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Did you hear about the racism controversy over this editorial comic in the NY Post?

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/02/19/chimp.cartoon.react/index.html


The cartoonist fell into a trap I call a "remindsmeof." His comic was clearly about Congress, since President Obama didn't "write" the stimulus package. But the comic reminds the reader of racism and the risk of presidential assassination even though the cartoonist clearly wasn't addressing either topic. That was enough to get him into trouble.

In my early years of cartooning my editor rejected a few Dilbert comics because they were remindsmeofs. I thought it was overprotective and ridiculous. But I've since learned that you can't underestimate the public's ability to find offense where none is written. Now I recognize (usually) when I am about to blunder into a remindsmeof and I edit the comic myself. It saves time and trouble. When I offend, I prefer it to be intentional.

 
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Mar 10, 2009
The rumor mill has been circulating rumors about my company (Cisco) cutting back on employee expenses. First thing I saw today was an email about how we spent over 500 Million for a company with a couple products and 90 employees. This kind of set the tone for the day.

Next I got an email about how someone had gone to the storage closet for battery for his Cisco owned pager. He was then forwarded a memo pointing him to an internal URL. No one had talked about this till now, so we were all surprised:

Office Supplies
* Availability of office supplies will be reduced from all locations to a limited number of centralized locations.
* Batteries, CD's and other non-essential business supplies will no longer be stocked after existing supplies are depleted.

Beverages & Snacks

* Coffee and tea services will continue globally, although premium coffees will be discontinued and the overall number and variety of offerings will be reduced.
* Bottle Water is being removed from all facilities globally that are not customer facing, and being replaced with filtered water dispensers. Certain other areas will continue to have bottled water available for use in customer facing meetings.
* Sodas and Juices will no longer be available in employee self-service refrigerators in any theater. Vending machines will be installed in all locations to provide a selection of sodas and juices.
* Fruits, biscuits, popcorn and other snacks are being discontinued.
* These changes will roll out globally in late-Q3 / early-Q4 FY'09.

This has led to speculation of billing the employees for using the facilities (IE. Bathroom & break room) while on-site.

-----------------------------------

Cisco already has decided which of us need office space due to the actual time in the office. Those that were left with the option of a desk (a space just bigger than their chair and no privacy) consider themselves lucky. Soon they can turn out the lights and the lay-offs that are being planned (10% across the board) will be nothing more than an email telling you where to ship back your company owned equipment.

The rumor mill has been active lately due to all the bad news. A biggie for some of us is that the company supplied cell service (we personally buy the phones) would still be a necessity to do our job, but it sounds like they would start billing us directly or some other way of making us subsidize the company is in the works.

So how is your day going?





 
 
Mar 4, 2009
@Webgrunt

Very true, lawmakers must approach the question of what constitutes 'hate speech' very carefully, very thoughtfully. The good news is that there is little to no evidence that this sort of step interferes with legitimate (for lack of a better word) free speech. Rather, this sort of legislation tends to act as a deterrent to organized hate groups and has little day to day impact on others. As you say, there are other laws, such as those dealing with libel and slander, that also restrict free speech -- and society has long accepted such laws as good and reasonable. Legislation defining 'hate speech' is identical in intent.

Such steps aside, I think Americans should be encouraged by the fact that the the undercurrent of racism that has plagued society for many years is now the topic of much more open discussion and debate. This is very good sign. While just a small example, Scott Adams has contributed to the airing of the subject through his personal blog -- and he is to be commended for that.

Interestingly, the cartoon in question would not be an example of something that would be censured under typical hate speech legislation. The controversy surrounding cartoon in question is about the the judgement exercised by the publication, not the cartoonist. Many, including me, thought it was an example of atrocious judgement on the part of the publication -- hence the call for a boycott of the publication.

Is the NY Post worried about the call for a boycott? Not per se, but they will certainly think more carefully before publishing something similar. Therefore, the public outcry accomplished something quite important.

Cheers

Webster

 
 
Mar 3, 2009
Webgrunt, there is a world of difference between the right "to hurt someone's feelings" and the right to engage in "hate speech". Democracies the world over have successfully taken the difficult and controversial step of drawing a distinction between these two things.

And yes, I'm well of how and why laws dealing with "slander" and "libel" interfere with the right to free speech in western democracies. Dealing with this legitimate interference is big part of what I have done for living for over 30 years.

To be blunt, the citizens of the United States of America have been distracted by their politicians and special interest groups into avoiding an important debate for a long time. The avoided debate must answer this question, head on: The First and Second Amendment to the US Constitution were framed in a time (and a society) long since passed -- the 18th Century -- should the rights implied in those Amendments be modified in the 21st Century ... or not? Once the answer to this fundamental question is determined, the process of coming up with a suitable amendment can begin.

No constitution, not even the US Constitution, is a perfect and complete document in perpetuity. Times and conditions demand a rethinking of such things. That is precisely why the US Constitution allows for a process of rethinking and amendment.

Webster
 
 
Feb 26, 2009
@Webgrunt

I think you are absolutely right, Webgrunt, but America does not stand alone with that problem. Politicians around the globe are typically invertebrates; which is say "spineless" when it comes to doing anything that might somehow interfere with their next shot at being re/elected by a majority of ... well, a majority of those who can be bothered to put the energy into voting for an invertebrate. The proverbial vicious circle, eh what?

On the sort of issue being discussed, I suspect that vocal and organized citizen action groups are the only hope for getting the attention of spineless politicians. The ongoing results achieved by the courageous American cilvil rights movement being a good case in point.

Mind you, some fairly courageous America politicians have been able to promote and pass pretty good legislation under the general heading of "hate crimes". When you squint at the 'hate crime' laws, you will see clever ways of getting around the politically scary First Amendment no-go zone. Damn clever, these lawyers who hang out in the Congress. [Oh God, I hope I haven't accidently started a new sub-debate on the worth of lawyers ;-]

Web
 
 
Feb 26, 2009
It would be a sad day in America if legislation were passed limiting free speech for the purpose of not hurting someone's feelings. Sadder if the courts allowed it. The 1st amendment is an immovable object for good reason. Sure, the law would ban "hate speech" but that is completely subjective. Laws limiting speech are easy to manipulate beyond the initial good intentions in order shut-up valid political speech, satire, and scholarship. How long would "The Simpsons," "The Onion," "The Daily Show," and even Dilbert last in such an environment? Someone somewhere will always be offended and make a stink. Better to be offended occassionally than to risk losing free speech.

The 2nd Amendment: The Framers made it immovable so the people could keep the others immovable.
 
 
Feb 26, 2009
@ Johno the Teacher:

Thank you. Your explanation and apology is gratefully accepted. In turn, my reaction was a bit harsh ('het up' is a better term), but justified in my mind by what looked like a thinly disguised contempt for anyone who did not agree with you.

As an Australian, half a world away from the scene of the crime, your comment on having difficulty making the immediate connection between the cartoon and the outcry makes perfect sense.

As a Canadian, I had no problem making that immediate connection, it was a jaw dropper for me, because Canadians, for reasons of geography, are completely immersed in US cable media. And that means that we see, almost on a daily basis, many examples of this sort of thing -- whether it be language, blacks being dragged by the neck behind pick-up trucks, symbolic lynching nooses being hung from trees by otherwise intelligent college students, you name it. The historic symbols of race hatred in America are as easy to read as a signature if you are exposed to them on a regular basis.

The vocabulary of racial hatred is so clear that I find it very hard to believe that any adult living in North America, at leased one exposed to mass media, would not not make a connection between Obama and monkey. The cartoonist's deliberate intent is another debate, but one can't escape the ultimate point. Surely someone in the newspaper's editorial chain of command 'picked up' on the inflammatory nature of the image (symbol). Scott Adams described that moment as a "remindsmeof".

One thing worth noting at this point is that there is a sharp difference between America and balance of the western democracies (including Canada and Australia) on the issue of something commonly known around the globe as 'hate speech".

Oddly enough, what follows is a copy of something I contributed to a completely different Scott Adams post the other day ....

The United States of America is the only major western democracy that has not introduced legislation that limits something commonly known around the globe as 'hate speech".

These 'laws' against 'hate speech' take different forms in different countries, but share a single purpose; to restrict written (public) statements that degrade, humiliate, intimidate, or incite violence against a person or a group of people based on their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc etc.

This leaves us with the core question: If all other western democracies have this sort of legislation, why not the United States of America?

The answer resides in the immovable force of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

This is also why the United States of America is the only western democracy that has not limited, in any significant way, the proliferation of hand guns and semi-automatic weapons. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is an immovable force.

So, Americans will continue to see unfettered hate speech in their media, and firearm violence on their streets, until such as time as the First and Second Amendments are ... well, amended by Amendment.

To prevent me from becoming a human lightening rod, please note that I am not criticizing the First and Second Amendment, nor am I calling for their amendment. Nor do I care how many guns are being carried by private citizens in the US -- provided everyone leaves them at home when they visit with us in Canada.

Freedom is good ... but unfettered freedoms comes at a cost. Only Americans can decide if that cost is too high -- the very sort of decision faced by other western democracies on the very same issues.


Web
 
 
Feb 26, 2009
@ Webster:

I apologise unreservedly for inadvertently calling you a fool. I was thinking of making [purely for the sake of humour, you understand!] some remark about "if the hat fits, wear it," but that would be a) inflammatory, b) completely untrue and unwarranted in every way and c) mildly humorous at best and not really worth upsetting someone else.

Nonetheless, you're getting a bit het up over nothing much.

I don't think you're unintelligent if you disagree with me on this issue. I DO think that if you favour censorship you are taking a less considered line of thinking, although I understand this is just me.

Note that I don't have the slightest problem with you finding the cartoon racist. I don't, and I find it hard to imagine how anyone would imagine a racist angle, but I understand that from my standpoint I don't have hundreds of years of socio-political baggage[1] in this area. So I guess that stuff I see as harmless may not if you have the background to look for it.

What I am more concerned about is this idea that particular concepts are so offensive that one should not have the right to express them. I believe (passionately) that for true democracy, it is critically important that all views have expression.

Certainly protest, even shout all you like, but don't muzzle another human being because you disagree with them!

This is not to say that there is NO right reason for censorship; please understand that I am simply saying that political beliefs is not one of them.

[1] And no, I'm not saying Australia is perfect by a long shot. Our record with the aborigines would CHARITABLY be described as less than stellar[2], and my grandparents' generation seems to have a hard time dealing with members of other races[3]. Nonetheless, at least for people in suban and suburban Sydney, where I live, racism seems to be pretty much a non-issue, so much so that I don't encounter much; and what little I encounter generally comes from people who have not lived in Australia for long. After five or six years it seems to more or less go.

[2] Or uncharitably (but no less accurately) appalling! :)

[3] Curiously, these same people seem to be just fine with members of other races (even those that they claim to think of as evil!) if they meet them over a BBQ during a street party - the idea seems to be along the lines of "I don't like [insert race here] as a rule, but mate, you're all right. :)
 
 
Feb 25, 2009
ON "ANONMARK'S" QUESTIONS:

Q: Which side were you on during the Danish Muslim comics issue?

A: I understood why the cartoon was being viewed as degrading and humiliating to many in the Muslim community. So yes, I understood why the cartoon was viewed as inflammatory and should not have been published.

Q: Were you happy and glad that most American news outlets would not share these comics with you or were you infuriated that a "free" press could so easily be cowed?

A: I can't say that I was "happy and glad", but I certainly understood (and respected) the fact that most in the US media viewed the cartoon as degrading and humiliating to many in the Muslim community -- and therefore chose not to publish it. I did not see the media as "cowed". Rather, I saw them exercising their right/responsibility to make a judgement of the suitability of the material for public viewing. Such judgements are routinely made by editorial boards.

PS: I am a Canadian, so am likely to have a different take on this sort of thing my US cousins.

Web

 
 
Feb 25, 2009
For those who are offended by this comic or thought it should not be published, may I ask a simple question? Which side were you on during the Danish Muslim comics issue? Were you happy and glad that most American news outlets would not share these comics with you or were you infuriated that a "free" press could so easily be cowed?

To me, I see no difference between the two incidents other than whom they offended.
 
 
Feb 25, 2009
Johno the Teacher said: .... What the?!?!?!! That came out of nowhere! What did I do to you? :D

==========================================

Try to focus, Johno.

YOUR theory is that there is "a relatively high level of intelligence among Dilbert readers".

YOUR evidence for this theory is that there are very few people in this post "advocating (or implying a desire of) banning the cartoons and similar".

I am one of the people who have objected to the cartoon and argued that the managing editor should have detected what Scott described as a "remindsmeof" -- and refused to publish the cartoon as presented.

Ipso facto, you have insulted the intelligence of all who disagree with you on this post, including me.

I returned the favour by insulting your intelligence -- which likely isn't fair, because I only have evidence that you are a pompous ass. Actual intelligence is hard to divine through a fog of pomposity.

Webster
 
 
Feb 24, 2009
"John the Teacher said: ".... which is to my mind a reflection of a relatively high level of intelligence among Dilbert readers!"

========================

If your theory is correct, then you are the notable exception to the rule."

What the?!?!?!!

That came out of nowhere! What did I do to you? :D

. . . So if my theory is incorrect, then I'm not an exception to the rule.

. . . So if my theory is incorrect, I'm not lacking in intelligence.

. . . But since people who are lacking in intelligence are more likely to have incorrect theories, if I'm lacking in intelligence, I'm not lacking in intelligence . . :)

 
 
Feb 24, 2009
John the Teacher said: ".... which is to my mind a reflection of a relatively high level of intelligence among Dilbert readers!"

========================

If your theory is correct, then you are the notable exception to the rule.
 
 
Feb 24, 2009
"I thought that complaining about things (including things that appear in the press, such as the cartoon in question) was exercising the right to free speech, not advocating the repeal of it. "

Absolutely, and I encourage debate and complaint. This is indeed an exercise of free speech. But if you have a casual look at the below responses, you will notice people who are:

*Advocating (or implying a desire of) banning the cartoons and similar; I grant you few people are of this kind in this particular forum, which is to my mind a reflection of a relatively high level of intelligence among Dilbert readers!

* Suggesting that an editor should censor cartoons voluntarily to avoid offending others.

To my mind, either of these would violate a free press.

A free press by its nature will offend people. And that is their tough luck. As a Christian I am accustomed to reading of people denigrating my beliefs and sacred symbols on a daily basis. I tolerate this because I like having the benefits of my free democracy - for example, the freedom to practice my religious beliefs as and when I see fit - and I do not see how these freedoms can be maintained if anyone (even someone well meaning) has the right to censor the press.
 
 
Feb 23, 2009
headintheclouds

Ok. So you're clear about the 1/2 black and 1/2 white thing. How do you feel about 1/4 black and 3/4 white? Its a slippery slope from there. Also, what if they wanted to be "white"? You ok with unconditionally accepting them on that too?

My point was - and i checked this out - you can still be labeled legally African American in some states with, for example, 1/32 African American heritage. So, for example, you can be whiter than Larry Bird and have 1/32 African American in you. Whenever you apply for a legal document in those states (passport, social security card, etc) - you HAVE to check African American as your race. In my opinion - that's racism.

And you bring up a separate issue: are you being racist by accepting that 1/2 black and 1/2 white person into your 'tribe' and rejecting others? I think so.
 
 
Feb 23, 2009
Not sure if I think the cartoonist is saying the monkey is Obama - but as a professional cartoonist he should have been aware that it could be taken that way. The editorial staff should have also been aware - the fact that the cartoon got printed means that either they weren't aware or they decided to go with it anyway.

Here's a different take on the issue:
http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-217644

 
 
Feb 23, 2009
I found this comic, while not racist, still extremely offensive given the timing of it and the insensitivity to the various victims (not the least of which was the chimp itself). Remember people...

A chimpanzee was forced into domestication and ultimately lost its life for doing what would be considered natural in the wild

An innocent lady was badly mauled and, if she survives, faces many years of healing (both physically and emotionally)

The chimp's owner, as delusional as she might have been, lost a member of her family - after losing her husband and daughter a few years earlier

A police officer forced into lethal action - never a pleasant situation

And all this has what to do with the stimulus package? Seriously, couldn't the cartoonist have come up with a better analogy.
 
 
Feb 23, 2009
I wrote in my first blog reply: President Obama is the first black (And he is BLACK... don't even get me started on the half-white thing as some sort of lame defense) President of the United States.

Then...

Anfauglir wrote - "Question: why is it that someone with one black, and one white parent, is classed as black? (Halle Berry also springs to mind here).

If it's their choice to identify as black, then fine - good luck to them.

But if anyone insists that the "black" takes precedence, is that not in effect saying that anything that detracts from the purity of white MUST be labelled black? Or, equally, is the insistence tha black takes priority saying that being black is by definition so much better than being white that you MUST shun your white part and play up the black?

Either way sounds racist to me. "

Then...

MyNDIrish wrote -
"Ummm...it is racist. And it used to be the law. Hell - it might still be in some southern states. This was a strategy in the Jim Crow south to classify anyone with "one drop" of African American blood as black. Until we can get away from stupid classifications like this, racism wins."


Guys, the whole reason I brought up the issue of mixed race was to head off it's use to muddy the issue and distract from the main point. That obviously didn't work so well, at least not where Anfauglir is concerned!

And MyNDIrish, I happily accept a person who is half black and half anything else as a member of my 'tribe'. I don't see how unconditional acceptance of such people makes me a racist. It actually makes me the exact opposite of a racist, as I don't see a mix with any other heritage as a negative or impurity. I don't see that as a 'win' for racism, it's definitely a 'loss' mate.
 
 
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Feb 23, 2009
I guess perhaps I'm not wired right. I saw the cartoon as 1. pointing out that the cops just gunned down a monkey a few days before in the streets and any time an "innocent" animal is shot it's news (yes it tore a womans face off "innocent is sarcasm) 2. I assumed they meant, a room full of monkeys with type writers could have written the same stimulus package.

I never once put together that it was a racist thing.
 
 
Feb 23, 2009
I'm not easily offended and have a crude sense of humor - but I did find this cartoon offensive, racist, and dangerous. Scott, you underestimate the redneck / racist element in this country.
 
 
Feb 23, 2009
Anfauglir wrote - "Question: why is it that someone with one black, and one white parent, is classed as black? (Halle Berry also springs to mind here).

If it's their choice to identify as black, then fine - good luck to them.

But if anyone insists that the "black" takes precedence, is that not in effect saying that anything that detracts from the purity of white MUST be labelled black? Or, equally, is the insistence tha black takes priority saying that being black is by definition so much better than being white that you MUST shun your white part and play up the black?

Either way sounds racist to me. "

Ummm...it is racist. And it used to be the law. Hell - it might still be in some southern states. This was a strategy in the Jim Crow south to classify anyone with "one drop" of African American blood as black. Until we can get away from stupid classifications like this, racism wins.
 
 
 
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