Most of you will recall the cover of the /New Yorker magazine which depicted US President Barack Obama as being Muslim and his wife as a gun-toting terrorist. It appeared in July last year and resulted in such a deluge of hate mail, threats and outrage that you would have thought it would have given even the hardiest cartoonist reason to pause.
This little gem from the New York Post’s Sean Delonas depicting Obama as a dead ape, in my humble opinion, makes that little offering seem tame in comparison. A spectacularly unfunny offering from a “genius” who has by all accounts made repeated attacks on the gay community.
In response to criticism, the editor-in-chief of the Post, Col Allen, has hit back with: “The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut,” he said. “It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy.”
This being a referral to the savage attack by a “celebrity” chimpanzee on a lady in Connecticut which resulted in the police having to shoot the animal. Delonas then juxtaposes this with Obama’s signing of the stimulus bill for the purpose of the cartoon.
Leaving aside the weak attempt to bind the two events together in this sub-standard cartoon, it must be obvious to any journalist who has been on the job for a week, never mind an editor of the New York Post, that depicting black people as monkeys or apes is so out of order that it hardly bears thinking about. It is well-known that this type of imagery is considered a source of ridicule and humiliation by the community.
A few short weeks ago Carol Thatcher made a comment in passing that a certain golliwog reminded her of a postman from a certain programme and was lambasted and then banned for doing so. Compared to this her actions were a non-event. What the BBC would have done to this cartoonist heaven only knows.
Zapiro in the Mail & Guardian depicted the ANCYL undergoing reverse evolution and returning to the apes in its choice of leaders over various generations. That was an extremely clever way of depicting a huge drop in standards within the organisation which did, however, cause offence. Some of my black readers were clearly unhappy about it and raised the cartoon in our previous debates on the subject.
Zapiro’s cartoon was ingenious in its design and well drawn if somewhat offensive with regard to the characters used to highlight the subject matter. This effort from Delonas is poorly drawn and offensive with a quality about it that suggests a Confederate artist just after the American Civil War.
Worse, if we have regard to the thinking behind this then the only conclusion that I can draw is that Delonas saw the dead chimp and then asked himself how he could translate this into political terms. This has to have resulted in his comparing the dead animal to a black person — classic racism — which he then identified as Obama.
Though Allen, the Post’s editor, points out that the cartoon is a parody of current events, what he doesn’t do is explain how readers could interpret the ape as anyone other than Obama and that the president is accordingly being depicted as a monkey. In addition knowing — as he surely must do — how offensive black people find this comparison, why this cartoon is not racist, how it was ever allowed to see light of day by the Post and why an apology is not due?