’ are missing the point and it also encapsulates the misdirection that fat activists frequently engage in.

There are two definitions of the word ‘diet.’ One refers to what someone eats and the other refers to a short-term weight loss plan. I think we can safely assume that we are both in favour of people eating and both against short-term weight loss plans.  Short-term weight loss plans cannot achieve a long-term healthy weight by definition. In the same way a six-week non-smoking plan after which you go back to smoking cannot achieve long-term non-smoking. Nevertheless, the reason the majority of people (worldwide, not in America) are not obese is their diet. Either intuitively or consciously they eat the right amount of calories they need to be neither dangerously underweight or dangerously overweight. The scientist you cite as saying there is no evidence that weight loss plans can achieve long-term weight loss is necessarily right but he seems to be talking to the people who only tried short-term ones and he might get different answers if he asked people who are not overweight why they are not. Some, like my husband (curse him) will doubtless say they don’t have to think about their diet to maintain a healthy weight but others, like most of my friends, will say they do it by watching what they eat.

You urge me to consider that cultural components of  attraction could be worth writing about and I don’t necessarily disagree. I do, however, think we should pay more attention to cultural components of obesity because it kills people.  Even in the countries like mine and yours where obesity has reached epidemic proportions, this was not the case 100 years ago or even 50 years ago. The fact that mass obesity is such a new phenomenon in some countries but still not in others indicates that it is not a biological inevitability but a product of culture. The fact that it is a causal factor for so many diseases and early death means we should try to do something realistic to address this. I agree that simply telling people to eat less and move more is likely to be unhelpful.

I agree that no-one is under any obligation to maximise their health. I have little sympathy with libertarian views that use obesity as an argument against people being required to contribute towards a nationalised healthcare service. My own father was assertive in his decision to smoke and he maintained that he was right to choose a more enjoyable life over a longer one even when he was dying of lung cancer.  I absolutely support him in that although, selfishly, I’d rather he were still alive.

I agree with this:

Achievable advice is better than unachievable advice.

However, I am sceptical of this:

But most fat people can eat more veggies, can not smoke, can limit ourselves to one glass of hootch a day, can add moderate exercise to our lives. These things aren’t always easy, but they are all much more achievable, for most fat people, than stopping being fat.

It seems unlikely to me that people who find it very difficult to refrain from eating too many calories will find it much easier to commit to more vegetables, not smoking, drinking in moderation and exercising. However, I agree that thinking of weight loss in terms of making healthier choices is more likely to be helpful than thinking of it as stopping being fat.

I think you are being defeatist. What the evidence that people find it very difficult to  lose weight and maintain that weight loss suggests is not that obese people should stop trying to lose weight and maintain that weight loss but that the currently advocated ways for doing so are not adequate. We know how people get fat and stay fat. What we are failing to address is why they do so. This is what we need research into on both a social and psychological level. What has changed in society that makes obesity an epidemic right now? Why do so many people find maintaining a healthy weight so difficult psychologically? What will realistically help them overcome this?

Your thesis seems to be: Obesity is unavoidable so we can either continue to have a stigma against obesity and make fat people both fat and miserable or we can get rid of the stigma against obesity so that fat people can be fat and happy.

Mine is: Obesity is a new problem so we know it is avoidable. We can put our efforts into problematising the people addressing obesity as a problem or we can address the problem of obesity while also addressing  discrimination & stigma and not being arseholes to obese people.

Best

Helen

P.S – Yes, I am self-isolating quite comfortably, thank you. My husband has had to take a furlough from work to protect me because I am particularly vulnerable to complications of the coronavirus because I am obese. :-p


Letter 3
By Barry Deutsch
Created 07 Jun ’20

Dear Helen,

Thanks for responding!

Our disagreements are legion but our word count isn’t, so I’ll get right into it.

You’re right, it’s not cherry-picking to criticize specific claims. But it is cherry-picking to treat an unrepresentative example as representative. You cherry-picked several times, such as saying fat acceptance doesn’t address workplace and medical discrimination but instead “goes on about romantic discrimination.”

You deny Dr. Miller’s claim that no “weight loss diet” has been shown to work[*] in a peer-reviewed study, by saying  “diet” means only “short-term” weight loss plans, a distinction not found in any dictionary I checked. As Dr. Miller’s quote said, he was looking at “long-term” weight loss.

No commercial program, clinical program, or research model has been able to demonstrate significant long-term weight loss for more than a small fraction of the participants.

Not a single weight-loss model – including long term approaches – has ever been shown to work in a peer-reviewed controlled clinical study.

There have been hundreds of tries. Anyone with a method scientifically proven to really, permanently work would become a billionaire. And yet, as Mann points out, not a single weight loss plan can even meet Medicare’s standards for effective health treatments.

Reviews of the scientific literature on dieting generally draw two conclusions about diets. First, diets do lead to short-term weight loss. One summary of diet studies from the 1970s to the mid-1990s found that these weight loss programs consistently resulted in participants losing an average of 5%–10% of their weight. Second, these losses are not maintained. As noted in one review, “It is only the rate of weight regain, not the fact of weight regain, that appears open to debate.”

(When Mann says “diet,” she doesn’t mean only short-term plans.)

Weight-loss advocates deny this reality – a finding that’s been in scholarly papers for decades and is unchanged today. They insist that empirical results don’t apply to whatever approach they favor (often called a “lifestyle change”).

Whatever they call it, it’s never been proven to work.

If we can’t acknowledge that, how can we have a real conversation about what fat people should do?

It is irresponsible for society to pressure us to stop being fat, when there’s no effective method for permanently losing even 5-10% of body weight, let alone the much larger amount someone like me would have to lose to stop being fat.

Now consider that weight-loss plans often leave people at higher mortality risk, less happy, and – by the way – fatter than when they began.

Proposing a treatment for being fat that’s more likely to harm patients than work isn’t just irresponsible. It’s cruel. Especially when there’s a better way.

Helen, you were skeptical that fat people could successfully pursue other routes to health, like exercise, not smoking, drinking moderately, and eating their veggies. Even though you were responding to an empirical study that included many fat people who did exactly those things.

(Are fat people especially bad at quitting smoking? This study found no connection between weight and ability to quit smoking; another found fat smokers were better at quitting.)

The truth is, keeping weight off is much harder than eating veggies or moderate exercise. Probably even harder than quitting smoking. Because our brains don’t want us to lose weight. Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt explains:

The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding….If someone starts at 120 pounds and drops to 80, her brain rightfully declares a starvation state of emergency, using every method available to get that weight back up to normal. The same thing happens to someone who starts at 300 pounds and diets down to 200.Even years after losing weight, our brains may still be trying to get us to regain the weight, preserving calories and making us hungrier. That’s why so many dieters gain weight in the end.

Because no comparable brain process keeps us from adding walks and veggies to our lives, most will find those things much easier than permanently losing substantial amounts of weight.

(I want to emphasize to readers, again, that no one’s obligated to maximize their health. And not everyone has the opportunity, unfortunately. A rare thing Helen and I agree on!)

It’s irrelevant to discuss if fat people should lose weight, when there’s no reliable way to make that happen.

You called me a defeatist, but I’m not. Knowing that fat people can be happy and healthy and lead great lives is the polar opposite of defeatism.

Imagine two people in a smelly mud pit behind a wall. On the other side of the wall, a beautiful park. The first says “with enough effort, I can vault this wall like Jackie Chan and be happy on the other side.”And so she tries and tries, always failing, while denying there’s any other way to reach the park.

The second realizes she’s unlikely to ever vault like Jackie Chan. So she walks around the wall instead, and is happy in the park on the other side.

Is the second person the defeatist?

I’m out of space – and there’s so much left unaddressed! Let me know if I skipped anything you especially wanted addressed, and I’ll try to fit it in my next letter.

Hoping this finds you safe and happy,

Barry

[*] I’m using “works” as shorthand for “significant, sustained weight loss for most people.”


Letter 4
By Helen Pluckrose
Created 07 Jun ’20

Dear Barry,

OK, fair enough. I could have phrased that better so it was clear I didn’t mean that they weren’t doing that but that they weren’t sticking to that.

Not a single weight-loss model – including long term approaches – has ever been shown to work in a peer-reviewed controlled clinical study.

I think it means that people who went on short-term diets did not succeed in keeping the weight off afterwards. It simply isn’t possible that people ate fewer calories than they burned and got fat or that got slim and then ate the same number of calories that they burned and got fat. Fat needs to be built or maintained with calories. If it were really true, we’d see evidence of it in areas where food is scarce. There’d be a number of thin people and some who were obese saying “I don’t understand it. I barely eat a thing.”

Anyone with a method scientifically proven to really, permanently work would become a billionaire.

What’s the method that explains why most people aren’t fat? Why aren’t I fat when I eat 2000 calories a day but get fat when I start eating more than that? Surely, the thing that isn’t working is people finding a way they can stick to? That’s not a judgemental thing. I’m not actually a believer in free will. I don’t think people who find they can’t stick to the number of calories they need are lazy or undisciplined. I think it’s really hard for them and medical research should look into making it easier.

Weight-loss advocates deny this reality – a finding that’s been in scholarly papers for decades and is unchanged today.

The first study here talks a lot about how severe the psychological effects of feeling deprived can be and refers to this as being undernourished. However, it clearly says that if people stick to this, it works. “A small minority of patients, able to endure the hunger and emotional hardship of treatment and to sustain their undernutrition for years of maintenance, feel that the sacrifices have been worth the effort.”

The second one clearly says that people gain weight again due to a number of factors and then it says,”Those individuals who do sustain substantial weight loss over time generally must maintain high levels of dietary restraint, physical activity, and self-monitoring behaviors.”  Of course.

The third one looks at obesity as a psychological issue but clearly says that the problem is that weight loss programmes are short-term .  “Weight loss ads and commercials bombard the media, including social media, with diets and other products claiming to result in large amounts of weight loss. There is little focus on long-term maintenance.” Later, it refers to the regaining of weight as ‘recidivism’ which clearly indicates that people have ceased sticking to a diet that will enable them to keep the weight off.

In summary, all three of these papers  acknowledge that when patients do stick to a diet programme long-term, they stay slim long-term. However, nearly all of them find this too difficult and revert to overeating.  They all recommend other measures to minimise the impact of obesity on health than sustaining weight loss which indicates that obesity is a problem for health. There is much to be said for these arguments especially if faced with the realistic option between working with what we’ve got – obesity with health risks minimised – or nagging people to stay on a diet forever when they do not feel they can. The papers also provide some useful information about how yo-yo dieting can affect metabolism and the physiological effects of weightloss which can often function to make weight loss harder so there are some physiological causes of weight plateaus and losing weight becoming harder after some has been lost.

You acknowledge some of the physiological symptoms when you say,

Even years after losing weight, our brains may still be trying to get us to regain the weight, preserving calories and making us hungrier. That’s why so many dieters gain weight in the end.

And you make a plausible argument that doing various things for living a healthier lifestyle could be easier for many people than eating less. It isn’t for me. I have managed to lose weight and keep it off all the times I have not been taking centrally-acting medication but have never been able to give up nicotine, wine or chocolate. Of course, this may indicate that I do not have the same problems that many obese people have.

I think the difference of opinion we are having here is between my view that weight loss and maintenance is physically possible but psychologically hard and so the solution must be psychological. I want more effort going into looking at it psychologically. And environmentally.  I still think research into why there was so much less obesity in our grandparents’ generation and trying to recreate that would be worthwhile. I am not ready to settle for being obese. I have been slim for most of my life and it is so much more comfortable and makes doing almost anything so much easier.

You, on the other hand, think there is a need for acceptance and mitigation of health risks, not because you are being defeatist, but because you’d rather spend your life that way than to keep trying and, statistically, being very likely to keep failing to lose weight. I think that is a perfectly reasonable analysis of the situation and decision to come to. When I say I want more focus on the individual’s psychology in order to find personalised solutions and not rely on formulaic programmes which work physically but not psychologically, I think some people’s psychology might reveal that they want to do what you want to do.

Best

Helen


Letter 5
By Barry Deutsch
Created 02 Feb ’21

Dear Helen,

Of course if someone eats little enough, they will lose weight. And if they keep eating little enough forever – which may require eating even less than when the diet began, as their body attempts to regain the weight – they can keep the weight off.

In this extremely superficial sense, it’s true that all fat people can diet their way to no longer being fat.

But that’s sidestepping the real question: Can a typical human voluntarily reduce food intake enough to cause a large loss of weight, not just for a few months or years, but for a lifetime? Not just in theory, but in practice? Study after study has shown that the overwhelming majority of us cannot.

You don’t deny that this is the case (thank you!), and say medicine should work on changing this. But it’s been working on it, for longer than we’ve been alive, without success. And in the meantime, trying and failing to lose weight (including in the form of multiple weight losses and regains) is harming many people’s mental and physical health.

Unless something in the science changes, the large majority of fat people will never be able to deliberately lose enough weight to stop being fat – and most weight lost, will eventually be regained.

That’s one thing “fat acceptance” means – just accepting that fact.

If there’s one thing I’d like people to take away from what I’ve written here, it’s this: It’s useless to say “fat people should stop being fat” when there’s no pragmatic, safe, and sustainable way to make that actually happen for most fat people.

Since this is my final letter in our exchange, I thought I’d finish up by listing some changes this fat activist wants to happen.

1) I want every fat person to choose for themselves if they want to try dieting their way out of being fat – but without being pressured.

2) But I also want fat people to have full and truthful information before deciding. They should know that – for those fat people who want to work on their health (and not everyone does, or should be expected to) – simple techniques like eating more vegetables and moderate exercise have been proven enormously beneficial, and this is true even if they remain fat.

They should know that the overwhelming majority of fat dieters don’t lose enough weight to stop being fat, and often end up fatter than when they began. They should know that multiple cycles of weight loss and regain are harmful physically and, for many, mentally – and are a far more likely outcome than permanent weight loss. They should know that it’s the body’s natural defenses against weight loss – not being weak-willed or contemptible – that make it effectively impossible for most people to keep large amounts of weight off.

3) Direct anti-fat discrimination and exclusion – from employers and doctors and teachers and engineers and clothing designers and so many others – has to stop.

4) Anti-fat stigma should stop as well, as much as possible. If we’re genuinely concerned about fat people’s health, then this should be a no-brainer; the damage to health from being stigmatized is fairly well documented.

What would ending anti-fat stigma look like? A full answer to that question would require thousands more words. But we could begin by changing the way our major institutions (such as schools, children’s books, television and movies) depict fat people. Ordinary fat people leading ordinary lives would ideally be as common on TV shows as we are in life, while anti-fat stereotypes become much rarer. (To be clear, I’m talking about creating these changes through persuasion and consumer advocacy, not any form of censorship).

5) Probably the hardest part: As a society, we have to stop teaching fat people to loathe ourselves.

Which I think begins with fat acceptance. In fact, all these changes are part of fat acceptance.

Thank you for this exchange. And in particular, thank you for how you’ve engaged this topic with me. It’s been difficult to find anyone who will disagree with me about fat acceptance politely and thoughtfully; abuse and contempt are more common. (Which is, I suspect, one reason most pro-fat people hesitate to get in these discussions.)

In our exchange, you’ve mentioned your own plans to stop being fat. I genuinely wish you nothing but success with that. But whether or not you succeed, I wish you happiness.

Best wishes, Barry

Posted in Fat, fat and more fat | 19 Comments  

Cartoon: There’s Never Been a Worse Time for Free Speech


Another collaboration with Becky Hawkins!


If you like these cartoons, you can help make more happen by moving to Portland, Oregon, and specifically into the shed next to my house, and every morning wake up and break into my house and stand over me saying “write! write! draw! draw you scum draw!” over and over, for hours, until I break, and don’t forget to support the Patreon.


Many people have commented that the right-wing freak out over how “CRT” – also known as political correctness, social justice warriors, the “woke,” and so on – is crushing free speech, comes rather suspiciously at a time when speech – while not perfect – is in many ways the freest it’s been in U.S.. history.

It’s just that the biggest gains for free speech have been for women, for lgbt, for racial minorities, etc.. Not that there aren’t still free speech problems there – of course there are – but those problems are a lot less than they used to be. And once those groups and more were freer to speak up, a lot of people (mostly but not only on the right) are feeling threatened.

I do agree that some communities on the left (like some on the right) can be rigid, judgmental and unforgiving, and that’s a problem. People can feel intimidated out of speech. But – even if we count all the right-wing attacks on free speech – the idea that our era is a historical nadir for free speech is beyond ludicrous.


Cartoons that skip through historical eras are some of the most time-consuming for us to create. It takes me a long time to research these things and decide which incidents to include (in this case, I think I found 12 cases that were perfectly on-the-nose for this cartoon and could be distilled down to one panel, and with Becky’s help chose just 6 to be in the cartoon), and then it takes Becky even more time to research all the fashions and environments for each era.

Fortunately, all that time spent on research is actually a lot of fun. Because Becky and I are nerds.


Here’s just a few of the many reference photos Becky used while drawing this strip, along with Becky’s comments:

Becky: “it’s really funny to me that every suffragist article I come across has the quote ‘Well-behaved women rarely make history’ somewhere in it, when that quote originally meant more like “history is full of women we don’t learn about because they weren’t considered important enough to write down.”

Becky: “Photographic reasons for a diverse suffragette panel in 1917.”

(Original Caption) American Suffragette parade in New York City, May 1912. Color Photograph. BPA 2 #6052

Becky: “…and a wearable banner that hasn’t been co-opted by TERFs.”

Becky: “I’m guessing the first version of this photo (above) was hand-tinted? The version below was colorized recently for Time Magazine. I went with the gold banners and pink hat in the cartoon because that panel already had so much blue.”

Becky: “I love the fourth outfit from the right. (I squeezed it into the background of the cartoon as clearly as I could.)”

Becky: “This cartoon has a bunch of very different settings, so I tried to make it look more cohesive by re-using colors from panel to panel. (I briefly thought about giving each panel a different color of monochromatic shading like in this cartoon, but I like how this looks in full color.) Sometimes I looked at the file without the dialogue or line art to see how the colors looked together. Here’s a screenshot I took halfway through the coloring process. I don’t think this counts as a “limited” color palette, but you can see some of the reds, blues, and browns repeating.”


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has seven panels. Each panel shows a different scene from a different era, with the first panel set in the 1890s, and each subsequent panel set in a later time period, until the final panel which is set in the present day.

PANEL 1

A bright summer day in the 1890s. In the foreground, a Black woman is watching three white men with an aggrieved posture. She’s wearing a blue dress. In the background, a uniformed police officer is talking to two other white men, one in a brown three-piece suit with matching bowler hat, while the other man looks more working-class with a white button-up shirt, no necktie, and suspenders.

Behind the men, we can see the still-smoking ruin of what was once a building.

MAN IN SUIT: We only burned down Ida Wells’ newspaper because she wrote against lynching.

COP: That seems reasonable.

PANEL 2

In the background, we can see a group of suffragettes in 1910s dresses and hats, crowded together and looking calm but nervous.  A couple of them are wearing sashes that read “votes for women.” Most of the suffragettes we see are white, but one is Black and another is Asian. The Asian woman is wearing a traditional Japanese kimono and hairstyle (modeled on Komako Kimura’s outfit and hair photographed at a 1917 suffragette march).

In the foreground, with their backs to us (so facing the women), a couple of cops are talking. One of them is slapping a palm with a billy club.

COP 1: These suffragettes were picketing the White House.

COP 2: Let the beatings begin!

PANEL 3

A wealthy looking couple, dressed in 1920s fashion (her in a blue hat with a red ribbon with flower decoration, and a matching blue jacket with puffy off-white cuffs and neck; him in an off-white suit, a straw boater with a red ribbon, blue necktie and red vest) are looking at the building across the street with some distress.

The building across the street has a sign saying “Apollo Theatre” over a revolving door entrance. A big theatre marquee over the entrances tells us that “The God of Vengeance” is playing, although the words are partly blocked by a word balloon. Another nearby sign says “Times Sq.”

WOMAN: A play with Jewish lesbians kissing?

MAN: Let’s call the police!

PANEL 4

An Asian man sits in a chair, holding up a sheet of paper. So many long horizontal strips have been sliced out of the paper that it’s made as much of holes as it is of paper. He’s wearing a collared blue shirt.

Behind him, an Asian woman leans forward to look over his shoulder. She’s wearing a red skirt and buttoned-up blouse, with a blue sweater over it. The hairstyle and clothing suggest the 1940s.

WOMAN: What’s that?

MAN: Letter from my friend Takashi in the internment camp.

PANEL 5

This panel shows two cops, a postman, and a woman in a dress. In the background, we can see a small but well-kept looking yellow house, with a tree in front and a planter under the front window.

One of the cops is putting the woman into the back seat of a police car. Judging from the woman’s hairstyle and pink, high-collared dress, this is the 1960s.

In the foreground, the postman is talking to the other cop, while pointing backwards with his thumb towards the woman. The cop is taking notes.

POSTMAN: We opened Virginia Prince’s mail and found lesbian love letters and something called “Transvestia Magazine”!

PANEL 6

We are looking at a TV set, on a table. Judging from the make of the TV and the style of the tablecloth under the TV, this is the 1970s.

On the TV a dignified-looking Black man, with white hair styled to be high on top of his head, black round glasses, and wearing a suit and tie, is speaking. (The man is Bayard Rustin.)

RUSTIN: I was arrested in the 1940s for being anti-war… In the 50s for being gay… And in the 60s for protesting Jim Crow.

PANEL 7

A current-day TV studio. Cameras and lights point at two people sitting at a table, one a middle-aged man wearing a gray suit with a blue tie, the other a younger-looking woman with black hair, glasses, and a blue short-sleeved dress. The man is spreading his arms out in an annoyed fashion while speaking, and the woman is pounding a fist on the table in front of her.  “Clap clap clap” sound effects on the bottom right of the panel indicate that the unseen audience is clapping for what the woman is saying.

MAN: Nowadays straight white men can’t say anything without being criticized!

WOMAN: There’s never been a worse time for freedom of speech!

SFX: Clap clap clap clap


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics | Leave a comment  

You Can’t Call Me A Homophobe If I’m Not Afraid


Another collab with Becky Hawkins!


If you like these cartoons, then you’re an exceptionally refined person and people all over the world are clamoring to know you to such an extent that it’s actually become difficult for you to go out in public unless you wear like, a slouch hat and big sunglasses, but that just makes you look like a spy and other spies come up to you and try to exchange briefcases and it’s just awkward and also support the patreon.


This is one of those “frustratingly dense argument I’ve been hearing for decades” cartoons, aka “Barry should really spend less time on Twitter.”

Here’s the particular tweet that directly inspired this cartoon:

I guess I’d call this “argument by paronomasia.” In English words and idioms have meanings which are determined by usage, not by etymology or component parts.

I’m not against etymology, of course. Etymology can be a fascinating history of how words came to be and how they evolved. But they don’t dictate meaning.


Becky agreed to let me show you a couple of the selfies she took as reference for drawing this strip. Enjoy!


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a white man speaking directly to the reader; he has curly orange-ish hair and is wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt,

PANEL 1

MAN: Here’s a newsflash for you stupid lefties! Sometimes words aren’t literally true!

PANEL 2

The man smirks big and makes air quotes with his fingers.

MAN: Like when you call me a “homophobe” or “transphobe” just because I want those people fired from schools!

MAN: Idiot lefties! “Phobia” means “fear” but I’m not literally afraid! lol lol lol!

PANEL 3

He holds up a forefinger to emphasize his point. He’s grinning big.

MAN: You called me “white supremacist” when I said Blacks are genetically stupid…

MAN: But I think Asians are better at math than whites! So I don’t think whites are “supreme.” lolol!

PANEL 4

The man leans closer to the camera, widening his eyes and pursing his lips in a “oooh spooky” expression, while making the “mind blown” gesture with his hands on each side of his head.

MAN: The “big apple” is not a fruit! “Boxing rings” are square! “Hot dogs” aren’t dogs!

MAN: Aren’t you amazed at how clever I am? Is your mind blooown?


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Race, racism and related issues | 5 Comments  

Cartoon: Hold, Corporate Miscreant!


If you like these cartoons, you can support them by becoming and engineer and then designing a completely safe house for them to live in which will stand firm despite floods and storms and earthquakes and smoke from the endless nearby forest fires and the inevitable invading zombie hoards, or you could just support my patreon. Either way’s good.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a scene on a city sidewalk between three people: A labor activist (carrying a “Stop the war on workers” sign), a boss type guy (wearing a suit and tie), and an Uncle Sam-like superhero (wearing the Uncle Sam hat, a big cape, and a stars-and-stripes themed leotard).

PANEL 1

The activist leans back a bit, looking unhappy, as the boss aggressively leans forward to point at her, yelling in her face. A superhero flies down, yelling with an angry expression.

BOSS: Labor organizing? Not in my company! You’re fired!

SUPERHERO: Hold, corporate miscreant!

PANEL 2

The superhero has landed on the sidewalk and is talking to the two people, with a very stern expression. The activist looks happy at this turn of events, and the boss is startled and unhappy.

BOSS: Who are you?

SUPERHERO: I’m the U.S. government! And I’m here because firing people for labvor organizing is illegal! NOW HOLD OUT YOUR HAND!

PANEL 3

A close up panel shows the boss’ hand, held out, palm facing down, and the superhero’s hand, holding a ruler. The superhero hits the back of the boss’ hand gently with the ruler. A very small sound effect says “tap.”

PANEL 4

The superhero, grinning widely, is flying up into the air. The boss, smiling, waves goodbye. The activist frowns and looks at the readers out of the corner of her eye, with a “can you believe this?” expression.

BOSS: Um… Okay, I’ve learned my lesson.

SUPERHERO (loudly): Mission accomplished!


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Union Issues | 3 Comments