Cartoonists angry, defensive after inane Miranda strip subverted

Editorial cartoonist Daryl Cagle published this strip.

Then he reran it.

Spot the difference? To Ann Telnaes, this is “a clear case of a cartoon syndicate trying to maximize profits by offering the same artwork but changing a few words to address both ideological sides of an issue. An editorial cartoon is supposed to have a clear point of view.”

Daryl Cagle responds: "I remember when the Miranda decision came down in the 1960′s, on a 5-4 vote. It was controversial for a long time; the only area of the law where “ignorance of the law is no excuse” didn’t hold true. I got a large enough sampling of e-mails in response to the cartoon (and you can see from the Facebook comments as well) that I realized the Miranda decision no longer seems to be controversial – Miranda warning to the suspect with the suspect’s overall civil rights; I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a good thing."

Balls to all of this. The change doesn't address the other "ideological side"; it just illustrates the fundamental meaningless of the strip's emotionally triggering bucketful of images and words. Why stop at publishing it only twice? It could support any punchline just as well.

If you are worried about the hard times your profession suffers, I tell you right now that the very last thing you should be doing is publishing work that could be randomly generated by computers.


  1. Well when your drawing is entirely dependent on the caption you put under it… In a strange way though he kind of *has* captured the vapid meme driven “debates” of contemporary American culture so maybe this is a meta-editorial cartoon.

    1. Pretty much all editorial cartoonists take the easy route these days and just use labels and captions for everything  It takes a native visual thinker (like Kevin Kallaugher or Peter Kuper) to make a statement that actually expands discussion and thinking on a particular topic.

    1. Not until after he was questioned extensively, under a “public safety  exemption, under circumstances that stretched the criteria for such questioning *awfully* thin.

      1.  Unfortunately, Miranda Rights aren’t what most of us think they are. The cops can question you all they want without reading you your rights. The only thing they can’t do is use your statements directly in court. They can, however, use everything they find from your statements against you in court. No getting it tossed as fruit from the poisonous tree.

        The real lesson isn’t so much that everybody should be read their rights, the real lesson is that the rights we all think we have haven’t really existed for decades. Cop shows have given us a false idea of what Miranda Rights mean.

        1. This would be where I mention once again:  Don’t talk to the cops after they bring you in.  Talk on the phone to get a lawyer, keep your trap shut.  It’s the American thing to do.

          1. Great in theory, but I had a friend who once tried to refuse entry without a warrant to the cops. They beat him down and forced entry, and in the process kicked his pregnant sister in the stomach which (we think) led to complications that she suffered later. After all this, his lawyer’s advice was “just drop it.”

            (Edit: my lily-white ass might let me get away with it, but he didn’t have that going for him.)

        2. Yeah, the court has interpreted that Fifth Amendment clause very narrowly.  It’s meant to protect people from being convicted merely on their own testimony (which could be falsely coerced).  Not to prevent people from participating at all in their own conviction.  The amendment itself only discusses witness testimony.

          Questioning someone and introducing the statements is equivalent to compelling them to be a witness.  Questioning someone, finding physical evidence as a result of that questioning, and introducing that physical evidence is not.  In the former case, false testimony could be coerced.  In the latter case, physical evidence and not testimony demonstrates the claims.

      2. under circumstances that stretched the criteria for such questioning *awfully* thin.

        IIRC, the two guys set off two bombs, were traveling with at least seven more, some of which they threw at police. and there was absolutely no reason to think there weren’t more bombs scattered around Boston. this situation is precisely what the public safety exception was designed for: ensuring public safety.

        1. And what better way to find bombs planted by someone intent on causing mayhem than to ask him where they are?

      3. That doesn’t matter. Tsarnaev’s prior statement that his brother influenced him into helping with the bombing is not admissible in court, because it was given before he was read his Miranda rights, and the prosecutor knows it and is ok with it.

        Tsarnaev has yet to make any statements since being read his rights. That’s also fine, given that there is more than enough evidence to find him guilty.

        Tsarnaev’s rights were not harmed in any way by being questioned before being read his rights. What he said will not be admissible in court, and won’t affect the ruling. Everything that has happened since he was caught has been above-board so far.

        1. Statements made from an ICU bed with a chunk of throat missing are not exactly quality evidence, anyway. Not that evidence will have any impact in his trial.

      4. The criteria was in no way stretched awfully thin. Setting of two bombs injuring almost 300 people, throwing another at police, then getting caught with more bombs clearly qualifies for the public safety exemption.

    2. It wasn’t at all assured that that would happen.  Powerful members of congress were crying out to deny him these rights.

  2. Rights like “Miranda” do not exist because the guilty “deserve” them. They exist because the innocent do. If we could manage to only arrest the truly guilty, there would be no need for tese rights.

    Daryl Cagle has a serious basic misunderstanding.

      1. I can’t tell if you are being sarcastic. In matters of procedure all suspects are presumed innocent. 

      2. Picard: Leading to the rule “Guilty until proven innocent.”
        Q: Of course. Bringing the innocent to trial would be unfair.

    1. False. Guilty people deserve rights too.

      Where do you draw the line on how “guilty” you have to be before you have no rights? If you jay walk have you given up your rights as a citizen?

      You don’t get to draw arbitrary lines and chose which rights different people get.

      1.  He didn’t say that guilty people didn’t deserve rights.

        He said the Miranda rights were not created for the guilty, but for the innocent. Big difference.

        As for how guilty you have to be: convicted is how guilty you have to be before your rights are taken away. The crime you’re convicted of will determine which of your rights are removed.

    2. Thank you, this is exactly what I came here to say.  “Deserve” isn’t in question here.  It’s just what we do in a civilized society.

    3. We work off a presumption of innocence.  Just because someone seems guilty as sin doesn’t mean they are.  Even when you have video evidence of someone doing the deed, it still doesn’t rule out coercion.

      Besides, this entire incident was a stupid political game.  He has his right to remain silent regardless if his Miranda rights are read or not.  The only thing the reading does is remind you that you have them.  The police could have merrily read him his rights, and then laid into him with questions.  Seeing as how he was in the process of bleeding out, it is doubtful the reminder of his rights was going to be top on his mind.

      The real reason to not read him his Miranda rights is because law agencies don’t want to read people their rights.  The defense lawyer is going to challenge this failure to read his rights, and the judge is going to throw out the challenge because this guy is a terrorist and the judge doesn’t want to get lynched.  This will cement and expand the current precedence.

      The final result is going to be that in the same way a police officer can “stop and frisk” you over basically anything, or accuse anyone pissing them off of “disorderly conduct”, cops are going to carve out a nice big fat exemption from reading people their rights by claiming public safety.  There are basically no crimes where you can’t swingle a “public safety” concern if you put your mind to it.

      Mark my words, the State is going to carve out a larger exception, and then abuse the fuck out of it.

  3. Its easy to understand why they waited 16 hours (he was talking) and how they justified it to themselves (there could be more plots and suspects), but it doesnt mean that its right.

    The authorities could easily claim that the Auora and Tuscon shooters “May have been part of a larger conspiricy” and then not read them their rights, BUT it was more likely that those two were individuals (even though in the case of Aurora, there were early claims that there were two shooters)

  4. (in reply to cleek) – Precisely what I intended to post – I can’t think of a situation MORE fitting.

    When you are caught in the act of throwing lit explosives AT police, “presumption of innocence” exits the scenario on some level.

    1. To get technical, they didn’t catch him throwing explosives; the chain-of-custody was broken. They found a guy bleeding in a boat who looks like the guy that threw the explosives… but until you can find physical evidence to tie him to the scene (which is what you do at a trial), you’ve got to presume he’s innocent. 

    2. It’s not the cops who must presume innocence; it’s the court, judge and any jury who were not there and should not convict on the testimony of law enforcement alone (not saying it doesn’t happen). This is not Megacity One…yet.

    1. I hate to do this, because I agree with Jerry Holkins on all points, but it sort of undermines his argument when he makes this mistake:

      It’s almost impossible to make work as stupid as theirs, even you’re expressly trying to do so.

      Note the missing if. Perhaps someone should confiscate his thesaurus and loan him a copy of Strunk & White.

      1. After four years wondering if he got away with that typo, losing sleep, sick with guilt, he’s probably glad, in a way, that you caught him.

        1. Now he can finally breath a sigh of relief and get the editing he desperately needs.

          I just don’t get why he never fixed it. I mean, I can see not wanting to take time to correct every typo…actually, no I can’t, but then I’m anal about that stuff…but that one is pretty unintentionally undercutting. Unless he was going for intentional irony, in which case his game is way over my head.

  5. I like it – It’s a vapid, meaningless cartoon, like almost every editorial cartoon, and the swappable caption just drives that home. You might as well have ‘A: Taco Bell Locos Doritos sponsored by Lehman Brothers’. ‘A: It was space reptiles!’ ‘A: [picture of a crying eagle]’ ‘A: [picture of a crying American Indian chief]’.

    The best editorial cartoonist working today is Kelly:,31515/     (crying Statue of Liberty).

        1. I’m amazed he got that far. I stopped reading after the first graf, which contains both a humblebrag and self-pity because he’s connected with a troubled industry.

          1.  Too bad, because he explains that he changed his mind once he got feedback on the first cartoon, deciding that he was dead wrong to begin with. He also explains that he doesn’t take down old cartoons because his ideas or beliefs have changed, choosing to live with his past mistakes on display. The truncating of the apology and running with the equivocation meme is more deceptive than what Rob and the rest are whinging about.

      1.  It was on purpose and it made me laugh out loud. Greatest use of typography to make a point I’ve seen in a long time.

  6. The crazy thing is that reading the Miranda Rights to someone doesn’t change the rights they have, it merely informs them of what they are.  So Tsarnaiv could have clammed up and asked for a lawyer whenever he wanted, the police didn’t read him those rights because they were afraid he would do just that.  It seems crazy to me, like the cops were using not reading the rights as an intimidation tactic or something. 

    1. Moreover, it seems giving someone a Miranda warning serves to protect the state and its case before the court. As Jon Steward pointed out the other night, everyone has at all time the protections offers by the 5th and 6th Amendments. A Miranda warning is merely the police preemptively covering its ass since it is in the dual situation of having an adversarial role towards and forced custodial role of an assumed innocent citizen. 

      tl;dr: It’s a Miranda *warning*, not Miranda *rights*.

    2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is isn’t the entire point here that up until the moment when he was Miranda’ed, there was speculation that he would be tried as an “enemy combatant”, or sent to Guantanamo without trial or whatever rather than being charged as an american suspected of a crime? So this kefuffle really was about defining his status rather than informing him of it. That point seems to have gotten thoroughly lost in this discussion.

    3. It seems crazy to me, like the cops were using not reading the rights as an intimidation tactic or something.

      Evidence that Tsarnaiv gave before he was read his rights (if he was sure he wasn’t going to be tried as an enemy combatant) couldn’t be used against him. Therefore he could have been freer to say things like “there’s an unexploded bomb under that bridge” than he would have been after he was read his rights.

  7. It doesn’t change their right to remain silent, but police cannot use a suspect’s testimony in court UNTIL the suspect has been informed of their Miranda rights. Police can act on information given before Miranda rights have been read (e.g., look for evidence, look for other people involved), but nothing said can be used in court.

    Informing a suspect of their Miranda rights is less about protecting a suspect and more about ensuring that testimony can be used in court.

    1. That’s what’s so bizarre. Letting the questioning go on for that long (even given the public safety exception and the fact the suspect was in hospital) before reading him his warning makes me wonder what they’ve managed to exclude from his trial.

        1. They probably do, but prosecutors are usually more careful about this stuff. From what I read it’s approx. 16 hours worth of interview, and all it takes is one or two critical pieces of info to be excluded to sink a case.

  8. If he had published simultaneously the two, in various journals of opposing stripes, that could have been interesting.

    But a retraction like this?  What a wuss.  He could even have stamped “revised, I was wrong” on it.

    1. yeah, right? Like how all of us go back and constantly revise our comments when we change our minds after careful deliberation (which in our case is weeks and months, ’cause we’re like, totes serious about it).

      1.  i only do that when i’m absolutely certain no-one is ever going to access the post again.  Like, 18 months.  maybe more.

  9. That’s a pretty craven and lazy way for a creative person to show he’s changed his mind. The guy thinks he’s a humourist so let’s see a strip making fun of himself for his initial knee-jerk reaction. Something like:

    Q: Which political pundit got it wrong in regard to the Miranda rights issue:

    [Cartoons of Cagle along with (I would assume) Limbaugh and O’Reilly all simultaneously hollering Tsarnaev did not deserve to be read his rights]

    A: All of them 

    Of course, considering the craven and lazy way the authorities handled the topic of the cartoon, I suppose there are bigger fish to fry in that regard.

  10. Balls indeed.

    If the cartoonist really wanted to ‘foster discussion’ or ‘deal with the controversy’ or whatever, he could have put BOTH answers upside down. Or, alternately, neither.
    Just nonsense.

  11. I wish I didn’t have to say this everywhere.

    Nobody can give or deny Miranda rights. They are rights, people always have them. What’s relevant is whether or not someone has been informed of their rights, which allows their testimony to be admissible in court as evidence.

  12. FWIW, you cherry-picked his response while omitting the portion where he states that he actually changed his mind on the issue in response to the info that was sent to him after the publication of the first version.  If true, then:

    1) Seems fairly relevant to your take of capitalistic greed overriding editorial integrity, don’t you think?  If that was part of his response, why did you not make any mention of it?
    2) It still marks him as a lightweight, albeit an open-minded one, since he published his opinions without doing any research/thinking on the issue if some comments from the public could so quickly enlighten him.

    1. I agree. It’s rare for people to say, “I took a stance and then quickly changed my mind because people argued against me and I realized they were right.” We need more of that. Rob shouldn’t have implied that there was nothing significant in Cagle’s explanation.

      1.  And, actually, regardless of whether it’s ‘All’ or ‘None’ he was at least he was consistent that they should all have been treated the *same*

        1. Good point, especially given that mainstream figures like Lindsay Graham and John McCain were arguing for treating Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant for no believable reason other than his being Muslim.

    2. And at the same time, there was a valid opinion there that he sort of glossed over: that all three cases were to be treated the same way: either all or none, but don’t cherry-pick.

  13. The sheer GALL of the man to try something different.

    He should know better than to rock the boat — that’s fer us New Media types, not for an (ugh) print cartoonist.

    1. Because if you remove the point of view from an editorial cartoon, all you have left is some unusually shitty clip art

      If you think Cagle exists to make you think, I. . . I just don’t even know

      1.  The point of view has not been removed; what the linked-to complaint was complaining about was the lack of  “a clear point of view.”

        The ol’ desire for black-n-white set before us, as media dispenses the facts with no bias, no interpretation, the perfect frictionless vacuum.

        That never, doesn’t, and won’t ever exist, no matter how much she whines about it.

        Cagle might suck, but this is whining.

        Hell, the problem with most editorial cartoons is that their point of view is all too obvious. NOTHING is that cut-and-dried. And little nuance, a little room for interpretation, some wiggle-room-for-thought is needed outside of a fox-news-echo-chamber.

        Increasingly we’re not getting it, and then people like Telnaes come alonmg to complain that we’re no longer being spoon-fed, that journalism isn’t as grand as it used to be. She’s won a Pulitzer, that’s great. But it doesn’t mean she’s right.

    2. Because the cartoonist is providing *his* opinion and asking us to consider it. He’s certainly allowed to change his mind, but the lazy manner in which he did it in this case only led to confusion.

  14. Like political reporting, political cartooning is now (if it ever wasn’t) less about illustrating a political position and more about getting dittoheads to go MURIKA! FUK YEH! or librulls to go “Right on, bro!” or whatever militant liberals say.

    So this guy wants to get maximum exposure by playing both sides. Why shouldn’t he? Sure, he loses any credibility as an *opinionated* political cartoonist, but he manages to make his work more profitable.

    And in doing so, he may have inadvertently illustrated a political point — that politics isn’t about what’s best for everyone anymore, but about who has more fans in the bleachers.

  15. Daryl Cagle is a pus-filled boil on the pasty ass of American editorial cartooning.

    He has HuffPoed the profession. Here’s how: the best cartoonists are syndicated by the five major syndicates. A typical paper pays $20/week to run the work of one of these major cartoonists. Starting in the late 1990s, Daryl gathered up all the OTHER cartoonists – the ones too shitty to get syndicated by a real syndicate – and put them into his Cagle Cartoons package.

    Cheap editors are offered a devil’s bargain: $50/week for a huge package containing 100 cartoons a day – shitty cartoons, granted, but a lot of them – i.e., the same amount you’d pay for 2 or 3 real cartoonists. Hundreds of papers have taken him up on that.

    Cagle’s cartoonists don’t get paid shit…a couple bucks per cartoon. But it’s more than they’d get from anyone else. And they get to say they’re “syndicated.”

    Cagle’s package has spread so widely that the average cartoon a reader sees is one of his (shitty) ones. Which makes everyone think all editorial cartoons suck. But they don’t. Matt Bors, Tom Tomorrow, Jen Sorensen, Ruben Bolling, derf, Stephanie McMillan are doing AMAZING work. But no one runs them. Because of Cagle.

    I could go on. There’s lots more.

    1. Daryl Cagle is a pus-filled boil… Cagle’s package has spread so widely

      How vivid.

  16. P.S. When Cagle claimed to have changed his mind, his statement said he changed it BECAUSE Miranda was obviously more popular than he thought. In other words, he tailors his opinions to suit the polls. Which no opinion monger ought to do.

Comments are closed.