Essentially, The Oatmeal's comic argues that Tesla never did anything bad and Edison is some kind of constantly evil-doing super-douche (I imagine the word douche was used a record number of times in the comic proper, since it's an image and not text I can't be bothered to count). The comic gives credit to Tesla for pretty much anything he ever had anything to do with, and gives none to Edison. I think the piece crossed the line into uncomfortable when it discussed the eventually fatal injuries suffered by Clarence Dally, an employee of Edison's working with X-rays. It also mentions that Edison nearly went blind from exposure himself.
"Dally is considered to be the first American to die from exposure to radiation -- FINALLY Edison invents something original!".The ante was upped when Alex Knapp at Forbes published a criticism that pushed a few of The Oatmeal's buttons. I had to agree with the vast majority of Knapp's points, though I won't reiterate them here. What I found doubly interesting was The Oatmeal's response, which foamed with just as much rage as the original article. (Bonus pointer for Internet debates... if every second or third point you make contains profanity, you may want to attempt a second draft). In the end, the cartoonist dismisses all criticism with the following:
"I'm a comedian, and I speak in hyperbole. If you sharpshoot my work you will find that I exaggerate for the sake of comedy... My comic was a meditation on being a geek and by example explores one of the greatest geeks of our time: Nikola Goddamn Tesla".Do you know when a comic stops being "just a comic"? When jokes don't appear to be on the agenda. This "comic" was a mostly straight faced piece of Tesla-worship. If somehow it was misunderstood satire, then I'd love someone to point out the places where it is in any way indicated that The Oatmeal was exaggerating. It was so deadpan that I'm sure readers are already taking it's assertions at face value. That's the problem with freedom of speech. You have the freedom to spread misinformation and exaggeration all you like. It's up to the audience to think critically about what they read, and sadly many of us are ill-equipped to do so.
Really, it wouldn't have bothered me if not for the "EDISON IS A DEMONIC EVIL SATAN HITLER THAT SHOULD ROAST IN HELL" tone of the whole thing. Come on, the dude accomplished a lot. Can't we applaud what Tesla did without putting a black cape and mustache on Edison? Tesla was really neat and brilliant, a lot of people don't know who he is. And The Prestige is a great movie. I hope we can all agree on that much.