“Journalism is just a gun. It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that’s all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world.” –Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan #3 (November 1997)
Transmetropolitan (what I will refer to from this point on as “Transmet”) was a central point in getting me back into comic books. The bleak, sci-fi series by Warren Ellis featured a deranged Hunter S. Thompson like writer named Spider Jerusalem who found himself focused on the Truth, no matter how painful or ugly it was for people. Throughout the wildly popular series, a central theme that kept running was the power of the media, the power of authority, and the constant need to expose corruption and lies through the truth.
Warren Ellis wrote those words almost two decades ago, speaking to the power of journalism. Spider’s work was different from that of his colleagues in that he focused exclusively on the Truth, rather than the comfortable pabulum most of those in The City wanted to hear or the talking points politicians needed. His relentless obsession with the truth meant Spider took beatings from police, attacks from hitmen, and his own work censored by the President.
It never mattered to Spider. No matter the attack, he never backed down. He destroyed his foes through the power of the Truth and his ability to influence his readers through a unique, special take, and in the process toppled a corrupt government. By the end of Transmet’s run, the world is a better place for Spider’s work, and his “filthy assistants” are set to carry on his life’s mission: the pursuit and exposure of the truth.
Why don’t we have a Spider Jerusalem in our midst today? Why does the media stick to narratives instead of fact-checking and doing honest reporting? Why do they bow and scrape to the establishment rather than muckrake like a motherfucker, question everything authoritarians say, and then raise hell? Has the media lost its spine or has it simply just lost a Spider ready and poised to strike with venom?
I ask these questions because right now in the aftermath of an Orlando shooting by an Islamic terrorist claiming allegiance to ISIS, American media is taking great care to make sure no one hears anything other than “Not all Muslims” and “Islam is a religion of peace” and “There was an assault rifle involved! Oh my goodness, let’s ban all the guns!” When a Presidential candidate’s Twitter account signals being correct on Radical Islam being a threat to the United States, he’s dismissed as “shameful.” Meanwhile, when the other presumptive candidate issues a “woman card” for sale on her website featuring the bathroom stall image of a woman, no one raises hell over that.
I ask these questions because when a Presidential Candidate erupts into a frenzy over the qualifications of a judge to hear a case against him, the media vilifies him as a “racist” and continues to frame the discussion over and over again, with Jake Tapper at CNN even being lauded for continuing to press the issue in front of that candidate. Yet no one seems to be questioning the other candidate’s questionable past of hiding her husband’s continued sexual assaults by calling them “sluts” and “bimbos” and then playing to her alleged strengths by being “pro women” this election cycle.
I ask these questions because when a rally is shut down because of “peaceful protests” that later turn out to be the work of an organized criminal gang the media falsely reports on it. I ask these questions because when an alleged assault is revealed a hoax the story quietly goes away without full and fair apologies. I ask, especially, when a story goes from “Dad kills son for being gay” within 24 hours to “More to this death than we originally thought” just due to a bit of fact checking and hell raising by people like you and me.
Spider’s biggest concern was that he’d reveal the truth and people wouldn’t listen or wouldn’t care. Unfortunately that nightmare is occurring in real time, right before our very eyes. We can mute those on Twitter who don’t share our worldview. Facebook is worse; the almighty Algorithm only shows you that which you want to see. There is no more room for Spider’s brand of truth in the 21st Century. There’s only room for shared delusions of “fact.”
We need a Spider Jerusalem right now, more than ever. This year, our election cycle mimics that shown by Transmet in the Beast and the Smiler. I won’t reveal too much, but if you do a bit of digging and think a little bit you’ll be able to figure out which candidate I find the Beast and which I find the Smiler. And with both parties needed a massive revival, it’s time the media gets a good thrashing from the Angry Chair Leg of Truth by someone unafraid, almost bulletproof to take on the mainstream media.
One issue of Transmet contains a quote from a favorite writer of mine, H.L. Mencken. I leave you with this here.
The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally his is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.
Is there a romantic among us?
Will the real Spider Jerusalem please stand up?