18 February 2009
Primates in the White House?
Look at the New York Post cartoon reproduced in this story about the controversy it has caused. Rev. Al Sharpton isn't the only one to find something disturbing about it, but the Post, a conservative tabloid, predictably uses his objections as an excuse to dismiss any others. I can understand the outrage felt by many readers, but taking the cartoon in its historic context, I have to give the Post a pass. I do so for the simple reason that many people over the past eight years equated the President of the United States with a chimpanzee. It may be argued that President Obama's predecessor bears a closer resemblance to the animal than Obama himself does, and that the implicit comparison in the cartoon is less justifiable, but on the principle that turnabout is fair play, I find it hard to argue that, the precedent having been established, you cannot equate the President with a chimp simply because he's black. The Post may deny that the cartoon has done that, and the cartoonist may claim that identifying the mad chimp as the author of the stimulus bill is an attack on the bill rather than the President, and they'd have justice on their side insofar as Obama did not write the bill. But when we're dealing with a political cartoon superficial impressions matter, and I doubt that anyone looking at it would automatically equate the chimp with Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, or anyone other than the President. So the Post shouldn't weasel around the issue. Instead, they ought to run a page full of Bush-as-Chimp cartoons and play the usual "double standard" card -- because this time, they'd be right.