Political Cartoonists Afraid To Draw Obama

“Without a doubt, people are stepping more gingerly. People are tiptoeing their way through this.”– Ted Rall, liberal editorial cartoonist.

Last week’s firestorm over an editorial cartoon at the New York Post is still burning it’s way through the media and the blogosphere, and in the wake of Eric Holder’s declaration that Americans (read: white Americans) are cowards and James Clyburn’s claim that rejection of stimulus funds is motivated by racism, the reactions are naturally mixed and sometimes contentious. Reverend Al Sharpton, for example, is demanding investigations and protests. MSNBC is having shouting matches. Some cartoonists are simply preparing to self-censor and nevertheless suffer unintended consequences. The controversy is not soon to die down.

In light of the cartoon war, the Associated Press ran a story Saturday, from which the above quoted material was pulled, examining the overall shift to caution by that normally incautious breed of political commentator, the editorial cartoonist. Because Barack Obama is black, to summarize the article, political cartoonists now operate under the duress of fear. In America, there is no worse stigma than that of being called “racist,” especially in the age of Obama. The armies of political correctness and so-called progressivism feel free to act more boldly, now that a man who owes his political career to the forces of the far left holds the highest office in the world. The left is, therefore, if even possible within physics, more likely than ever to throw the “racist” gauntlet.

There is a difference, though, between a thing that can be taken a certain way, and which may or may not offend the person who so takes it, and a thing that is overtly racist: racist in tone, racist in intent. It is clear, to the objective observer, that at most the Post cartoon is the former, and in no way is there any reason to think it the latter. I have ample evidence, click through to keep reading.

It is idiomatic and axiomatic in America that when something is exceedingly simple to accomplish, and someone takes inordinate credit, that the appropriate response is “a monkey could have done that job.” Likewise, when one is given a product of shoddy quality you might suggest it was created by a bunch of monkeys. Indeed, this is especially true with regard to something written. The infinite monkey theorem has long since entered the popular consciousness. The popular (if not wikipedic) understanding of the theorem is thus: a thousand monkeys chained to a thousand typewriters for an infinite amount of time will eventually produce a complete copy of the works of William Shakespeare. The notion has been boiled down and whittled down into joke form countless times, the gist of which is either that someone is actually producing material with monkeys; or more simply, when something is poorly written, a monkey must have written it.

Monkeys are also popular as general insult. “A monkey could have done a better job on that report, Bob.” “Do you want me to get a monkey to fly the plane for you, Dick? Because the monkey would probably hit less turbulence.” “Is that a blog entry, Kos, or was your monkey drunk-typing … again?”

The idea that a person may be so dumb that they should be designated a chimp is also popular these days. Remember? And who hasn’t heard the term monkey business? Google has; particularly in reference to congress (who were, by the way, the authors of the “stimulus” package). Oh, and of course with regard to the President. In fact, feel free to drop “business” from your query and still find plenty of results … over four thousand actually.

To say, therefore, that the cartoon in question (seen below) is somehow racist because it depicts the chimpanzee that was famously shot last week as the author of the stimulus and that another author must be found, is, if not absurd, a grand overreach. Though there is a racist past in which the comparison of a black American to a monkey meant one thing, it is clear that this cartoon refers to congress in the context of the voluminous above contextual examples. As Daryl Cagle said:

Combining two unrelated things in a cartoon is funny. Monkeys are funny and the killer chimp was the big news one day along with the stimulus bill. Delonas is a staunch conservative who didn’t like the stimulus bill; this cartoon is a formulaic “no-brainer.” I’m sure the reaction to the cartoon was a surprise to Delonas.

Calling for the ouster of the artist also isn’t absurd; no, it’s a calculated move by democrats to remove a critic. We’re seeing a lot of such attempts at the silencing of speech from the left side of the aisle lately; emboldened, as I note above, by the election of one they perceive to be one of their own.

The problem is bigger, though, than this one cartoonist. Who can think it is a good place to be when the editorial cartoonist feels compelled to self-censorship, so great is his fear of retribution? Not the power of monarchy, nor the solidarity of the birth of a nation, not the contentiousness of slavery and civil war, nor even the authoritarian crack-down of Woodrow Wilson, nothing silences this centuries old tradition in this nation. The lampooners, the caricaturists, the mirrors. Long have they pushed the boundaries and damn the torpedoes. Who, then, is comfortable with the move to gag them, take away their pen with the sword, remove them from view? It is a sad state of affairs indeed that the moves by the politically correct left to silence the speech of their enemies has been so successful and far-reaching that it has come to this.

It is too trivializing to say it is the race card, anymore. Such as this is far more insidious than a throwaway tag line. We may not be a nation of cowards, as Eric Holder was free to call us from behind his bulletproof shield of racial authenticity, but cowards we are becoming. Cowering before an army of anger led by the instigators and race-baiters, ready and on call to place upon those who would dissent a scarlet ‘R’, to shun and banish them from the rest of society.

Of course, that is only for the conservatives among us. It is for the (R)s of the world the branding exists. It is pervasive. The propaganda claims that to be on the right is to be racist, and the propaganda is spread by the fear of being on the wrong side of that most terrible epithet. Moving to (D) is therefore all the more attractive. By this, you can become good again. By going left, you are no longer (R)acist. Think that’s not so? Well let’s just have a look at some editorial cartoons then, shall we?

Let’s start with the source of the current tremendous uproar:

Now, let’s do some comparison shopping for cartoons that did NOT merit a Rev. Sharpton crusade:

In case you aren’t clear, that is Condoleezza Rice as “Prissy” from the movie “Gone With The Wind”

Condoleezza Rice as a giant-lipped, buck-toothed parrot. Oliphant is one of the most widely syndicated editorial cartoonists in the world.

Oliphant on Rice again.

Not race or gender related. But then again, he’s depicting the President and Vice-President shooting children.

Um. Wow. This one actually did stir a little controversy.
But of course, Hillary is a Democrat isn’t she?

There we go. A Republican.

For a comparison of outrages, here is John McCain’s imprisonment, mocked for a Rolling Stone article which basically said he was a crazy person. Classy.

I just can’t, for the life of me, figure out what kind of animal
Bush looks like in that picture. Right?

Oh yeah! Say what? … indeed.

This cartoon was part of an international exhibition of editorial cartoonists in 2006.
Yes, it refers to Secretary Rice as “blackhawk.”

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Who can doubt the double standard? Where is the Reverend Sharpton protest for Secretary Rice? Where were the demands for “respectfulness” and honoring the office from the left the last 8 years for President Bush? Let us hide nothing from each other, if we are to be cowards no longer. Say what it is you mean. This outrage is something reserved only for the left, for the true and authentic good you humbly consider yourselves to be. There is no outrage for the right because they deserve what they get. Right? Say so, and maintain this pretense no more. You won’t be alone, not by a long-shot.

And of course, the flip side of the argument is the presumption of pure, angelic, unadulterated good on the part of Obama, a sickening presumption that is and will continue to be a source of great harm to this country. In Ted Rall’s words, from the AP article above:

Rall, who is liberal, said it’s harder to take shots at Obama because he’s smart, charming and handsome, “so when you attack the personality, people suspect there’s only one reason: It’s gotta be his race. My conservative cartoonist friends find it very frustrating.”

Got that? Criticizing Obama is racist because it’s criticism of Obama. Neat trick there.

It is, of course, not correct to say an editorial cartoon can’t go too far. Without linking, suffice it to say that some Middle Eastern nations have produced unspeakable editorial cartoons regarding Jews. But the case against Sean Delonas’ cartoon is pretty much no case at all. One must toss aside the most common and obvious of interpretations, just as in the car-sign incident, in order to make it racism.

Political cartoonists, as you can see, have no problem pushing to the edge. But under Obama, is the edge to be verboten? The left, you can be certain, will continue to label Republicans as self-evident racists, they will continue to ignore the race barriers and glass ceilings broken under Bush, and they will continue to dismiss as inauthentic the Rices and Steeles of the world. They will do it because there is no path more certain to silence and marginalize the right than the brandishing of the word “racist” by the left. But political cartoonists are largely not from the right. That they fear what may happen to them if they practice their craft with the same pointed pen for Obama they’ve used for all others … well that is something every citizen should worry about, not just Republicans.

The freedom of the press is being infringed through intimidation, and that is something that every American should resist. After all, we have a tradition to uphold:

– Caleb Howe

This article is cross-posted at AOL’s Political Machine