Friday, February 20, 2009

The Cartoon

"Yeah, I've got a complaint. This cartoon stinks."
-Jerry Seinfeld to "Elaine" (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) in Seinfeld episode "The Cartoon," 1998

In its Friday edition, the New York Post ran the following editorial:

Wednesday's Page Six cartoon - caricaturing Monday's police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut - has created considerable controversy.

It shows two police officers standing over the chimp's body: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," one officer says.

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.


But it has been taken as something else - as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past - and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due.

Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon - even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.

Though the Post contended (with no reference to any politician) the cartoon "was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill- period," psychic Rush Limbaugh the previous day had found

this is a play on that chimpanzee that went nuts the other day up in Stamford, Connecticut, the cops had to shoot, and the caption here, one cop to another: They'll have to find somebody else to write the next stimulus bill. Obama didn't write the stimulus bill. He delegated it. I don't know that he's even read it. I don't know how many people have read it front-to-back. But if anything is being lampooned here, it's Nancy Pelosi.

Notwithstanding Rush's intuitive ability to find in the cartoon a Democratic politician who apparently escaped cartoonist Sean Delonas' attention, the New York Post's non-apology was remarkable for its defensiveness, claiming: 1) it did not depict President Obama, even though you think it did; 2) if you were ignorant enough to think it did, we apologize; 3) however, we're not being criticized legitimately, only by those with a grudge against us; and 4) you can kiss our posterior.

It's rather hard to believe that the chimpanzee, as Limbaugh maintained, is meant to represent a middle-aged Italian-American woman, especially one whose preferences were not faithfully reflected in the final version of the bill. It's almost (not quite) as hard to believe that it was not meant to depict a black man. And if it, as the Post claims, was merely meant to "mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill," it does not approach the threshold of humor, poignancy, or significance for a political cartoon. Or as Jerry aptly told Elaine about her failed attempt to draw a funny cartoon featuring a pig, "this cartoon stinks."

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