A Conversation with Political Cartoonist/Agitator Ted Rall

October 6th, 2010 by RR Anderson

CLAW had a chance to sit down with Radical-left wing Political Cartoonist Tedd Rall in a plush ski lodge drinking apple cider to ask questions about his recent cartooning field expedition to war torn Afghanistan. He is also coming to Tacoma’s own KINGS BOOKS for some kind of pinko-commie book tour called “The Anti-American Manifesto

More From Kings Books Website:

October 12 * 7 pm. Ted Rall Talk.
Join us as we welcome political cartoonist Ted Rall as he talks about his new book The Anti-American Manifesto. The book is a new manifesto for an America heading toward economic and political collapse. While others mourn the damage to the postmodern American capitalist system created by the recent global economic collapse, Rall sees an opportunity. As millions of people lose their jobs and their homes, they and millions more are opening their minds to the possibility of creating a radically different form of government and economic infrastructure.

Ted Rall is twice the winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Rall is a political cartoonist, opinion columnist, graphic novelist and occasional war correspondent whose work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Village Voice, and Los Angeles Times. His cartoons appear in approximately 100 newspapers across the US. Rall is President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

Ted Rall = TR

CLAW: Dear Ted Rall, you and a team of bearded political cartoonists have returned from a self-funded, un-embedded trip to Afghanistan on a fact finding mission for political cartoons. How is this even possible?

TR: With money and stupidity, all things are possible.

CLAW: PART 2 – Did the beard disguise really work?

TR: Incredibly, it worked too well! We got detained three times by nervous Afghan National Policemen convinced we were either Pakistani suicide bombers (“Say something in Pashto!” My answer: “I’m American. We don’t even speak one language!”), American Talibs, or miscellaneous Bad Santas from the Hindu Kush. We had to get serious trims in order to fit in.

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

CLAW: What’s so important about sending a cartoonist to Afghanistan?

TR: Well, we did win the war. Surely that counts for something.

CLAW: Please give us a sense of your field cartooning techniques. Laptop? Scanner? Do you use a wacom tablet?

TR: Typing paper, Rollerball pen, portable flatbed scanner, laptop (used for scanning and Photoshop). Delivery via laptop attached to BGAN satellite modem, which is powered by solar panels and portable battery charging device.

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

CLAW: What did the Afghan people think of your drawings? How did the people of Afghanistan react when you told them you were a cartoonist?

TR: They were into them. They especially liked Matt Bors’ stuff, since his style is more realistic. They were fascinated by the idea of reproducing something you could see on paper. Apparently no one does this there anymore, which is in some ways more expository about the trials and tribulations of Afghanistan than the death count. They do have cartoons in Afghan newspapers, but those only circulate in Kabul and few people buy them.

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

CLAW: Did the Qur’an burning bumpkin news story give your expedition any problems?

TR: Fortunately the chaos created by that moron began to break as we were heading toward the Iranian border.

CLAW: Recently one of our sister cartoonists, Molly Norris of Seattle, has disappeared into the rabbit hole of the FBI witness protection program (or something to that effect). Your thoughts?  What went wrong? What can we do?

TR: Needless to say, that sucks. But I said it anyway. I’m not impressed by her cowardice, however. Death threats are standard-issue for cartoonists who work in the political realm. I get them, Garry Trudeau gets them, David Horsey gets them. If you’re afraid of being threatened or even getting killed for your opinions, don’t publicize political opinions. If the best counter to bad free speech is good free speech, the best counter to attempts at censorship is a refusal to be silenced.

I wish Molly had thought things through more before publishing on the Internet. I also wish the cartoonist and journalist communities had done the right thing and rallied around her. Too often cartoonists get thrown to the wolves. It’s happened to me and many others. We should look out for one another.

It’s not too late, of course, to launch a big PR campaign against this successful stifling of a journalistic voice.

CLAW: Several of our C.L.A.W. members are in the service. One guy drew this cartoon… about how popular the 1988 Israeli film “The Beast” is on base.  How well do you think that film holds up today (not counting Stephen Baldwin’s Russian accent)?

TR: I am partly responsible for “The Beast”‘s “low box-office statistics.” I haven’t seen it.

CLAW: Any advice to CLAW members headed to Afghanistan or Iraq right now?

TR: Are you fucking crazy?  Or just stupid?

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

CLAW: How many cartoonists does it take to end a war?

TR: At least four, apparently.

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

Courtesy of Tedd Rall

CLAW: What is next for Ted Rall, Adventurer/Cartoonist?

TR: Writing the book about the trip. That will keep me busy until spring. I’m touring “The Anti-American Manifesto,” a tome with the world’s most lowkey title ever, this fall. And I’m working on a coupla graphic novels. I’m itching to go somewhere exotic and dangerous again, of course. I never feel happy unless I have weird plane reservations.


CLAW: What do you think about cartoonists who manufacture books with no actual cartoon drawings in them?  Isn’t that like when Jim Carrey plays dramatic roles and expects people to take him seriously?

TR: Actually, I like those Jim Carrey movies.

CLAW: [in reference to Molly Norris death fatwa] How hidden, if at all, is your home address, phone number, and the route you take to work every day?

TR: As hidden as they possibly can be. But I don’t worry about Islamic radicals. I worry about American right-wing nuts. Cartoonists, particularly political cartoonists, who blog their private lives, including references to their children, are out of their minds. This country is awash in high-caliber weaponry owned by people with low-caliber intellects.

CLAW: We all face revisions, but how many is your limit with your editor before you curse and or threat and or beat them with a blunt object?

TR: Three. I’ll go two rounds of edits without complaint. The third time, whatever it is should have been brought up the first two times.

CLAW: Do you consider the internet your friend, or a demon that demands it’s tribute?

TR: An impecunious demon. It must be fed, and it gives little if anything back.

CLAW: We all have that one thing we find incredibly difficult to draw, what is yours?

TR: Animals.

CLAW: See you at Kings Books in Tacoma (the city of destiny) !

[CLAW was disturbed to read about the plight of City Arts Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris who went into hiding after she drew a EVERYBODY DRAW MOHAMMED DAY cartoon and ended up on a terrorist hit list. We contacted every state and local elected official we could think of… the only one man enough to give us a comment was Mr. Marty Campbell of the Tacoma City Council]

from marty:

Thank you. As a video store owner I am often witness to needless censorship and overreacting responses.

I believe that political speech should not only be protected, but also defended.  The same is true for an artists work.

I think every artist should be prepared to be criticized and maybe even rejected, but they should never have to fear for their life or the lives of their family and friends.

I’m sure Molly understood there may be a disproportionate response to her cartoon as there has been in the past, and yet she took the risk. If we are willing to spend $$ to rescue mountain climbers, river rafters and people trying to sail around the world when they take known risks, don’t we owe the same to those who risk their lives in the name of free speech.

I am disappointed that the course of action to protect her right to free speech is to effectively end her ability to speak freely.

Marty Campbell, Tacoma City Council – Position 4

1 Comment

  1. Maureen VanderPas said,

    October 7, 2010 @ 8:05 am

    Loved reading this article! Great stuff. Thanks so much!