More Offensive Shlock from the NY Post

04222009

The NY Post has once again offered up an offensive cartoon masquerading as satire. On the one hand, the cartoon aligns with the conservative idea that we are too soft on prisoners because we actually feed and cloth them. This argument is ultimately one of reform (ie incarceration as reforming criminals, not prison reform) vs punishment (prisons as unbearable places whose violence and hardship discourage return). The latter is based on a eugenicis belief in inherent criminality and the equation of vengeance with justice (to borrow gay prof’s wording in a comment on a different thread).

This cartoon also relies on the same longstanding racial narrative about blackness that seems to dominate cartoons involving race in this conservative paper. The argument in short is that European law is saving colonized nations from barbarism. One of the justifications for continued colonialism was the return of barbarism and the belief in the utter inability of poc to govern themselves. Thus, with regards to policing, it is better to jail black people than leave them to fend for themselves. In a post-colonial world, this “logic” gets repeated with regards to locations (Africa, Jamaica, Haiti, urban centers of the U.S. and Britain, etc.) and peoples (black people regardless of country of origin or present location).

The NY Post has countered increasing outrage about the image by claiming that they are critiquing the U.S. failure to provide humanitarian aid to Somalia but willingness to punish them for their poverty. Not only does the image fail to reference the lack of U.S. intervention in Somalia (unless you take the front page headline pictured as a question about the missing front page story on poverty) but it doesn’t even address the increasing encroachment on Somalian fishing territories by British and Canadian multinationals that some believe precipitated the rise of the Somali pirates in the first place. So I’m unclear how the cartoonist purports to explain his supposed humanitarian angle when he is not critiquing any of the larger issues that are causing the Somali crisis.

Thus the NY Post manages to be offensive in the specific case of Somalia and in the larger cases of colonial turned modern day global capitalism racial narratives and the rise of the prison-industrial-complex.

I’m sure some comment makers are going to force me to do another quick and dirty rundown of some of the historical images and theorists behind the “incarcerating black folks is saving black folks from themselves” narrative but for right now, I don’t have it in me.

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