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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Going out in a Blaise of silliness

The West Australian newspaper in Perth today canceled a comic strip that ended 19 years ago. Rarely has the collapse of an industry been better illustrated than by this nonsense.

The controversy centers on a three-panel comic about international adventuress Modesty Blaise, a concoction of writer Peter O’Donnell, who began it on May 13, 1963, and retired it just shy of 38 years later on April 11, 2001. Given that she was likely 30 when the strip began, retirement at 68 made sense.

She popped up as the women's lib movement began and departed with Monica Lewinsky and the dawn of a new millennium, one that frankly has fallen well short of even my low expectations. Seriously, we are hiding under our beds because of some virus? Where is our Don Corleone to slap some sense into us like he did Johnny Fontaine?

Modesty Blaise was a female James Bond but O'Donnell apparently was a better writer than Ian Fleming. Two years ago, Caitlin Flanagan took time off from bashing President Donald John Trump in The Atlantic to pen an homage to her.

Flanagan wrote, "Modesty Blaise was my secret self the year I was 15, the subject of ardent daydreams and the first female character I encountered who was truly in charge of something other than a hospital ward, or a school, or a household. She ran an organization full of dangerous men, and they all obeyed and revered her. She would know exactly what to do with a Harvey Weinstein or a Matt Lauer, and it would be a pleasure to see her do it. Half a century before BeyoncĂ©, Modesty wasn’t bossy; she was the boss."

The column then turned to the writer's favorite subject: herself. I now know more about Caitlin Flanagan than I care to. But at least she did establish Modesty Blaise's place as a trail-blazer. Her time ended in 2001.

But her syndicate, able to milk a few bucks a week from newspapers, decided to recycle the comic strips, and so two decades after her retirement, Modesty Blaise was still entertaining readers of the West Australian newspaper.

Until today.

Today West Australian Newspapers Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie announced he was dropping the comic strip because Modesty Blaise said "four armed men and an aboriginal" in one strip and called the aboriginal "abo" in the next panel.

De Ceglie apologized very publicly and ended his column, "The West Australian has also decided it will no longer publish Modesty Blaise. The comic strip had been running for 48 years since 1972, but it no longer has a place in the pages of The West Australian nor does it reflect our company’s culture or values under my watch."

How daft.

Once upon a time, newspaper editors were stern in spine and stood up to calls for censorship because they knew that appeasement to a mob only results in even higher demands. Today, the word aboriginal offends people. Tomorrow, its successor will because the name does not injure; being a minority in your own homeland does. I have no idea how you settle that without assimilation.

Modesty Blaise may not be the hill De Ceglie wants to die on, but the odd thing about that expression is you don't really get to pick the hill you die on. You fight when confronted or die. There is a right to call a person aboriginal, and if that be hate speech, so what? It is protected nevertheless. Free speech is not always pleasant.

What is really daft is re-running Modesty Blaise in the first place. It is a newspaper. It should not be a museum of outdated comics.

But that is what newspapers are becoming. And as revenues continue to fall below expenses, De Ceglie must cut back. Dropping Modesty Blaise will save $5 or so a week.

And he gets to signal virtue at the same time.

He also gives readers another reason not to give a darn when his newspaper inevitably disappears. If the editor in chief won't stand up for a free press, why should readers?


  1. "Doonesbury" was recycled for years in our local paper-and then dumped "peanuts "-first saying it was "outdated", so it the paper.

  2. I don't always comment but when I do, I make Football predictions

    Newspapers were informed by Andy Grove (past Intel CEO) in April 1999 that they were Dinosaurs waiting to be extinct.

    All the newspapers laughed at this Tech guy telling them their business.

    they started laughing less by 2010

    Same with TV Networks and Streaming services. Nobody EVER said "ABC and Chill?"

    TV Networks remind me of the big Industrial Companies that went bankrupt in the 70s and 80s. They have multi layer decision making. Calcified offices and their talent of young people left for greener pastures. (in the 80s Tech Intel/Microsoft/Compaq were the "dot coms")

    If you look at TV network's revenue you will see two areas that the streaming services do not compete with them. 1 - is national/local news and 2 - is live sports primarily College and Pro Football

    Football has been called by many, a sport made for TV. Breaks in action, ability to go to lucrative commercial breaks. It's the perfect pairing of Sport to Fan Viewing.

    I PREDICT (Mark This!) that around mid-August TV newsrooms across the country will be politely tapped on the shoulder and told they need to tamp down on the screaming panic over Covid-19.

    Just in time for Football season and it's ad revenue. (who would have thought?)

    ALSO just in time for a Presidential Election too.

    So if you feel a bit overwhelmed by the headlines today.

    - And believe me the Liberal NPR crowd is in sheer panic right now. I don't know what is being portrayed in media that is politically left of TV National news but whatever it is... it is getting the Middle Aged and older Hippie crowd in meltdown mode.

    If you feel overwhelmed, it would be reasonable to consider that ALL the 'IN MEDIA PEOPLE' know that the panic mongering ends when summer does.

    And it's reasonable to consider that they dialed China Flu Panic up to +11 because the media libs won't get their shot later in the year.

    Just Saying - Sit Tight and Ride the Re-election It's going to happen. If the Dems really thought they had a chance, Biden would not be there.

    1. I hope you are right. I plan on attending seven home college football games this year. I will be an angry schlong if I don’t.

    2. IMO don't plan on it. They can afford to play the games without fans. They don't care about the locals who can't attend, won't have a job due to lack of fans, the bars, etc. etc. The networks/cable and the colleges will still get their share of income.


  3. Thanks, Angry Gamer. I don't often respond to your I don't often respond comments, but I do like them.

    Grove is a great American from Hungary.

    Newspapers thought that the Internet would have people printing out their papers at home. Seriously.

    I don't even own a printer.

  4. Steyn: "Ours is an age of stunted vengeful hacks who cannot create anything new but only wreck everything old, and have now determined to erase everything beyond their own shriveled imaginations."

    The Blaze of the Immodest.

    1. Eight more years, baby. A six to three court that can withstand even Mr. Roberts’ caves. AG, we in here. Get ready for some T funk...


  5. a few years is now an eternity on the WWW... Three plus years ago, I started my day with Drudge and never heard of this guy from Poca, WV by way of Cleveland. Now I can't start my day (except Sunday) without this Surber Fellow's blog and haven't clicked on Drudge since Obama Administration.

    1. Thanks
      Keep reading, I'll keep writing

      Except Sunday. That's my Fun Day. I don't have to Run Day

    2. I keep you, CTH, Glittering Eye, DaTech blog, and a couple of others permanently up on my computer. I've added the Critic out of England recently even though they don't have comments.


    3. "Fun Day" = "Top Down Day"

    4. My path also. Drudge is such a distant memory that I’m a little surprised now when it gets a mention.

  6. I'm sure it won't surprise anyone that there's a distinct double standard on the left when it comes to Australia's indigenous and name-calling. Twitter exploded over a word in a comic strip - but when the aboriginals step away from their stereotype of oppressed people in real life, the lefty mask of concerned outrage slips.
    In 2013 Warren Mundine was called a white a-kisser and an Uncle Tom when he admitted he had voted on the right instead of the left. These days it's Jacinta Price who's copping the flak. Both have dared to say that endless guilting of white Australians isn't helping anyone, and the left despise them for it.

    1. "White a-kisser"? "Uncle Tom"??? Why are Australians using such terms with their native population? If they're going to borrow American terms, why aren't they using terms like "redskins", "Tonto", or "Wahoo"? Um, never mind.

    2. They do have one derogatory term that I know of. Warren Mundine was called a 'toxic coconut'. Like Oreos - brown on the outside, etc.

  7. I used to read the comics in the papers first. But each newspaper carried different ones- and when I moved from one city to another I'd find no local paper carried my favorite coic.

    Now- I pay to have gocomics email me all the comics I want- daily. A lot less than buying a newspaper. Paying for a daily dose of laughter is worth it. And I can instantly share any particularly good ones to my Facebook friends. And somehow they find ones I haven't seen and share them.

    When I'm ready for some doom and gloom I can head over to Drudge and get it for free.