Most New Yorkers are aware by now of the cartoon by Sean Delonas in the New York Post, which unites the news of President Obama’s stimulus bill with the story of Travis the pet chimp, who was shot dead earlier this week after attacking his owner’s friend. The cartoon is of two officers standing over a dead monkey, rifle smoking from the shot, and one says, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” The response from some members of the American public has been so strong that last night, the paper issued an apology on its website which was also published in this morning’s edition.
However, using class relationship-therapy speak, the apology amounts to little more than a statement saying, “I’m sorry you were hurt.” In no way do the editors take responsibility for the fact that they made a gross oversight by not anticipating the reaction and offense that the cartoon would elicit from all the Americans who celebrate the destruction of a significant racial barrier. With that in mind, I don’t think the Post’s editors are stupid. Insensitive, yes, but also cunning. They got us to turn our heads in their direction. I believe in free speech, and while the cartoon infuriated me, they do have a right to print it–what really got to me was the so-called “apology,” which feels more to me like a slap in the face with their inclusion of the below statement:
“However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past – and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.
To them, no apology is due.
Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.”
The accusation that those who spoke out against the cartoon are vengeful opportunists is nothing short of petty and childish. Not knowing the inner thoughts and secrets of every public figure who issued a statement, I can’t say for sure that their response had nothing to do with a grudge against the paper, but this is neither the time nor place for the paper to make that claim. If just one person, or even a few, were leading a crusade against the Post as a result of this column, that would be one thing, but the feeling I get from people I speak with about this is one of genuine disgust. Political cartoons are often meant to rile, and I’m a huge fan of clever satire that exposes something new (see: Thomas Nast). But there’s nothing clever about Delonas’ cartoon. There’s nothing witty. He absolutely has a right to print it. But, the New York Post should understand that we are no longer grade schoolers fighting on the playground, and take seriously the response to their work.