May 3, 2004

"Our Computers Made Us Do It"

AFTER TAKING ONE LOOK AT THE TSUNAMI OF MERDE heading their way, the blighted boffins at MSNBC made a hasty retreat into the merde shelter and uttered the "Dog Ate My Homework" Defense:

MSNBC - Why we pulled Monday's Ted Rall cartoon
Item did not meet MSNBC standards of fairness and taste pulled a cartoon by syndicated political cartoonist Ted Rall on Monday.

Rall's cartoon, distributed widely by United Press Syndicate to scores of newspapers and Web sites, concerned the late Pat Tillman, the NFL player who quit football to join the Army. Tillman was killed last month in Afghanistan.

The cartoon, like others on, is published daily on the site via an automated syndication feed. Such feeds are rarely reviewed. However, Editor in chief Dean Wright concluded Monday's Rall item did not meet standards of fairness and taste.

I'm used to seeing fairly large steaming loads of manure dropped by organizations like NBC when they get caught out. (No, we won't recap the Ted Koppel blatherfest of last week, thank you.), but the "automated feed" excuse only tells us that "Editor-in-chief" Wright has no real controls over what gets published on his site and what doesn't. Amateur hour prevails at Wright's site.

Any editor with even half a brain would know that Rall, given his long and vile history, would sooner or later feel the lack of the spotlight and come up with something really obnoxious. That is a given. a certainty, a thing that will fall upon your site according to the law of gravity. An editor with an ounce of professionalism knows that and plans for it. He or she creates systems of review and approval. The last thing a professional editor does is leave large sections of his or her site open to "automated feeds" so that any one of a dozen "partners" can just pump anything they want into your templates.

Imagine a magazine or newspaper that has a number of cartoonists working for it. These cartoonists are known to be flakey and some more undependable than others. Would that magazine or newspaper simply tell those cartoonists to run down to the printer and drop anything they liked on a few pages that they've left blank for them?

Forget the editors. Would the lawyers working for a magazine or newspaper allow such a policy to exist? Not bloody likely.

Come to think of it, I'm betting MSNBC does have some human review set up and they are simply lying through their teeth about the "automated feed." The Rall obscenity was probably reviewed by some entry-level editor who is a special pet of Wright's and who thought it was funny and saw nothing wrong with it. He or she probably thought, "Hey, dump on the troops? That's what we do here. Up it goes."

Folding money that the MSNBC dog did not eat the homework, but simply tossed up the Rall dog's dinner for the delight of anti-American American's everywhere. Then they went out to lunch. On the expense account and had a good laugh about it. "Tillman? Poor Sucker. That Rall's so edgy. Let's have him over to dinner next week, what?"

Oh, yes, what they published before someone up the corporate ladder yanked their chain hard was this. Words fail me.

IN A QUICK WHIPAROUND , in which David Astor of Editor & Publisher calls up Ted Rall Astor has this choice stroke for and quote from Rall:

Rall, who risked his life in Afghanistan himself as a visiting cartoonist/writer after 9/11, told E&P: "The word 'hero' has been bandied about a lot to refer to anyone killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. But anyone who voluntarily goes to Afghanistan or Iraq [as a soldier] is fighting for an evil cause under an evil commander in chief."
You gotta love that 'risk of life as a visiting cartoonist' phrase. You've also got to love Astor's little squib earlier in the item: "The volume of mail probably had a lot to do with the cartoon being mentioned on the Drudge Report site seen by many conservatives." [Emphasis added]

Astor, you fool, try "...highly popular site," or "... a site visited by many conservatives, liberals, libertarians, gossip mongers, and clueless reporters for Editor & Publisher" if you really want to be inclusive.

David, you've simply got to get better about hiding your real feelings in news reports. Practice, David. Effort in this area will cover lack of talent in time. But then again, perhaps I am being to harsh. Your computer probably made you do it.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 3, 2004 1:31 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Maybe the couragous cartoonist can go to Iraq for
awhile and 'risk his life" just one more time.

Well, if the troops in Iraq ever see that cartoon,
and they will, he just might be "risking finding a real cold shoulder" over there. (I can't say anything that could be seen as harsh, it may hurt his feelings) He is so sensitive!

People like that just can't see beyond their own
hate, and if I had to think of a hateful and
degrading cartoon everyday, I would have to have
a unlimited supply of hate to draw on, so this
man must have had a very hard time as a child or
teenager or adult to feel as he does. Can't you just "feel his pain?" I am sure we all can, but does that excuse his wickedness? None in the least.

He is simply a jerk and you did a great job of
telling him and the editors just that.

Posted by: Carole at May 3, 2004 4:48 PM

Sorry, bud, but MSNBC is telling the truth about the feed. I run several websites believe me, the bigger and more complicated ones run as much of their content on autopilot as they possibly can since it makes things easier for the staff plus keeps things interesting for the readers.

Many blogs also run things automatically. Ever heard of RSS?

That said, Rall is a POS and deserves any ass-kicking he may get as a result of his arrogance.

Posted by: Hank Hill at May 3, 2004 4:55 PM

Yeah I'm with Hank, a lot of good sites are on auto-pilot.

Of course, the question is why they'd be running Ted Rall on their auto-feeds in the first place....

Posted by: Dean Esmay at May 3, 2004 10:37 PM

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I did spend a couple of years running a site that brought in many millions of dollars and was thousands and thousands of pages deep.

There were, i assure you, lots of automated jobs going on but I would have never had a content stream on autopilot.

Too much can go wrong. Dean is correct in noting that having Rall or any other "creator" of dubious material just pop onto the site is a chumps play.

I thought I'd made that clear but evidently I did not.

When you open yourself to all autofeeds all the time you are just greasing up and assuming the position.

To do otherwise is bad editing and bad security. It doesn't take much imagination to know that autofeeds can be compromised at a lot of points along the fiber.

An old rule of the editing and publishing biz is ya don't print what ya ain't read.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at May 3, 2004 10:53 PM

Ted Rall is a massive douchebag and every cartoonist in New York City hates him. And I'm a dirty stinking filthy liberal. for more.

Posted by: K. Thor Jensen at May 4, 2004 5:03 PM

Treat traitors like traitors, I say, ted rall probalby likes being tortured anyway and he sure deserves it, this is America and you can report the dogshit ted rall to authorities.

Posted by: Floyd Jackson at May 20, 2004 3:32 PM