That Chimpanzee Cartoon Was Dangerous

News at Home

Mr. Katz, the author of forty U.S. history books, is affiliated with New York University. Click here for his website.

On February 18th Rupert Murdoch's New York Post published a cartoon of two beefy white policemen who have just slain the author of the stimulus package - a chimpanzee who lies in a pool of blood. The paper's defense -- just good-hearted fun, no harm intended to the first African American President who devised and just signed the package. Perhaps this was Murdoch's contribution to African American history month or race relations? Or was it offered to the public as a call for reasoned debate over the stimulus package?

Perhaps a better defense by the Murdoch media empire would be to hide behind its known record of insensitivity and suggested violence toward to people of color.

On May 25, 2008 during the Democratic primaries Murdoch's Fox TV News specifically aimed assassination humor at candidate Obama. As co-anchor Liz Trotta signed off her Sunday evening “Fair and Balanced” news broadcast she urged that “somebody knock off Osama, um, Obama - well both, if we could.” So much for good night and good luck.

Soon after McCain and Palin hit the campaign trail some attendees at Republican rallies greeted Obama's name with shouts of “traitor” and “kill him.” More innocent fun? Just adding excitement to the election season? The secret service did not think so.

The past warns us that threats of violence against presidents are serious matters. Gunmen have taken the lives of four U.S. presidents: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan narrowly escaped assassination attempts. During the 1968 election campaign candidate Robert Kennedy was slain, and candidate George Wallace was severely wounded in the 1970s. In a country that seems to harbor some violent individuals is there a question whether the media should encourage or discourage them?

As the first black president assumes office in this trying time gunplay humor is no joke. After the Civil War, scores of African American office-holders in the South, along with many white political allies, were slain, beaten or driven from office by Ku Klux Klan nightriders. Hardly a decade after Emancipation massive intimidation and murder had nullified the civil rights laws enacted by Congress and eviscerated three constitutional amendments designed to protect the lives and liberties of former slaves in the states of the old Confederacy. In the middle of the 20th century, murders of white and African American civil rights workers in the South aimed to block those marching toward justice, equality and voting rights. If we factor in lynching, violent opposition to African Americans' pursuit of either public office or other citizenship rights has left a body count in the thousands. Talk about acts of terrorism against Americans!

President Obama has warned us against continuing childish ways. The Murdoch media empire should curb its immature inclinations, if that's what they are. They are too dangerous for a democracy.

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Edmond Dantes - 3/18/2009

Yes, everything's relative...

Lorraine Paul - 3/18/2009

It is all in one's own perception, Edmond!

Edmond Dantes - 3/18/2009

Ms. Paul, I have no time to scurry around and seek out your bizarre comments. If only I did, I would have the opportunity to post as prodigiously as you do. I just find it amusing watching you tell historians how to do their job. I imagine you also enjoy telling your doctor and auto mechanic how to do their jobs as well.

Lorraine Paul - 3/16/2009

Oh! Edmond, give it a rest, you really are becoming even more boring as you scurry around the HNN website diligently seeking out my comments wherever they can be found. Then proceeding to comment upon me, rather than the article.

To save you time perhaps I should just type below a list of the threads upon which I have commented. No, on second thought, why spoil your fun!

The article in question is an indictment of the methods used by the Murdoch communications empire. It is relevant to students of several disciplines, to name a few, Communications, Sociology, History, and, Psychology. This is due to the fact that 'how' stories are presented in msm can manipulate, even subliminally, its readers.

The Murdoch empire is a prime example of this manipulation as used to skew the public in a direction favourable to either its advertisers or its management. Thus, this article belongs on HNN, and elsewhere, for serious analysis. To deride or denigrate its message says more about the influence of this sort of gutter press on those who champion its right to do so than it says about Mr Katz's scholarship.

Edmond Dantes - 3/16/2009

I would assume Ms. Reyes refers to perspective garnered from research. Historians study a wide variety of source material to gain a better understanding of the human condition through time. Ms. Paul believes all of that is a waste of time, as she has so eloquently noted in the past.

Craig Norman - 3/15/2009

Last Monday, March 9, I read this an article By William Loren Katz titled-“That Chimpanzee Cartoon Was Dangerous” http://hnn.us/articles/63972.html. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I find this dangerous “entertainment” by one of Murdoch's media empire to be a mischievous madness. But it's not surprising. This is what Murdock has devoted his life to do for a year now. Last year, one of Murdoch's news empires, Fox news called for Obama to be killed. Anybody remembers Liz Trotta? This year, one of Murdoch's news media, the NYP shot the man who wrote the Stimulus Bill. That someone is very clearly the President. If one of the assassins he is inciting succeeds, will Murdoch be held guiltless? His so called apologies are insincere and worthless because his actions are consistent, repetitive and deliberate. The questions to ask Murdock are, HOW MANY TIMES would you do this? If someone “makes fun” in a national paper of killing Murdoch, would he smile over it? Who really should control the tone of national discourse? Meanwhile, Murdoch is ripe to receive an award for a professionally reckless, culturally careless and politically insensitive communication. That is what a terrible burden and liability he is becoming. He is the relentless champion in a campaign to incite, invite and promote assassination of Barack Obama. Murdoch, Enough is Enough. Back off now!! Many of the goodmen and women and groups round the country are sitting around quiet, while Murdoch runs amuck. Where are the politicians, youth groups, professional associations, student leaders, grassroot organizers, newspapers, superdelegates, academics, diplomats, soldiers, scientists, historians and celebrities that endorsed Obama for President? Your endorsement did not end in the elections and should not. SPEAK OUT NOW!! Anybody who does not openly condemn Murdoch now might openly weep for the murder of Barack. The voice of warning, advice and rebuke of every true patriot of this nation is needed again to keep Barack alive.

Lorraine Paul - 3/15/2009

What perspective is that, Ms Reyes?

Nancy REYES - 3/14/2009

Your post would be fine on Salon, but as a historian, you need perspective.

jack j james - 3/14/2009

It's a nice place to share my thoughts. I'm willing to stick around here and watch it grow. As i also want to learn how to grow mine.
Drug Intervention Florida

R.R. Hamilton - 3/12/2009

It's extraordinary that Katz can call a cartoon of a chimp racist when he himself employs racist imagery when referring to blacks. He says they "fired off" letters, they acted in "anger", they "bombarded Murdoch".

In case anyone missed the racial code words Katz uses, he then calls blacks "a gun-totting population that includes some violent and racist wackos." In short, he plays to every stereotype of blacks imaginable: "violent", "wackos", "gun-toting".

He also not too subtly suggests that the media should not be promoting stories about cops shooting unarmed blacks, saying they "foment racial discord".

I guess Katz' ancestors didn't make enough money off financing the trans-Atlantic slave trade or didn't get enough satisfaction off of trying to keep blacks down for centuries.

Clearly, if the Post's cartoonist needs to apologize, Katz needs to be sentenced to some sort of community service until he learns some racial sensitivity.

R.R. Hamilton - 3/12/2009

"given the long history of the racist association of “monkeys” with black people"

What history? If you have some, maybe you should answer this question:

"What is the genesis of blacks being referred to as monkeys, chimps, and raccoons, like the racial source?"


In three weeks, no one else has been able to answer that.

Lorraine Paul - 3/11/2009

You amaze me Mr Tucker. You say that the 'truth in this case is that the "artist' (my emphasis) wasn't even thinking of Obama'!

With such a talent as reading minds, presumably, of people that you have never met, one can only wonder why you are wasting your time writing high-flown piffle to the readers of HNN. Surely, as a good little capitalist, you should be in Las Vegas raking it in!!

Lorraine Paul - 3/11/2009

"Only the race-baiters of the left saw racism in it."

Yes, Mr Tucker, I can get right down there in the mud with you!!

Lorraine Paul - 3/11/2009

"What is puzzling is your insistence that this is somehow about Murdoch."

Are you so ignorant of msm that you think it isn't? Whether you agree with the Bailout, and I don't, is irrevelant, what is relevant is that you have a communications empire which will always go for the lowest common denominator and by doing so will drag the gullible down with it.

If this fact doesn't bother you then you shouldn't be contributing to this topic.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/11/2009

Mr. Katz, you support your thesis that the cartoon was racist based upon the reactions of the perpetually offended?

Recently a Dallas city council member voiced objection to the term "black hole" in regards to the astronomical event that forms from a collapsed star.

Does that make the person who coined the term "black hole" guilty of racism because this perpetually offended person got offended?

What a chilling effect on speech such concepts will lead to. If we let those who profit from outrage determine what is and is not offensive they will utterly and completely stifle any exchange of ideas.

History, as I read it, too often shows that when political correctness is enforced there is no longer any room for truth.

The truth in this case is that the artist wasn't even thinking of Obama. The truth is that the incredibly bad legislation that should have been put down like the rampaging chimp stopped being discussed in order to distract the public with false charges of racism.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/11/2009

And finally Ms. Paul has devolved into name-calling. All without ever putting one sentence into support of Katz's thesis.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/10/2009

Ms. Paul, I saw the cartoon in question. What I saw was an artist expressing his dissent for the wasteful, stupid, ideologically tilted spending bill overladen with pet projects that will do nothing to stimulate the economy but will needlessly burden coming generations with debt.

You haven't shown by your responses in this thread that you have even seen the cartoon. Your assertion that the cartoon is bad because you don't like Rupert Murdoch is bizarre at best. You fail to address any concept in support of Katz's thesis. You can't do that by pointing to Rupert Murdoch or any other boogie man. You can't do that by being nitpicking about spelling.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/10/2009

Ms. Paul you are guilty of nitpicking rather than reacting to the content. As in your other comments wherein you want to blame a cartoon on the owner of the newspaper rather than address the wrong-headedness of Katz's central theme.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/10/2009

What is puzzling is your insistence that this is somehow about Murdoch.

It's about people claiming racism where none exists. There is no defense of Murdoch because he isn't at issue.

The issue is that Katz, among many others, saw racism where no racism exists.

If there is a rotten head then it is in the Oval Office where the only way to defend increasingly stupid policies is to try and play the race card.

Douglas Knowles - 3/10/2009

It’s strange to see which ‘offensive’ comments are overlooked and which ones are used to create an otherwise unnecessary quarrel. Let’s look at some examples:

The current US Secretary of State cracked a joke about Gandhi working at a gas station (a reference to an Indian stereotype). Her brief apology was good enough when The Associated Press questioned her about it;

Current West Virginia Senator (and former exalted cyclops for the kkk) Robert Byrd dropped an N-bomb during an interview. His short apology was good enough to let bygones be bygones;

The cartoon discussed in this report is critical of the recent ‘stimulus’ bill. It drew a parallel between the shooting of an escaped chimpanzee & the competency of the author(s) of said bill. The media has allowed the NAACP to spin the critique as a racial slur aimed at the current president. Nevertheless, both the newspaper chairman & the cartoonist involved made an apology for the cartoon. This time, the apologies were NOT good enough;

NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. "The offenders are still on staff and there are no measures being taken to increase diversity in its newsroom."

The Rev. Al Sharpton is urging the Federal Communications Commission to review policies allowing Post owner News Corp. to control multiple media outlets in the same market.

….and the politically driven shakedown continues!

As far as threatening the president, this could have been worse. The cartoonist could’ve threatened to ‘cut his n#ts off’. Right, Rev. Jackson?

Lorraine Paul - 3/10/2009

Oh! Dear! So it is only a coincidence that so many, who can't help but reveal themselves as right-wing, are defending a Murdoch rag?

Lorraine Paul - 3/10/2009

"Freedome (sic) cannot be compromised".

Now that is just the thing that you should have on a bumper sticker!

Donald Wolberg - 3/10/2009

Mr. Katz's views are of course perfectly his right to express, but unfortunately, they strike me as someone more concerned with "correct think" than "free think" (not a quote but empahsis--I cannot get italics here to work). He repeats a good deal of invective, not discussion and I suggest the real point is, that Mr. Katz would prefer that no one utter unkind, dumb, or evil remarks in this world.The problem is that all "unkindness" is someone else telling someone else what they can or cannot say or think, and that limits everyone in speech and thought.Freedome cannot be compromised. Mr. Katz's views are not everone's views ans I am sure, that despite how not nice Mr. Katz finds Mr. Murdoch, is he really saying that Mr. Murdoch is a racist? Similarly Mr. Katz seems to want to judge Mr. Jefferson, dead these 200 years, by the knowledge base of his time--after all Mr. Jefferson thought there were mammoths alive in the far West and that the Welsh Prince Madoc had visited the southeats before Columbus, because he heard there were blue-eyed Indians with red hair.
Of course the fact remains that the confusion of people and apes or monkeys has a primal association with other than race, whatever that means in a DNA world, and again, it was Charles Darwin who was brutalized as an ape, or a monkey for his views, and it was Mr. Lincoln, who was portrayed AND DESCRIBED, as an ape because of his appearance. Mr. Lincoln was also portrayed as a running dog in cartoons of his time.

Mr. Katz's "correctness" is no less relativistic and contextual than was Mr. Jefferson's--we know more now and can separate the dumb from the brilliant. Similarly no less than Henry Fairfield Osborn, one of America's great scientists and head of the American Museum of Natural History, could write in his book "Man's Rise to Parnassus," (a real citation) as late as the 1920's, that not only were the races distinct species but likely distinct genera (Europeans were of course superior to all and Jews were less than desireable). Remember, Einstein had alread published (not in a Murdoch journal) and ironically German anthropologists of the time were demonstrating very modern views of the oneness of all people and cultures!

However it is just as bad logic to keep anyone from being just plain "dumb" because it denies those few the right for great thoughts, and I am sure Mr. Katz does not think this.

Donald Wolberg - 3/10/2009

Quotations? Hmmm. I am afraid that the marks can be/are for emphasis and not necessarily direct quotes...my skills at creating italis in this venue have escaped me, but I do understand "lol" from my kids.

Bryan Mullinax - 3/10/2009

Or how many BusHitler, McChimpyBush, invites to the Bush snuff films, and other posters still decorate the bulletin boards of New York University?

Motes and Beams - the liberals will tolerate no criticism of their Messiah.

William Katz - 3/10/2009

In recent memory police in the city shot Amadou Diallo, Shawn Bell and lesser known unarmed African American men. Why cast Obama as an ape and add him to the casualty list? What is the joke or political point? The Post claimed just cartoon fun.
The public response was immediate. Students at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus fired off a protest to the Post and sent an interracial delegation to the Faculty Senate, which agreed to support them. Thousands of people of all ages, races and viewpoints, either in anger or sadness, protested daily outside Murdoch's News Corp headquarters. The NAACP's Julian Bond called the cartoon racist and an invitation to assassination, and in less than two weeks NAACP members had bombarded Murdoch with 25,000 e-mails, and had lodged protests in 55 cites.
A picture in a leading U.S. newspaper is hardly a message innocently bobbing in a bottle at sea. It talks to a gun-totting population that includes some violent and racist wackos. Is it an open question whether the media in a multicultural country ought to foment racial discord and encourage the Oswalds among us? No one calls for censorship, but how about civic responsability?
Another factor has emerged: in a city that also boasts the “newspaper of record,” the Times, what did “All The News That's Fit To Print” have to say about the cartoon and mounting protests? Nothing, nothing at all. About a week later it weighed in when Murdoch said he “heard from a number of people and I now better understand the hurt this cartoon caused.” The “Old Grey Lady” devoted nine paragraphs to his apology “to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted,” by a picture “that was not meant to be racist.” It still failed to mention the marches and protests - or its neglect of a major event.
Everyone in New York, including those who read the Post, knows it thrives on the low and ugly. It rarely employs Black journalists or editors, has fired wildly at Barack Obama before, and views police violence toward people of color with stony silence or a wink. One example: on May 25, 2008 during the Democratic primaries Murdoch's Fox TV News co-anchor Liz Trotta in New York signed off her Sunday evening news broadcast by urging that “somebody knock off Osama, um, Obama -- well both, if we could.” Back then the Times [May 27, page 20A] published this Fox gem and other provocations.
As outrage continues will the New York Times wake up?
It can if it reads its own African American Op-Ed columnist, Brent Staples. This Saturday he traced the long history of racists linking apes to people of African descent, beginning with Thomas Jefferson [while omitting his relationship to underage slave Sally Hemmings] who claimed male orangutans were sexually attracted to Black women, to Hitler who classified people of African descent as “half-ape.” [Times, February 28, 2009, A22]
Staples then talked of protestors who saw racism in the cartoon and “an invitation to assassinate the president of the United States,” and emphasized the Post was “targeted by demonstrators and threatened with a boycott.” Would the Post cartoon have been published if a Brent Staples was in its newsroom?
No one expects much from the Post. Its cartoon announced that claims of a post-racial America are premature. The Times response -- ignoring lethal and moral issues, and the protest movement -- underlined this. Those of us seeking an end to our racial nightmare cannot count on either paper to serve either as an honest reporter or reliable ally.

Lorraine Paul - 3/10/2009

And the lick-spittles of the right will blatantly deny 'intent' until their keyboards rot.

Lorraine Paul - 3/10/2009

Tucker, it was not dissent. Please don't insult the intelligence of people on this website.

Lorraine Paul - 3/10/2009

I am emphasising the fact that Murdoch makes certain, and has done for decades, that all of his media outlets present the same type of mud-slinging, innuendo, and yellow journalism. As my Italian friends tell me a dead fish stinks from the head down.

Your defence of him is beyond naive. As I said in another comment, to think the cartoon was 'ill-thought-out' is naive.

Lorraine Paul - 3/10/2009

Mr Tucker, you obviously haven't read my other comments on this thread.

I find it heartless of you to blame me for the quality of Mr Clough's spelling ability! Is Keith Olbermann a contributor to Fox News Channel? I would certainly classify any argument coming from that source as pointless.

Brian Martin - 3/9/2009

they don't? Ever heard of Michael Bellesiles?

Brian Martin - 3/9/2009

I wonder what Mr. Katz's thoughts were concerning the episode on one of C-BS's late shows that had Snipers Wanted around a photo of President Bush. This was the same network that gave us the "fake but accurate" memos...

Donald Wolberg - 3/9/2009

The point of course is the use of Mr. Spencer's Social Darwinism, which offended Mr. Darwin, and the cartoons to which both Mr. Darwin and Mr. Lincoln were subjected; the former for his "Dangerous Idea" in the words of Daniel Dennett and the latter for his physical appearance, and rural roots. Of course, if we are to toss courses about, Mr. Carter is welcome to speak to mine dealing with the "Origin" or mine, taking off from Dawkins' "Ancestor's Tale." One cannot have it both ways, of course: the charge that Mr. Murdoch is a racist, or that a cartoonist is a racist, seems absurd. More to the point, the convention of our age to avoid all free speech with the excuse of sensitivity, makes Darwin moot since the creationists and ID folks are offended, not to mention Dawkins and Hitchens, who would be silenced since they harshly offend religionists.To offend is as human as to err, at least in democracies worth the name. No one needs to read or listen of course, but to silence anyone is to silence all.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/9/2009

By labeling a thought/speech/drawing as "dangerous" one starts on the path to silencing the person espousing the thought.

More importantly my original criticism had to do with Katz deliberately seeing racism where none existed.

The moment that someone decided to draw in their own labels and start screaming "RACIST!" the discussion stopped being about whether the stimulus bill was good or bad.

That was the GOAL of Katz and others who called for this cartoons creator to be punished. They wanted to draw fire away from a very bad piece of legislation.

The cartoon was a critique of BAD LEGISLATION. Nothing more was intended. Only the race-baiters of the left saw racism in it.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/9/2009

Now that Obama is in the White House dissent is no longer patriotic.

That is the liberal position on criticism.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/9/2009

Example number two.

When you can't find a reasonable way to object to the content pick on some very small error, such as misspelling.

Very good, Ms. Paul. You are about to qualify for the Kieth Olbermann prize for most pointless argument.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/9/2009

I see. Completely ignore my very sound objections to the premise based upon your disgust for the owner of the media empire.

His ownership is what makes this racism is what you are saying, Ms. Paul?

The proof of racism is that Rupert Murdoch owns the controlling shares in the company that publishes the paper?

I guess, in a way, that sort of comment does belong on here. As an example of classic guilt by association.

Lorraine Paul - 3/9/2009

That very same thought occurred to me Mr Shcherban!

How does he know 'of course'??

Apparently this is not the first time this particular cartoonist has been pulled up because of the tone of one of his cartoons.

I have no time for defenders of Murdoch, he is a nasty little toad who gained more power than he should have...he wasn't called the 'Dirty Digger' out of affection!

Of course, those who defend him are either ignorant of his tactics or have become, for various reasons, apologists, willing to sacrifice their own 'street cred'!

Lorraine Paul - 3/9/2009

The cartoon was NOT 'poorly thought out'. It is part of the Murdoch ethos, to be found in any form of communication emanating from News Corp.

You may know your history but you know bugger all about the discipline of Communications

Dan Carter - 3/9/2009

I returned to this page after I received a rather bemused email from a colleague.

I've been accused on several occasions of nonsense, but I'm baffled as to what I've been nonsensical about. Mr.Wolberg goes on at some length about my alleged comments about (and ignorance of) Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism. Oh yes, and Abraham Lincoln.

If he had sat in on the seminar I taught on Darwinism and its impact on American life, I suppose he could have found ample evidence of my "nonsense" and "no sense."

But, since I make no mention of these subjects, I'm curious as to the connection between his response and my original posting.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/9/2009

<seem to say that the cartoonist and Mr.Murdoch are intentional racists, and of course they are not..>
How does the author of this excerpt can justify his "of course" (obvious?)assertion?

Arnold Shcherban - 3/9/2009

Oh come on!
Any civilised society has numerous standards to distinguish between "the brilliant, creative and wonderful" and "the dumb, the stupid, and the nasty." Freedom defeats its meaning and purpose when it becomes the latter. There is no such thing as absolute freedom in a real world - only the actual one.
Freedom is a humanistic category created and regulated by humans, not a divine gift of an Almighty, the ways
of which the mortals are unable to comprehend...

Steve Kantrowitz - 3/9/2009

Mr. Wolberg can put as many quotation marks around his words as he likes; that doesn't make them anyone's but his. They're certainly not Katz's, or mine.

Lenny Bruce knew he was provoking people, and that he'd get pilloried; that was part of his genius. And I strongly suspect he would have thought the cartoon was just plain dumb.

Donald Wolberg - 3/9/2009

Mr. Kantrowitz seems to believe that one can be partially-pregnant and that one reader's notions of "tempering free speech," "not writing or saying what one cares to say," "being considerate of correctness," in speech or writings are valuable "rules of the road." I thought we emerged from the quagmire of thought and word control when Lenny Bruce took the stage. We seem to be afraid of "impure" thoughts, "nasty" words, and "silly" cartoons. I guess that gets us to where the uropeans seem to be these days, and very far from Lenny Bruce (or Grouch Marx for that matter).

Donald Wolberg - 3/9/2009

There is nonsense and there is no sense. Mr. Carter seems have found both. It is surprising to see "social Darwinism" arise within the context of a chimpanzee cartoon, especially in the celebration of Mr. Darwin's birth (of course Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin wee born on the same day). Mr. Darwin did not create social Darwinism, nor use the term, nor do I think Mr. carter has read much Darwin nor about Mr. Darwin and his time, or about "the social Darwinism of the unusual Herbert Spencer. The same may be said with reference to Mr. Lincoln. If he had, Mr. Carter would have observed, chimpanzee, gorilla and pseudo-monkey cartoon of Mr. Darwin of the 1860's and after, (because of his notions of "descent with modification"--evolution) and contemporaneously, cartoon images of Mr. Lincoln as an ape (because of his physical appearance). Mr. Carter and others, including Mr. Katz, seem to say that the cartoonist and Mr.Murdoch are intentional racists, and of course they are not, but Mr. Carter has the freedom to so brand them, or is he calling them "social Darwinists," ? The point is, of course, he has the right to right whatever he believes, but, similarly, someone else can point out how unconvincing are Mr. Carter's words.

Steve Kantrowitz - 3/9/2009

Some of Mr. Katz's critics fail to note--deliberately or otherwise--that he nowhere calls for the censorship of the cartoon by "force, mandate or intimidation." Nor do I see evidence that he seeks to "quell" free expression. Rather, he asks the publisher to "curb its immature inclinations"--that is, to exercise better judgment, in light of the narrative he offers of his reading of the cartoon and its implications. His critics' misreading and overreaction is sadly typical of this moment, in which all responses to hostile, intemperate, or frankly murderous speech are branded as attempts at "censorship." Katz's critics need to do what they themselves demand: get a thicker skin. With free speech comes the possibility of the speaker being called all kinds of things. That isn't censorship. There is no constitutional right to applause.

Dan Carter - 3/9/2009

Let me get this straight: According to hostile respondents to his HNN piece (“The Chimpanzee Cartoon is Dangerous”) William Katz is trying to destroy our first amendment rights by pointing out that ideas—in this case, cartoons representing ideas—can have consequences.
First, issues of fact. Does anyone seriously believe that the chimpanzee lying in a pool of blood was meant to be a composite of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi? Or that—given the long history of the racist association of “monkeys” with black people—only hypersensitive liberals saw an association between the dead chimp and President Obama? For those who are willing to engage in this level of fantasy, send me your email: I have a very large bridge outside New York City that I’ll sell you for a bargain.
Moreover, it is not true (as one respondent suggested) that the newspaper report that a member of the audience shouted “kill him” in Clearwater, Florida, has been discredited. Dana Milbank, one of the Washington Post’s reporters was standing nearby, heard the shout and reported it in her story of October 7.
This is the same weekend when Palin and other Republican operatives unveiled the attack line that Obama “pals around with terrorists”—a reference to his peripheral connection to former underground activist William Ayers. I can tell you that, living in a very red part of a narrowly blue state I heard attacks on Obama that deeply unnerved me.
Of course the overwhelming majority of McCain supporters did not share these sentiments any more than the great majority of New York Post readers saw the chimp cartoon as an incitement to assassinate Barack Obama. But anyone who regularly monitors (as I do) far-right web sites, can confirm that there was a spike of implicit threats against Obama as the campaign progressed and his election became more likely.
These veils threats were not based on evaluations of Obama’s experience, his judgment or even the belief that his policies were potentially disastrous (the kind of things you found on liberal sites about John McCain). Instead, readers were told that “Barack Hussein Obama” was going to turn the country over to blacks, that he was a “traitor” collaborating with “terrorists,” a Muslim who was secretly an Al Qaeda operative, etc., etc.) The two addle-brained skinheads who set out to assassinate Obama during last fall’s campaign were remarkably inept, but—as I learned in writing about the equally addle-brained part-time janitor who shot and paralyzed George Wallace for life—you don’t have to be a genius to carry out an assault on a political leader. You just have to be lucky.
Given those circumstances, given the long history of white on black violence and the painful record of political assassinations in this country, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that, even as we fiercely criticize our opponents, we think about what the conservative intellectual Richard Weaver said (albeit in a different context): ideas have consequences.
Secondly: I’m a little baffled at the hyper-ventilating responses to Katz’s argument that some forms of rhetoric are dangerous in a democracy. He does not propose (as one respondent implied) the use of “force, mandate or intimidation” to squelch the Murdoch publishing/broadcasting empire. Nor do I find any evidence for the claim of another respondent that Katz’s perfectly reasonable (agree or not) criticism of the Murdoch empire’s rhetoric amounts to an effort to limit first amendment rights to liberals.
The hypersensitive response to his effort reminds me of nothing more than Queen Gertrude’s response to Hamlet’s question ("How like you this play?"): "The lady," she observes, "doth protest too much, methinks."

Randll Reese Besch - 3/9/2009

Yes it was. White cops killing a 'monkey' and talking about is as if it were a person. [Either Nancy Pelosi or Barak Obama doesn't improve it.] Calling Bush a Smirking Chimp was vastly different than the general inferential concerning blacks depicted as monkeys and apes. Social Darwinists did. So-called scientific racists (without any real science.) It still lingers to this day. The symbology was obvious. Wasn't it? It was to me, the first thing I thought of when I saw it. Isn't it against the law to threaten any gov'official especially the president? To quote another,"you betcha!"

Donald Wolberg - 3/9/2009

The problem with freedom and free speech is that it is delightfully messy with no sharp edges. The right to say the dumb, the stupid, and even the nasty also brings the right for the brilliant, creative and wonderful. The current flap over a poorly thought out "cartoon" of all things, and the urgency of Mr. Katz to quell free expression not to his liking is just another example in the newest neo-correct-think put on all Americans. Sadly, Mr. Katz should know better; sadly, we all should know better. No one is forced to read Mr. Murdoch's papers, or take anything we do read seriously, but for the sake of freedom, we must not restrict anyone from saying, writing or thinking anything.

John D. Beatty - 3/9/2009

The only thing that is "dangerous for a democracy" is the silencing of dissent by force, mandate or intimidation. Read a history book for once in your life, and pay attention to the "freedom" parts.

John D. Beatty - 3/9/2009

As all persons know, your assertion about politics is false, misleading, racist, contributes to global warming and is fattening. Politics for liberals of the Bobblehead Emperor Barak I of Cook County's circle is...you're either with me or you drown puppies at birth regularly. That First Amendment thing only applies to stuff that they agree with. Evidently Katz is one of these, as well.

Lewis Bernstein - 3/9/2009

I, for one, don't understand the controversy. Politics is a bare knuckle sport--it's about real money and real power. Grow up Mr. Katz.

Lorraine Paul - 3/9/2009

Do you mean 'labelled'?

Lorraine Paul - 3/9/2009

You obviously know nothing about Rupie Murdoch!

Throughout the world his papers are nothing but cess-pools of right-wing propaganda and his cable news arm "Fox News" is full of notoriously right-wing commentators.

Remember, Murdoch is Australian (until he changed his nationality to that of a US citizen so that he could buy US media outlets.

He owns the Herald-Sun paper here in Melbourne which is also known for, not just as a dishonest newspaper but also for being the conduit for ideas and propaganda which are mainly anti-worker and anti-academic!

His father, Sir Keith Murdoch, was General Manager of the Herald & Weekly Times back before the 1960's. His main claim to fame was power. Power, which he had been known to exercise even over the infamous Prime Minister of Australia at the time, one Sir Robert Menzies (known for selling Australian pig iron to the Japanese war machine, which may or may not have been dropped on Darwin).

This is EXACTLY the sort of article which HNN should be publishing!!

Eugene Clough - 3/9/2009

If I had been the cartoonist, I would have labled the first cop, "U.S. Voters," the one with the gun, "2010 Elections," and the dead chimp, "Congressional Dems." End of controversy.

Charles Christopher Tucker - 3/8/2009

'Soon after McCain and Palin hit the campaign trail some attendees at Republican rallies greeted Obama's name with shouts of “traitor” and “kill him.” More innocent fun? Just adding excitement to the election season? The secret service did not think so.'

As I recall the follow up to this story what the Secret Service thought was that the reporter who gave this story made it all up. No recordings of such voices existed despite multiple video cameras operating. No other witnesses came forward.

It exists as part of the "opponents of Obama are racists" mythos that Obama himself started proclaiming.

What next, Mr. Katz? Are you going to proclaim that the entire economy going into the toilet is a gigantic plot by those evil white racists who opposed Obama?

Since CONGRESS wrote the stimulus bill and chief among congress are the white faces of Pelosi and Reid then the chimp laying in the pool of blood actually represents two white people. Obama never wrote the stimulus package.

Seeing racism where none exists is merely an attempt to deflect accurate criticism of very real faults in the legislation that passed Congress.

To make the the critique of bad legislation be "all about race" to be nothing more than a smoke screen.

It is beneath HNN to publish such obvious attempts at misdirection.