Too Much Crazy: Tom Tomorrow on Right-Wing Madness in the Age of Obama
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Since its 1990 debut in the SF Weekly, This Modern World has been a staple of political cartoons in American alt-weeklies. And since that time, the world Tom Tomorrow created has been a refuge of both hilarity and sanity in our increasingly “post-factual” public discourse.
Tomorrow, with his cut-out 1950s visual style and wooden, brain-dead conservative zombies mouthing facile talking-points, deftly skewers the corporate media, with frequent guest appearances by Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. It’s a world in which sane commentary is provided by “Sparky,” a cynical penguin in sunglasses, and a dog named “Blinky.”
Tomorrow has a new book compiling some of his best strips from the first years of the Obama era, and the utter derangement that his presidency has engendered on the right. AlterNet caught up with Tomorrow to discuss the book, American politics and the state of political cartoons in the age of the “new media.”
Joshua Holland: Tom, tell me about your new book.
Tom Tomorrow: It's a compilation of work from the past couple of years. It has a rather long foreword I wrote, kind of a defiant elegy for the profession, for my own profession. And it has a nice little introduction from Michael Moore.
You're the first visual artist whom I've interviewed and I don’t want to ask a lot of stupid questions about the process but I feel like I have to ask a few of them. So what is your process, Tom? How do you decide what to include in your cartoons? How do you approach your job?
TT: I approach it initially as a writer. The first thing that I do is figure out what I want to write about and what I want to say about it. That's almost always the starting point. The images are tailored to fit the words.
And the book, which is fabulous, it really looks at 2008 and 2009. Your title is Too Much Crazy – do you believe that the right in this country is becoming more unhinged?
TT: Well, yes, I do. I’ve been watching these things for a long time. And you’ve always had the kooky right – the Moral Majority, or whatever it may be. But there’s more amplification than there used to be, through talk radio and Fox News and the Internet, especially the Internet. It's really enabled the fringe characters to build up communities of like-minded crazy people. And so you get birtherism and all of these things.
(click for larger version)
I can’t imagine that Glenn Beck would have had a television program ten years ago. [Editor's note: this interview was conducted before the cancellation of Beck's show was announced.] Hannity and Limbaugh seem almost sane by comparison now. It’s been very much a process of de-evolution. D-E – de-evolution, you know, as in We are Devo? (Laughter)
Right. The thing that strikes me though, you know, I remember the militia movement in the 90s. I remember the Clinton body count. I mean …
TT: That’s true.
… this kind of strain of crazy …
TT: Yeah. I don’t deny that there always has been a lot of craziness. But doesn’t it seem more amplified now? The militia people were fringe and were widely understood to be fringe. I could be wrong. Maybe it’s just as crazy as it’s ever been. It just seems a lot louder now.
I guess the amplification is the crucial point because those really fringe ideas during the 90s were by and large circulated via e-mails forwarded by your grandmother. And now you see them again on Glenn Beck’s show. You see things of a similar vein.