As when I found myself burnt out on discussion of Imus, I am started to feel that sick feeling that means it is time to walk away from this for a while and look for what Lorde promises is the productive part of anger.
The NY Post issued the following statement in response to mounting criticism and marches planned outside their offices (my comments appear in black inserted within the blue italic quote; none of their text has been changed or rearranged and appears as written on their website; should you want to read it without my editorializing first or side by side click the link):
Wednesday’s Page Six cartoon – caricaturing Monday’s police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut – has created considerable controversy.
It shows two police officers standing over the chimp’s body: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” one officer says.
It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.
My analysis of this image and its historical references can be found here. As I say in that post, the only way to make a leap from the crazed chimpanzee terrorizing its white female owner to the president and his stimulus bill is through the lens of eugenicism and race “science” otherwise there is no logical connection.
Nor does the inclusion of the word “Period” show any recognition that other interpretations are possible or that dialogue is open. It is not. In case you missed the “period” they spell it out:
But it has been taken as something else – as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.
This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.
This section contradicts the first, since in the original two paragraphs admit that the cartoon is a critique of the stimulus bill. Since the image does not depict the bill, congress, or anything else that would trigger the idea of the president and the stimulus bill on it’s own, we have to look to the caption for a lead. The caption, which ties the image to the bill they admit is the center of the critique, says “they’ have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill and the monkey is the only one dead in the picture. Who does the monkey represent?
Their apology here is also only for those who were offended not for being offensive. In this way they mirror the New Yorker who claimed discerning readers would understand their cover but to the rest they were sorry those readers felt offense. Language matter here and the language that both editors used to defend their offensive editorial decisions is to lay blame on the ignorance of the intentionally marginalized and their supporters. When called a racist: tactic one – call your critics misguided and reiterate whatever myth you think will sell.
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.
Tactic two – claim that you are the real victim in this situation not the people whose history of oppression you demeaned, aligned with, or depicted as dead, murdered at the feet of police by state sanctioned violence
To them, no apology is due.
Tactic three – having cast your distractors as ignorant and unjust, retract your apology so as to encourage others to corroborate that you are right not to apologize to the knee-jerk oversensitive people who are really the cause of all the problems in the first place.
Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.
There is nothing opportunistic here. The NY Post is not the victim. They took an incident involving a chimpanzee attacking a white woman and used it to make a statement about the murder of a sitting president. They did so through an appeal to racist narratives that have existed since the colonial encounter and using imagery that has permeated a white supremacist vision of this nation.
Their “apology” neither apologizes nor follows any credible line of logic that could excuse the image and the message of their cartoon. Much like the Southern whites who play victim to the unruly Northern blacks who prevent them from voting in Birth of a Nation, the NY Post has donned the clothing of victim in an offensive role reversal most of us can clearly see right through.