One of the strange blessings of the internet is its ability to serve as an external memory system.  Thoughts that would once have been lost to time if they were even lucky enough to have made it out of your head are now preserved for an indefinite eternity in places over which you have little to no control.

For example, if I want to know how I felt about Brendan McCarthy’s Doctor Strange/Spider-Man comic Fever after the first issue came out in 2010, a quick google search will turn up this flouncing defense of the book, written in response to a review by Sean Collins:

Say it Vibrational Match style: Where you see “inert physicality”, I see a Spider-Man who’s all harsh angles and elbows being squashed, flattened out, and a Doc Strange who’s at home with the harsh geometrics McCarthy conjures up.

Where you read flat pastiche, I read Spider-Man as a jerk who gets shut the hell up by the story (his words like jutting elbows –> drooping limbs), and Doc Strange as a badass who can turn exposition into information with the right gestures (verbal, physical).

Also: the mystic spider dialogue is genuinely fucking creepy, for reals, when combined with the images, yes?

In lesser hands this would be mere set-up, but this issue had a whole lot of “?something else?” working for it — that creepy wee arachnid bastard, crawling up the Vulture’s back, fr’instance!  Like something from Seven Soldiers, only (yes!) far more unsettling.

I saw the biggest, most bulbous-assed spider of the year last night, sitting on my windowsill. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to these wee beasties, but last night, after having read Fever? I tell you, I wanted to kiss the wee fucker!

The “hey, I’m a black guy!” dialogue was a bit cringey though, pastiche or no.

Looking at the book this week, I find myself agreeing with every point but the last one.

It’s not that I don’t find the dialogue McCarthy gave to the African-American comedy character cringe-inducing anymore – I do! – but that Brendan McCarthy’s recent Facebook comments on race make me feel ashamed the structure supporting that final sentence.

Sure, I agreed with Sean Collins’ assessment of the embarrassing nature of McCarthy’s throwback characterisation, but I did so in a tossed off, casual way, after five paragraphs of flame flecked enthusiasm. The implicit message being that everyone should just chill out about this racist after taste and enjoy the “septic salsa” of the comic itself.

In 2010, the story of McCarthy was that he was that of the hero freshly returned from the wasteland, ready to save the kingdom from itself.  His new work confirmed his status as a trinity of psych-pop ghosts, the faces of Brit comics past, present and future combined.  What interest could a couple of dodgy panels hold against all that?  Solo #12 remains McCarthy’s late period masterpiece, but even in lesser books like Fever there are moments of astonishing beauty.  The scene in the second issue where Spider-Man steps through a portal and into a crunchy insect killing field still burns bright in the light of its own toxic logic:


McCarthy’s comics tend to overpower the reader with indescribable shapes and unfathomable textures – Sarah Horrocks is dead right when she says that McCarthy draws with colour, rather than merely colouring his drawings.

When faced with the work of an artist who is giving so much, it’s easy to find yourself overlooking genuine faults, even when they’re staring you right in the face.  Don’t get me wrong, the appeal of this fiction is still strong, but no amount of comic book magic can make this go away:

That’s Brendan McCarthy there, showing an inability to see what’s in front of him that makes my efforts in 2010 look downright half-hearted.  Who reads an article about a nineteen-year-old black girl (Renisha McBride) being shot in the head while looking for help and sees nothing but another example of the tyranny of “the hipster left/PC brownshirts”?  An arsehole, obviously.  Someone so convinced that the people calling out racism are  the REAL racists that they’re blind to the details of the article in question, oblivious to the structures of racial fear and discrimination this story implies, and impervious to the reality of a world in which black people can be killed freely and with legal impunity.

With tragic predictability, McCarthy has identified this exact ailment in his accusers, seemingly convinced that his inability to draw “a southern black watermelon-munching dimwit” without being called a dick is an issue on par with the deadly consequences of the sort of far reaching racism he imagines to have been replaced by the tyranny of the left.

Call it Karns’ Malady, call it a case of the South Parks, call it whatever you want.  Like my thoughts on Spider-Man: Fever, Brendan McCarthy’s edgy uncle routine is now part of the memory of the internet.  It leaves a rancid stain on his particular part of the landscape, one that’s strong enough to clash with even McCarthy’s glorious artistic excesses, strong enough to make you go back and look at his work again with fresh eyes:

Note to self: some faults deserve more than one throwaway sentence.

55 Responses to “Flashback to Fever: Brendan McCarthy, race, and not seeing what’s in front of your face”

  1. Dave Says:

    Woah, I had no idea McCarthy was such a piece of crap.

    Pretty surprising considering the types of comics he used to make with Milligan. They felt pretty punk.

  2. Tom W Says:

    Being a punk is part of the problem, because casual racism was always part of the movement. Reacting against the establishment and freaking the squares meant wearing Nazi armbands and meant using the N-word and Britain’s favourite racist term Paki alongside your other forbidden words. That such words were hurtful was the point, and didn’t stop punks of other ethnicities or being close to other ethnicities.

    I called out Mr Chow as a racist caricature on my blog when I wrote about Paradax, and that punk attitude is probably why the creators felt like it was okay. And though the racism in Skin is kept to epithets, no other races getting a look-in, you feel it’d be defended for the same anti-establishment reasons. The protagonist and the rest of the skins are alienated working-class kids, bottom of the heap, racism an unthinking reflex.

    Not sure how I feel about this latest. The comments aren’t defensible in any way but comics is a field of old white guys getting older and that’s a demographic that gets more racist as they get older, their views not shifting as the rest of the world does. It’s not like I’ll give up on McCarthy comics because of a trait that was arguably already visible.

  3. Thrills Says:

    Aw man, I saw some talk on the tumblr along the lines of “Oh, Brendan McCarthy… (shakes head)” but I couldn’t find any context, so just forgot about it.

    Thanks for this post! It’s important to be made aware when your heroes are total shits. I’m totally guilty of just not questioning the racist caricature stuff too deeply in his work, as I fucking love his art and probably dismissed it as ‘satire’ or something, and no-one wants to think their cool 80s anti-Tory punk art-crush is dodgy as fuck.


    Or, failing that, time to call out racism whenever possible and try to help the world move towards being less of a fucking systematically horrible place.

    Oh, Brendan McCarthy…

  4. Tim O'Neil Says:

    Yeah, the punk thing is true . . . something that often gets forgotten on this side of the Atlantic, because our punks went through the crucible of early 80s hardcore and the angry anti-racist rhetoric of the Dischord crew and “White Minority.” All the punks who came up in the years since idolize those guys – I’m sure there are some home-grown Skrewdrivers hanging out in the margins, but the “mainstream” of American punk has been been politically leftist (at least as far as race and class issues go) for a long time.

    I don’t know what kind of impact hardcore had in the UK, but over here it solidified the perception of punk as unswervingly, rabidly anti-right-wing.

    Now, gender inclusion is another story.

  5. Richard Bensam Says:

    Rich Johnson’s predictable decision to frame this as a question of which comics creators can be labelled as left wing or right wing opened the door for Brendan McCarthy to do the very thing he claims to deplore: reduce a person’s political and social outlook to a laundry list of approved positions. “I’m in favor of gay and transgender rights so I can’t be right wing, therefore I’m not racist either!” Johnson and McCarthy have both used the imaginary question of where some bystander sits on an imaginary left-to-right axis to distract attention from the real horror beneath this story.

    Having known Brendan socially many years ago and having idolized the man and his work for the past 25 years, I can’t reconcile the gentle, thoughtful person I saw then with the blind, reactionary words he writes now. But I guess we see only what we want to see: those panels in Fever bothered me too at the time, but I told myself it was some failed attempt at satire. The guy isn’t really a proper writer, I told myself, cut him some slack for a misfire in humor. Yet I can’t have truly believed that because that scene was the very first thing that came to mind when this story broke. (For many other people as well, it seems.) Right now I feel very much like someone I adored has died…because I’ve come to realize he never existed in the first place.

  6. Thrills Says:

    This comments thread is amazing, and is so good at articulating my thoughts on this better than I ever could (especially the punk stuff).

    Talking from the perspective of a person who moves in ‘othered’ cirlces (feminist/queer/mental health/trans/not just straight white male) it is SO frustrating when my friends are like “look, I can’t be a bigot! I support gay rights!” or whatever, and it’s this sort of too-often-seen attitude I’m having trouble with regarding McCarthy. Even my South Park-style ‘lolz hipster racism’ best pal has read the mccarthy comments and been ‘WHAT’.

    McCarthy’s work HAS been actually quite pivotal regarding making me feel ‘okay’ about gender issues and just general not-norm stuff in adventure comics and what not, and it’s genuinely awful to read the facebook comments here, and the other things highlighted at Bleeding Cool.

    Sorry to take up your comment space, Mindless Ones! I am just genuinely saddened by McCarthy’s comments(though my misery is obviously nothing compared to the continued horror inflicted on the world by his shitwad middle-aged whitey privilege sadly normal non-thought wank opinions)


  7. Cass Says:

    It’s sad that McCarthy had to open his mouth on social media, not because I give two shits about his political opinions, but because now his work, like Dave Sim’s, will be dismissed out of hand by “progressives” because he’s a bigot. Tedious spotting-the-stereotype will become the norm in all future analysis of his genuinely transgressive and forward-thinking work. On the internet, saying something bigoted is the only crime which can’t be forgiven. Down with McCarthy, up with Chester Brown.

  8. Cass Says:

    @Richard Bensam: This is the thing I find incredibly frustrating. Why does this suddenly invalidate all your experiences of McCarthy as a gentle, thoughtful person? David Hine has recently said that McCarthy has been his good friend for years despite his shit politics, I would guess precisely because of those good qualities you saw in him.

    If it instead came out that McCarthy had cheated on his wife, would you still feel your initial impressions were totally invalidated? All this Facebook incident shows is that McCarthy is a flawed person who has some hateful thoughts. What I can’t stand is that because of the outrageously overblown reaction the current culture has to the faintest whiff of bigotry, this will become in many people’s eyes the sum total of McCarthy’s person and work from now on: Brendan McCarthy = Racist, henceforth. Dave Sim = Misogynist.

  9. Mister Attack Says:

    “…I can’t stand is that because of the outrageously overblown reaction the current culture has to the faintest whiff of bigotry…”

    Should’ve maybe chose your words better there. You sound a little too incensed at the fact that bigotry *might* be seen to be bad. I’m sure it’s all he-he and ha-ha until someone get’s shot for being the wrong colour in the wrong neighbourhood.

    I get that you want to turn the tables a bit here, make us see that our own reaction to prejudice is, well, a little prejudiced, but it’s not like we’re disappointed by his taste in desserts. The man’s demonstrated a pretty shocking moral lapse, and if that doesn’t call his body of work into question, or at least beg a re-evaluation then where do you draw the line?

    And if you think the answer to that is ‘never’, then that strikes me as taking the convenient path of least resistance.

  10. Richard Bensam Says:

    @Cass, it’s possible you’ve already decided not to understand this, but I’ll take the chance and offer you a clue. It isn’t about his politics: I have right-wing and Republican friends. It isn’t about his views on gun control or “stand your ground” laws: I have friends who are gun enthusiasts. I was a classic science fiction fan so inevitably a couple of my favorite authors were that way as well. It isn’t even that he’s apparently racist: I’m over fifty, from a rural background, and have run into a few over the years. They don’t make me throw a fit.

    No, the problem here is that Brendan McCarthy saw that story, and of all the possible ways to respond in public, look at what he chose. Look at what he thought was the first, most important thing to say about that girl’s murder.

  11. Cass Says:

    I don’t really think his response was that considered. It’s a controversial issue and he responded immediately after it was posted, and then proceeded to get his back up against the wall. It’s not enough to judge his entire character.

    I remember after Aurora, half my friends were on Facebook, IMMEDIATELY railing against the Right and gun control laws, as if it was their “Aha! Gotcha now!” moment. My friends are good people, who care about others, but they have axes to grind and people respond in strange fucking ways to tragedy. I don’t judge their whole character based on that. It certainly doesn’t invalidate what they’ve shown me in the past.

  12. Cass Says:

    Inadequacy of gun control laws*

  13. Cass Says:

    @MisterAttack: Has he demonstrated such a lapse? I think he has said something in exceptionally poor taste, that’s it. He has not done anything to anyone; he has not endorsed any racist or evil policies, not even implicitly. If he had even remotely implied that use of force was justified, there would be something to react against, but he didn’t. All he did was accuse the media of exploiting the story to promote an agenda, which is something that is done on Facebook ~ 140 trillion times per day. As I have said, his statements stand out among the 140 trillion, in that they are in very poor taste and imply the mindset of a racist, but I wouldn’t consider the comments on their own a “shocking moral lapse.” Maybe that makes me callous, but to me, a shocking moral lapse has to involve an action beyond an implied thought.

    Personally, I draw the line at actively seeking to deprive people of rights, such as Orson Scott Card supporting anti-gay groups. On the other hand, I have no problem with people drawing the line with this for Brendan McCarthy, or drawing the line anywhere, for that matter. If you don’t feel comfortable supporting somebody because of their socio-political opinions, then yeah of course don’t support them.

    What I oppose, however, is dismissing an artist out of hand because of his distasteful points of view. And I feel that will and is already beginning to happen here. I dislike the idea that we have this nice new edition of McCarthy’s work from Dark Horse, and now people will be reading these terrific stories basically searching for the hate in them, which is just so fucking far off the mark for stuff like Rogan Gosh.

  14. Illogical Volume Says:

    On the internet, saying something bigoted is the only crime which can’t be forgiven.

    Jesus Cass, it’s almost like you haven’t heard of penis shaped sound waves or something.

    Which is to say: I don’t buy your premise, sorry. The idea that “the internet” really is some sort of politically correct dystopia is easily dispelled by a casual survey of message boards and comments sections.

    What’s more, the point of this post wasn’t that I will now go looking for racially dubious elements in McCarthy’s work but that I will no longer wave away such elements because they don’t fit my view of McCarthy as an artist. The good qualities of his work are still worthy of comment – his use of colour is genuinely extraordinary, and the fundamental queerness of some his creations remains vital on the page and beyond it. None of this gives him a free pass, be it in Fever or on Facebook or anywhere else. We’re adults, we owe it to ourselves to be smarter than that, less easily charmed, less eager to make excuses for the dickish comments and artistic lapses of own favourite tiny stars.

  15. Illogical Volume Says:

    Rich Johnston made a right arse of that Bleeding Cock post though, eh? It’s can’t have been easy to write a post about this topic that went in too heavy with the labels while managing to avoid taking a stance on anything, and yet he managed it.

    Well done Rich!

  16. Anonymous Says:

    “The idea that ‘the internet’ really is some sort of politically correct dystopia is easily dispelled by a casual survey of message boards and comments sections.”

    fuckin’ spot on m8

  17. Anonymous Says:

    also it’s a newspapers job to be objective regardless of the facts. and breeding drool is almost a newspaper if you squint and have no eyeballs

  18. plok Says:

    Cass, I don’t fucking understand what the difference is between not supporting an artist because you despise their politics, and whatever “dismissing an artist out of hand because of his distasteful points of view” is. Is that like the thing where you now think McCarthy’s art is BAD because of his politics? Because I seriously doubt if there’s anyone who’s all “I used to love Dave Sim’s art but since I found out he’s a misogynist I’ve realized he can’t draw” within easy earshot of this discussion. So if this is truly what you oppose, then I think you’re in a safe place here.

    But I’m afraid I can’t join you under the Meh Tent — it isn’t SAD that McCarthy had to open his mouth on social media, for one thing he didn’t have to, and for another “sad” and “stupid” aren’t synonyms. As for “all it does is show he has some hateful thoughts”, I gotta tell you that for many many many many people that is a dealbreaker, and if you’ve heard it isn’t then you’ve been doing your research at the wrong library. Artists, especially, lose their fanbases all the time because of stupid shit they say. Not just the Dave Sims but the Frank Millers. Not just the David Mamets but the Clint Eastwoods! You can’t stop it from happening. You can’t blame anyone for it. It just fucking IS.

    Also, when you say “progressives”, I hear “I have a partisan agenda”. Word to the wise.

    Actually, now I’m sick of talking about Brendan Fucking McCarthy, who has not just been shot in the fucking head and so is an unimportant person.

  19. Illogical Volume Says:

    Abso-fucking-lutely – Plok’s close enough to me to know how much I hate the fact that I only publicly discuss, say, predator drones in any detail while talking about mediocre Superman comics, probably only fair to let the rest of you in on that right now.

  20. Illogical Volume Says:

    Anonymous – heh, forgive me, my eyes have only partially melted in the light of this monitor screen!

    The precise nature of Bleeding Cock’s journalistic ambition is laid bare in Johnston’s closing flourish – “Brendan McCarthy. Always worth a follow, whatever your politics. If nothing else, just to see what he’ll post next…”

    No sides taken, no intelligent analysis, just a slobbering enthusiasm for STORY, the cruder the better. Of course, there are plenty of newspapers with a similar attitude, but I can’t pretend to have any time for them either!

  21. plok Says:

    It is perhaps a bit much that our main concern should even accidentally appear to be “oh, his poor reputation!” Or “where do you draw the line with freedom of speech”, that’s another goddamn irrelevant thing that always gets trotted out…”But if we criticize Frank Miller for being a bigot, aren’t we just being bigoted against his bigotry, and isn’t that kind of the same thing as book-burning?” Yes, it seems as though we must shortly be burning books, you’re quite right about that, Mark Millar…

    In a way these defences are insults to the people they’re meant to back up, you know. Brendan McCarthy has no agency, is just inexplicably moved to jabber, it must be because he’s one of my favourite artists, oh well you know what the Talent’s like…so SPECIAL. Ya gotta sew their mittens to their sleeves, they’re so special. Really, they’re complete idiots. Helpless freaks. It isn’t that they’re above ordinary considerations of personal responsibility, but they’re below them. Don’t point out they’re being racist, you’ll shatter their fragile genius!

    Don’t you know it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird?

    Only comics fans could distribute infantilization and anti-intellectualism in the same movement. We are truly princes.

  22. plok Says:

    Sorry, that’s me, still ranting…

  23. david brothers Says:

    Great post, IV. I like McCarthy’s stuff a lot though I’m new to it compared to you folks—his SOLO was impenetrable until suddenly it was great, Zaucer of Zilk with Ewing felt legitimately mind-expanding in a “I needed to read this when I read it” kind of way—but I liked it a lot, and was working my way backward and forward through his library.

    But now, my ambition to read everything? Or even finish “Best of Milligan and McCarthy” after slowing down during the start of Rogan Gosh? Ehhhhh. It’s not that he suddenly sucks, so much as the fact that I suddenly know that he views me and people like me as Less Than, Other, first, and that’s going to tickle the back of my brain as I read. I had the same reaction to Fever that you did, “Oh haha how weird, usually he’s a better writer than this.” Now? Frowns abound.

    “I think he has said something in exceptionally poor taste, that’s it. He has not done anything to anyone; he has not endorsed any racist or evil policies, not even implicitly.”

    I would suggest that further spreading the lie of black on black crime and supporting the criminalization of non-white faces (“who cares, black people kill white people every day and no one talks about it”) implicitly, if not explicitly, contributes to the grip racism has on our shared culture. Which isn’t a policy, to be fair, but “talking on the internet” isn’t somehow harmless because it’s on Facebook.

  24. plok Says:

    Hear, hear.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, god, should I say anything or should I just spare everyone?

    I’ve had a hugely positive response to a lot of McCarthy’s old covers and random pages, haven’t read many of his comics all the way through. He’s currently pulling third amongst Catalyst Comics cover artists. Is he a racist? I don’t have much to go on, but from the FB comments above, he strikes me as a contrarian more than anything else (I’m not touching on the Spider-Man thing since I don’t have the context).

    Having read article and links and comments, I feel like I need to push back against the characterization of a world “in which black people can be killed freely and with legal impunity.” OK, Trayvon Martin, check, that adds up–but that case is world famous for a reason: it was exceptional, and its outcome exceptionally galling. Illogical Volume, the case to which you link with the words “killed freely” involves a police officer who has been found to have discharged his gun unlawfully and is being charged with a felony–is that not a little misleading?

    Follow the links from the Daily Mail article back to Frontline and the Urban Institute’s study based on FBI data, and you’ll see that of the 43,500 homicides that occurred in the US between 2005 and 2009, a total of 25 were committed by whites against blacks (this number genuinely shocked me–I never would have imagined). Yes, those white killers have a much better chance of being found to have acted justifiably–there is plenty of racial bias in the American legal system, as there is in the rest of society. What there is not, despite appalling buy exceedingly rare indicators to the contrary, is an open season on blacks by white killers.

    I take this to be the point of McCarthy’s first FB comment. It may have been insensitive and poorly timed (point taken, Richard), but I don’t think it’s a “lie,” and it poses a legitimate question: given the great number of murders of all types that occur (white/black, killer/victim, etc.), why put so much focus on the least likely combination, that of a white killer and a black victim?

    Clearly the answer has to do with racism and the terrible history of racial violence. I have no doubt that black people in America encounter racism in some aspect of their lives virtually every day, from shopping in a store to getting pulled over for a traffic violation to securing a job or a promotion or a mortgage. But looking at the numbers, it must be said they are unlikely to encounter racism today in the form of deadly violence. David, the fear that you and Joe Hughes describe feeling daily is terrible for me to imagine. You say it is justified, but fear is an irrational emotion, and I would suggest that this fear is, if not paranoid, at least out of proportion to the actual threat. Like the rest of us, you’re in far greater danger from heart disease and traffic accidents.

    So I’d suggest that the media and all of us are drawn to these cases not because they are emblematic of a significant trend of unchecked violence against blacks, but because they push in our faces the terrifying potential of the racism that suffuses American society to erupt into violent action.

    Anyway, read McCarthy if you like.

    I am so sorry for typing all this. Feel free to call me names….

  26. Chad Says:

    Oops, posted by mistake. That’s me.

  27. plok Says:

    25 out of 43,500 seems like a CRAZY LOW NUMBER…and I’d be very reluctant to lean on that number without better context for its astounding lowness. What makes black people so fabulously immune from white murder? Nobody else is as immune as that, are they?

    It kinda cries out for an explanation, don’t you think, Chad? CRIES OUT.

  28. plok Says:

    Not even “murder”, really: HOMICIDE.

    Trayvon Martin, for example, that was a homicide. Somebody shot somebody and they died. Homicide.

  29. plok Says:

    Like, that number would have to include deadly car accidents, you know?

  30. Tony Morris Says:

    Maybe that crazy low number is convictions? Which would make another case entirely.

  31. plok Says:

    Yeah, Tony, precision’s pretty important!

    At least, it is when you’re sitting in an ivory tower. Me, I’m figuring that David’s telling it exactly like it is, and statistics that seem to suggest he’s delusional probably have something terrifyingly screwy with them. The stats are the theory; the lived experience is the experiment. If the experimental results contradict the theory, you throw the theory out. Science.

  32. Illogical Volume Says:

    Chad – No one’s going to call you names, man. That’s not what it is about. What this is about is gauging how exceptional the Trayvon Martin situation is, and about the toxic environment that created that situation. I’ll have a proper look into the stats you cite later on today – like Plok, I feel like that number is so low as to require some heavy investigation, and a quick glance at this breakdown of expanded homicide data seems to suggest that it’s bullshit, what with 209 white on black murders being listed in 2009 alone – but there’s a long and bloody history of unarmed black men being killed, often by police officers, and of the criminality of this act being minimalised. That’s what I was trying to get at by linking to the article about Jonathan Ferrell.

    Was my deployment of that hyperlink sloppy? Possibly. The use of deadly force in that situation seems brutally absurd, and speaks to a culture in which death is handed out far too easily to some, but I can see where you’re coming from with regards to the question of how free the officer in question is. The outcome of that charge has yet to be decided, and is probably worth watching. Was my use of “killed freely” in that sentence misleading? I don’t think so. It’s just plain factually accurate in Trayvon Martin’s case, Renisha McBride’s fate seems no less tragic, and I’ve yet to see a refutation of the legal bias suggested by the analysis mentioned above. I stand by my assessment of the way Jonathan Ferrell’s murder fits into the bigger picture, but the link is there, you read it, you made your own mind up. Everyone else is free to do the same.

    As to what David referred to as the lie of black on black violence – he’s not wrong. Most people kill people who live in the same area as they do, and race and class divides being what they are that tends to mean they kill people who look like they do too. The perception that the African American community is unusually active in its own murder elides the fact that most murders are intrarcial. You don’t hear much panic about “white on white crime” – ever wonder why that is?

    Your suggestion that David and Joe are being paranoid, acting irrationally, etc, is unintentionally condescending. You grant them the veracity of their own experience of racism but not the legitimacy of the fear that results from this. I’m a well spoken, middle class white guy, so my early death would almost certainly be treated as a tragedy; I can’t imagine what it’s like to be thought so inherently monstrous and violent that my killing might not even be a crime.

    You ask why so much attention should be focussed on these cases. I would suggest that what you identify as “the terrifying potential of the racism that suffuses American society to erupt into violent action” is reason enough, but what I would also like to ask is, do you think the viewpoint you get from the news is skewed like McCarthy says it is?

    I can’t watch much American news without getting a headache, so I’m not best placed to comment on that, but the idea that there’s a “lefty/PC” bias to the way race is handled in the UK media is demonstrably absurd. Half of the mosques in the United Kingdom have been attacked since 9/11 but you rarely hear about any of that in the press. The recent case of Pavlo Lapshyn has drawn an unusual amount of attention, but the fact that the perpetrator was, in this case, a European immigrant suggests an agenda forthis coverage that doesn’t fit with the alleged tyranny of the left.

    Finally, and least importantly, there’s Brendan McCarthy himself. Being a contrarian can be fun and all, but it’s a terrible excuse or defence for pretty much anything, especially when you’re dealing with a topic that impacts the lives and deaths of so many of your fellow human beings.

  33. sean Says:

    I don’t see being part of the white male backlash against “political correctness” as contrarian at all.

    McCarthy defends himself as a “radical moderate” opposed to extremes – yes, we live in the best of all possible worlds that, purely coincidentally, just happens to work to the benefit of middle class white men. How fortunate.

  34. Illogical Volume Says:


  35. Julian Frundt Says:

    “At least, it is when you’re sitting in an ivory tower. Me, I’m figuring that David’s telling it exactly like it is, and statistics that seem to suggest he’s delusional probably have something terrifyingly screwy with them. The stats are the theory; the lived experience is the experiment. If the experimental results contradict the theory, you throw the theory out. Science.”

    Plok… Is this your serious assessment or a joke? This is exactly the kind of wishy washy approach to reality which pervades the humanities and makes it so incredibly hard to have a serious conversation.

    You just turned the definition of science on its head with a bit of rhetoric.

    Stats are not theory, they are a tally collected in a systematic way.
    Your implicit definition of what “theory” is, is way off. A theory is actually a quite well tested idea not just something someone has dreamed up. Hence why climate change skeptics are morons for saying “Oh climate change is just a THEORY”. What you’re describing as theory is actually closer to a hypothesis.

    Lived experience is not the experiment. It’s a subjective small slice of reality. An experiment is constructed in a way that divorces you as well as is humanly possible from subjectivity.

    And ending your badly put together explanation with “science.” just makes you sound like Jesse Pinkman.

    I’m not saying that the statistics are necessarily right. There MAY be a flaw in how they are collected and it MAY have to do with some sort of racist bias. But you can’t just claim that as fact. You have to go out and prove it. Just falling back on a “who benefits” model of evaluating statistics, especially when your idea of “who benefits” might be totally off, is dangerous and lazy. It’s basically the underpinning of every wack conspiracy theory ever.


    As for the subject at hand, I basically agree with Cass. People can be extremely open minded about one thing and extremely bigoted about another. Their blind sides (to put it very lightly) don’t necessarily invalidate the body of their work or them as a person. I don’t think that the original article implied that anyway, I think Illogical Volume made it clear that he/she still respects the craft and some of the messages but feels that the blatant racism shouldn’t have been shrugged off so easily. I think others won’t make that distinction.

    What Mcarthy is saying is shit and out of place and probably racist too but like fuck maybe someone just needs to explain that to him. I know I have to explain it to my family members on a daily basis. To me, just dismissing people wholesale for having bad opinions leads very quickly to that dreaded “ivory tower”

  36. plok Says:

    You’re not reading for context, Julian!

    Little trick they teach you in the wishy-washy humanities.

  37. Marc Says:

    “I think Illogical Volume made it clear that he/she still respects the craft and some of the messages but feels that the blatant racism shouldn’t have been shrugged off so easily. I think others won’t make that distinction.”

    Because the most important thing in this story is whether people are being fair enough to Brendan McCarthy.

    I mean, god forbid we let our view of McCarthy be influenced by the things he says, the views he holds, and the way those views surface in his work, right?

  38. sean Says:

    Julian Frundt – yes, I was dubious about plok’s definition of science, and think you got that right (although I question whether social sciences really are science) but….

    “What McCarthy is saying is …probably racist too, but like fuck maybe someone just needs to explain that to him.” –
    Isn’t that a bit wishy washy? Opinions don’t just magically appear out of nowhere – plok was right about context – and don’t you think we’re responsible for what we say?

    Opinions don’t just magically disappear either … Note that it was actually pointed out fairly quickly to McCarthy that he was out of order – read the third Johnny Karma comment in the original Facebook posting excerpted above – which he completely ignored in his subsequent comment.

  39. plok Says:

    Perhaps we could now disentangle the issue of “does social science count?” from the question of “what the fuck’s up with Brendan McCarthy?”

    If I had wanted to offer a definition of science, I would’ve done so.

  40. sean Says:

    And if I’d wanted to go on about social science counting, I wouldn’t have written a comment that’s clearly about what the fucks up with Brendan McCarthy.

  41. plok Says:

    Sorry, Sean, you beat me to it — that didn’t quite sound like I wanted it to, I do think we should beware of entangling the two things, but I meant as a general principle, and didn’t intend to point at you as some sort of bad guy. Was going to say:

    “That said, I think Sean gets to it pretty fast with the criticism of the “radical moderate’ idea…”

    So you see, I am all about the context you’re bringing.

  42. plok Says:

    (Although I still haven’t offered anyone a definition of science, damn it!)

  43. sean Says:

    Maybe I could have been clearer….

    I was trying to get across the curious way that the comments that come on all intellectually rigorous with (allegedly) objective statistics and analysis about this and that, suddenly go all fluffy when getting to specifics – well, he’s only a bit racist which, like, doesn’t make him a bad person or anything, right? Your all just bigoted against bigots and he’s an artist….

    Hmmm…..appreciating work by out of order artists – yea or nay? Now theres an entanglement that hasn’t been exhausted yet.

  44. david brothers Says:

    “You say it is justified, but fear is an irrational emotion, and I would suggest that this fear is, if not paranoid, at least out of proportion to the actual threat.”

    I can’t speak to your statistics, other than the fact that they sound so specific as to be useless, but our fear is far from irrational when literally every single black male I know, and a few black women, have stories of being victimized and disrespected by the police. It’s not like every black person magically decided that we could get shot several dozen times and a cop or white man could go away free—there is evidence, a few times a year it feels like, that this is true. Apparently they drug tested Renisha McBride’s corpse to see if she was complicit in her own murder, but didn’t test the man who shot her. That, to me, says a lot about how America feels about black faces.

    I don’t think it’s paranoid to go “What if that were me?” when your country has made (endorsed, explicitly or implicitly supported, allowed, etc) killing people just like you a national pastime for hundreds of years.

  45. Chad Says:

    I’d just like to revisit those statistics, for my own benefit if for no one else’s. So bear with me, or skip ahead.

    Short story: those numbers I cited are way off.

    Long story: I quoted those numbers directly from an article on Frontline’s website ( Frontline, for those of you outside the U.S., is a long-running, highly respected documentary series on public television. It’s one of the best sources for long-form investigative journalism that I’m aware of. But this article seems to have been somewhat sloppily written, especially with regard to the explanation of the numbers included.

    Direct quotes from that article:

    “John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, recently conducted a study examining racial disparity using FBI data on 43,500 homicides from 2005 to 2009, the most recent years for which data was available.”


    “Additionally, there are far fewer white-on-black shootings in the FBI data — only 25 total in both the Stand Your Ground and non-Stand Your Ground states.”

    Putting those together gave me the stat I used (yes, it says shootings, not killings–first hint of trouble). I’m not a statistician, and I’ve never really looked closely at crime stats, so while I found this a shocking statistic, I lacked a framework of comparison and was unduly credulous of a trusted source. You would be right to question whether this was a case of confirmation bias.

    Checking Roman’s report (, those numbers are nowhere to be found. Here’s the closest thing:

    “Finally, we searched the SHR data for cases that matched all the facts of the Martin case (including ages and races). Out of 70,000 cases, we find that the homicides similar to the Martin case occurred just 23 times in five years.”

    So 23 black victims (rather than 25) out of 70,000 homicides (where did 43,500 come from?). BUT 23 is NOT the total number of white on black homicides; it is the number of single offender/single victim homicides in which an older white man killed a younger (teenage?) black victim with a handgun–and even then, only the number of cases for which the FBI had sufficient data to meet that degree of specificity. In other words, not a number to build an argument on.

    The article does not provide any substitute for the erroneous figure I cited, and looking over the raw data provided by the FBI, it’s difficult to come up with a total, due to the many subcategories of homicide, and because race is part of the “supplemental data” not available for all cases. Illogical Volume, I’m sure you noticed that the figure you cited for white-on-black homicides in 2009–209 cases–is only for single offender/single victim cases, which only make up about half of homicides, meaning the true figure could probably be estimated to be at least double that figure.

    The FBI numbers do give a pretty good idea of the proportions of homicides by race (and Brendan McCarthy is not wrong here, insofar as he goes): relatively few blacks are killed by whites, marginally more whites are killed by blacks, and the vast, vast majority of homicide victims–approaching or surpassing 90%–are killed by people–well, men, mostly–of their own race.

    That last bit is one big trend in the data regarding homicide and race, and it deserves repeating. The other trend that jumps out in the numbers is that the murder rate in the African American community is much higher–to the extent that about as many blacks are victims and perpetrators of murder as whites, even though blacks make up only around 13% of the population. That may be one non-racist reason for talking more about “black-on-black crime” (though that term could easily be avoided). That said, I’d agree that poverty and lack of opportunity–the explanations suggested in the Daily Beast article referenced–go a long way towards explaining the much higher rate of murder among African Americans.

    I’d like to back up to say that even though the number of blacks killed by whites is small, and a tiny percentage of the total, that small number does include cases where the killer is an agent of the state, or who later receives protection from a biased legal system. This is unlikely to be the case for the comparably infrequent cases where whites are killed by blacks. That is unjust.

    Anyway, it is possible to get lost in the numbers. My apologies for any inane comments made while in the thrall of a startling and ultimately meaningless statistic.

    (Also, sorry for my poor coding.)

  46. Julian Frundt Says:

    I admit my main focus was on the science comment. It probably has to do with my profession and my experiences with things like confirmation bias. To delve deeper into that aspect doesn’t really do the subject at hand any justice so I apologise. Plok and others you are right, by moving from that rigid break down of “Science” to an opinion in one post I’m taking things out of context.

    As for McCarthy, I’ll give it a crack now.

    My way of looking at it probably has to do with where my interests lie; animal rights and environmentalism. In those areas people who are flawless on a humanistic level often do things that would make me furious if I followed through 100% with my beliefs. Every day I see friends and family eating animals that have been slaughtered to keep our bloated bullshit society happy. It’s so common that I turn a blind eye to it and instead I try to shift thinking incrementally.

    So I don’t take a stance where I write off a person’s body of work, be it art or otherwise, because he has different views to me on a subset of things. Sure there’s a tipping point (how many times have people told me that “Hitler did some stupid things but at least everyone had a job and he built the Autobahn” when they find out I have German roots :/) but to mentally survive in this world I look past some stuff.

    People are very flawed and might push the envelope in one field (e.g. McCarthy’s art in general and his story telling in Rogan Gosh) and be part of the problem in another (his privileged contrarianism in the face of a complete tragedy caused by racists undercurrents and arguably shitty gun laws).

    I can see that for others the tipping point has been reached and I’m not here to set the bar for when to make that call. My impulse is just to try and educate and change someone’s opinion rather than write them off wholesale, particularly when I have propinquity towards them.

    Punk was brought up earlier. Very astute observation about the shock approach of british punk that unwittingly served to marginalise already marginalised people (pretty unpunk that). I see similarities between this McCarthy story and the Bad Brains blow out in American hardcore punk. Remember when it turned out that the blackest, fastest, coolest most barrier breaking band on the scene held totally backwards homophobic/racist views? What do you do in situations like that? You can either go burn all your merch or acknowledge that Bad Brains are awesome on one level but also kind of assholes on another level.

  47. Julian Frundt Says:

    homophobic/sexist* views

  48. Ken Quichey Says:

    “With tragic predictability, McCarthy has identified this exact ailment in his accusers, seemingly convinced that his inability to draw “a southern black watermelon-munching dimwit” without being called a dick is an issue on par with the deadly consequences of the sort of far reaching racism he imagines to have been replaced by the tyranny of the left.”

    This is completely specious and disingenuous.
    The quoted words from BMcC should be read in the context of the sentence that they are part of:

    “Nobody would blink if you featured a stereotypical inbred, buck-toothed white southerner in a comic, but should you include a southern black watermelon-munching dimwit, you will be censored immediately as a ‘racist’.”

    The dishonesty involved in snipping out the “best” bit of that sentence, excluding its counterpoint, is literally repulsive.
    Enjoy formulating your reply. Really go wild – I’m not going to come back and check, so you can just chat any old crap and no-one will pull you up for it.

  49. plok Says:

    Actually, on American TV there are plenty of those first kinds of representations that I think are kinda racist. And I blink.

    Where’s the point now?

  50. Illogical Volume Says:

    Ken – Thanks for stropping by.

    McCarthy wrote what you call the “best bit” of that sentence as a response to the response to his response to an article on Renisha McBride’s shooting. Context is indeed key, and the passage you quote is part of his attempt to claim a position as a South Park style satirist of the “extremes” of both sides, right and left, in this discussion and beyond – the link to his comment is in my original post, so I’ll spare everyone a Top Trumps style attempt to “win” here by quoting it in full.

    Like so many South Park radicals before him, McCarthy’s position is not as balanced as he would like to think. As part of an argument about the fatal consequences of systematic racism, he presents his bit about the portrayal black and white stereotypes as examples of the PC tyranny of the current establishment – a sign that the left are setting the agenda on race, and so need to be challenged. I would therefore suggest that it is McCarthy’s sense of what needs to be balanced that it is repulsive, rather than the sentence of mine you so object to, which reflected the context of McCarthy’s comments on more than the micro level you have dragged it back down to.

    Not that the sentence in question is any more convincing if taken in isolation, mind you – like Plok, I blink at plenty of white yokel stereotypes, and Spider-Man: Fever is hardly the only example of a stereotypical African American character you’ll find in modern comics (shout outs to Grant Morrison’s Batman run!).

    Given that you’ve apparently got yourself to fuck, I will now take a moment to wish you a long and fulfilling stay there – I look forward to receiving your next postcard in the mail.

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