The New York Times is taking fire from diverse commentators on the Right for publishing a political satire cartoon that includes this panel:
It is part of a larger cartoon japing at the supposed aftermath of a harsh winter:
Among the ethics complaints against the drawing:
- “Aside from its patently offensive notion that those holding different political views don’t deserve to live, the panel in question also lacks a key element in political cartoons that aim to be tongue in cheek — it isn’t funny. Imagine the outrage at the Times if Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, et al., suggested that liberals should die for not agreeing with them. Yes, things would get nasty in a hurry. Has it really been that long since the Tucson massacre and the left’s demand for more civility, at least from conservatives?”—Newsbusters
- “Global warming has made much of the country so cold that the Times is instructing its readers to use giant icicles to bludgeon the non-believers to death.”—Ed Driscoll
- “NY Times Suggests Killing “Climate Change Deniers”—Weasel Zippers
- “So, as WUWT readers well know, I have a different opinion about global warming.Do you think the New York Times should endorse stabbing me (and others with similar opinions) through the heart like a vampire because I hold that opinion?”—Anthony Watts
This is primarily, of course, the backlash from continuing conservative anger and bitterness from the aftermath of the 2011 Tuscon shooting that wounded Rep. Gaby Giffords. Many liberal pundits, as well as the Times editors, tried to blame the attack in part on so-called “eliminationist rhetoric” from the right, such as Sarah Palin using a target symbol over the photos of vulnerable Democratic members of Congress on her website. Yes, they really did try to make the case that “targeting” elected officials for defeat may have prompted a manic with no political allegiances to really target Gaby Giffords. The smear was transparently unfair and unjustified, President Obama dismissed the idea in his post-shooting speech, and it wasn’t long at all before voices on the left were talking openly (but metaphorically!) about doing violent things to tea party members, conservatives and Republicans. Ever since their adversaries made asses of themselves with the ridiculous “eliminationist rhetoric” attack, conservatives have had a hair-trigger response to any similar rhetoric issuing from the left, and have, as often as not, made fools of themselves by making accusations exactly as silly and unfair as those made by the Times editors in 2011. Sometimes trying to prove hypocrisy makes one a hypocrite. This is such an instance.
The Times cartoon flap is essentially a repeat of the Missoula “Mikado” farce, in which obviously satirical lyrics in a Missoula, Montana production of the 19th Century Gilbert and Sullivan operetta were condemned as a serious call for Sarah Palin to be beheaded. What was particularly absurd about that Ethics Train Wreck, which managed to include Fox’s Greta Van Susteren and the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, was that it was the result of shocking literary and cultural ignorance. Nobody familiar with The Mikado, one of the most performed and popular pieces of musical theater ever created, would ever take the lyrics that Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, sings about prominent people “who never would be missed” as a serious threat, or even an insult. Ignorance of The Mikado is as inexcusable in an educated individual as ignorance of Hamlet. For 130 years, being included on Ko-Ko’s gag list of people he might execute if he ever was forced to actually do his job (he never is) has been an honor, at least to public figures with any sense of humor and self-deprecation. So desperate was the Right to prove liberal hypocrisy (as if a Montana theater company was a bastion of progressive thought), that it made a collective ass of itself. (You can refresh your memory on the Mikado controversy, in which Ethics Alarms was a prime player, here.)
At least ignorance is an excuse. Critics of the cartoon have no such excuse: a cartoon, by its very nature, signals satirical or humorous intent. There can be unethical editorial cartoons, and Ethics Alarms has flagged some: Tom Toles, the Washington Post’s cartoonist, regularly distorts or misrepresents facts to fit his ideological warfare objectives. The Times cartoon isn’t unethical. It isn’t “eliminationist either: I’m not certain whether it mocks climate change skeptics, those who vilify them, or both. If you argue, as Driscoll does, that “the Times is instructing its readers to use giant icicles to bludgeon the non-believers to death,” you must also believe that the Times is instructing its readers to play cruel tricks on their dogs, and use icicles as doorstops.
The double whammy of the 2011 slur on the Right by Times columnist Paul Krugman and others and the ongoing denigration of anyone with the audacity to question over-hyped and over-simplified claims that climate change is “settled science” has driven conservatives to make themselves look foolish yet again. Watts inadvertently puts his finger on what’s wrong with the Right’s excessive indignation:
“Admittedly, this is a lame attempt at humor/satire…But, imagine if the tables were turned, and the cartoon depicted global warming alarmists such as Mike Mann or James Hansen in the same role? Our friends would have a collective cow.”
Got it. So if you know that your adversary will respond absurdly to a specific stimulus, this makes your responding in the same manner to similar stimulus reasonable and justified.