By the date this comic was published, I had upon several occasions pursued Bruce Tinsley's implied exhortation to explore his sources. That is because I already knew what a footnote is supposed to mean. However, I have often found that his "footnotes" do not really lead to actual sources, and sometimes clearly beg the question of the argument he is trying to present.
The funny part here is that two facts are actually asserted, but only one is footnoted. There is no apparent source for the Toyota/GM battle for dominance - I suppose we all knew that already and it does not need a footnote. But this Fox News thing is interesting.
To start with, we have a typical Tinsley-style footnote, just listing a website, with no mention of where on that web site his citation might be found. Well, I dug around for a while before finding some information that might relate. Not factually, or anything, but it seems to be on the same subject - the best we can usually expect with Mr. Tinsley's "sources."
I found some nice viewership graphs. One charts the popularity of the "big three" network evening news shows, and another tracks the "cable news" channels. Yup, the big three have been declining in viewership for years. On the cable graph, we see Fox beating the pants off MSNBC and CNN.
Here are the graphs, stolen and reprinted, but linked to their source files:
Now, to the innocent eye, it sure looks like Fox is leaving the "big three" networks in their dust. But look closely, as you always must when viewing data presented as a graph. First, and not importantly, the time periods are different - the cable news graph only runs from 1998 to 2005. Second, and this really matters, look at the vertical axes. The broadcast networks' viewership is in millions - and the bottom 6 million is omitted for "clarity." It shows CBS dropping to just under 8 million, while NBC is just over 10 million. The cable news graph is scaled in thousands - showing Fox ascending over seven years from about a hundred thousand to 1.6 million - about one fifth of the least viewed network.
It is a simple matter to overlay the two graphs. I added the bottom six million to the network graph, extending the vertical axis to zero, and then copied the appropriate section of the cable graph and sized it to fit the network axes, from 1998 to 2005 horizontally and from zero to 1.8 million vertically. Since this almost destroyed the visibility of the lines, I drew over the Fox curve as widely as the network curves are drawn, using a new color. Here is the result:
Now, Fox is still gaining viewers steadily, I don't mean to imply they aren't, and the networks have been losing them pretty steadily for twenty five years, dropping from about 52 million to 27 million. And, the Fox viewership may very well be entirely composed of former network viewers - but their share is barely more than a rounding error compared to the network numbers, lost or kept.
Score: Tinsley: zero, for simply lying, and minus one, for pretending he has "sources." What a tool.
This week of repetitive strips has the typical "Tinsley in Search of a Punchline" situation - repeating the setup and hoping that his droll bon mots will justify the rant's existence on the "funny pages." Also interesting is that not only does he "footnote" a pundit's article, as we often see, rather than some sort of "source," in this case the pundit merely sprays commentary without any particular statistical or research-based data to support his point. There is not even an "argument" in the classical sense for his case. Just another list of examples of how Christians (particularly Catholics, of which the author is not only one, but a member of the board of the Catholic League, an organization devoted to defending the rights of Catholics) are marginalized, oppressed and routinely scapegoated and slurred in our society today, with the offenders going unpunished for their evil deeds.
The "source" for this alarming news that although we do not condone nasty slurs uttered by famous moviemakers about the Jews, there is free rein out there for making similar insidious and inciteful hate statements about Christians is a column by (L.) Brent Bozell (III) on his web site Media Research Center, which he founded to root out what he percieves as a dominant liberal bias in the media. I, or anyone, could similarly fill a "column" with examples of bile and hatred spewed at atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists in general in widely disseminated sources made available by and for these beleagered Christians. But that would still just be rhetoric, and not address whether or not a given group is being unfairly (in terms of hard numbers of verbal assaults and lack of punishments) treated in today's society.
Remember that the context here is also that only about sixty years ago, a misguided political zealot, with at least the implicit support of the Catholic Church (which has since apologized profusely), managed to kill off about half the Jews on the planet. It has been easily seventeen centuries since Christians were rooted out and persecuted in their native lands by non-Christians (their persecutions of each other are a bit irrelevant to this discussion). This is not to ignore or marginalize, of course, the rampant bias encountered by largely Catholic immigrant groups to the United States, before their assimilation and acceptance as "white," in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Let it be noted, also by way of context, for those who have not noticed, that the Catholic Church is the largest religious denomination in the United States today, and Christians in general comprise an overwhelming majority of the population.
Anyway, just to play along and address a few of his examples, I will start by pointing out that any use of "South Park" as an example of some group being belittled or slurred is irrelevant. "South Park" seems to take as its very theme to be as offensive as possible to as many groups and individuals as possible. For instance, cutting close to home on this particular rants topic, virtually every episode (that I have seen) includes the phrase "dumb Jew." An entire episode was devoted to making scurrilous fun of Mel Gibson and his blockbuster.
The "Da Vinci Code" takes as part of its fictional license and style the hoary warning that the contents are the truth - much as many scary campfire stories, myths, legends, folk tales, and of course modern-day urban legends do. Dan Brown's anti-Christian slur? To state that the Bible might not be entirely free of narrative license and fictional liberties either.
"The Network of enlightened Women (NeW) is a club primarily dedicated to fostering the education and leadership of conservative university women." No, the "e" is not capitalized. I don't know why. Karin Agness founded the first chapter at the University of Virginia in September of 2004, and they held their "first annual" conference on July 14, 2006. The event referred to is actually called the National Women's Studies Association Conference, in this case the 26th annual such event. It was held on June 15-18, 2006.
So far, I can find no evidence of NeW members (or anyone else, for that matter) trying to "sneak in" to the conference, although Ms. Agness has written of her attempt to attend and to present material. It seems that in order to attend, one has to be a member of the NWSA, and in order for material to be presented, it has to be peer reviewed (the peer review deadline had already passed by the time she inquired about attending).
In the absence of further information, it seems that Tinsley is once again lying (he's being grossly insulting, too). Perhaps he thinks it is alright to "interpret" information broadly. Be that as it may, all Ms. Agness needs to do is whatever it takes to join the NWSA, and prepare and present a paper for peer review. There's always next year!
By the way, it is possible that she won't be able to join. The NWSA might have agendas or requirements that she does not meet. It is also possible, of course, that even if she joins, her paper might not pass peer review. Maybe I should try to storm the gates at the IEA or some such professional organization claiming bias...
This one is a beaut. By all rights, as a reader, I am horrified by this news. I can put aside the politics and knee-jerk U.N.-bashing that Tinsley routinely indulges in, and say to myself, "What a scandal! What a horror! And what is being done about this travesty?" All right, I know that as a liberal I am supposed to think the U.N. can do no wrong, according to Tinsley, but it's easy enough to imagine any large organization, whether a business, a government agency, or anything else, failing to meet standards of human decency even if it is their stated goal.
So let's see where this goes. (web sites as linked were accessed on September 4th 2006)
This editorial text appears to be the primary source Tinsley is referring to. It not only decries the scandal, but follows it with sweeping general anti-U.N. commentary. But that makes sense to me, since, as Tinsley's caricature of what a liberal thinks a conservative thinks is "Git us out of the U.N.!", the Washington TImes, as a conservative paper, does not like the U.N. in general.
Peacewomen.org posted text a May 8th BBC News-sourced report text on the scandal. Note that, although this in no way lessens their guilt or the magnitude of the crime, the U.N. workers are not the only people in a position of power to be involved in this heinous extortion.
The Washington Post also weighed in with this article text on March 12th - of 2005 - reporting allegations of the scandal. Which is interesting, since it is fifteen months before Tinsley decided to work the issue into his strip. But, Tinsley probably does not read the liberal Washington Post.
At savethechildren.org, the web site of the organization mentioned in the strips, I had to search a bit. I did find this specific article text from May 8th. There are also numerous articles reporting on all manner of sexual-type abuses, ranging from forced youthful marriages to sex work at what seems like to young an age to be considered a "choice." This article is also linked to an official-looking report which I have not reproduced here..
Conclusion: The basic story is true as presented. However, it is far from the "iconoclastic data" that "refute[s] the conventional wisdom" that Tinsley claimed his footnotes are all about merely days before these strips ran. If he read the New York Times, in fact, he could have made a fuss about it eight months earlier.
I am also left wondering if his concern is for the welfare of the children (and others) in question, or just to attack the United Nations. If his goal is to mock liberals, he should pay attention to whether those bastions of liberalism, the N.Y. Times and Washington Post, have actually reported on the story he thinks he is breaking.
This issue is so inflamatory, Mr. Tinsley has seen fit not only to bring it to our benighted attention while it was in the "news," but to revisit it in time for "back to school" preparation.
I'm thinking, this one ought to be fun, a little "comic relief" as it were, after doing a few nasty politial issue investigations here. Before going into any investigation, the first thing I have to mention is weird. WFDR is a fictional station. Hence, the "culprits" here - their TV news show - don't even exist in the real world. Neither does Noseworthy, his editor, or his comment about sensationalism. And, neither does Tinsley's lame straw man fictitious "W.A.M." group. Or their president. Or her comments.
But, back in the first two strips there are footnotes! I guess we have to ignore the one that says "WFDR news" - but I'll check it. Then I can search for those column dates and their writers to see what I can find. Did someone else actually do this quoting out of context routine on Bill Bennett? Wasn't he the guy with the gambling problem? (Yes, and I have the amusing playing cards to prove it!)
OK, searching for WFDR does yield some fruit, besides descriptions of this comic strip. A typo in a generic listing that alludes to wfdf, apparently an AM radio station. Also, a file that is no longer there, whose cached version only says something about a Mike Lester - WFDR, and contains a link to the outdated file. OK, this was just to be silly anyway, as we all know that the station is fictional. Guess what? Once the search engine 'bots have indexed it, people will find this file (not a link, I mean this file, that you are reading!) as well...
Next up! Brent Bozell, in his October 5th 2005 column, on, of course, his Media Research Center web site, says text... oh, wait, while I finish "rolling on the floor laughing!" Bruce Tinsley made a funny! It's satire! What Bill Bennett actually said was, and I quote Bozell's piece here, "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."
I could have clipped that after the first time he said "down," but then I'd be guilty of the crime being lampooned here. Yup, he said it was morally reprehensible - but you know what? He meant the abortions. What was he "really" saying? He is blaming blacks for crime. Yes, I know, this is all old news now, I'm not here to debate that debacle. Bozell describes the situation, and then does his typical "liberals are hypocrites (and liars, etc." routine by bringing up things said by Democrat and/or liberal figures that are supposedly just as bad, etc., etc. That was boring.
Let's see what Larry Elder had to say on October 6th, 2005! Well, I've found a "Larry Elder," but he appears to be a ("fiscally conservative, socially liberal") radio talk show host, carried at least by KABC in Los Angeles. Oh, wait, I'm finding more... here is something at Neal Boortz' web site I will ignore, since it's just a link to a TownHall.com article by none other than... Larry Elder! The link is dead, but I think I have found the article anyway: "The Borking of Bill Bennett text."
Conclusion: Apparently, given minor benefit of the doubt, Bennett is being skewered not for something he really thinks, but for an outrageous example he offered in response to a caller to his show who suggested that Social Security would be more solvent if all the abortions had not been performed. I'll score one for neutrality here. The Bozell column is a vituperation fest and does not even make the point I just acknowledged about Bennett's intent, which Elder does. I don't care what side anyone is on here, but at some level people do need, I suppose, to be able to invent sarcastic, satiric, or ironic examples in response to challenges of various kinds.
The only trouble is, Tinsley is basically accusing the (liberal) media of taking Bennett's comment out of context, by not reporting it completely. Which is not, and was not true. If anything, the "crime" was not knowing that he wasn't a racist, that he did not consider blacks to be disporortionately responsible for crime in this country, and he was just being wittily erudite in inventing a "thought experiment" type example to show how silly (just, silly!) his caller was. Funny, but even his apologists were not able to increase the content or context of the quote to include this perspective. They had to invent it in his defense.
Bozell 0 (for kneejerk ranting)
Elder 0.5 (for a half-way decent attempt at defending of his teammate)
Bennett 0 (for careless thinking and lack of careful context provision)
Me 1 (for another 45 minutes successfully wasted!)
Oh boy. I love these conservative tax reform rants. But first, what the heck is the PWRVPPNTAA (who cares?) and more importantly, who are the "people who pay no taxes at all" and why haven't I been seeing strips devoted to their special situation? Are they too poor to pay taxes? Or are they too rich? Please enlighten me, Fillmore/Tinsley!
But on to the source. At least I only have to start with one web site, and ATR have one. They are a "flat tax" advocacy organization, and quote Ronald Reagan on their web site masthead. Oh, they are also against the "death" (estate) tax, so we know Paris Hilton's inheritance is more important to them than tax equity. Now, let's see if I can find the factoids and datatistics that Tinsley refers to.
ATR is actually an organization working for rich bastards to convince you to lower their taxes, Joe, and they are relying on you having poor math and language skills, so you can't work through the little scamistical games they play.
They claim, for instance that the "typical American" is only paying 28% of their income for food, clothing, and shelter. Well, that might be quite correct. Do you know what "typical" means? Me neither. I wonder what they mean by the word? "American" I pretty much understand. It is "typical" that seems to lack a certain, oh, I don't know, meaning.
I did a quick search of their site, and thought I came up with paydirt. Or, well, I think I might have. I'm finding hits all over to articles making this claim - from all different years. Is it just a rhetorical bit of bloviation they repeat enough so people will believe it, or can I find an article from the same year as Tinsley's strip (2005, or tax year 2004), with any references to factual data sources? No, actually so far I just keep finding it, over and over again, asserted as a simple fact, in a lot of different articles. It seems to be their mantra, to be taken as an article of faith.
Rating: Tinsley is repeating un unsupported claim while trying to make it look to his readers like it is supported by footnoting it. Sorry, this one gets a mark of "pure bullshit."
Although this article is not similar in feel to most of what is on this site - it is more like "blog" material - it contains information I would really like to make available in public, and this site is where I do that.
It is my aim here to track, research, document, confirm, and sometimes repudiate the references generated in the comic strip "Mallard Fillmore," written by Bruce Tinsley. From time to time, when Tinsley's "droll duck" is declaiming on some (conservative bête noire) issue du jour, a statement of fact of some kind will be conspicuously marked with an asterisk. The careful reader will then find, scrawled somewhere on the edge or bottom of one of the panels, a corresponding asterisk with some sort of attribution - an alleged source for his facts or data.
Mr. Tinsley even devoted one strip to mentioning his use of these footnotes, exhorting his readers to inform themselves more fully by investigating them.
Typically, due to the nature of the "footnotes," the only way to find the "source" is to search the internet for what seem to be the best key words. This is because Tinsley almost never gives date, page or url citations, he just lists a writer or a name of a newspaper, or perhaps a web site top level domain name.
You may ask yourself, "why is this guy doing this?" Well, the main reason is that, having followed a few of these referential trails, I have found that Tinsley's "footnotes" are usually not to anything resembling genuine source material, which they should be in order to "legitimate" his assertions of fact. Sometimes this is because there really isn't a real "source," and sometimes, I suspect, it is to disguise the true source since it would be recognized as not being usefully genuine. My perspective on these various "flows of attribution" will be described in each individual footnote explication. The secondary reason is that Tinsley has not bothered to do this himself. Often, the footnotes require searching around the internet for the general location of the source file, and then finding it among the archives or buried stories on a specific web site. I am actually surprised that there is not a "mallardfillmore.com" maintained by the author for this purpose (among others).
I would also like to mention that these particular strips, with their pretensions to academic rigor, make more than obvious to me that this is not only a repeatedly unfunny strip, it is really just a weakly presented "blog"-style daily rant.
In this report I will be reproducing original copyrighted works from many sources under the "fair use" doctrine. They are reproduced here in order to comment, criticize and generally investigate them. Comic strips will be in a small, unreadable size, but linked to full size versions of the image. Currently, a great archive to find them is at jewishworldreview.com. Their text is captioned in full directly below them for simpler, uninterrupted reader enjoyment. I have removed "comics" stylistic capitalization, bolding, and italics for clarity, unless it seemed crucial to the transcription. These comic strips are freely available at many newspaper web sites. Any quotations will be linked to two copies of their source - one will be the best, hopefully permanent, link I can find to the original (so far it seems all the sources are internet-based and thus do not require finding and opening a book or periodical), and the other will be to a copy I have stored here in case the original gets moved around. The copies here are not intended to abrogate the reproduction rights of the authors, but to provide context for any quotes to the curious reader who wishes to be sure I am not unfairly representing what the author has intended.
Since I am starting this report "in the middle" of the project, I may not have yet included some Asterisked strips from the past. If you know of any omissions, I would love to be informed of them.
© Huw Powell