Stimulus Cartoon Raises Question: Ruckus or Racist?

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Author: Dean DeChiaro and Sonia Lessuck

Racism as Dissent Against State

by Dean DeChiaro, Features Editor

Ok, so perhaps it was bad timing, perhaps they didn’t realize. Or maybe, and most likely, The New York Post continues to be run by a group of incredibly stupid, insensitive, bigoted old men who have no place in journalism today. I refer, of course, to the controversial cartoon depicting a chimpanzee shot by two police officers with the caption “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” Post readers believe that the monkey represents President Obama, following the old racist joke that a black man is like a monkey. The Post attempted to cover this by saying the cartoon was simply depicting a chimpanzee that escaped in Connecticut and ate someone’s face before being captured, but the caption really says it all: The Post, a conservative newspaper, didn’t like the stimulus package and threw that distasteful cartoon in their next issue. Do I disagree with the cartoon? Yes, of course. But I agree with their right to print it.

It has been too long since freedom of press has been at a respectable level, and with Obama in the White House, the press has become forced to tread carefully. During the election, when The New Yorker ran a cover that depicted Barack and Michelle as Islamic extremists in the Oval Office, people went crazy. Did no one stop to take note of the magazine that printed the cover? It was THE NEW YORKER! Why would one of the more liberal magazines of today run a cover like that if it wasn’t meant to be taken satirically? Just because there are too many stupid people in this country who know nothing about politics and certainly aren’t intelligent enough to read The New Yorker, it doesn’t mean that the press, whose freedoms are protected by the 1st Amendment, is going to censor itself to subscribe to the standards of people without brains.

I understand that the issue with both The Post cartoon and The New Yorker cover is that they depict racial prejudices. I have no problem defending The New Yorker, but trust me when I say I’m loathe to come to the aid of the editorial staff of The New York Post,, who couldn’t produce a decent newspaper if they tried. However, they have a right to print what they want just as much as The New York Times, or The Washington Post. I detest that on the day American soldiers in Afghanistan flushed a Koran down a toilet in front of Taliban prisoners, The Post’s headline read “Holy Shiite”. However, I passionately believe in their right to print it.

Uproar about what the media prints is not a bad thing; much of our nation’s history is based on this. Newspapers have run this country along with the government for a long time. The two have a mutually beneficial relationship, and the victims of that relationship are the public. The media is so reliant on official sources that they’ll print anything the government feeds them, whatever the truth of that may be, and the government is so reliant on the media that they have to appease reporters. Otherwise, the papers will criticize the government, and since the public listens to the media it will lead to the public being critical of the government. This partnership between the government and the media is becoming too dangerous, and so I applaud The Post and The New Yorker for bringing some ruckus back to journalism. The more controversy, the better.

Dean DeChiaro is a first-year Hisory major. He can be reached at dechiaro@oxy.edu.

Controversy Not a Justification

by Sonia Lessuck, Assistant Opinions Editor

In his public “apology” concerning the controversial cartoon published in the New York Post,/i> seemingly equating Obama with a chimpanzee, Rupert Murdoch defends, “Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.”

The cartoon portrays a chimp lying dead on the ground, supposedly Travis the Chimp of the Connecticut attacks, with two policemen pointing guns at him. Above the image is a text bubble reading, “They’ll have to find someone else to write their next stimulus bill.” This message is clear. There is one figure right now that is the face of the stimulus plan. There is no opinion on whether the cartoon could be misconstrued as Obama; it is and was widely understood to be a jab at our first black president.

Surely coincidental, Travis the Chimp’s attack in Connecticut and Obama’s stimulus plan were national news in the same weeks but there was no reason for the two to intersect in any manner. The cartoon was featured on page 11 of the Post, adjacent to the infamous gossip filled “Page Six.” The week the cartoon was published it mirrored a large “Page Six” photograph of Obama signing the stimulus plan, further driving home the connection.

To say that “opportunists” sought to make artist Sean Delonis’ cartoon something it wasn’t is delusional. Given the undeniably racist history of comparing black people to monkeys, the cartoon was clearly racist. At the end of the Civil War, reconstruction was hotly debated. One of the tools newspapers used to mobilize opposition to Northern reconstruction of the South was political cartoons, specifically cartoons portraying black people as monkeys. The undoing of reconstruction led to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, mass lynchings, and half a century of legally enforced segregation in the South.

Particularly in light of such a racially charged election, the Post should not have published the image. Political cartoons with racial messages or undertones only encourage the behavior seen during this past year’s presidential race.

At McCain/Palin rallies, many supporters brought stuffed monkeys as a racist parody of McCain’s opponent. Often struggling to articulate why Americans should vote for them, McCain and Palin used racism to unify voters. Their platform, essentially became, “vote for us, we’re not black”. Whether individually racist or not, McCain and Palin allowed racism to flourish amongst their campaign.

In a similar way that racism during the elections was opportunistically used to mobilize voters against Obama’s presidency, the Post is now using similar tactics to organize opposition against the stimulus plan. From this cartoon one cannot say whether the artist is racist or not, but what can be derived is the utilization of racism to build support for the right wing paper’s position against the stimulus plan.

As an editor of the Opinions section for our own newspaper I understand the excitement that comes with publishing a controversial idea. I also however, understand that there are limits. There is such a thing as journalistic ruckus and then there is just racism.

Sonia Lessuck is a sophomore AHVA major. She can be reached at slessuck@oxy.edu.

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