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Auchter's Art: Watch the name calling

Oct 13, 2017

As an editorial cartoonist, I get called names all the time. Most are just garden variety insults like stupid, wimp, and jerk.

Many are nonsensical ("Marxist Fascist" is one of my favorites), and some are ones that occasionally get close to sensitive areas (we "talentless" cartoonists actually prefer the term "artistically challenged").

What name-calling has never done is change my mind and win me over the name-caller's side of an argument. I'm pretty sure that's how it works for most people.

During the campaign last year when Clinton referred to Trump supporters as a "basket of deplorables," it wasn't surprising for her to lose the support of that demographic. In fact, it became something of a rallying cry — Trump supporters proudly wearing "Deplorable" t-shirts. In a similar way, whenever Trump perceives that a woman has the audacity to slight him, he will refer to her as "nasty." Boom, there's the mayor of San Juan with a "Nasty" t-shirt.

I think we can all agree that name-calling is counterproductive for winning arguments. But it is oh-so-pleasing to our reptile brains, isn't it? It feeds right into our tribal tendencies. And then along comes social media providing the easiest way ever to launch a killer burn! We don't even have be witty ourselves — just share a pre-packaged meme. It's a name-caller's dream!

So I have some sympathy for Michigan State Police Director, Kriste Etue who, as the cartoon mentions, shared that meme. Just like any of us, I'm sure she saw it, felt that rush of righteousness, clicked, and it was shared.

Except, of course, Etue is in a position of power and privilege that comes with a great deal of responsibility. She is paid well to understand the consequences of her actions as a police leader, to be able to anticipate the potential damage of her words, to know better. She failed miserably. That sure seems like a punishable offense.

John Auchter is a freelance editorial cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder the University of Michigan.