Al Sharpton Is Wrong About the Monkey Cartoon

Photo from flickr user floridapfe

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In today’s New York Post there’s a Sean Delonas cartoon that shows two policemen standing over a dead chimpanzee. One is holding a handgun while the other says, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Al Sharpton is very offended. But he shouldn’t be because the cartoon isn’t offensive, unless you’re an ape.

Sharpton issued a statement saying:

The cartoon in today’s New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that “Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill.”

Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?

Well actually, yes, it is a reach. That’s why the New York Post refuses to apologize and issued this statement:

The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.

I’ll leave Sharpton’s motivation alone, but this whole thing seems a little puzzling. Consider three recent events.

    1. January 20: A black man is inaugurated president of the United States.
    2. February 16: Police shoot and kill a chimpanzee after it attacks his owner’s friend.
    3. February 17: President Obama signs the $787 billion stimulus package into law. It is widely seen, particularly by Republicans, as a gigantic boondoggle.

    Guess which one of these is irrelevant to the cartoon? If you picked  #1, you’re right. This cartoon has nothing to do with the ethnicity of Obama’s father and everything to do with the fact that the stimulus bill is messy. So messy, in fact, that it could have been written by a chimpanzee.

    The truth is, it’s not a good cartoon. Because it is an awkward attempt to combine two unrelated news stories, it doesn’t resonate, not in the way that this really wonderful cartoon does. You many not even get the cartoon at all (stimulus=monkey?), but that’s understandable because it’s not that funny; it’s just not racist either. Sometimes a joke about monkeys is, well, just a joke about monkeys.

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    You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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