Cartoon: Covid and the Moon, a true story


I can only make these cartoons because people support them on Patreon! Most only pledge a dollar or two – but collectively, they make these cartoons happen, which is awesome. Join us! One of us… one of us… one of us…


Many thanks to Jake Richmond (who also drew the Capitalism/Socialism cartoon back in April) for the great job he did with this strip. Jake’s a terrific cartoonist who knows me very well in real life, so he was a natural choice to draw this strip, and I’m very happy with how it came out.

Although it’s always a bit weird to see myself in a comic strip drawn by someone else.


I don’t do much autobiographical cartooning (although I did do this comic strip, “My Life As A Duck,” years ago).

What’s left out of this cartoon is the significant amount of chatting that went on before the conversation touched on Covid. This was someone I met (in the online way) on a board for discussing musicals. (As those of you who know me in real life know – which reminds me, welcome, Paul! Hi! Thank you! – I’m a complete freak for musicals.)

I don’t know what age or (at first) what sex they were, since unlike the comic strip, we were texting rather than video conferencing.  We talked about musicals (of course), Stephen Sondheim, food, movies, and other things… A pleasantly meandering conversation.  And I’d say, judging from that conversation, that this person seemed well-educated and was certainly smart.

We had been texting for over half an hour before Covid came up. So their belief in some seriously ridiculous conspiracies took me totally by surprise.

It goes to show that even smart people can be unbelievably stupid. And I still find it disturbing. The truth is, logic and facts often have almost nothing to do with what people believe.

The conversation died shortly after that, and I haven’t run into them again.


 

 

TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has five panels. The first four panels are square-shaped, arranged in a two by two grid. The fifth panel is twice as wide as the other four.

PANEL 1

Large, friendly lettering at the top of panel 1 says “A TRUE STORY.” Below that, we see someone’s hand pressing a key on a laptop. On the screen of the laptop is some sort of split-screen video conferencing, on which two people – a red headed woman and a dark-haired man with a beard, who is me, Barry – are talking. They both look cheerful.

REDHEAD: Hospitals made up COVID! Becuase they can charge more for COVID than for a flu.

PANEL 2

We’ve switched to another room, where Barry is sitting on a chair in front of a desktop computer. On the computer screen we can see Redhead. Barry, smiling, has his hands in front of him in a “let me explain” gesture while he talks.

BARRY: But between nurses, doctors, and hospital administrators, there’d have to be tens of thousands people in the conspiracy!

BARRY: Something that big can’t be kept secret! Hundreds of people would have leaked it by now!

PANEL 3

We see Redhead, sitting in front of her open laptop as she responds. She’s holding a cat in her lap with one hand, and with the other she’s holding up a forefinger in a “let me make this telling point” sort of gesture. She’s smiling cheerfully, almost laughing. The backside of the laptop is facing us, so we can’t see the screen, but Barry’s word balloon points to the laptop.

REDHEAD: I read a doctor saying it. So it hasn’t been kept secret.

BARRY: You can always find a few people saying anything! Some people say the moon landing was faked!

PANEL 4

A shot of Barry at his computer; Barry looks very taken aback (open mouth, wide eyes). We’re looking at the back of the monitor, so we don’t see Redhead on the monitor, but her word balloon points to the monitor.

REDHEAD: Well, yeah. The moon landing was faked.

PANEL 5

A complete change of scene. We are now out in a park, with trees and green grass and wooden picnic tables. Barry and a friend (not the same person as Redhead) are talking. They are both wearing masks; Barry is standing, and about six feet away, his friend is sitting at a picnic table.

Barry’s wearing a different shirt now, so probably at least a day has passed since panel 4.

BARRY: So that’s when I gave up on arguing with people.

FRIEND: Mmm

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19 Responses to Cartoon: Covid and the Moon, a true story

  1. 1
    delagar says:

    My father worked on the moon landings (among other things, he helped design the lunar rover) and he used to come here to our university to guest-lecture to our engineering students about being a working engineer.

    One semester one of the students asked him about the moon landings, saying his high school science teacher had said they were fake. My father seldom got angry, but he got angry then. He made the same argument you’re making here — tens of thousands of people worked for NASA during the space race, how could anyone seriously believe all of them were in on that conspiracy? And NO ONE had leaked the “truth”?

  2. 2
    Joe in Australia says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen this style from you before, but I like it. For some reason I really like the third frame even though (or because?) it looks much flatter than the rest. And yes, I’ve recently been in similar conversations with perfectly nice people who turn out to be absolute conspiracy-theorising loons. It’s very scary!

  3. 3
    Polaris says:

    Not to mention every other country participating in the conspiracy as well.

  4. 4
    Görkem says:

    So I am curious, given that COVID conspiracy theories are mostly a product of the far right, which as we all know is a sexist, patriarchal male dominated project, what made you decide to depict the conspiracy theorist as a woman?

  5. 5
    sharon l cullars says:
  6. 6
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    I just want to say how much I still love “My Life as a Duck”.

  7. 7
    Joe in Australia says:

    @Görkem: I don’t think you’re correct about the gendered nature of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, but wouldn’t you have a very different cartoon if Redhead was swapped out for some alt-right figure? According to Ampersand it’s based on a conversation he had with someone on a board for discussing musicals, a “pleasantly meandering conversation” in which the conspiracy theories only came up at the end. It’s the incongruity that’s the point.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    Delagar, that’s really neat of your father!

    Joe in Aussie, I wrote but didn’t draw this one – it’s drawn by Jake Richmond. I’m glad you like it, though. :-)

    Polaris, good point.

    Görkem, in the real life conversation I had, the person who told me this was a woman. So I made her a woman in the script – I didn’t see any reason to change that.

    Jacqueline, thank you! :-)

  9. 9
    Görkem says:

    Barry, you said “I don’t know what age or sex they were, since unlike the comic strip, we were texting rather than video conferencing.”

    Was this a different person to the person you knew was a woman?

    @Sharon. Yes I realise individual women can push patriarchal nonsense, just like PoC can push racist nonsense and queer people can push homophobic nonsense. And even in some rare but very notable cases, trans people can push transphobic nonsense. I wasn’t saying it was impossible for a woman to have this kind of viewpoint, but I thought that Barry didn’t know the gender of the person so I assumed he was making a deliberate choice, e.g. having a woman represent this movement. It would be like choosing to depict a black person as pushing Republican talking points re: BLM, it can happen but it would be a weird choice for an artist.

    But it seems Barry wasn’t making a choice just depicting reality as he saw it, so that’s not what I thought was happening. It’s just that I had misunderstood a comment he made about not knowing the person’s age or gender.

  10. 10
    Kate says:

    re Gorkem @Sharon…the situations aren’t comparable. More than half of the white women who voted in both 2016 and 2020 voted for Trump. When given the choice between fighting sexism and supporting white privilege, the majority of married white women consistently choose the latter.

  11. 11
    Corso says:

    I had a conversation like this just a couple weeks ago… I live in a city of about 200,000 people, and there are maybe another 50,000 in the health district (five districts in Manitoba). There were literally 0 new cases for the last two weeks, and 13 active cases total in the district, which seems great… And I’m thankful for it… But we still can’t eat in a restaurant. Suffice it to say… It’s spring, people are antsy and starting to grumble.

    So we’re having a pretty decent whingefest, talking about all the things we’d prefer to be doing, people started to filter away until it was just me and a clerk. And all of a sudden she starts talking about American Politics. Because everything eventually devolves into American Politics. Did you guys know that Joe Biden is really dead? Or that the capitol police have actually instituted martial law, and the government is just playing for the TV? Did you know that Covid is actually fake? And that the vaccine is hurting people?

    It was jarring. That kind of crazy happens on Twitter, not in real life. I said almost the exact same thing delagar did @1: “You believe that tens of thousands of people, doctors, nurses, and researchers, from dozens of countries, with conflicting motives are all lying about this, and no one, not one, has broken the wall of silence?” I saw this glimmer of doubt, that gave me hope, and so I tried to have a conversation… But it lasted way too long and I don’t think it went anywhere.

    I don’t know what you do with that.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    Barry, you said “I don’t know what age or sex they were, since unlike the comic strip, we were texting rather than video conferencing.”

    Sorry, my bad. I should have written that I didn’t know what sex they were at first. It came in the conversation later. (I’ve edited the post to clarify.)

  13. 13
    nobody.really says:

    More than half of the white women who voted in both 2016 and 2020 voted for Trump.

    I’m skeptical.

    Perhaps this statement reflects exit polling. Exit polls are conducted on people who vote in person on election day and are willing to stop on their way out of the polls to disclose a variety of demographic data to pollsters. As we’ve learned, Republicans disproportionately vote in person, while Democrats disproportionately vote early or by mail. Thus, for that reason among others, exit polls skew Republican. Subsequent analysis by the Pew Research Center estimated that in 2016 Trump won only 47% of the white female vote, vs. Clinton’s 45%. (So 8% of white women voted for … someone else?)

    What about for 2020? Pew has not yet released its analysis–but ponder the following results from Wikipedia, citing the Federal Election Commission:

    2016–Clinton won the popular vote 48.2% to 46.1%.
    2020–Biden won the popular vote 51.3% to 46.9%.

    Does it seem likely that Biden could have achieved this lopsided result while a majority of white women voters (roughly 40% of the electorate) supported Trump? It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  14. 14
    Kate says:

    Exit polls surely inflated the number of white women who voted for Trump. But if 47% of white women clearly voted for Trump, and 8% can’t be determined (because 8% for sure didn’t vote 3rd party), there’s not much in it. The point I was making is, using a white woman as the face of conservative viewpoints is not:

    … like choosing to depict a black person as pushing Republican talking points re: BLM, it can happen but it would be a weird choice for an artist.

    because white women voting for their racial privilege over their sexual liberation is extremely common.

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    @4, Görkem said:

    So I am curious, given that COVID conspiracy theories are mostly a product of the far right, which as we all know is a sexist, patriarchal male dominated project, what made you decide to depict the conspiracy theorist as a woman?

    Every COVID conspiracy theorist and every COVID vaccine denier I have met has been female. But don’t let me keep you from re-thinking your premises ….

    Corso:

    Did you guys know that Joe Biden is really dead?

    I don’t know. Based on the occasions I’ve seen him speak to the public or at press conferences since he became President the possibility that we are actually seeing an animatronic construct with some badly written AI software running it cannot be 100% discounted.

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    I think part of the problem with acceptance of the vaccines are that people think the whole thing was rushed. While the development of the vaccines for these particular viral strains was done at unprecedented speed (thank you President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed) and some of the normal regulatory barriers for approval were bypassed, the actual technology of mRNA-based vaccines has been something that’s been worked on for over a decade. But people don’t know or understand that, and they sure as Hell don’t know what mRNA is, so they see this seemingly come out of nowhere and are skeptical. I have been beating the drum to get vaccinated with everyone I come in contact with who expresses skepticism.

  17. 17
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Based on the occasions I’ve seen him speak to the public or at press conferences since he became President the possibility that we are actually seeing an animatronic construct with some badly written AI software running it cannot be 100% discounted.

    Wow. This is a statement an American made just 2 1/2 months after 4 years of the most incompetent public speaker of my lifetime.

    Thanks for another drive-by, though, Ron. Keep ’em coming!

  18. 18
    nobody.really says:

    Donald Trump became president of the United States. What attributes did he bring to that job OTHER than speaking?

    In fairness, there were several: He is white, male, tall, able-bodied, rich. But that list doesn’t do much to distinguish him from most of his opponents and challengers. Trump is not conspicuously intelligent, or curious, or well-mannered, or pedigreed, or organized, or strategic, or even-tempered. Face it: speaking is what Trump excels at.

    Give the devil his due….

  19. 19
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Face it: speaking is what Trump excels at.

    The accommodating press’s edits of him speaking, maybe. Actual public speaking? Not so much. The fact that cultists eat it up doesn’t make him a better public speaker.

    What he does excel at is ginning up bigotry and hatred and press coverage. We’ve seen none better in this country for many decades. But that’s hardly the same thing as public speaking ability.

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