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


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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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 23, 2009
I typed in George W Bush chimp on Google images and got 347,000 hits. Nobody complained about that.
Feb 23, 2009
It might be one of remindsmeof, but what you say about the fact that this incident settles a new standard and from now on no editor would accept any cartoon involving monkeys? At least for a few more years on ...

Greetings from Lithuania.
Feb 23, 2009
Headintheclouds wrote:

"President Obama ...is BLACK... don't even get me started on the half-white thing as some sort of lame defense"

- - - -

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.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 23, 2009
I see 3 options here:
- The cartoonist didn't know how the cartoon could be interpreted, in which case he is pretty naive. I don't believe that.
- The cartoonist is a racist; I don't know, I don't know him.
- The cartoonist knew what he was doing, and went for the publicity, that sounds the most likely.

Of course people are going to think the chimp represents Obama, but that implies in no way that you have to BE a racist in order to know what they think like. Come on, Scott. There are soccer-games where half the stadion makes monkey-sounds against the black team. It is not very far fetched.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 23, 2009
That cartoon WAS racist! It makes all white cops look like indescriminate monkey shooters. The NY post should be ashamed.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 22, 2009
What would you personally rate as your most offensive strips, Scott?
Feb 22, 2009
I especially like the article's use of the phrase "black opinion makers." Which sounds like it means "people who make black Americans' opinions for them." It's so true.

In fact, now that that meaning has entered my head, I can't imagine what else it could possibly mean.

Kinda like the cartoon. ;)
Feb 22, 2009
From where I read this (i.e. far away) it would seem to be almost impossible to read a racial angle into this. You would have to be absolutely obsessed with racism for it to seem like anything more than a comment on the shambles that is the Economic Stimulus package[1].

Unfortunately, it would appear that pretty much everyone on the North American continent is obsessed with racism. Either obsessed with finding racism, obsessed with being racist, obsessed with being a victim of racism or obsessed with apologising for racism.

For the record:
* Any human with more brains than a chimp (:P) surely has GOT OVER the fact that the President of the USA has darker-than-average skin. So what? Who cares?[2] Would it matter if his genes made him lactose intolerant or an Albino? Because those have got just as much significance!

* Even if this was the President that this is referring to, surely if someone can't take being compared to a chimp without screaming "racist" then the job of President is not for him/her!

* And even if this WAS a deliberately racist cartoon, don't you yanks believe in "Freedom of the press"? I would suggest that means that the press has the right to publish offensive cartoons if it so desires - and you have the right to not buy that paper! :)[3]

[1] That at least is universal. We have the same sort of idiocy that has just progressed through the Australian parliament. Money, money, everywhere, but not a cent where it's needed!

[2] Apparently most of his constituency . . .

[3] The other side of the coin is that the paper has the right to lose money hand over fist when it manages to alienate most of its readership. But that's the way the Mercedes Bends! :)
Feb 22, 2009
Scott, your post is thoughtful. Unfortunately, some of your commenters seem unable to let go of the idea that they've "caught" the NY Post at alleged racism. It is beyond obvious that the cartoon's hook was the gruesome pet chimp rampage and its slaying by police. It is beyond obvious that the reference to writing the stimulus bill was aimed at Congress who, erm, WROTE THE BILL. Comparing Congress to chimps or other dumb animals has a long tradition. There is also the "infinite monkeys" theory, as one commenter has recalled. The stimulus bill is a terrible piece of legislation that will fail in its aims, as most thoughtful people recognize. It is not at all out of bounds to speculate that a monkey could have done a better job.

But I agree with you, also, that so long as Obama is president, political cartoonists will have to steer clear of anything that could even remotely be associated with a racial stereotype. It's just common sense. Bigots comparing African-Americans to primates goes back centuries. It is plausible that someone might be offended today even if that wasn't the purpose. It is more than plausible that hustlers like the Rev. Sharpton would try to exploit it even if they know better.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 22, 2009
User "Language" wrote:

"if you think about the chimp mangling the woman and then think of how you would barehandedly like to snuff out its life, then look at the cartoon, you have a much different view.

you enjoy the fact the chimp is dead.

humor has to do with resonance and payoff.

if you think about ny cops killing the black man on his wedding day, and how obama is a black, then look at photo, you naturally see racism and are outraged that the chimp is dead."


Or ... you could think about what the cartoonist wanted you to think about. See "the caption".

Are you still thinking about "the chimp attack on the woman" story? Or .... ?

Feb 22, 2009
Scott wrote:

[Doesn't that mean the readers who make the connection are racists whereas the cartoonist and editors who never even registered the connection (or else they wouldn't have published it) are the opposite of racists? -- Scott]

I assume this is intended to be a facetious comment, Scott.

Feb 22, 2009
if you think about the chimp mangling the woman and then think of how you would barehandedly like to snuff out its life, then look at the cartoon, you have a much different view.

you enjoy the fact the chimp is dead.

humor has to do with resonance and payoff.

if you think about ny cops killing the black man on his wedding day, and how obama is a black, then look at photo, you naturally see racism and are outraged that the chimp is dead.
Feb 22, 2009
Scott, I'm a big fan of yours, and I know that you are a really intelligent guy, but you do spout some absolutely ridiculous nonsense sometimes.

1/ Congress wrote the stimulus bill, so they and only they are the ones that cartoon readers should identify with the stimulus package? I call BS. Who was it that promised and promoted the stimulus plan while running for election last year? And who has bas been widely reported stumping for the plan all over the media? Oh right, Obama! No, he didn't physically, literally write the thing. So that means no-one strongly associates Obama with the stimulus package? Don't be such an idiot.

2/ Various terms for primates have historically been used as racist terms for black people.

3/ 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.

4/ There is a long and rich history of unjustified shootings of innocent, unarmed black men in the US by racist white police officers.

The cartoon showed the primate author of the stimulus bill being shot down by white policemen. Do you not see how all the aforementioned factors are brought together in the one cartoon panel? Are you really that dense?

Did it really not occur to you as you read the cartoon that the cartoonist was referencing Obama? Really? When's the last time Nancy Pelosi was referred to as a chimp? Oh, I remember, NEVER.

I want to make something clear here: If you read the cartoon and don't instantly see it as I (and millions of other people) do and become offended by the racist tone, I'm not saying that makes you a racist.

What I am saying is that you have the luxury of not seeing the world as a person of colour does. I'm not offended if you can't instantly see something I can see because you and I are different people and therefore view the world through different lenses. We don't all think the same. That's common sense.

What I do find offensive and ignorant is some white person telling a black person (or any person of colour) that they're reading something into this cartoon that isn't there. It's there. The hatred and endorsement of violence against an 'uppity negro' is there. It's as clear as day to a black person.

Don't try and explain away the racist overtone of it. I understand the reference to the chimpanzee that went berserk and attacked those two women. I understand it quite clearly. I am not ignorant of the facts of that case. If you cannot see why this cartoon is so very offensive to a black man like me, the ignorance is all yours.
Feb 21, 2009
Scott, I agree with your point on self-censorship, but I wonder if this issue isn't more about the New York Post than the cartoonist instinct for self-restraint.

The topic is of great interest to me, so allow me to cut and paste part a comment I made on John Legend's blog. Legend, as you likely know, has been an outspoken critic of this cartoon.

"To understand the intent underlying the 'ape' cartoon, we need look no further than the cartoonist himself ... Sean Delonas.

Delonas is not without talent, but his level of talent in no way justifies his presence in a high circulation newspaper like the New York Post.

So, why is Delanos a regular contributor to the New York Post?

Like too many "artists" with limited talent (whatever the media) Delonas relies on a gimmick to generate sufficient celebrity to warrant a big enough stage and a big pay check.

Delonas' gimmick? He is a bigot, and isn't shy about exposing his bigotry through his work. Hardly a rare thing; the planet is crawling with bigots of all types -- religious, racial, you name it.

This is not the first time, not by a long shot, that Delanos has been the object of critism as a result of his acidic biggotry -- although he usually reserves his sharpest crayons for "gay bashing". In the 'ape' cartoon, he is simply exposing his racial/political bigotry.

Is the New York Post aware of the fact that they regularly provide this bigot with a public forum? Of course. Delanos' work is controversial, it's good for circulation revenue.

Did the managing editor (who would have alloted the valuable space for this cartoon) realize that the cartoon would touch the cord that it has touched? Of course. Delanos' work is controversial, it's good for circulation revenue.

So, the cartoonist is a bigot, and bigoted cartoonists produce the sort of work that Delonas produces. That's not surprising. That's not the issue.

The issue that John Legend is addressing is how we should feel about the New York Post providing Delonas with a public forum for his work.

If you feel that the New York Post should not continue with its policy of providing bigotry with a public forum, then your only recourse is to send the Post a message of the type they will understand ... try to hit them on the only line they care about ... the revenue line.

If you don't care that the New York Post continues to provide a forum for this sort of bigotry ... well, don't do anything. Although it would great if you would stop haranguing people who do care, people like John Legend.

To quote from John Legend's open letter to the NY Post ...

"I believe in freedom of speech, and you have every right to print what you want. But freedom of speech still comes with responsibilities and consequences. You are responsible for printing this cartoon, and I hope you experience some real consequences for it."

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 21, 2009
Most the people here don't even know about the chimp story.

Maybe the cartoonist did realize that people would misinterpret the chimp for obamba but not this many.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 21, 2009
Does that idiot Shrapton have anything else to do other than get outraged over one issue or the other? Even if Obama did draft the stimulus plan, which he didn't, I don't see what the big deal is. As for remindsmeof I say screw the delicate sensibilities of people who take offense over cartoons. There is so much more to life than wasting your breath on such trivialities. I hope the editor is unapologetic. Political correctness is overrated.
Feb 21, 2009
It is strange. When Bush was pictured as chimp (in connection with his low IQ), it was OK, but lovely Obama is another case...
Feb 21, 2009
Speaking of cartoons, awhile back I reported this to dilbert.com: Many of the daily Dilbert links are broken on http://www.dilbert.com/fast from Jan 1, 1999 to Dec 30, 2000. You CAN'T navigate from 1989 to 2009 in ONE pass. Several years are MISSING from the drop down list (Depending upon which date you are on). You are still MISSING strips: From the FIRST strip (which you CAN'T navigate to) Apr. 16, 1989; most of the SUNDAY strips from 1989; Nov. 27, 1989; most of the SUNDAY strips from 1990; Jan. 9, 1990; Jan. 22, 1990; Mar. 30, 1990;
Apr. 28, 1990; Sept. 17, 1990; Nov. 23, 1990; Nov. 24, 1990; Feb. 6, 1991; Apr. 28, 1991; Oct. 6, 1991; and
Dec. 29, 1991. Scott, you said, originally in your blog (Jan. 2008), that ALL the strips would be up WITHIN a year. When will the MISSING strips be online? I am still waiting for a response from dilbert.com.
Feb 21, 2009
I think you are right Scott. When I read it, I took it to mean that the stimulus package was so rediculous that a monkey could have written it. And I clearly got the connection to the recent story of a monkey attacking a woman and the police shooting it.
I think people just want to yell about racism just so they have something to yell about. Since no one actually supports racism, people have to create it to give their lives meaning.
I am proud of you for being reasonable and logical about it.

But I also agree with you that the imagery could easily be used by people as a window to cry racism with our new president.

I wonder if the cartoonist even considered this kind of reaction? He is well-known so I doubt he intentionally created a racist comic.

Feb 21, 2009
That cartoon has paper-desperately-needs-any-form-of-attention written all over it.

I bet they held meetings to decide that Obama monkey would offend just the kind of people who are all talk and not that into fire arms, whereas linking the monkey to anything related to the Middle-East -while creating far more and longer lasting buzz- would be unwise.
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