- The main lesson of this episode (which was discussed here in the fourth item) is that the New York Times culture is so ideologically and politically biased and one-sided that even an obvious breach of taste, decency and ethics like this cartoon can slip by the deadened ethics alarms.
The American Jewish Committee said in response to The Times’s editors’ note after pulling the drawing,. “What does this say about your processes or your decision makers? How are you fixing it?”
The Times can’t fix it.
- One Times columnist, the politically schizophrenic Bret Stephens, wrote that “in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer,” the infamous anti-Semitic tabloid published during Germany’s Nazi regime. “The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t.” Stephens continued.
“The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism …. at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.”
- I admit to being surprised that at least one veteran commenter on Ethics Alarms professed to see no anti-Semitism on display. Isn’t portraying any Jew, especially the leader of Israel, who may thus symbolize all Jews, as a dog per se ethnic denigration? Note that the Netanyahu dog is wearing a Star of David. The slur “Jewish dog” appeared in many Nazi publications, and, as one astute commenter elsewhere noted, the reason the dog chosen was a dachshund was probably that an undignified, low-to-the-ground canine “slithering” along made the insult clear.
No insult to dachshunds intended: they are actually courageous, feisty little dogs who happen to look silly.
- Many asked for more details about the cartoon and who was responsible for its publication. The Times has now filled in some of the blanks:
The cartoon was drawn by the Portuguese cartoonist António Moreira Antunes and originally published by Expresso, a newspaper in Lisbon. It was then picked up by CartoonArts International, a syndicate for cartoons from around the world. The New York Times Licensing Group sells content from CartoonArts and other publishers along with material from The New York Times to news sites and other customers….The Times’s United States edition does not typically publish political cartoons and did not run this one, but the international edition frequently includes them. An editor from The Times’s Opinion section downloaded Mr. Antunes’s cartoon from the syndicate and made the decision to publish it…
- The Times now says that the decision was made by a single editor, “working without adequate oversight” because of a “faulty process” that is now being reviewed.
Nope, I don’t believe it. This is the same “rogue employee” excuse and cover that I have seen many times when organizations make serious mistakes, notably when the Obama IRS scandal came to light. It was not the IRS, we were first told, just a single “rogue” agent in the Cincinnati office that managed to cripple conservative non-profits before the 2012 election. No doubt a single editor will be made the official scapegoat, but I seriously doubt such a cartoon could have been published without widespread ethics blindness by many Times employees.
- Here was the original Times statement, which I published in the post yesterday:
As I noted, there is no apology here, just an admission that ‘mistakes were made.’ I wrote, “There is no apology in sight, nor a clear statement that the cartoon was unfair and untrue. ” Sure enough, the Times has issued a new, improved statement:
There’s that rogue editor again. Still, at least this is an apology. Stephens wrote that the Times owed Netanyahu an apology. My basic rule is that do-over apologies are PR rescue operations, and should be regarded in that light. If a wrong-doer can’t explain what was wrong and why he or she should be forgiven the first time, I take that to mean that they are primarily sorry that they got in trouble.