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What an image of Trump golfing says about political cartooning
The cartoon heard 'round the world and what happened after.
- A cartoon has drawn controversy for depicting president Trump playing golf near the corpses of two migrants.
- The artist who drew the images was let go from several major newspapers after the image went viral.
- The incident speaks to the continuing power of political cartoons, even as the medium declines.
A Canadian political cartoonist started a firestorm of controversy and lost his jobs with several newspapers after drawing an image of Donald Trump asking two dead migrants if he can "play through."
The cartoon heard 'round the world.
The image, in case you've been under a rock and haven't seen it, is this:
Image source: Michael de Adder
It makes obvious reference to Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria who drowned in the Rio Grande after traveling more than 1,000 miles to the United States from El Salvador in search of asylum and a "better life." It also gives a tacit broadside to President Trump's frank response to the tragedy — "If they changed the laws you wouldn't have that."
So why was the cartoonist canned, exactly?
The cartoon was drawn by Michael de Adder, a popular freelance cartoonist in Canada. He claims that after thousands of people shared the image on Facebook and Twitter that all the major newspapers in the Canadian province of New Brunswick dismissed him.
Many immediately blasted the publications for the this, with more than a few prominent voices drawing the connection between the timing of the firing and the subject matter of the cartoon. The president of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists deemed it "no coincidence" that the cartoonist was fired after lampooning the famously touchy president.
For their part, the newspapers that laid him off, all owned by Brunswick News Inc., claimed they replaced him with another cartoonist who they had been in talks with for some time. They claim they were just the victims of bad timing and not firing him over anything in particular. The second cartoonist in question, Greg Perry, has confirmed this story and has reportedly declined the job offer in the face of backlash against him on social media — he says his character has been "destroyed."
This seems like a lot of trouble over a comic.
You'd be surprised by how much trouble a political cartoon can bring.
Many people will remember the shooting at Charlie Hebdo's office over the cartoons it puts on its cover. Some of you may also remember the Jyllands-Posten crisis in Denmark, and the 2007 Bangladesh cartoon controversy. All three of these incidents involved violence and threats as a result of the cartoons.
While the worst thing to come out of this event will likely be two cartoonists briefly out of work and some PR damage for a newspaper company, it can remind us that political cartooning has a long and interesting history of informing and influencing public opinion through satire.
Perhaps because of the immediate influence of humor, the history surrounding these caricatures is stippled with controversies and even violence.
Does this firing mean anything then?
With the confirmation of the plan to hire a different cartoonist, the whole incident loses a bit of its meaning. It all comes down to a poorly timed changing of the guard.
On the other hand, it is part of the continuing decline of political cartooning in major newspapers. The number of full-time newspaper cartoonists in the United States is now less than 100, and the decline in their numbers has been steady since the 1950s. Even back then the medium was in trouble — media outlets employed 10 percent of the number of people they had working for them at the dawn of the century.
Politico gives several suggestions for why this has been happening. It concludes that most major newspapers are happy to print non-offending syndicated cartoons and Mr. de Adder's firing, while potentially unjust, is part of a more significant movement in the industry that would have put his job at risk sooner or later.
Terry Anderson, deputy executive director of Cartoonists Rights Network International, has also drawn attention to the "satire gap," the perception that cartoonists are all on the left, as a possible factor in his dismissal. The idea is that a focus on being seen as non-partisan can lead to cutbacks in satire over fears that cartoons making fun of conservatives may alienate some readers.
As he told the Independent, "Cartoonists are perceived (wrongly) to be uniformly liberal and their cartoons about Trump in particular are seen (just as wrongly) as uniquely disrespectful and unwarranted."
With the trouble print media has with keeping readers these days, you can understand why they might want to avoid alienating readers.
While the dismissal of Mr. de Adder may have been a typical, if poorly executed, change in staffing for a large newspaper syndicate, it speaks to the decline of the political cartoon as an art form that an artist was let go the same day he went viral.
However, the controversy around the firing also speaks to how powerful a well-drawn cartoon can be.
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Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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