2.19.2009

ny post cartoon depicts obama as chimpanzee

The New York Post has published a cartoon that appears to depict Barack Obama as a chimpanzee, or at least links a dead chimp - shot by police - to Obama. You'll find the cartoon here and a million other places.
At first glance, the main editorial cartoon in today's New York Post seemed like just another lurid reference to the story that the tabloid had been covering with breathless abandon for two days running - the shooting by Connecticut police on Monday of a pet chimpanzee that viciously attacked his owner's friend.

But the caption cast the cartoon in a more sinister light. "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," it read, prompting accusations that the Post was peddling a longstanding racist slur by portraying president Barack Obama, who signed the bill into law yesterday, as an ape.

In a statement issued today, Al Sharpton, the Baptist minister and civil rights activist, called the cartoon "troubling at best, given the historic racist attacks [on] African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys".

He added: "Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama ... and has become synonymous with him, it is not a reach to wonder: are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?... The Post should at best clarify what point they were trying to make, or in fact reprimand their cartoonist."

David Paterson, the governor of New York state, told a local television station that it was "very important for the New York Post to explain what the cartoon was intended to portray".

In response, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Col Allen, noted Sharpton's love of media attention. "The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut," he said. "It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

T-shirts portraying Obama as the children's book character Curious George, a monkey, made occasional appearances among audience members at Republican rallies during last year's election campaign, and a similar stuffed doll continues to be advertised online.

The Post's cartoonist Sean Delonas, meanwhile, has frequently been accused of bigotry: the New York gossip blog Gawker once nicknamed him "the Picasso of prejudice".

The criticism has centred on his portrayals of gay characters, which have linked homosexuality to bestiality. The pressure group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has repeatedly called his work "juvenile" and "immature".

The Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, but John McCain in the general election.

I heard about this from Color of Change, who are calling for an apology and the firing of an editor. I don't think people should lose their jobs because of their racism (except when racism renders them incapable of doing their job). The wingnut politics of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post are well known; I think it's good when they expose themselves for the fascists that they are.

But for anyone who thinks Obama's election proved the end of racism in the US, here's Exhibit A.

27 comments:

Dr.Dawg said...

I dunno. We called Bush a chimp for years. I find it hard to believe that any racism was intended here. But maybe I'm just being contrary.

L-girl said...

I find it hard to believe that any racism was intended here.

Given:

- the NY Post's history of racism and homophobia, especially from this cartoonist,

- the history of African Americans being called monkeys and apes by racist USians,

- the history of African Americans being shot by police,

- and the reference to the stimulus package,

I find it beyond belief that racism was not intended. Simply beyond belief.

Dr. Dawg, it could be that if you lived in NY and were very familiar with the rag in question, you might see it differently.

James said...

I have no sympathy for the NY Post, and do not know this cartoonist's work, but when I first saw the cartoon, I just didn't make the link. It didn't occur to me that "the guy who wrote the stimulus bill" would be taken to be Obama -- staffers wrote the bill.

I just took it as a "the stimulus bill was written by an idiot" joke.

L-girl said...

I just took it as a "the stimulus bill was written by an idiot" joke.

Huh. Interesting.

"the guy who wrote the stimulus bill" would be taken to be Obama -- staffers wrote the bill.

But who would think "staffers"? Cartoonists don't go after staffers.

It's interesting that so far, two Canadians didn't see it that way. I wonder if any USian readers agree (in this completely non-scientific, ridiculously-small-sample-size kind of survey).

John F said...

Until I read the Guardian article you put in your post, I was going to give the cartoonist the benefit of the doubt. Given the currency of the chimpanzee story, it's conceivable that he didn't make the obvious link to African Americans.

However, I'm not going to give the "Picasso of prejudice" a pass!

M@ said...

I, for one, immediately saw it as a racist remark about Obama. It reminded me of recent events in some parts of Europe (particularly Italy), where black soccer players (on visiting teams) were made to feel particularly unwelcome by local fans who throw bananas on the pitch.

Granted, that doesn't mean the same racist tropes directly translate to the US culture, but if you're an editorial cartoonist who is that completely out of touch with modern culture, you deserve to lose your job for incompetence if nothing else.

Then again, we're talking about the New York Post here, where competence is approximately valued to around the same degree as intelligence.

James said...

But who would think "staffers"? Cartoonists don't go after staffers.

Well, no, but they do go after bills; like I said, I took it as "the stimulus bill is so bad it's like it was written by a monkey" joke -- attacking the bill, not the specific staffers who wrote it.

Consider: changing the wording of the gag to "Looks like Obama's going to have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill" doesn't change the joke (at least, as I saw it), while making it clear that the chimp does not represent Obama.

Also, I've looked at some other cartoons by this guy. He regularly labels drawings of politicians with their names, so that his readers will know who he's trying to represent. Given that he's that insecure about his ability to characature people, I would have expected him to label the chimp if he'd meant it to represent a specific person.

Like I said, I'm no fan of the Post, and having seen more of this guy's cartoons, I'm no fan of his either, but my impression is that this is a case of a lame joke being over-interpreted.

(Which is not to say that he or his editors shouldn't have caught the fact that they'd left themselves wide open for such a reaction.)

The other angle on this is, as Dr. Dawg has pointed out, Bush was portrayed as a chimp all through his administration. Sure, there's a completely different connotation when you apply it to someone with African ancestry, but it does leave those criticizing the cartoon open to accusations of hypocricy.

Lord of Wealth said...

I did not equate it to Obama, rather the fact that even a chimp could right a directionless shotgun attempt at a stimulus bill which won't work anyway.

My second thought was of a million monkeys and million type writers trying to come up with an intelligent Bill.

While I quickly saw the percieved slight, I then had to explain why it was percieved as insensitive to 2 of my seat mates on the Go train who did not understand what the fuss was about

Cornelia said...

Personally, I am quite well aware of the low level of the Republican press and therefore, I also think it's quite racist and nasty, particularly taking into account the history of the magazine and that calling African-Americans "monkeys" was common racist trashtalking in the past. I know that the Republicans are very much onto getting abusive and bullying political opponents and that can get extremely nasty, e.g. the sexist attacks on Hillary. On the other hand, I found the Bush chimp stuff actually fun, because Bush has caused enormous trouble, was a horrid Republican and political opponent and I don't think that it implied anything racist and taking all that into account, I personally don't feel it was that low. The levels of the Republicans are usually so rock bottom that having something like that actually cheered me up. But not everybody found it was fun. Some people said it was rather insultative to the chimps!

Cornelia said...

However, I'm not going to give the "Picasso of prejudice" a pass!

Exactly. Given the history of the journalist who wrote it, I would also think suspecting racism is based on ample reasons.

Cornelia said...

James, I hope you aren't angry with me. Of course, it could be interpreted both ways but I rather tend to disagree. Of course, the Republican opposition goes after the bill and they don't like the bill but I have often found that when they sufficiently dislike a bill, they can become extremely unpleasant on a personal level.
This is probably because I really hate that Republican trashtalking authoritarian-conservative and very often also sexist propaganda!

Kevin said...

It's one thing to insinuate that a White person maybe a chimpanzee.

Its another thing to insinuate that a Black person maybe a chimpanzee due to the historical context.

White people weren't subjugated for being less than human and Apeish. Black people were. Its also another thing to insinuate via this graphic that the Head of State for a Nation should be assassinated.

The USA is not beyond racism, and I grow tired of white people stating that Obama's election proves such, especially when Black and Hispanic US Citizens comprise the majority of our inmates at our Prisons.

Kevin said...

Another thing to note, Why didn't the editor of the Paper think, "Hey this could be offensive?"

Hello?

L-girl said...

Thanks all, good points!

James and Dr Dawg (and others) may be right, but as James and Kevin point out, even if it wasn't intended as racist, why didn't the editor realize it could be interpreted that way? (Probable answer: he did, and let it go anyway.)

L-girl said...

We called Bush a chimp for years.

. . .

It's one thing to insinuate that a White person maybe a chimpanzee.

Its another thing to insinuate that a Black person maybe a chimpanzee due to the historical context.

White people weren't subjugated for being less than human and Apeish. Black people were.


And there is a huge issue in the US of Black people being shot and killed by police.

Context is all.

James said...

James, I hope you aren't angry with me.

Not at all; I'm just throwing out thoughts and observations.

redsock said...

... I would have expected him to label the chimp if he'd meant it to represent a specific person.

If he had done that, depicting Obama as an ape would have been the least of his problems.

Condoning the assassination of the president (and the first black president in the country's history) -- even this dolt knew enough not to do that directly.

Kevin said...

@L-girl,
I forgot to mention the high incidence of Police shooting Black People in the US... thank you for the reminder.
Regardless, bad form, and disgusting... yet not entirely unexpected. The racist side of the United States is going to come out more and more, and already the apologists are out in force, *SIGH*

Gabrielle Angel said...

I agree w/L-Girl ... the NY Post has a long history of homophobia

James said...

The racist side of the United States is going to come out more and more

A "Republicans are too liberal" group has already recaptioned the cartoon with "Looks like they'll need to find someone else to lead the RNC".

No ambiguity there.

Kevin said...

@James

OMFG! Is there a magical easy button to escape to Canada? Anyone?

Cornelia said...

Another thing to note, Why didn't the editor of the Paper think, "Hey this could be offensive?"

Hello?

I guess because of the said aforementioned tendencies!

Cornelia said...

James, I hope you aren't angry with me.

Not at all; I'm just throwing out thoughts and observations.

Cool, I really appreciate it, James!

redsock said...

New York Post apologizes for, yet still defends, chimp cartoon

A day after publishing a cartoon that drew fire from critics who said it evoked historically racist images, the New York Post apologized in a statement on its Web site -- even as it defended its action and blasted some detractors.

***

redsock said...

More Sean Delonas

redsock said...

Obama t-shirt: monkey w/banana

Sock Monkey Obama

L-girl said...

NAACP Wants New York Post Editor and Cartoonist Fired

The head of the NAACP on Saturday urged readers to boycott the New York Post, calling a cartoon that the newspaper published an invitation to assassinate President Barack Obama.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called on the tabloid to remove editor-in-chief Col Allan, as well as longtime cartoonist Sean Delonas.

Earlier this week, the newspaper apologized to anyone who might have been offended by the image printed Wednesday, which some say likens Obama to a violent chimpanzee gunned down by police in Connecticut.

Jealous said the cartoon was "an invitation to assassination."

On Thursday, after protests by notable figures including director Spike Lee, the paper posted an editorial on its Web site saying the cartoon was meant to mock the federal economic stimulus bill, but "to those who were offended by the image, we apologize."

A spokeswoman for the newspaper referred The Associated Press to the paper's editorial when asked Saturday about the proposed NAACP boycott.

Jealous called the editorial "a half of an apology, without elaboration."

The drawing, he said, "picks off the scabs of all the racial wounds."

He spoke as the NAACP gathered for its annual meeting in New York, where it was founded a century ago.

NAACP officials said that if the Post does not take "serious disciplinary action," they would reach out to organizations across the country to join them in their efforts against the tabloid.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond called the publication of the cartoon "thoughtlessness taken to the extreme. ... Anyone who is not offended by it does not have any sensitivity."