By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Racist stupidity at the New York Post

Sean Delonas’ cartoon in today’s New York Post may not be racist in intent, but it is racist in effect. How anyone — Delonas and his editors — could be unaware of the way African-Americans have historically been compared to apes in order to diminish them is beyond me.

Eric Deggans offers some insights for the St. Petersburg Times, and was especially good earlier today on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” And Romenesko rounds up coverage.

Update: Jon Keller agrees.

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A question about Michael Graham’s arrest


Another assault on free speech


  1. bill.duncliffe

    You can’t possibly be this ignorant. Or you are racist yourself.David Obey, a decidedly white male, wrote the bulk of the stimulus bill – directed and assisted by the very white Nancy Pelosi and the terminally white Harry Reid.

  2. Prospecticus

    No simian references allowed. What’s so hard to understand about that?

  3. Tom-Tom

    Does a monkey have to be a black reference?Monkeying around? A monkey’s uncle? A barrel of monkeys?I heard all these references growing up….so it could be as simple as that…with no racial meaning at all.Just ask Howard Cossell about it.

  4. Nial Liszt

    Simian Simile Steams Sharpton

  5. lkcape

    Odd? No comment when the cartoonist drew Bush as a wombat. I’d say someone is having an ox Gored, but Al’s not around much these days.

  6. O-FISH-L

    Probably setting myself up for more ridicule here, but did anyone else take the Wednesday cartoon as a reference to Monday’s highly publicized attack of a pet chimpanzee in CT and the ensuing police shooting of the same animal? To find racism there requires a strong magnifying glass or a fragile psyche. The police are shooting the primate in the cartoon, right? Some years back, the Globe followed by other liberal outlets, chastised Southie publican Tom English for displaying a plush, toy Curious George figure and other warm weather themes at his bar during black history month. This being February again, some in the media seek to reclaim forgotten glory by ignoring current events and seizing on any possible chance to find racism. Pathetic.I thought the artwork sought to compare the nutty CT homeowner who allowed the destructive chimp to rule the roost with the rest of us who allow destructive pols to rule our House, Senate and White House. That some in the hypersensitive press would feign indignity is priceless, especially after eight years of tacitly approving “chimp” as a nickname for our last President. Meanwhile, “Piss Christ” is applauded and additional funds are sought to promote it.

  7. lkcape

    We might also want talk about freedom of expression, a topic that also came up this week in a different contexts.Are we looking at a double standard here?

  8. Nial Liszt

    At least the discussion here has yet to repeat last month’s silliness of calling for Secret Service and FBI intervention in the Conservapedia list of Senators. The only group being offended in this cartoon are cops. Depicted as obese, chinless pinheads with baboon proboscises.

  9. O-FISH-L

    Sorry to double post, but I just came across this gem in the NY Daily News from the occasional companion of our junior Senator.”The [chimpanzee] attack stunned Herold’s friends and neighbors – and even left actress Morgan Fairchild, who once appeared alongside Travis in an Old Navy ad, devastated.” “This is not at all the personality I worked with,” Fairchild told the Daily News. “It was like having a very bright child on the set that wanted to be a part of everything. He was just an amiable little guy, friendly and just loved to be the center of attention.”Personality? Very bright child? Little guy? How about wild animal forced to live outside its natural habitat.To understand that this imbecile mourns a chimpanzee wrongly elevated to human status, after sleeping with a US Senator championing the death of tiny humans in the womb right up until the last minute, is beyond priceless. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: Let me pull out just one tiny bit from your post and ask you a question. Who the hell is celebrating “Piss Christ”? Specifics, please.

  11. Neil

    In my book, any chimpanzee that sleeps with a US Senator demonstrates compassion so deserves to be elevated to human status, regardless of the Senator’s opinion about abortion. Certainly, “honorary” human at least. Maybe with a little ceremony and a lifetime subscription to National Geographic or whatever the young chimps are reading these days.

  12. Mark

    This one is a tough call.I think what the cartoonist is trying to say is that the legislature was doing a job that even a monkey could do.If you aren’t racist, you may not have even of thought about any other interpretation. It seems to me that this is a good time to put all of those old racial undertones behind us. A lot of people wouldn’t know what African-Americans have “historically been compared to” if it weren’t for people bringing it up in situations like this where people are on the lookout for racial undertones. It’s time to leave references like this in the past where they belong and move forward.If the cartoonist meant this to be racist, it would be vile, and a completely different story… but in good faith I believe he didn’t. We should not treat is as if he meant offense.

  13. Mark

    Reading Rev. Sharpton’s analysis of this and some of the comments at HuffPo, I’m becoming a more firm defender of this cartoon. People (or liberals more accurately in this case) need to stop overanalyzing this.If the cartoonist was the kind of guy that would draw such a racist cartoon, he would probably be the guy to admit that he intended it to be racist. Generally people that ignorant don’t shy away from expressing their ignorance. Why can’t we accept his explanation of it in good faith, and leave any other interpretation in history?

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Mark: I think the cartoonist probably is telling the truth, which is why I called his work racist in effect, if not in intent. I think it’s his defenders who are overanalyzing here.I recommend the Eric Deggans interview on NPR. As he put it, if no one at the Post understood the racist stereotypes in which the cartoon indulged, that’s a problem. And if someone raised an objection but they ran it anyway, that’s a bigger problem.

  15. jvwalt

    I don’t know if the cartoonist is a racist or just stupid (it’s a spectacularly unfunny cartoon), but somebody at the Post should have known better. There are certain images that still raise hackles among minority groups. Even if we posit that racism no longer exists, these images have toxic associations. And, after all, we just came through a Presidential campaign in which Obama-haters resorted, over and over again, to simian images with regard to Obama. Thus, the monkey/Obama/African-American link is fresh in everyone’s mind. That’s the atmosphere surrounding this cartoon, and that’s why reasonable people can take offense. Regarding freedom of speech: you have the freedom to say any damn thing you want. You do not enjoy freedom from criticism when you say stupid things. The Post cartoonist is free to spew out this cartoon; I am free to call him an idiot.

  16. Dot Lane

    “Some years back, the Globe followed by other liberal outlets, chastised Southie publican Tom English for displaying a plush, toy Curious George figure and other warm weather themes at his bar during black history month.”You do remember the whole story right Fish? When someone asked about the display, someone working at the bar said, “Oh, that’s for black history month,” so let’s not portray poor Tom English as a victim of political correctness. On the other hand, I’m willing to bet Dennis and Callahan don’t see a thing wrong with the cartoon….

  17. Aaron Read

    How soon we forget the infamous METCO gorilla incident…BTW, folks, this morning Democracy Now was ALL over this story. You can hear it in Boston on WZBC 90.3FM at noon.

  18. Mark

    I understand your point Dan.I just think that these images still have resonance because people won’t let you forget them. I think the racial undertone police should cool down a little bit. Racism unfortunately still exists, but by making a big deal out of stupid issues like this, you make a mockery of how serious actual racism is. The very same people that are so outraged about this were the ones comparing George Bush to a monkey for eight years.

  19. Dan Kennedy

    Mark: We were making progress until your last sentence. What exactly is the historical racism that is conjured up by portraying a white man as an ape? Much as we’d like to think there is no moral difference between comparing Bush or Obama to a chimp, it’s a simple fact that there’s all the difference in the world.

  20. Tunder

    The cartoon was less racist than in very poor taste.Bullet-ridden dead monkey – Ha, Ha, Ha. Lowest common denominator attempt at humor. “Mallard Fillmore” seems Pulitzer-worthy in comparison.

  21. Dunwich

    British papers aren’t using pigs –as Irish– and German cartoonists no longer employ the rat as the traditional way of disparaging Jews. There are reasons for this and it isn’t just that it’s poor taste.

  22. An Astute Observer

    >>BTW, folks, this morning Democracy Now was ALL over this story.<<Gee, I wonder what THEY had to say about this….(tongue planted firmly in cheek.)

  23. Mark

    I knew my last sentence would be the deal-breaker…It was actually very poorly written in the sense that I just threw in in there.I had to do it though… I just don’t think it’s alright to compare anyone to a monkey for any reason. It’s insulting no matter who it is, and not matter what the reason. Granted in some cases it’s beyond vile.

  24. mike_b1

    Mark, one of my (white) staffers refers to herself as a monkey on occasion when she’s asked to do something that doesn’t involve using her brain. Is that OK?

  25. Ani

    Well, there’s the concept of “monkey mind” that some people use in some varieties meditation practice — that part of your mind you try to quiet but wants to run on and keeps you from engaging with other parts of your psyche — but I’d have to say I’ve always heard something negative in that usage, too (though you could argue that there shouldn’t be).

  26. The Perfessor

    So this is another example of the intellectually bankrupt proposition that if some one or some group perceives the message to be “racist,” then the speaker is a racist?We must not allow cartoonists to draw chimpanzees because everyone knows that chimpanzees=blacks?If an actual chimpanzee had not actually been gunned down by police less than 30 miles from NYC within days before this cartoon appeared, there might be an argument. But there was, and the stimulus bill could certainly be held to as much – or more – ridicule than to suggest that it was written by primates.What the hell does the First Amendment mean any more?

  27. Aaron Read

    I had a thought on this the other day…is it possible that Murdoch feels things are so bad in the newspaper industry that he’ll take this mountain of bad publicity under the hope that “any publicity is good publicity”? I mean, it did have everyone talking about the Post.Personally I think this is a hugely flawed approach because unlike in times past, people are JUST talking about it. They’re not going out and buying more NY Posts so they can see for themselves; they don’t have to – it’s all on the web. But Murdoch’s also old and stubborn, given his apparent desire to buy even MORE failing newspapers perhaps he’s really just too stuck in old-world thinking to realize it’s a brave new world? (so to speak)

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