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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 19, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

    Drawing a bead on Obama

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    There’s a row going on in the ‘States about an anti-Obama cartoon featuring a monkey. I have to say I find it quite offensive. See for yourself by clicking here.

    We Irish have long experience of being portrayed in Simian terms. Take all those Punch cartoons in the 19th century. There were some more recent ones although they usually focused on what the late Lord Hailsham called “the baboons of the IRA”.

    On the other hand, I don’t find the New Yorker cartoon, which also features on the link given in my first paragraph above, at all offensive. It is so over-the-top that it actually makes a pro-Obama point by showing how ludicrous it was to portray him as somehow sympathetic to Islamic terrorism. Or is that just me being a middle-class sophisticate? (Okay, working-class sophisticate if you like.)

    The New York Post would not be considered on the left or liberal side of the spectrum. Every right-winger in the Big Apple will know what message this cartoon is sending out.

    Having said that, I found the cartoon portrayals of Bush in the Guardian bordering on offensive too.

    • Simon says:

      Hey Deaglán, just a quick mention about the context here. I am in NY, a monkey mauled someone in Conn this week and was shot by the police. It was all over the news here. The monkey they drew is this one and I presume it is meant to portray the stimulus package in a very bad light. I don’t think it refers to Obama at all.

    • DHF5811 says:

      Welcome to Amercia!! The far right as well as the far left have drawn such garbage for decades. Most Americans can care less. The more publicity we give this thing, the more support you give the artist.

    • Steve K says:

      Having said that, I found the cartoon portrayals of Bush in the Guardian bordering on offensive too.

      It was constantly misunderestimating him.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Honestly, Deaglán, Obama would not have been the first person I thought of when looking at the cartoon. I think people have to be primed or be aware of the cultural context to see the connection. It is entirely possible the intent may have been there but it is possible the person simply saw the stimulus package as stupid and with the monkey who mauled a woman being shot suggested the same be done to whoever wrote it.

    • Deaglán says:

      I don’t agree: first of all there is the implicit link between a monkey and a member of an ethnic minority (used to be us Irish, now it is someone else’s turn).

      Second there is the shooting. There has been a lot of backtalk about Himself falling victim to the Moody Loners with Handguns Association (not my phrase, I think it was coined by P.J. O’Rourke). You heard the “joke” about the Gates of Heaven where St Peter says, “Who are you?” Answer: “President of the USA.” St Peter: “When did you take office?” Answer: “About 20 minutes ago.” Tasteless of course but it illustrates a certain mindset. There’s also the one about the three KKK members found in Raheny: they were on their way to Kilbarrack. Equally tasteless but equally reflective of a certain mindset.

      Maybe I read too much into these things . . .

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Deaglán, the thing is if I see a drawing or a picture of monkey I do not automatically think of someone who is black. It just doesn’t occur to me, and that is what I meant about context. Growing up here, we wouldn’t have had that backdrop of racism, probably because the place was fairly homogeneous and because we’re fantastically tolerant as a nation and so we’re somewhat blind to it. Tell ya what though if someone can find a reference to Al Sharpton protesting the depiction of Bush as a chimp then I’ll give it a rethink. I can’t help wonder if the outrage in the US is also linked to their reaction generally to evolution.

      I do tend to think of apes and monkeys as distant relations to us humans but that’s just the science buff in me.

    • Deaglán says:

      Like what I’ve read of it!

    • Overton Loyd says:

      As an African American caricaturist, I don’t find drawing Obama as a monkey offensive, any more than I found caricatures of Bush as a monkey offensive.

      I do however find it LAZY. And I find “laziness” in art extremely offensive. It’s the equivalent of depicting Los Angeles’s hispanic mayor as lethargic, by showing him asleep with his head covered by a giant Mexican sombrero.

      Or what if every time a black artist disagreed with a white politician, he put a KKK hood somewhere in the picture.
      You get my drift…

      It’s worse than racism, it’s bad taste-ism!

      O

    • Overton Loyd says:

      I’ve seen Bush portrayed as everything, from monsters to muppets but I don’t recall ever seeing an image in which he’s being killed.

      I could be mistaken, but I think that might be unprecedented for a president.

      O

    • Deaglán says:

      Wasn’t there a movie where Bush was assassinated?

    • Overton Loyd says:

      >>the thing is if I see a drawing or a picture of monkey I do not automatically think of someone who is black. It just doesn’t occur to me, and that is what I meant about context.

    • Overton Loyd says:

      >>Wasn’t there a movie where Bush was assassinated?

    • Overton Loyd says:

      Former Irish cabinet minister, and fierce critic of the IRA, Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien just passed away last December.
      Imagine if on “that day” you saw a cartoon depicting a leprechaun in a casket, with the caption, “You won’t have the IRA to kick around any more”.

      You’d have to admit, cliche images like that are a lot more offensive than they are funny.
      That’s how I feel about the dead monkey toon.
      More pathetic than poignant.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Overton, my point is that I didn’t think when looking at the picture the monkey was meant to be Obama. My assumption would have been more that the plan was viewed as being so stupid that the monkey that mauled the lady must have come up with it. I’m not saying whether it was or wasn’t meant to be Obama only the cartoonist can tell us that just that seeing it from my context I didn’t make that link. I entirely accept that someone with a different experience could see a link.

      I agree totally about the laziness argument in some cartoonism, I just think that sometimes the monkey might just be a monkey. Oddly enough I think muppet has become the term for brainless or stupid acts here and in the UK, which is nicely abstract and removed from any racial or human connotations.

      Actually on Conor Cruise O’Brien a better cartoon almost worthy (ok that is just me saying that of my own idea) of Martyn Turner of this parish might have been two balaclava clad IRA men having tea reading about his death saying “we outlasted him!, didn’t we?”

      Also, my reference to Ireland being “…fairly homogeneous and because we’re fantastically tolerant as a nation and so we’re somewhat blind to it.” was missing a “not” in front of the “because we’re fantastically tolerant “. Ireland isn’t fantastically tolerant.


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