A new book by the cartoonist the cops didn’t let get away

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Cartoon depiction of Ted Rall. Art by Mr. Fish.

Ted Rall, the Pulitzer Prize finalist, columnist and cartoonist joins Robert Scheer on in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence” to talk about his firing by the Los Angeles Times and and his latest book, “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.”

The host commends the journalist for his “courageous” and “gutsy” reporting on the Afghanistan War and a long, noteworthy career. Yet, it is precisely his candid storytelling through words and visual arts that earned him a place in the Los Angeles Police Department’s crosshairs. The story of Ted Rall’s firing as a cartoonist by Los Angeles Times in 2015 reveals the historically cozy relationship that existed between the media and the police.  Writing a blog for the LA Times, in which he detailed an encounter with an LAPD officer who’d detained and handcuffed him for allegedly jaywalking years earlier, ultimately led to Rall’s very public firing and a legal case that now threatens to bankrupt him.

“I did cartoons about a whole variety of subjects over the years, until 2015,” Rall tells Scheer. “And unbeknownst to me, in sort of late 2014, the LAPD pension fund [had invested multimillions] to become the No. 1 shareholder of Tribune Publishing, which owned the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times, and 13 other newspapers that are well regarded.” Rall said it was his cartoons and his blog criticizing abuse by police officers that antagonized the LAPD and led to his firing.

Scheer, who was a L.A. Times journalist for 29 years, recounts an interview he did with then-LAPD chief Daryl Gates in the 1990s around the time of the Rodney King uprising, in which Gates saw nothing wrong with the use of the very same chokehold method that has killed countless victims, notably Eric Garner and, more recently, George Floyd.

“You are an example in this whole story of somebody who's punished because the police department was annoyed,” Scheer continues. “If it had been an ordinary citizen annoyed, they might not have cared very much.” 

On the topic of Rall’s most recent book, which focuses on the split between the neoliberal and progressive factions of the Democratic Party, the two journalists discuss the rise of the progressive politics and what that means for the upcoming 2020 general election. 

“The book is about the way that that struggle [in the Democratic Party] has unfolded over the last 40 or 50 years,” the cartoonist explains. “And it's about the dilemma really faced by progressives [and] neoliberals as well. The Democratic Party isn't viable unless you have both sides of the party together and equally enthused. 

“But after progressives saw what was possible with Bernie [Sanders] in 2016,” Rall goes on, “it kind of whet their appetite for something more than just identity politics change. They wanted real, class-based change; they wanted Medicare for All, student loan forgiveness, Green New Deal, $15 minimum wage. And they're making those demands.”

Rall predicts that due to the constant betrayal and suppression of the leftwing of the party, progressives might withhold their votes from Biden and that the Democratic Party could break up as could the Republican Party due to the split between the Tea Party and more traditional conservatives. Listen to the full conversation between Rall and Scheer as the two discuss electoral politics, a controversial Rall cartoon with which the “Scheer Intelligence” host himself took issue, and the future of journalism.

Credits

Host:
Robert Scheer

Producer:
Joshua Scheer