Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monkey Business

The above cartoon appeared in today's New York Post and, not surprisingly, has raised more than a few eyebrows. Although the cartoon is obviously spoofing the recent "news" story about the rampaging chimp in Connecticut that police were forced to shoot and kill, the caption reads "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." I'm not the most p.c. person in the world, and I generally provide satirists with an excessive degree of latitude, but this one strikes me as indefensibly offensive.

Sam Stein over at Huffington Post says, "At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it." Even if you assume this was the cartoonist's intentions, what an absurd and clumsy juxtaposition of two stories. The cliche of monkeys doing human tasks isn't about the monkeys being stupid or doing bad work, it's about the simplicity of the tasks being performed---as in, "that's so easy, even a trained monkey could do it." The cartoon simply doesn't work on that level. So maybe that's all this is...a stupid cartoon that seeks to capitalize on a sensational news story (the chimp). Its only crime is being unfunny and ill-conceived.

Except...except it really works well as a racist cartoon. The author of the stimulus bill, although put together by dozens, if not hundreds of people, is widely recognized as Obama. One of three things must, therefore, be true. Either the cartoonist (1) intended his readers to view Obama as a rabid monkey---a classic, racist stereotype; (2) the editors at the NY Post are blissfully unaware that such a cartoon, racist intentions or otherwise, would be offensive; or (3) the editors of the NY Post were completely aware of how the cartoon would be perceived and chose to run it anyway. Here's how the NY Post has responded thus far:

"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

The Sharpton reference is because the good Reverend was one of the first to criticize the cartoon---though his criticism was hardly one of his usual jump-to-conclusions diatribes:

"The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that "Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill."

"Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?"

So, rather than acknowledge some very real concerns that Al Sharpton and, now, countless others have over the nature of the cartoon, the Post simply attempts to marginalize Sharpton as a publicity-seeking narcissist. Okay. True. He's a publicity-seeking narcissist, but he's one with a point this time. One which will be widely shared, no doubt.


Anonymous Brian said...

Al Sharpton's tone is usually inversely proportional to the amount of racism in any given situation. Thus, Al Sharpton being calm and measured = racist motherfucking cartoon.

February 19, 2009 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger said...

They'll hide behind that banner until the fervor dies down, but I think they've lost a nice little chunk of credibility.

February 19, 2009 at 12:34 PM  

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