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Wednesday, May 22, 2019 

The social justice crowd went after Robert Crumb

The libertarian Reason magazine's May issue wrote a whole article on how today's PC cartooning crowd is rejecting the controversial underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, who'd once been revered by prior generations of counterculture, but is now seemingly shunned by its newest successors:
But events in the comics world last year served notice that the social-justice re-evaluation currently sweeping comedy, film, and literature has arrived at the doorstep of free-thinking comics. In September, at the Small Press Expo's Ignatz Awards ceremony in Bethesda, Maryland, Crumb's successor generation of alt artists let the 75-year-old have it with both barrels.

While presenting the award for Outstanding Artist, the cartoonist Ben Passmore, who is black, asserted that "comics is changing…and it's not an accident." He lamented the continued industry presence of "creeps" and "apologists," then called out the godfather by name: "Shit's not going to change on its own. You gotta keep on being annoying about it.…A while ago someone like R. Crumb would be 'Outstanding.'"

The room erupted with both "ooohs" and booing. "A little while ago there'd be no boos," Passmore responded. "I wouldn't be up here, real talk, and yo—f*** that dude." The crowd burst into applause.

The brief against Crumb is both specific to his famous idiosyncrasies and generally familiar to our modern culture of outrage archeology. His art has trafficked in crude racial and anti-Semitic stereotypes, expressed an open sense of misogyny, and included depictions of incest and rape. Crumb's comics are "seriously problematic because of the pain and harm caused by perpetuating images of racial stereotypes and sexual violence," the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) explained last year when removing Crumb's name from one of its exhibit rooms.
Even if I don't support censorship of arts, I honestly don't find those examples from Crumb's resume funny or appealing. But is that really the reason why a few conventions and some modern cartoonists are throwing him under the bus today? Crumb, as noted in the article, is a veteran liberal, and if he'd been a conservative, I'm sure Reason and other sources would've mentioned it in a heartbeat and run with it. Gary Groth, not a very appealing person himself, offered a clue why this modern rejection of Crumb might not be altruistic at all:
Such talk alarms Gary Groth, co-founder of Fantagraphics, the premiere American publisher of quality adult comics, including a 17-volume series of The Complete Crumb Comics. "The spontaneity and vehemence" of the backlash, Groth says, "surprised me—and I guess what also disheartened me was, I'm pretty sure the vast majority of people booing Crumb are not familiar with his work.…This visceral dislike of him has no basis in understanding who Crumb is, his place in comics history, his contribution to the form."

Key to the misunderstanding is Crumb's willingness to probe human darkness, including his own, and his sheer maniacal delight in transgression. (Crumb's own explanation for one of his more notorious incest-related strips was, "I was just being a punk.") The Ignatz Awards crowd, Groth worries, "will not tolerate that kind of expression, and I think that's disturbing. Cartooning has a long history of being transgressive and controversial and pushing boundaries, and now we have a generation very much opposed to that, who want to censure fellow artists from doing work they don't approve of—even though they are able to do what they are doing and want to do precisely because of trailblazing on the part of artists they now abominate."
If the modern generation of alt-cartoonists is producing comics even remotely as crude as what Crumb produced up until about the turn of the century, then obviously, they're no different, and it just suggests a lot of virtue-signaling on their part. Though it's never mentioned, I get the idea those on the left who supposedly find Crumb's work revolting only do so because they're terrified it'll give an idea just how demented and rancid their thinking really is; a mirror reflecting what people on the left could be like. Though Crumb may never have actually specified it was meant to reflect either side, that doesn't mean it couldn't echo what leftists think, and that could be why they believe he should be rejected, because, those who do support perversion now concluded they only do so as long as it's done in private and outside the scope of arts, since they believe reflections in arts will only give an idea what's on their demented minds to anybody researching how liberals think.

But if Crumb had specified his art was meant to reflect conservatives/right-wingers from the get-go, chances the modern left would object would likely be far less. It's not like they aren't producing nasty examples of anti-conservative sentiment in the arts even today.
Crumb blew minds and inspired a generation with his eagerness to portray and explore "the stark reality at the bottom of life," as he put it, delivering "a psychotic manifestation of some grimy part of America's collective unconscious." In pursuit of that goal, he produced many comics, sometimes with reasonably clear comic grotesquerie, sometimes with undeniable—Crumb himself never denied it—truly dark personal expressions that would strike most people now (and many even then) as unacceptably hostile toward women.

Two of his most notorious stories were titled "When the N*****s Take Over America!" and "When the Goddamn Jews Take Over America!" His fans insist they were obvious pitch-black satires of bigoted madness. But they were so outrageous that they were reprinted in actual American Nazi papers. Crumb told The New Yorker in 1994, "I just had to expose all the myths people have of blacks and Jews in the rawest way possible to tilt the scale toward truth."

Trina Robbins, the first female cartoonist in Crumb's San Francisco coterie in the late 1960s and a co-founder of Wimmen's Comix (the longest-running all-woman-made comic series), was the first prominent voice raising feminist objections to how he portrayed women and sex. She says she was written off as an annoying scold by the scene's "little boys club" for noting the violent hostility toward women expressed in some of his work.
Even if the strips about racism were well intentioned, I do think his offensive expressions towards women ruin everything (I have similar problems when some manga books wallow in the same). Come to think of it, if he failed to take any legal action against neo-nazis who exploited his art for their repulsive goals, then what's the use of being in the trade he was?

Maybe the problem with how cartoons like his were used to tackle race issues that they went for a humor angle instead of focusing on the topics from a serious vision. Indeed, why must everything in an underground publication approach these issues as satire? From what I can tell, satire's been used all too often as an excuse for a viewpoint that otherwise fails to accomplish missions successfully. Maybe "drama" would be a better direction?
Defenses of Crumb, who is no longer producing new comics, read as anachronistic to many in our woke age. The Massachusetts Expo's reasoning for shunning Crumb follows an all-too-recognizable one-two formula for casting problematic artists adrift: "We recognize Crumb's singular importance to the development of independent and alternative comics, the influence that he has had on many of our most respected cartoonists, and the quality and brilliance of much of his work," the organizers explained. But! "We also recognize the negative impact carried by some of the imagery and narratives that Crumb has produced, impact felt most acutely by those whose voices have not been historically respected or accommodated."

Passmore did not respond to emailed attempts to interview him for this story. But MICE-like, he seemed to imply that respect for Crumb necessarily means disrespect for black cartoonists—that the racial and gender diversity flourishing in comics today is definitionally opposed to Crumb. As he said at the Ignatz Awards, "I wouldn't be here."
This suggests his reasons for shunning Crumb may be related more to identity politics on race, and not so much because of moral issues involving the rape and incest cartoons the veteran cartoonist illustrated. I've seen examples from Crumb's portfolio here and there over the years (and honestly don't like them), but so far have no idea what cartoonists like the guy from the convention are turning out. And if their stuff is little different from his (could they even stoop to anti-white bias?) in terms of sexually-based stories, then what's the use of panning Crumb's work, whether it was racially offensive or not?

After talking about how things have changed since the 60s, when authorities sometimes arrested people for publishing/selling offensive material, they say:
No one of significance in the comics community today is calling for 1970s-style legal punishment for unwoke cartoonists. Charles Brownstein, who heads up the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, points out that "there's a distinction between censorship in the courts vs. dissenting points of view in the public square."
There are, however, blacklists for right-wingers and various other people who take a position Marvel/DC don't agree with. Something neither Brownstein nor Groth seem particularly interested in dealing with, and that's why truly, they're hypocrites. It's also noted:
But obscenity laws still exist, and that prosecutorial energy has been especially fierce in the past few decades when targeting sexual depictions involving children. One of Zap 4's more offensive strips is an incest riff featuring kids having sex with their parents, so it isn't completely insane to fear that Crumb's work might once again come to be seen as not merely unwoke but illegal. The anti-Crumb sentiments are "still dangerous," Groth says, "because laws can in fact change because of public attitudes." Those attitudes now include mainstream consideration of legislation aimed at curtailing "hate speech."
There's one thing that isn't clear. From what I know, the laws usually prohibit stuff like live-action child pornography, and not necessarily illustrations. Which isn't saying concerns about laws against obscene illustrations aren't unwarranted. Even so, I think that was repellent what Crumb concocted in his cruddy magazine, and "satire" is no excuse.
Portraying darkness and evil in art is not the same as celebrating darkness and evil, even when the depiction is not safely anchored to a clear statement of the artist's anti-evil sympathies. Offense and transgression can be a vital part of how expression stays lively, fresh, startling, moving, and true to the human condition. That transgressive art is hard to defend in sober, sensible ways is precisely the point. As Simpsons creator Matt Groening wrote in an introduction to 1998's The Life and Times of R. Crumb, "it sure is a relief to read someone's beautiful Bad Thoughts and realize the world won't come crashing down after all."
Wow, they cite somebody whose animated sitcom recently caved to the very PC mindsets now going after Crumb. Once, the Simpsons mocked PC. Now, they've capitulated to it. If Groening couldn't stand firm on what his creation was built for, maybe he shouldn't have bothered writing that intro in the book at all.
The teen Crumb in his published letters saw himself as a good liberal condemning the racial ignorance and prejudice of the yokels surrounding him. The adult Crumb, in addition to his transgressions, did some excellent cartooning on the lives of black musicians who had made the old-time music he revered. Building a wall of exclusion around his art denies audiences the galvanizing work of an artist whose declared intent often aligns with that of his modern-day indicters, even if he's willing to toy with imagery they recoil from.
Well, like I said, Crumb's a lefty. But not a good one to the social justice bunch who're turning against him now.
The attitudes Crumb satirized were real and, he thought, deserving of ridicule via crazed exaggeration. His feelings of hostility toward women are, as he has insisted in his comics and in interviews, true to him (and, he is certain, to many other men). What is to be gained by pretending they're not? Crumb was honest about being the sort of resentful nebbish who in his pre-fame days saw women as controlling something he desperately wanted and couldn't have—what would now be called a corrosive "incel" mentality, after the men who self-identify as involuntarily celibate.

In a 1991 interview with The Comics Journal, Crumb said art should be judged not on ideological purity but on whether it is "interesting or boring…honest and truthful and real…saying what's really on [the artists'] minds.…If it's really in there it ought to come out on paper." At the same time, he reflected, "I don't know, maybe we're all just dragging society down. Maybe we should all be locked up."
Okay, then that's what I've done; I judged his art based on merit, taste, or lack thereof. And I think it stinks. Regarding his attitudes towards women, I sure wish somebody would be honest and admit it's possible what he was doing could've been a mindset shared among radical leftists, who now find conveying that into art embarrassing, because it gives an idea what leftist minds could be like. At the end, it says:
Crumb's attempt to open comics to a vast range of human expression was victorious: Whether they want to acknowledge it or not, those working in the field today are his descendants. Like all children and grandchildren, they can choose whether or not to understand their patriarch, whether to emulate him or tell him to f*** off. Their choices may not always be kind or wise, but such is human freedom.
Certainly depending what they draw into their cartoons, they could be his successors, though if they don't deal in perverse ideas like he did, that could be disputable. But, if they do, then the argument's certainly a lot more valid. A notable difference, though, is that today's cartoonists may not be working underground like Crumb's generation did. Though if we're reading the signs correctly, a new underground is bound to be born in defiance of the new SJW movements, and in today's world, the internet serves as a form of underground for art not considered PC.

Anyway, how about that. The same political side who once was fine with Crumb and his crap now allegedly despises it, but probably not for altruistic reasons at all. Only because they're virtue-signaling, or realize his art can serve as a mirror to their twisted minds, and that scares them. One can only wonder how Crumb feels about what's happening today.

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Crumb was very popular in the 70s and his art style was emulated by numerous commercial artists. When the 80s and 90s came and gender feminism became a thing mainstream critics excused his work as satires on racist and sexist attitudes. Ironically, a significant amount of his work satirizes the radical "new" left of the day and could be enjoyed by open minded readers on the right as well. Something which isn't the case with "woke art". A good point about the Underground Comix of the time. Something we're going to need again soon. Just remember, the "Counter Culture" is always more creative and interesting than the politically correct culture. = 4chan.

Crumb always seemed like a conservative to me. He has a strong interest in old-time traditions, as for example his drawings of and love for old time blues artists, and his style is born of an earlier time, with meticulous brush strokes and cross hatching. The racist caricatures in some of his work are not so much racist in themselves as part of his general love of the old comic strips of the 20s and 30s, when those images were comic strip norm.

I also thought he was a "crypto conservative" who did the anti-US stuff from a libertarian POV, but he came out as a socialist when his work became popular in France. I think the fact of the matter is he wasn't all that political and went with his artistic feelings. He later virtue signaled to keep the money coming in, but there was nothing he could signal that excused his fetish art from the rampaging feminazis.

What creative and interesting work do you see on 4chan, and by who? All I have been able to find on it is crude memes and sposting; where do I find something better?

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