Tag Archives: cartoonists

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The ‘Racist, Sexist’ Cartoon”

Occasionally I request a comment from a regular reader who has special expertise; for example, I have asked “Curmie,” a drama teacher, director and superb blogger when he has the time, to weigh in on theater and casting ethics controversies. (And I just remembered that the last time he commented, he submitted a Comment of the Day that I neglected to post! Arghhh! I’m sorry, Curmie…it will be up today.) This time, the surprisingly lively debate over the allegedly racist Serena Williams cartoon prompted me to send out a Bat Signal for the reactions of King Kool, aka Jeff H., who is a long-time reader and a cartoonist himself. (His submission for “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” periodically appears in the Ethics Alarms header.) He answered the call, and did so superbly.

There have been some new developments. The cartoonist, Mark Knight, has suspended his Twitter account because of all the hate coming his way.  Knight said he was amazed at the reaction to his drawing. “I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” he said. “The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behavior on the day, not about race.”

Popular Australian Broadcaster Neil Mitchell, among others, defended Knight, saying, “This shows an awful misunderstanding of Mark Knight and this country. I looked at that cartoon and it didn’t even cross my mind it was about race. It was a sports bully, a petulant child throwing a tantrum about losing…I drew her as an African-American woman. She’s powerfully built. She wears these outrageous costumes when she plays tennis. She’s interesting to draw. I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman.”

As I have explained elsewhere on the Ethics Quiz thread, the reason I made the issue a quiz rather than an ethics  position post is that Knight’s  cartoon struck me as racially provocative.

I believe it is racially insensitive, but I am not certain that in the field of opinion cartooning racial sensitivities should be ignored. If a white, male player who behaved like Williams—it is astounding that so many pundits are defending her—a mocking, tough cartoon, showing ugly conduct  by portraying its perpetrator as symbolically ugly would be appropriate. I do  not think it is fair or healthy for special immunity to be granted to a similarly misbehaving player, especially a repeat offender like Williams, because of her race and gender. This why my vote in the poll accompanying the quiz was the somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “Whatever it was, she deserved it.” 

That response has gleaned 13% of the votes, with over 72% voting for the position that it’s just a cartoon. Against the 85% that are inclined to support Knight (all old white men who are constitutionally unable to recognize sexism and racism, according to one unbiased, unbigoted commenter), 14% agree that the cartoons is “racist.”

To its credit, Knight’s paper, the Herald Sun, took the remarkable step of devoting its entire front page to Knight’s defense, which you see above.

Here is Jeff H.’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The “Racist, Sexist” Cartoon:

One of the reasons I didn’t pursue doing political cartoons is because… no matter how much I practiced at it, I am absolutely awful at caricature. I tried drawing John Kerry dozens of times, and could never get it down. (Not that it ended up mattering.)

The image of Serena Williams has been called ‘something out of 1910,’ which I think it an exaggeration. However, the large lips, even the ponytail pointed straight up… to me, it does invoke some insensitive imagery of old caricatures and similar things. Maybe even the pose itself, her being completely in the air, maybe that is bothering some people for possibly comparing her motion to that of primitive man, or even that particular animal that racist jerks compare persons of color to. But that might be a stretch.

Again, that’s just my interpretation. I am not ascribing blame or intention. All I’m saying is… if the cartoon looked indubitably like Serena Williams, people would have a lot less to complain about, even if you could focus on part of it and say it parallels older racist art.

If it were me drawing this cartoon, I would have had Serena facing away from the ‘camera’ if I couldn’t make it look like her. The whiny facial expression isn’t important visually. We see her stomping the racket to pieces and the pacifier. The intention is clear. And thus, now that face is all we’re talking about. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/18: As They Read The Names Of The Twin Towers Bombing…

Sad morning….

1. Serena ethics updates An indignant Facebook friend appeals to authority by telling me that  Chris Evert and Billie Jean King are defending Williams, and that they know more about professional tennis than I do. That’s a classic appeal to authority, and a very lame one. What a surprise that female tennis superstars have each others’ back! Chris and Billie Jean sure aren’t ethicists. I’d love to interview them. “So you believe that coaching from the stands, even though forbidden by the rules, should be allowed? Do you think that an unknown player who behaved like Serena did would have been treated any differently? Do you think that anyone would be supporting her if she were penalized? Since the record shows that Ramos does not treat men any differently than he treats women on the court, doesn’t Serena owe him an apology? Can you comprehend why calling a ref, whose reputtaion depends on being regarded as fair and unbiased, a “thief” is worse that calling him a “four-letter word”?

I can play the biased expert witness game too: here’s Martina Navratilova’s op ed, which is comparatively ethically astute and tracks with my post in many respects.

The polls about Mark Knight’s “racist and sexist” cartoon has these results:

85% side with Knight. I’d love to hear the explanation of the one voter who said the cartoon was sexist but not racist.

The reason I made the issue an ethics quiz is because I’m really torn in the issue. Yes, cartoons of blacks employing exaggerated features naturally evoke Jim Crow and minstrel show racist images. But political cartoons exaggerate features, often in unflattering ways. That’s the art form. Does this mean that blacks are immune from ever being portrayed cruelly in a political cartoon? I think that’s what the anti-Knight contingent is arguing.

My view is that double standards are destructive and unethical. By the by, were Jimmy Carter’s lips that big?

Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The “Racist, Sexist” Cartoon

Australian sports cartoonist Mark Knight drew the cartoon above criticizing Serena Williams’ tantrum and otherwise unacceptable behavior as she lost the women’s title at the U.S. Open to young Naomi Osaka.

The cartoon was immediately attacked as sexist and racist. Is any criticism of Williams’ conduct racist, since she couched it as justified as a protest against alleged gender discrimination by umpire Carlos Ramos? Is any caricature of an African American celebrity subject to accusations of racism? Here is another tennis cartoon by Knight mocking a white, male player:

The Washington Post claimed that the Williams cartoon employed “facial features reflecting the dehumanizing Jim Crow caricatures so common in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day ….

Is Knight’s Serena Williams cartoon racist or sexist?

This is a good one for a poll:

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Professions, Race, Sports

Unethical Political Cartoon Of The Month: Barry Deutsch

 

To be fair, the Justice wasn’t much of a cartoonist…

In today’s warm-up, I briefly discussed the acquittal earlier this moth of NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs in the shooting an unarmed black motorist.  It was a weird case. Isaacs was off duty, and prompted a driver to apparent road rage by cutting him off in traffic. The motorist, according to Isaacs, walked up to his car and  struck him, and fearing that his assailant was armed, the officer drew his pistol and fired.

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or by design, but on the day of the acquittal progressive cartoonist Barry Deutsch, who once did battle (and well) at Ethics Alarms, posted this cartoon at his blog:

In the same post, he also called the late Justice Rehnquist a racist, which he was not, and made the demonstrably false statement that most police shootings involve blacks, but never mind that.

You have to really detest police and the principle of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to regard such a cartoon as fair or enlightening. (Ethics Alarms is on record as declaring political cartoons an inherently unethical form of punditry.) No cop has been acquitted of shooting an unarmed  9-year-old kid in self-defense, and the cartoon is factually wrong that such a claim by a police officer would get him acquitted. Moreover, the case Barry is apparently referring to, Graham v. Connor, does not involve a shooting, and Rehnquist’s opinion for the majority doesn’t say what the cartoon says it does. In addition, the opinion in the case primarily relied upon by the majority in Graham, Tennessee v. Garner,  wasn’t written by the Rehnquist, but by Justice Byron White. It also specifically involved police shooting at fleeing suspects.

Thus the cartoonist a) doesn’t know what he’s talking about b) misleads his readers ( the blog is an echo chamber if there ever was one), and c) smears Justice Rehnquist. Continue reading

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“Doonesbury’s” Unethical Late Hit On The University of Virginia

Doonesbury

The Rolling Stone-“Jackie”-University of Virginia ethics train wreck has claimed another victim, and an unlikely one: “Doonesbury’s” characters, who have been led astray by cartoonist Gary Trudeau and the newspapers that carry his popular strip.

In the episode that ran yesterday, the campus bimbo-turned-feminist “Boopsie” ranted about sexual assault cover-ups of by institutions, and singled out the University of Virginia as a culprit, forbidding her college age daughter from attending school there. [ Notice of correction: I am informed by a reader that “Sam” is Boopie’s daughter, not her son as I wrote originally. Thus she is forbidding her daughter from attending a school where she thinks she is likely to be raped, rather than forbidding her son from going to a school where major magazines will unjustly accuse his fraternity of being a cult of rapists. I apologize for the error.] The premise was based on the anonymous allegations of a fraternity campus assault that were turned into a sensational expose by a feminist reporter with an agenda, and guilelessly published in Rolling Stone without confirmation, fact-checking, or a minimal level of ethical journalistic practices. “Jackie’s” rape accusations have been shown to be substantially or completely fabricated, and story has been thoroughly discredited for more than three weeks.

Why are Trudeau and his fictional creations still calling UVA a hotbed of sexual assault? There are several reasons: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture

Ethics Hero: Cartoonist Ted Rall

cartoon_plagiarism_444045

It is always courageous and exemplary when someone calls out his own profession for deficient ethical standards, and this is what political cartoonist Ted Rall has done on his blog. The topic: plagiarism in editorial cartoons, which is bad enough. Rall, however, makes strong case that the unethical practice flourishes because syndicates, editors, publications, honors committees and the professional associations tolerate it, and journalists don’t seem to care. He also blows the whistle on the practice known as self-plagiarism, where a cartoonist recycles his previous work as new. Rall writes, Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons—With Gratitude

Cartoonist and frequent combatant on Ethics Alarms Barry Deutsch did not disappoint—I was counting on a strong reply from him—in commenting on my post about political cartoonists. And I think he has me convinced. I think what I should have suggested, rather than advocating sending newspaper political cartoonists to the trash bin of history (soon to be followed by newspapers themselves), is that editors exercise some discretion over when an editorial cartoon, even by a respected cartoonist, just doesn’t meet editorial standards.

Here is Barry’s persuasive and educational Comment of the Day on the post Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons—With Gratitude:

“Oh, how could I possibly resist this thread?

“1) At his best, Tom Toles is a wonderful cartoonist, elegant and with an incredibly distinctive style. But he hasn’t been at his best for years. The particular cartoon you’re talking about — which can be seen here, if anyone’s curious — is an embarrassment.

“The problem with that Toles cartoon isn’t that it takes a side, or that it paints with a broad brush; many good cartoons do both those things. The problem is, it’s painfully stupid.

“2) There are good political cartoonists doing interesting work, but they’re mostly not found in mainstream newspapers.

“3) Even the best political cartoonists tend to produce more mediocre than great cartoons.

“4) It’s a very, very rare reader who can recognize the artistic merit of a political cartoon that they strongly disagree with politically.

“5) The economic base has fallen out from under political cartooning; every year, fewer and fewer newspapers support a staff cartoonist, and those that remain are seeing their incomes and outlets shrinking. And no one’s yet found a business model for political cartooning to thrive on the web.

“As a result, the most talented new cartoonists usually aren’t going into political cartooning, because they want to be able to eat and pay rent.

“6) Some of the most interesting political cartoonists have gone so far away from traditional political cartooning that no one even recognizes what they’re doing as political cartooning. See, for instance, Joe Sacco, who does journalism in comics form; his second book on Palestine, “Footnotes In Gaza,” is one of the best books about life in Gaza anyone’s done, in prose or comics.

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