Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A little late but here it is anyway





Since cartooning is my thing, I probably should post about this controversy. I should've jumped on this days ago when it first came to light. Now I see that Dave has it on his blog over at Dave's Fiction Warehouse and he's not even a cartoonist! I'm so dang lazy. In fact, I'm so lazy that I'm just going to copy Dave's posting and put it up here on my blog. Not just because I'm lazy. Also because he's a much better writer than I am.

Here's what Dave said:
So for three days running, a top story on all the news sites was the chimpanzee who ran amok and tore off somebody's face, and was then shot for his trouble. It was eclipsed only by the ongoing story about the federal stimulus package and its myriad shortcomings. So you'd think that when a cartoonist attempted to play off both headlines, the result would be polite yuks at best, bored shrugs at worst.

Then again, this is America, where Al Sharpton remains at large and the only thing we have more of than bad debt is sweet, sweet outrage. Sharpton was among the professionally aggrieved who looked at the cartoon Wednesday and perceived in it the specter of racism. The president of the National Association of Black Journalists, evidently unaware of the 24/7 coverage of the rogue chimp, saw a direct racial caricature of President Obama. A New York state senator saw a tacit endorsement of assassination and fond nod to the days of lynching. And those were the more moderate interpretations.

Look, I know I'm not black and therefore my opinion on this worth exactly nothing. But here's what I see: a cartoonist suggesting, none too subtly, that the stimulus bill is so imperfect it might as well have been authored by a crazed lesser primate. I don't need to point out that the authors include both houses of Congress as well as the president. As political criticism and satire, it's perfectly legitimate. Other presidents have fared much worse, and Obama probably will too.

Remember those Dutch cartoons about Muhammad, and how so many Muslims the world over went so laughably berserk? By rampaging over a caricature, they became caricatures themselves. It's probably too late for Sharpton, but the others tearing out their hair over a dumb cartoon should give that some thought.

(End of Dave quote)
Here's the comment which I posted on his blog:

"Dumb cartoon" is right. The old cartoonists' tradition of taking two unrelated news stories and tying them together can sometimes work, and God knows I've done it too many times to count (and it only sometimes worked for me). But this is just a dumb misfire. You don't use monkey images in cartoons about African-Americans. The wounds from decades of intentionally insulting racist "jokes" are too deep and, unfortunately, too fresh. Context matters and this cartoonist is guilty of overlooking that fact. He'd have to be crazy to have meant it as a racist attack. I think it was just a dumb stab at meeting a deadline. Now he's stuck with a gigantic sideshow that completely overshadows his original point. That is dumb because it's self-defeating

And I don't blame anyone for being outraged about a cartoon. Graphic images are powerful and this controversy is more proof of it. I just wish certain newspapers understood that when it comes time for layoffs!

What think you, gentle reader?

4 comments:

Dave Knadler said...

Well, since we're cross-posting and not wasting paper or ink, I'll post my reply here too:

Hey, I never said it was a good cartoon. But I'm a lot less queasy about perceived racism than I am about all those chanting to shut down the Post and hang (figuratively) the cartoonist.

Richard Crowson said...

Yeah, it's sort of redundant to be calling for the shut-down of any newspaper these days.

Curtis Fowler said...

Sometimes a chimp is just a chimp and a cigar is just a sexual aide used by former presidents...but overall--poor judgment.

Richard Crowson said...

Curtis, you think like a political cartoonist. I mean that as a compliment though in some quarters it wouldn't be taken as one...