The New Yorker cartoon above, by the magazine’s iconic cartoonist George Booth, first ran in 1975. I remember finding it strange then. I just ran across it again, and it seems ripe for an Ethics Alarms poll.
The above cartoon is the work of Michael Leunig, an Australian cartoonist of some note. Apparently the drawing got him into serious trouble with the social media and political correctness mobs Down Under. Color me completely bewildered, mate.
I have always regarded Australia as a having an admirably rough, honest, brutally independent and common sense-based culture. Apparently I’m missing something; maybe one of Ethics Alarms’ Australian readers can explain what. (There have been about 24,000 views of the blog there so far this year; Australia is the second largest source of Ethics Alarms readers outside the U.S., after Canada.)
Because of the cartoon, Leunig, who has been creating cartoons professionally to express political and social commentary for half a century, is being threatened with cultural “cancellation.” He writes in part that the drawing has “brought so much hostile public reaction that I began to lie awake at night wondering why I had followed such a troubled, painful and precarious career path….
…[To]be so hated, insulted, slandered in the public domain for this – as I was – is indeed a dismal fate for the lone cartoonist. It speaks volumes about the current condition of civil society and tolerance. This is bigotry. The malice has been astounding and so extreme that it has plunged me into a deep contemplation about the nature of angry hatred. Indeed, I am coming to the view that there is an emerging new form of hatred in society which might be more of a mental illness than a passing emotion. Perhaps I would call it “free-floating, obsessive compulsive hatred”.
Hank Azaria, who has performed the voice of the Indian convenience store owner Apu since 1990, now says the series will capitulate to The Woke and Widiculous, and eliminate the character, who represents a stereotype. You know, unlike all the other characters on “The Simpsons.” “All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore,” Azaria told the website SlashFilm. “We all made the decision together… We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
OK, what’s right and good about it? Hank is a Hollywood actor, so I don’t expect much nuanced ethical analysis from him, or any kind of analysis, really, but if an animated satire show can’t defend using stereotypes in a cartoon, then it might as well just give up.
I’m embarrassed to say this is the fourth post on this silly story, but like so many others, it is canary dying in the mine stuff. Yes, it’s just one canary. Still, the mine is looking awfully toxic.
A recap: The controversy was launched when a new documentary debuted Nov. 19, 2017 called “The Problem with Apu.” It reveals that Indian-Americans….well, at least some, viewed Apu as a charged stereotype, and were especially upset that a non-Indian actor (Azaria), did the voice. I responded,
Move through the muck and emerge in the bright sunlight of reality, and one sees that there is no problem with Apu. There are problems with lacking a mature reaction to humor and satire, being deliberately hyper-sensitive, power-grabbing using group-identification politics, and cynically looking for offense to justify claiming victim status, but there is no problem with Apu.
I would love to know why Indian-Americans feel all the other characters in the show can be outrageous stereotypes and extreme caricatures, but Apu is unacceptably offensive and insensitive. This is contrived victimization. One cannot reasonable compare the Indians feasting on bugs and chilled monkey brains in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” to Apu because 1) Apu is entirely benign: he is one of the smartest, sanest and nicest characters in “The Simpsons,” and 2) he’s a cartoon.
“The Simpsons”writers initially took the responsible approach to this contrived controversy: they ridiculed it, taking my route and noting that it was a cartoon, meaing to sane people that the accusation that the show was marginalizing human beings was not worth arguing about, being box of rocks dumb. Here was the woke rebuttal to that, from a white female critic offended on behalf of cartoon Indians everywhere: Continue reading
- 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.” Continue reading
Long-time commenter E2 scores her first Comment of the Day with some perspective on why Western civilization, and the United States particularly, owes Israel a permanent debt.
I have no problem with critics having honest, reasonable differences with Israel’s policies and the U.S.’s support of them, as long as such critics have a sufficient knowledge of the history of the Jewish people, their existential plight in the Thirties through World War II, the initial contrived ignorance of the U.S. government and President Roosevelt of that plight, and how the State of Israel came into existence. (Two new biographies of playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht, who played a large but largely forgotten role in that remarkable event, were just published this month. There is a reason one of the ships that brought Jewish ex-patriots to Israel was named, “The Ben Hecht.”)
As E2 points out, the public ignorance of all of this is staggering, and it fertilizes the dirt from which anti-Semitism grows, of late, in abundance. One of the many jaw-dropping statements of stupidity or dishonesty—it’s often so hard to tell which with him— that Joe Biden uttered after his announcement of his candidacy was that America needed to return to being loyal to its allies. Biden was the #2 official in an administration that displayed the most outright hostility to Israel of any since the nation’s founding, our ally that most needs our support and that common decency demands should always be able to count on it.
Here is E2’s Comment of the Day on the item #4 in the post, “Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms.”
Does no one know any history at all? That, for example, the English Jews funded the Crusades, and when the King of England couldn’t pay back his debt, he simply exiled all Jews from the country to Europe? Hence, an early forced diaspora of Jews.
Do others really believe that anti-Semitism was grown by Hitler and ended in the Holocaust? Do so many not know that FDR’s anti-Semitic State Department refused political asylum for desperate Jews from Hitler’s Germany…or the story of the ship “St. Louis” – full of fleeing Jews, that went from port to port in the US and were never allowed entry? Continue reading
…as my Greek-American mother used to greet us every Greek Easter morn. You were supposed to respond in kind, but my father’s Greek pronunciation was always so hilarious that I don’t recall that he ever did.
1. Anthony Napolitano and the appeal to authority. Fox analyst “Judge” Napolitano (you’re not supposed to call yourself “judge” after you stop being a judge, but never mind) is suddenly being hailed as a definitive legal authority because he has “broken ranks” (as the liberal websites put it) to argue that President Trump obstructed justice based on the Mueller report. Virtually nothing Napolitano said or opined on prior to this was ever treated by these same sudden fans as anything but the meanderings of a crank, but “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” as someone once said in Sanskrit.
I would never appeal to Napolitano’s authority, though he is far from a crank. He was indeed a lower court judge in New Jersey, he has taught at a law school, and he has written many books. He is not a conservative or a Republican but a libertarian. Like Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand, Napolitano’s ideology is such that he arrives at positions that make it impossible for me to trust his reasoning processes. Notably, he doesn’t think Abraham Lincoln should have fought the Civil War or abolished slavery, saying that it would have been better to allow slavery to peter out peacefully without government intervention. I wonder how the slaves would have felt about that?
He also believes that human life should have full legal rights at conception, and that abortion ought to be outlawed completely. Well, both of those positions—he has others equally extreme—mean to me that as smart as he may be, I don’t know what kind of extremist bats are flying around in the man’s belfry, so while I believe his arguments on obstruction should be judged on their objective merits, that fact that he’s the one making them do not and should not enhance their persuasiveness.
2. Trump Tweets segue...in a tweet, the President claimed that Napolitano asked him to appoint the “Judge” to the Supreme Court, and that his much-publicized obstruction claim is Napolitano’s revenge for the President refusing. Continue reading
Yes, it’s come to this.
The last time I had to write about attacks on the children’s Christmas song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” it involved a school capitulating to a single Jewish parent who complained that teaching students the song indoctrinated kids into Christianity. (Naturally, the school capitulated, and banned Rudolph.) This time the complaints involve the ancient Rankin-Bass Puppetoon version of the story, which invades our TV sets every Christmas season. Here’s the account of quirky blog Victory Girls, after citing various tweets and blog criticism of the show from newly woke Americans:
Santa is a big, fat jerk and a bigoted, d*ck, apparently. Rudolph’s father was “abusive”. Comet was a terrible coach. Yukon Cornelius is a gun-toting redneck who engages in animal cruelty. GASP! And who isn’t triggered by Burl Ives’ character, Sam the Snowman?! He’s ALL WHITE for crying out loud! If you sing along to any Burl Ives’ Christmas Carols, you might be a white supremacist. Delete all Burl Ives Christmas tunes from your Apple playlist STAT! Never mind, I forgot. These folks would never know how to have a Holly, Jolly Christmas if someone threw it at them and gave it to them gratis and called it a college education.
As a kid in the 70s and 80s, I would look for its listing in the TV Guide. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was one of my most beloved, go-to Christmas classics and still is. But now, in the days of woke, the story behind Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is “seriously problematic” and those who don’t see it this way have “serious problems”. Those people are, according to the hyper-vigilant SJWs, Conservatives. Whilst making tongue-in-cheek social justice commentary about Rudolph, they have neglected the key takeaways of this story from years ago. Although he was bullied, left out of all of the reindeer games, unaccepted, different-quirky even-young Rudolph was able to overcome and do something absolutely great. He saved the day! He made kids smile. And his story is magical. He didn’t stomp his hooves and whine and go to a “safe space” and resign himself to life being too hard as a red-nosed reindeer and call it quits. He didn’t blame others and become a victim. He didn’t expect special treatment or demand it from his peers because he was different. He may have shed some tears and that’s okay. When given a challenge, he rose to the occasion and excelled and proved his biggest critics and his bullies wrong.
There’s Hurricane Hysteria in the Washington area, with everyone freaking out and clearing the store shelves, and the news media making it sound like this is the End of Days. Did you know that BOTH Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf lived in Washington, D.C.? Thanks to a late summer repeat of what goes on every time there’s a rumor of nascent snow flake during our winters, nobody’s working, returning emails and phone calls, or doing anything, it seems, except, I assume, trying to figure out a way to blame whatever happens on President Trump.
Incidentally, this was going to be an afternoon post yesterday, until my car blew a radiator hose on Route 395 at rush hour.
1. Yes, more on the “racist cartoon.” Reader Michael B. reminded me of some of the liberal editorial cartoonists’ attacks on Condoleeza Rice. Here was one such cartoon, from 2005, that I found online.
Here’s the real Condoleeza:
I’ve been challenged to post a poll on this cartoon too, but that’s tricky. The two cartoons are not equivalent. I don’t think either is racist, but if I were in the business of race-baiting, the Rice cartoon is worse for several reasons. To begin with, Serena really did throw a tantrum on the U.S. Open court, and it was ugly, thus theoretically justifying an ugly graphic portrayal. There was never an incident analogous to what the cartoon Condi is shown doing. Moreover, she never exhibited anything approaching the snarling, aggressive demeanor portrayed by the cartoonist, at least not in public. I think the face given Rice is also vaguely simian, and if a similar spoof of Michell Obama had been published, all hell would have broken loose.
There were some complaints about racist caricatures of Rice during the Bush years, but all from conservative organizations and commentators, none from the NAACP, and nothing on the scale of the uproar over the Williams cartoon.
My position is…
….that both the Williams and the Rice cartoon are within the acceptable range of an art form I detest and find inherently unethical, editorial cartooning.
….that the indignation over either cartoon is driven by bias toward the targets.
….that anyone who wasn’t vocal about “racial insensitivity” toward Rice in various cartoons is not the most convincing advocate for the position that the Knight drawing is racist. Yes, such a person might have changed their point of view, but he or she has the burden of proof to demonstrate that this is the case. I’m skeptical.
So here are TWO polls..
2. I find it difficult to believe that as Democrats are revealing the total ethical void in their current strategy, polls show voters favoring a Democratic Congress in the upcoming election. Of course, it helps that the mainstream news media won’t communicate to the public fairly so they understand what’s going on:
- During his hearings, Bret Kavanaugh said, speaking of the position of the plaintiffs in a case, “In that case, they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that were, as a religious matter, objected to.” This was immediately distorted in the news media and by anti-Kavanaugh activists as Kavanaugh referring to birth control as “abortion-inducing drugs.” Hillary Clinton (to be fair, I assume that she was reading second hand accounts—you know, like everyone criticizes Trump for doing with Fox News) then beclowned herself by tweeting:
I want to be sure we’re all clear about something that Brett Kavanaugh said in his confirmation hearings last week. He referred to birth-control pills as “abortion-inducing drugs.” That set off a lot of alarm bells for me, and it should for you, too.
[Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!]
- CNN tweeted this (Pointer: Instapundit):
I think this qualifies as going beyond deceit to pure lying. The texts themselves were evidence. It’s like a defense attorney saying “The prosecution, without evidence, suggests that the murder weapon with the defendant’s fingerprints on it links him to the killing!”
- A man cursing Donald Trump attempted to stab Republican Rudy Peters, running for the House in California, with a switchblade over the weekend.This kind of thing does not happen every day, nor in every Congressional race. Democrats have increasingly been suggesting violent measures be used against conservatives and Republicans, and there has already been one armed attack that nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise and threatened other GOP officials. Yet when Rep. Eric Swalwell, Peters’ opponent, appeared on CNN host Erin Burnett’s show “Erin Burnett Outfront” last night, she never asked Stalwell about the attack or its implications. That’s journalistic negligence, and likely bias.
3. Please explain this to me. Anyone? Karen White, a transgender man “transitioning” to female, was accused of repeatedly raping a woman in 2016 and had been previously been jailed in 2001 for a sexual assault on a child. After telling the authorities that he identified as a woman, Karen, who still has her penis, aka her weapon of choice when engaged in sexual assault, was remanded into HMP New Hall near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, an all female facility.
She then sexually assaulted four female inmates a few days later. Who could have predicted such a thing? The prison’s spokesperson said: “We apologize sincerely for the mistakes which were made in this case. While we work to manage all prisoners, including those who are transgender, sensitively and in line with the law, we are clear that the safety of all prisoners must be our absolute priority.” Continue reading
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
Ethics Alarms covered the silly, hyper-political correctness attacks on ‘The Simpsons” character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon—Oh NO! They are making fun of Indian NAMES!—, the Indian immigrant owner of the local convenience store. Now “The Simpsons” itself addressed the issue:
Naturally, the progressive victim-mongers who cooked up this phony controversy are mad at Marge and Lisa. Here is a typical response from the Angry, Perpetually Offended Left, by former TV critic and lawyer-turned-blogger Linda Holmes, who I am now convinced turned away from the law because she couldn’t meet the tough reasoning requirements.
(And have a mentioned before that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for social justice warrior drivel like this? I’m sure I have…)
At the end of her screed, she writes,
“I know: It’s a cartoon. That is the easiest, silliest response to this debate. It’s just a cartoon. It’s just a comedy. Or, as the photo of Apu pointedly says, don’t have a cow. But the show doesn’t have this defense to call on, because it has accepted accolades for decades as a thoughtful, intelligent, satirical work that deserves to be taken seriously. It has accepted a Peabody Award, and a GLAAD Media Award. It has been praised and slobbered over and quoted and praised again, and to plead insignificance at this point is unavailing.”
I hate to be harsh, but this is idiotic beyond excusing. To say “It’s a cartoon” is not to say that it is insignificant, and to say “It’s just a comedy” is not to argue that its content doesn’t matter. It’s a cartoon means that cartoons as an art form, exaggerate, stereotype and mock individuals and groups using funny faces, voices, words and actions, and anyone who takes personal offense—or who works hard to find offense– at a cartoon that was not intended to offend is best dealt with by saying to him or her, “Avoid animated entertainment. You don’t understand it.” And maybe a pat on the head will help.
This is me, by the way:
(I’m not offended, though I am not yellow, have broader shoulders, my skull isn’t that big in proportion to by body and don’t have that big line in my forehead.) Continue reading