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July 3, 2005

Independence Day Special: Howard’s Rein


In honor of Independence Day (and a more relaxed summer mode), the BAG focuses on an illustration capturing one of today’s most powerful political struggles for liberty.  If you thought freedom of expression was a right you could take for granted in this country, well, you’re not the chairperson of the Democrat party.

Few issues have created more kicking among liberals than the function of Howard Dean, and the insinuation that he should watch what he says.  (From the position of the progressive Blogosphere, there is the sense that timidity and reticence is what has landed the Dems in the position they find themselves today.) 

With all the highly intuitive folks hanging around the BAG these days, I thought I would toss you still one more image to try and harness.  At the same time, it’s a graphic that begs for clarity regarding Howard Dean’s role, as well as the most effective strategy for saddling the conservatives. 

Of course, I realize we’re smack in the middle of a holiday weekend.  That said, who would be the wiser if you slipped away from the bar-b-cue for a few minutes to check the discussion, and contribute one more insight to the virtual party.

From Gagging Dr. Dean: Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages Cover Story. Volume 26 – Issue 1281.  June 22, 2005.  Via:

(illustration: Jay Bevenour)

  • Dennis Quaranta

    America has become a dysfunctional family, maintaining its secrets by never mentioning them. Because Dean blurts out a few of them – the economic disparities, the unresponsiveness of political parties, even the outright criminality of people like Tom Delay – he has to be ostracized. Dean doesn’t even mention some truly shameful things like war, torture and exploitation. But he says plenty! He’s like a child who blurts out that Mommy’s drunk again. He has to be punished.
    What does it take to go from being a dysfunctional family to one that’s open, whole and healthy? It takes honesty and candor, and we’re not seeing much of that in either party these days. Most importantly, the family has to want to change. So long as silence and shame serve a purpose, the dysfunction will probably continue.
    The Effective Myth at work here is that mentioning problems creates them. If Dean didn’t talk about economic disparities, they wouldn’t be problematic! The dialogue about torture has been very subdued lately, have you noticed? Problems go away when you shut up about them.
    Here’s an interesting website about dysfunctional family dynamics: The sins of the family are blamed on one person, the scapegoat. For example, we’ve collectively agreed that our society does not practice torture as a policy. Unfortunately we have a few bad apples like Lynndie England.
    Interesting connection with apples here: put one in the scapegoat’s mouth and you never have to put your fingers in your ears.

  • PJ

    That’s not an apple, it’s a rubber-ball gag, though the idea of Dean being served up like a pig with an apple in its mouth may be appropriate. Dean is looking backward — there’s a jackass keeping him from moving ahead. The jackass isn’t looking back, it’s rolling its eyes in a vacant stupor. Dean has a blue sweater — but a strikingly-purple tie. And that gag is pure red.
    Still, this is an editorial cartoon, so we can speculate only on the intent/motives of the paper. Is it true that Democrats consider Dean the most dangerous character in Washington, or is that just a cutesy tag line?
    But as for what’s really wrong with this picture: We have a President who routinely misspeaks — grammatically, logically, and factually; a Vice-president who flat-out lies, and tells a Senator to go f— himself; prominent political leaders who, not always covertly, condone physical reprisals against judges whose rulings disturb them; cabinet members who lie to us at home and patronize tyrants abroad; and the whole lot of them who led us, under false pretenses and for still-unacknowledged reasons, into a ruinous war.
    And someone thinks it is Howard Dean who needs to be silenced.
    Some Democrats probably do. They are the Kerry-folk and the Gore-folk, absolutely nice people who lack the stamina and fortitude (and sometimes the wits) to fight for control. The Democrats, lacking the kind of balls-to-the-wall businessmen who populate the Republican party, believe deep-down that politics is an honorable and above-board enterprise. They are like the British statesmen of nearly a century ago who refused to read intelligence reports, because “Gentlemen do not read one another’s mail.”
    The way our luck is running, they’ll probably manage to shut Howard down, or marginalize him. Feed him to the fishes. Now, there’s an illustration for you.

  • Joseph

    This image of the rubber ball in mouth dresses Dr. Dean in bondage gear. Is there a suggestion here that he is a masochist? Or does the artist have dark fantasies about whipping Dr. Dean until he submits to the humiliation of the Democrats?

  • D

    My thought when I saw the picture is that Dean is being stuffed and trussed like a pig by his own party.

  • donna

    How about some picks like this of Mehlman for his silence about his sexual preferences??? Instead of implying the Dems are into kinky, let’s talk about Republican sex lives for a change, shall we?

  • Victor F

    The ball gag, in my mind, suggests BDSM. If you look at Dean’s and the ass’ faces, they seem to be enjoying this relationship. Even if Dean is uncomfortable, the expression on his face says, to me, “more please” or, “is that all you got?”
    Another thing about the image: the ass is tugging the strap to the viewer’s left. Could the Democrats’ gagging of Dean be unintentionally pulling the party to the left despite the intentions of Dean’s silencers? Of course, from Dean’s perspective, he’s being pulled even more to the right, but we can clearly see which direction they’re REALLY heading.

  • Quentin

    This picture is very violent and I find it disturbing. It shows how physical coercion has become a commonplace of U.S. society. All the nice people are doing it. The first sentence of the article is appalling: the Democratic Party has never been so united as it now is against Dean. First of all, the statement is false. Second, the rag that published the picture displays a huge lack of respect for the Democratic Paty, which he leads, and the man himself. Why not a picture of the president in an orange overall at a costume party with his wife leading him on a chain. When will the Democrats ever learn to close ranks? The donkey could hardly be more vicious.

  • Scorpio

    Republicans have Limbaugh, Coulter, Dobson, Robertson, And all the 101 Fighting Keyboarders to make provocative remarks. Dr. Dean is the lone voice giving some bac=k over on the Left.
    The’s the Spine Man, and I am glad he is the head of the party — but I’d rather he were President.

  • dancinfool

    Man, that is one very dumb jackass.

  • Kitty

    It’s in poor taste,trying to be visually provocative by using bondage gear. Had the artist used a rag, or the wide tape protesters use over their own mouths, Dean would look principled. This image is borderline smutty and disrespectful to Democrats.

  • George Myers

    When I was a small kid, my brother and I once posed in a roasting pan, me in front with an apple in my mouth. I heard they showed it on the TV’s “Sandy Becker Show” while I was in St. Rita’s School, in the poorest parish in NYC, around the corner from where Mother Teresa and Princess Diana once met. The TV “Dean deal” is weird, the S. Carolina Republicans have been having a Howard Dean sound-bite contest, and much of it seems caused by the “media is the message” rather than a message in the media. As a NYer. I find “Wired” has been prophetic, citing a new “aural” fixation arising out of new technology. As one who watched his cousin edit then produce news for NBC in NY then cover the 1976 conventions of both parties, his eulogy read in the UN Chapel by Edwin Newman, and having a CBS investigative reporter as a high school schoolmate (he also once at ABC and NBC in NY) I find the TV sound-bite problem seriously indicative of a pettiness that Republicans should do without, yet can’t seem to get over their self-appointed charges of asking all of us to “get over it” in the same breath dragging any serious debate into “dead air” and chauvinism.

  • Salam Adil

    Has anyone noticed how badly drawn the donkey is in contrast to the care and detail put into Howard’s face? The donkey looks deformed – is that an ear growing out of the its nose?
    This picture is saying more to me about the artist than the subject. The artist seems to be getting some kind of kinky pleasure drawing Dean in bondage gear while not paying attention to the rest of the illustration.

  • kjs

    The caption grabs me more than the illo. “Doctor Dean,” not “Governor Dean” or “DLC Chairman” seems to reinforce Cheney’s insult of Dean that “he was never elected to anything.” Doctors, of course, are also reviled because they are men of science (hopefully), not superstitionism, which forms the populace that blindly obeys the Criminal Bush Enterprise. Dean’s eyes looking backward at the beast gives me the impression that the “artist” [propagandist] wants to convey an out-of-date Democratic Party, nullifying Dean’s image as a pragmatic personality who can also envision a better future. The S&M stuff is obvious Republican projection, as sex without genitalia seems to be a primary sport of pent-up Conservatives.

  • The BAG

    I agree with the disrespectful agenda of the illustration. How could anyone think that this party is bearing it’s teeth while Dean is rendered toothless. This is exactly backward. Also, it’s a sign of absolute weakness that you could put a gag on a person — your own agent, no less — and look away while doing it.

  • Daniel

    First of all, Dean is in front. Whichever way the donkey is pulling him (left or right), it is pulling him backwards. In this image, Dean is in front, leaning to the future, while the donkey is pulling him back into the past. Regardless of the accompanying text, and regardless of any alleged S&M overtones (something the web-prone might be a little more used to recognizing than your average magazine reader?), it seems to me that the message of this image is that Dean is struggling to speak and move forward, while the party idiots (represented not by Rodham-Clinton or Kerry or Bayh but by an impersonal mascot) try to restrain him for their own petty political reasons.
    To me, this image represents well the state of the D party, Dean himself, and his detractors.

  • Quentin

    Paging Dr. Dean. Calling Dr. Dean.
    These are only two of the positive couterparts the punning title distorts to make a propaganda point. We ask a doctor of any sort for assistance because he knows a particular field, profession better than most. I’m repeatedly startled at how malevolent Cheney is: how can he manage to twist even the title of Dr. into a ridiculing insult by relegating it to a lower position than the title of an elected official, while actually denying Dean’s electoral successes in Vermont? The title of the article maliciously parrots Cheney’s nasty, groundless put-down. And to think there are Democrats who get in on this fun!

  • Mugatea

    Illustrators in American publications are often not allowed to sign thier work. So credit is due to this publication for giving the artist that freedom and recognition.
    With all the real life torture being applied by our Republican leadership it’s just wrong to symbolize the Demacrats involved in bondage.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    Dean is Dangerous
    the gagging of Dr. Dean by the Democratic Party is perhaps better described as a “shunning” by party leaders and their major funding sources ~ rather than “censorship”, as implied by this caricature. one good essay about Democrats -vs- Dean can be found here.
    the issue is not (his) words, rather it is (his ability to raise) money outside the Party’s normal chain -of- command.
    criticizing what he is saying is in reality an attempt to de-legitamize what he is doing
    …iow, not unlike Republicans, ~80% of the Democrats’ funding comes from, say ~20% of their donor base: consistent, major funders of both political parties cluster their dollars around known leaders and their own self-interest agendas… not the populist agendas of ‘grassroots’ citizens.
    Dean prefers and is quite adept at raising money “over the ‘net,” or, in more numerous, albeit smaller-sized contribution packets…
    …FatCats (of both parties) feel (and probably rightly so) that they are experiencing dis-enfranchisement by Dean’s populist funding mode d’emploi, thus.
    to “silence” Dean is, then ~ an attempt to suppress populist funding.
    Dean is dangerous for this reason.
    IMHO this image entirely misses, and mis-represents ~ what is actually happening: to American politics / political funding in general, and the Democratic Party in particular.

  • Desi

    I agree about the disrepectful aspect, towards Dems and Howard Dean. I also agree that the real issue is not his words, but his ability to raise funds. A really odd picture.

  • Suzendvb

    Howard Dean seems to be one of the few who will , actually, say what he thinks. While many agree with him, , his use of the language is jarring. This is, I believe, due to the fact that national linguistics have been manipulated so well by the Bushites that plain truth has become a dissonant sound. It FEELS funny to hear just plain words any more – especially when they might be true —— and ——- one might , by listening to them ——- be required to —– Think——- ask a question or two—— be willing to face facts —– to Do something about the state of affairs mentioned.
    Bush appears to speak plainly, but his statements are lies couched in patriotic phrases designed to engage the emotions bringing to the listener a feeling of righteousness. Dean is just using plain language and people are so used to having an emotional , rather than a rational response to eveything, it is painful to recognize that his words bring no comfort and do not hype us to anything but reality in it’s brutal truth.

  • jello

    still waiting for biden, edwards, ford, and obama to run to the cameras and raise hell about rove’s recent blood libel attacking liberals. so far nothing but crickets chirping.
    judging from their silence, their logic would be: rove isn’t the enemy, dean is.
    my first thought was that these DLCites were attacking dean in order to position themselves as “moderates” to voters. later on i realized that attacking dean probably helped them curry favor with the traditional democratic money men who abhor dean. why be sensitive to the grassroots when it’s big money who is funding you.

  • jello

    a more accurate pictorial would be to have two donkeys tugging on dean:
    one, a giant, gold-plated donkey with a dollar sign stamped on his side, tugging on the gag ball.
    the other one, a smaller, blue collared donkey, mired in the weeds tugging on dean to get him away from the grip of the bigger one.
    this would symbolize the war going on from opposite wings of the party.

  • ms kubelik

    Yes, the disrespect for Dems and Dean drips off the page.
    There’s a suggestion of bestiality + bondage that extends into the pornographic realm and thus further smears all Democrats.
    The teeth on the donkey are a bit Jimmy Carteresque, no?
    From the article:
    “Democrats are afraid that Dean’s incendiary leftist ravings will drive whatever sensible Americans they still retain into the arms of Republicans.”
    Now, that’s the most extreme example of the rhetoric in the article, but does give a sense of the attitude toward Dean & Dems. Given this, I’d say the image slimes Dean + Dems through association w/porn, through continued emphasis on division within the party, and through the emphasis on “going backward” that both the donkey’s pull and Dean’s eyes emphasize.
    The image makes my neck hurt.

  • Andrew Jamieson

    Wow! This blog sure has more than its share of trolls. Are you guys trying to pass as progressives? The Steve Perry article and its thunderclap cartoon couldn’t be any more plainly spoken. The Democratic establishment wants to silence Howard Dean, because his rhetoric invites rank-and-file Democrats to participate in the political process. The little, stubborn jackass is smaller than the big, populist head in the same way that the Clinton-Kerry, DLC donors are less significant than the great swell of Democrats who have discovered that their party has no values. Judging by the comments in this blog, the rhetoric and images are going to have to get even more outrageous. Go Howard!

  • Penny

    To me it looks as if Dean has a bridle in his mouth, albeit a bridle with an apple, instead of a bit between his teeth. I’m not sure what that means – but the donkey seems to be riding the man rather than the reverse… which still fits with what others have been saying about the Democrats trying to muzzle Dean.
    This reminss me of Aesop’s fable about the man and the donkey – no matter what the man tried to do to please the people he kept meeting, he could never succeed. In the end of the fable, the man was seen heading off into the sunset carrying the donkey…
    I think the moral was to do what you believe is best, rather than trying to please everyone else. Sounds like the opposite of today’s politics, no? Principles are no longer important. Appealing to various interest groups is.

  • jello

    getting sick of seeing this image plastered all over the blogosphere via blogads. it only serves to further demean and belittle the good doctor, further reinforcing the meme of making him an object of ridicule.
    thanks a lot.

  • MaxCat

    I think this article is a clear call for all of the “real” democrats to kick the faux democrats/republican lights out of the party and make our party one of “We the People” again.
    Any supposed democrat that criticizes Dr. Dean for telling the truth is not a real democrat.
    They (the power people) are afraid of what Dr. Dean represents and that is the power of a truthful and caring democratic party built up from the grass roots of this country. If the Democratic Party (old school that is) doesn’t want to be part of this then they can either step aside or get their asses kicked to the curb.
    Dr. Dean represents the new democratic party and we will prevail.

  • Arvin Hill

    getting sick of seeing this image plastered all over the blogosphere via blogads.

    So long as the commercial bloggers get their dough!
    Sorry, folks, but the truth hurts.
    I don’t have a problem with bloggers profiting from their work, but doing so without regard for what gets advertised – and then avoiding responsibility for pimping whatever comes down the pike – well, that’s every bit as whorish as anything you’ll see in the NYT.
    As for the image itself, sure it was offensive — but nowhere near as offensive as what Beltway Insiders are doing: Working damn hard to silence Dean and the grassroots of the party.
    The problem is that the illustration doesn’t reflect the fundamental struggle of Dem Insiders vs. Grassroots. In the illustration, exactly WHO is the donkey representing? It looks as though it’s representing the entire party, and that’s a gross distortion of the conflict. Par for the course, isn’t it?

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