Jan 11, 2010

Lessons from "Learn to Speak Tea Bag"

"For nearly two months, the animated political cartoon sat on virtually unnoticed. And then someone discovered it, was disgusted and launched it into the blogosphere -- making it a raucous rallying point for conservatives," writes NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard in her column on "Learn to Speak Tea Bag" by cartoonist Mark Fiore. The 90-second animation caricatures activists aligned with the conservative Tea Party movement and uses a sexual reference that was lost on Ellen Silva, the NPR editor who approved the piece, and many others, apparently. '[T]here are problems with the Tea Bag animation," Shepard writes. "Chief among them is it doesn't fit with NPR values, one of which is a belief in civility and civil discourse. Fiore is talented, but this cartoon is just a mean-spirited attack on people who think differently than he does and doesn't broaden the debate. It engages in the same kind of name-calling the cartoon supposedly mocks." NPR is standing by its decision to publish the cartoon. Shepard warns that NPR needs to recruit an equally funny conservative cartoonist fast: "Critics are right to take NPR to task for only representing one side using such a strong visual medium as an animated cartoon with sound and text."

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