I’m gonna go ahead and say that I don’t think the cartoon was deliberately racist – ie. portraying Obama as a monkey because he’s black – but I do think it’s kinda sick, and really dumb. I get it, the stimulus bill is stupid (just like a chimpanzee!) and there was a recent story about a chimpanzee that was killed after mauling its owner (topical!), if only we could kill the stimulus bill like they killed that chimp! Ummm… yeah. Look, Obama didn’t write the stimulus bill – and I seriously doubt the cartoonist somehow thought this to be the case – so it doesn’t really make any sense in a racist context. Unfortunately for the cartoonist and the Post, it barely makes sense in its intended context, so unsurprisingly people are looking for other meanings.
In these instances I’m torn between wanting to see the Post (News Corp) fucked in any way possible, and my own inner barometer of fairness. I’m also a fan of seeing pathetic attempts at humor being punished (and after wasting 2 minutes of my life watching this Half Hour News Hour comedic abortion, I’d especially like to get my News Corp-humor rage on…), but it’s hard to see Spike and Al’s backlash as anything but opportunistic. The Post’s apology was half-hearted at best:
“It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.
“But it has been taken as something else – as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.
“This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.
“However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past – and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.
“To them, no apology is due.
“Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.”
As much as I hate to say it though, I’m gonna have to take the Post’s side on this. If anything, they should have apologized for having a tacky, violent cartoon in a magazine that is readily available to children. But the enthusiasm with which many people call for censorship disturbs me more than hundreds of cartoons of this type ever could, even if it is a call for self-censorship. There are tons of reasons to boycott the Post – hell, I have an unofficial boycott on it, haven’t bought one in God knows how long – but a tacky joke should not be one of them. The problem is, it’s easier to get people riled up on one seemingly-racist cartoon then it is getting people riled up over continuous systematic right-wing jingoism spanning years. But just because I pray for the downfall of this paper (and News Corp itself) does that mean I should jump at the chance at kicking it while it’s down? I’ll admit though, it’s mighty tempting.