Seth Boyes joined the Dickinson County News staff in March of 2017. In his first week at the DCN, he covered a train derailment near Graettinger. The tankers carrying ethanol burst into flames. Seth's photo of the event won first place for Best Breaking News photo at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. Since, Seth has won nearly a dozen awards for writing, photography and multimedia content. Seth graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a degree in Integrated Studio Arts. His original cartoons run regularly in the Spencer Daily Reporter and the DCN. Both he and his wife Janet hail from Clear Lake and have come to expect summers to be full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and visitors.
I didn't expect my first cartoon of 2021 to be about a literal attack on the U.S. government.
I'd taken my lunch break, turned on the TV to have some noise while I ate, and I was shocked by what I saw. It was the same sort of shock I felt when my high school Spanish teacher turned on the TV to show us the Twin Towers had been hit by airplanes. This time though, we were doing it to ourselves.
It was obviously a major historical event unfolding. It's always a challenge to find a local angle on national stories, but writers at the nonprofit Iowa Capital Dispatch were able to round up some relevant statements from legislators made via social media, and two of the four applied to our coverage area. Within minutes of us posting the Iowa Capitol Dispatch's story, the claims started – people were very quick to say the rioters couldn't possibly be supporters of the president, so they must be liberal activists in disguise. Members of my church and even my own extended family propagated the claims. Specifically, they pointed out a man known as Jake Angeli, who caught quite a bit of attention at the Capitol, had been photographed at a Black Lives Matter rally a few months before the riot. What they didn't know, or didn't care to know, was that the photo they were sharing as proof had been cropped to leave out the sign he was carrying, which indicated he was there as a counter protestor against the movement. A similar claim cited photos posted by a Philadelphia antifacist group in September of 2018 as proof disguised antifacist groups were to blame for the attack on the Capitol. The photos were said to show another man seen inside the Capitol during the riot was actually an antifa activist, but those pushing that message failed to realize 2018 photos were part of a profile outlining the man's ties to a Maryland neo-Nazi group – it was sort of like claiming a bank robber is really a police officer in disguise because his wanted poster was already hanging in the police station. In fact, even FBI Assistant Director Steven D'Antuono said in a Jan. 8 interview that there was no evidence the attack was carried out by anitfa infiltrators.
I imagine, had the rioters succeeded, folks wouldn't be pushing the idea that liberals were to blame. Thankfully, they didn't succeed. They broke windows, and people died, but it didn't stop the wheels of Democracy.
Sometimes, art needs pressure and purpose behind it to be its best. Such was the case here. It was completed over about two-and-a-half hours – partly the day of the riot and partly the following morning.
My initial sketch had a crowd of rioters pulling down Lady Liberty in the same way troops pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein not so many years ago. That would have been fine, but I tried something else. At one point, I had planned on drawing the rioter in a baseball pitch position. It was going to be something along the lines of the Pearl Harbor editorial cartoons I'd seen in the archives – the idea that the nation and its principles easily overshadow any attack against it. That lent itself to a high perspective, which was good since I've been challenging myself to get away from flat composition. A number of tomatoes were going to satisfy the artistic rule of three, but soon the claims of antifa actors came and I began a new sketch. That blame came with stunning speed, and it seemed awfully shaky from the start.
Soon, it became a depiction of childish blame – no ma'am, it wasn't me who tried to topple you, it was them.
It took me a few tries but I landed on the scarecrow. I felt it was very appropriate, given as it reminded me of the proverbial strawman argument, and as such was obviously not the one to have done the deed. I reduced the produce count to just a single tomato to make the color contrast between the greens and reds more notable. In addition, though it's a fairly light-hearted cartoon, the splattering of tomato does invoke the image of blood – and let's not forget at least five people died that day.