By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
This is a progressive-leaning newspaper.
Who am I kidding? If we leaned left any further, we’d be laying down. But I’m OK with that and so are most of our readers. And for the readers who don’t like our political stance, they’re not surprised when they read us because we’ve been open and honest about it from day one. Maybe they just read for our arts and music coverage and our awesome list of 100 things to do this winter that you’ll find in this issue.
The point is, we don’t hide who we are. I don’t say I support women’s reproductive rights and then go make a donation to National Right for Life. I don’t say I believe in civil rights protections for the LGBTQ community and then stand outside a soldier’s funeral with the Westboro Baptist Church.
Take how we approach a story. We tell all sides to a story and if one of those sides happens to be wrong, we’re not going to pretend that all is well. This brings me to the issues that I have with John Robinson Block and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial staff. Block and his editorial editor Keith Burris are unapologetic Trumpladytes and borderline right-wing fanatics. They wrote an editorial calling racism the “new McCarthyism,” meaning basically that if you don’t like what someone says, unfairly label them a racist. In a follow up story that I would do in the days after that interview, I found an old Toledo Blade story in which Block literally told one of his own reporters that black people needed to pull themselves up “by their bootstraps.” In 2016, I was sent a photo of Block hobnobbing with Trump on the then-candidate’s private jet. Later that year, he even tried to steer the P-G into an endorsement of Trump.
Now, you may ask, how is that different from being a left-leaning paper? The difference is in the honesty and the integrity in which you present your opinions. Block and Burris have decided to take the Fox News approach of claiming they are “fair and balanced” and claiming everyone else is crazy. I mean that’s kind of what happened when they fired cartoonist Rob Rogers last year because they claimed his anti-Trump cartoons (many of which were spiked and scuttled despite being honest representations of current events) showed that he was obsessing on the president. Rogers was the one not being fair and balanced.
What they were doing, however, was ridding the editorial pages of anyone who refused to hold the moronic line that these two closed-minded twits were laying down. In an effort to show what fair and balanced cartoons look like, cartoonist Steve Kelley was hired. Kelley is certainly a right-leaning cartoonist, but that’s not inherently bad, I suppose. Except when you come to realize that it is.
In the past 10 days, Kelley has drawn, and Block and Burris have published, three of the most outwardly misogynistic cartoons that I have seen in recent times. One features a man and a woman at dinner and the woman tells the man, “As a modern woman, I’m all for eliminating traditional gender roles, at least until the waiter brings the dinner tab.” The second appeared a day later and showed two tween girls sitting in a room and one says, “Maybe one day I’ll grow up and divorce a man just like Jeff Bezos!” The third ran this past Sunday and Kelley drew Trump in a stare-down with Nancy Pelosi over the shutdown. Trump, the man, couldn’t blink because there was “too much at stake.” Pelosi couldn’t blink, according to the cartoon because of “too much Botox.”
These cartoons aren’t funny or ironic or making big political statements. They’re downright mean, demeaning and the classic definition of sexist. I’m sure in the world of men like this, this is just good, old-fashioned grab’em-by-the-pussy locker-room talk. I’m sure they celebrated by high-fiving, doing jaeger shots and snapping each other on the ass with towels.
This isn’t satire. It’s a mean-spirited and degrading attack on women. The same kind of attacks we’ve seen them unleash on black people and trans individuals in the past. They probably think they’re fighting back against a world that’s too PC, too liberal; they’re pissed because people don’t know their place, their station anymore. Why else would you be so unnecessarily brazen to run these recent cartoons that serve no legitimate purpose?
It’s a shame because, as I’ve said before, the Post-Gazette does great work reporting the news and conducting investigative reporting. That’s the reason many folks have kept their subscriptions despite the change on the editorial pages. But the P-G is at a crossroads. Editor David Shribman left at year’s end. Shribman has had his critics, but he has served as a good steward, for the most part, keeping the news product separated from the editorial pages. But with Shribman gone, what’s to keep Block from installing a weak editor who won’t hold that line or, even worse, an editor with a similar political mindset who thinks that it’s fine to let politics seep into the news coverage without ever really telling your readers that’s what you’re doing.
These recent cartoons show us that the goal of the P-G’s editorial pages isn’t just to promote right-wing opinions and ideology, which I personally think is bad enough. These three sexist cartoons show us that they’re taking up the worst side of right-wing rhetoric. Rhetoric that is meant to hurt, demean and put you in your place. It’s not-so-subliminal messaging telling the rest of us to piss off and fuck our collective selves.
The right’s already got a bunch of sources telling us that. Speaking for myself, I don’t know how much longer I want to continue paying to hear it from my hometown paper. And, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one thinking that thought.