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Charlie Brown, you radical!

www.peanuts.com is replaying all the original Peanuts comic strips, in order, one per day. They are up to August 25, 1962.

I loved reading Peanuts when I was little. My older brothers and sisters had some "big books" of Peanuts cartoons and I would read them when I was too young to understand half the words. Reading them on Peanuts.com I find many are familiar and many I recognize as ones that I didn't understand at the time!

This week 2 strips stood out:

Charlie Brown recognizes that the erosion of responsibility is hurting us all:


Snoopy worries about the world's big problems.

The term "atmospheric testing" refers to the nuclear arms race. In 1962 Charles Schultz is reflecting our society's worries about big issues. On the funnies pages. Something children read.

Contrast this to Family Circus where the biggest problem we expose children to is, um, the doggie is hungry.

When I read that cartoon my immediate thought was: What would happen today if a strip like that came out but mentioned 'terrorist attacks' instead? Would parents be outraged? Would the Radical Right Wing demand that the strip be cancelled because it was too left-wing? Would O'Reilly label Schultz unamerican?

Is the fact that we don't demand more from newspapers an erosion of responsibility that is hurting us all?

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Charles Schultz did indeed use children to say the things newspaper readers would never countenance from adult characters. Unfortunately, toward the end of the strip's run, it devolved into yet another "kids say the darndest things" strip a la Family Circus.

I think a strip like this would probably go on the editorial page today (like Doonesbury) or the author would probably opt to run it as a web comic rather than flogging it to the newspapers.

actually, when it started, the Family Circus was fairly daring for the time and the comics pages. take a look at the comic that is used to illustrate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Family_Circus

I have The Family Circus Treasury; it was a Scholastic Book selection when I was 8 or 9 ;-) And many of the earliest comics were Inappropriate.

It was really only about the time that his kids became teens but he'd frozen them as 1 to 6 year olds that he started to create uninspired crap (you see the same thing in other family comics, like For Better or for Worse).

I think it's actually a double-edged sword that sort of signals the death-knell for newspapers.

Large newspapers and small, all over the place, are suffering and going belly-up. Part of the reason for that is - as you say - because we're simply not holding them in high regard. They're slow to get us "news", and their news is mostly regurgitated wire-stories we read on CNN.COM or an RSS or Twitter feed the day before. The days of hard-hitting investigative journalism, and/or a willingness to come down hard and take a real stand on their editorial pages, are long since gone.

But the problem for newspapers is it's too late to correct that. Their subscriber levels are at all time lows. They can't afford to hire the quality journalists they need, and are too "at-risk" of going under to really take on various interests via their editorial pages anymore. The risk that a poorly received editorial will cause them to go under is just too high any more.

I'm not going to stand here and say "Death of newspapers, film at eleven!", because they'll still hang on for a while, but I don't think we'll ever see them at the value-levels of the Woodward and Bernstein era....

Actually, their subscription numbers are bad, but "ok". The problem is that they are not sustainable because MBAs in the 1990s convinced themselves to over-leverage themselves. They're profitable, just not enough to pay back the big, big loans they took on Wall Street's promise that this was "the way".

Also, media like TV and radio are doing just as bad. However, since they are owned by big companies it is easier to hide the smaller profits when, say, your military weapons division is doing well. However, reporting on Newspapers financial problems (and not mentioning their own problems) is a great way to hurt Newspapers i.e. the competition.


It's not just that, though. At least here in NY, tons and tons of smaller local (e.g., county-wide, not just mom-n-pop weeklies) papers have completely gone under -- shut their doors, fired their staff and "left the building". That's not "ok", that's "dead".

I agree with you that TV/Radio make it out to be worse than it may be, short-term, but I think it's still pretty grim.

Do you read the comics pages today? They're *full* of daring and radical statements. The Boondocks -- "syndicated to over 300 clients at its peak" -- is the most obvious example. But what about For Better or Worse, whose author drew death threats when she had a character come out of the closet in over 3,000 papers? Even Doonesbury continues to be sharp and surprising at 41. I'm sure not, and I'm the same age.

The comics page has always been far ahead of the curve. It's granted the special immunity that court jesters enjoyed 500 years ago, to point out the truth in an easy-to-understand way. Seriously, I think you're way off base here.

(Deleted comment)
you're totally underestimating the depth of social analysis about incarcerated parents that Heathcliff frequently brings to the breakfast table.

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