Boycott Rupert Murdoch!
Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post published a despicable racist smear against President Barack Obama that masqueraded as a cartoon. The Post's cartoon depicted two white police officers shooting Travis the chimpanzee (known from Coke and Old Navy television commercials), and one of them saying "[t]hey'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
After Reverend Al Sharpton and many others expressed outrage about the cartoon, and the New York Times quoted a newsroom employee at the New York Post as saying that the Post's City Desk telephone was ringing off the hook with complaints from readers, the Post and its defenders denied that the cartoon had anything to do with President Obama. The Post issued a statement that read: "[t]he 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."
I don't buy the Post's explanation. First, the Post ignores the long history of racist comparisons of black people with monkeys and apes. Worse, this association was explicitly and repeatedly made regarding Barack Obama while Obama was running for President. Second, there is a street sign in the Post's cartoon that reads "Beware of Dogs." White police? Dogs? Black people? There's quite a historical connection there. That sign didn't get into the cartoon by accident. Third, in blog comments and elsewhere, right wingers say that the Post's cartoon did not refer to Obama because Obama didn't "write" the stimulus bill. But of course Obama is the author of the bill. It was Obama's idea, and he gave the Congress the elements that he wanted in the bill. Tax cuts. Check. Infrastructure spending. Check. Renewable energy spending. Check. Education and other long-term job creation spending. Check. Home mortgage assistance. Unemployment assistance. Check. The House and Senate then ironed out the exact details and mix of these elements. It's normal for a President whose party controls the House and/or the Senate to "author," "write," "germinate," "pass down," or otherwise cause to have his party leaders draft up what is essentially "his" bill. Indeed, the Post said that the cartoon addressed "Washington's efforts," not "Congress' efforts," "to revive the economy," and obviously, President Obama is a principal part, if not the primary mover, behind those Washington "efforts."
The New York Post has the First Amendment right to publish this garbage. But there's a difference between what the Post has the right to do, and what's right to do. Even if the Post's flimsy explanation is to be believed and the dead chimp in its cartoon represented Congress, or "Washington," and not President Obama, it was still wildly negligent of the Post to publish a cartoon that raised so many ugly connections to our country's racist past, some of which were on full display against Barack Obama only a few months ago. Also, the best that can be said against the Post's cartoon is that it approved of deadly violence against people at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue or the other.
We have rights ourselves, including the right to speak out against the Post's cartoon, and to vote against such irresponsible corporate behavior with our wallets. I think the appropriate response to the Post's cartoon is to demand a full and unambiguous apology from the Post, and not the half-assed kind that merely expresses regret for "readers who may have misinterpreted the cartoon." If the Post refuses to issue such an apology, we should call for a boycott, and termination of subscriptions, to all of Rupert Murdoch's media properties, including the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Fox television channels and networks, and the movies produced by 20th Century Fox's film studios.