Once in a while Ted Rall's cartoons are funny, but as an essayist, he makes Noam Chomsky look like Bernard Lewis: he's an incredibly callous, wrong-headed, self-loathing assplow. John Giuffo doesn't much like him either and tells why in the new Comics Journal:
- Perhaps the best way to begin a critique of Rall's work is to rewind the clock to that fateful fall day, and examine some of his strips and columns in chronological order. The cynicism began in earnest on Sept. 13 with a column titled "Tear it Down, and They Will Die: The Inevitable Takes the World Trade Center." In it, he entirely ignores the pain and suffering of a city and a nation, doesn't waste so much as a sentence on the people who died, and, after quoting from a long-ago lecture by an unnamed college instructor (Rall must have taken exceptionally accurate class notes to quote so extensively so many years later) gets right to placing the ultimate blame for the destruction of the Twin Towers on — you guessed it — us. It was our hubris that brought them down. Not theocratic Islamism. Not hateful, ignorant impotence. We should never have built them — it was dumb of us, he insisted. And we paid the price for our pride. "If it hadn't been passenger jets commandeered by terrorists, it would have been something else," he wrote while a city still held hope that it's loved ones might yet come home.
Aside from the infuriatingly misplaced blame, it is here that Rall shows the first signs of his almost inhuman level of coarseness — a willful disregard of the pain of others in an effort to prove that his take on the situation is more enlightened, informed and right than the rest of the world (in a Nov. 12 strip, he says, "Secretly, they [Americans] think the World Trade Center footage is cool"). He was just getting warmed up.
On Sept. 20, in a column that reads like an almost-paean to the bravery of "Nineteen Guys Who Shook The World," he discusses the ways in which "Osama and his jihad boys sized us up fairly well," and unmasked the American paper tiger. He then goes on to explain how the national economy has "plunged into recession and beyond," and how the attacks spelled the beginning of the end of the American empire ("with a bang and a whine"). Of course, the economy hasn't plunged beyond recession and America is still around — his prognostication is as accurate as his geopolitical analysis. He also spends a good deal of time spinning conspiracy theories about what he viewed as the probability that United Flight 93, which crashed over Pennsylvania, had been shot down by fighter planes and subsequently covered up by the government. He bases this analysis on the fact that, nine days after the crash, the flight data recorder transcripts still hadn't been released and he reasons — if we can call it that — that the government must be keeping them secret as part of a cover-up. We see this unsubstantiated paranoia pop up again and again in future strips and columns.