Twitter rages: Murdoch's Times of London famine cartoon 'most offensive' thing yet?
An editorial cartoon in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London is causing some outrage on Twitter.
July 21st, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Twitter rages: Murdoch's Times of London famine cartoon 'most offensive' thing yet?

If you thought the outrage over the phone-hacking scandal was starting to die down, The Times of London, one of Rupert Murdoch's own papers, may have brought it straight back into the spotlight.

An editorial cartoon published Thursday morning in the paper with the title "Priorities" shows starving people in Somalia saying "We've had a bellyful of phone-hacking ... " It's causing quite a firestorm on Twitter. You can access the newspaper's site here, but you won't be able to get past the pay wall without a subscription. The paper has not yet returned calls for comment.

The Guardian's Deputy Editor Katharine Viner (@KathViner) tweeted a link to a photo of the cartoon this morning and asked what people thought of it.

And boy, did she get a response. From regular citizens in the U.S. and UK, to politicians, media specialists and PR folks, the responses are rolling in at a mile a minute.

The responses generally fall in one of two directions: utter disgust or the notion that while the cartoon makes a point, having it come from a Murdoch-owned newspaper makes it just straight ridiculous. For some, it's being seen as an attempt to try to get readers to move away from the story and focus on something else.

The cartoon does come a day after the questioning of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has also become a part of the phone-hacking story, during which several UK lawmakers argued that perhaps it was time to move on to more pressing issues.

Emma Gilbey Keller, who is married to New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and is a contributor to Vanity Fair Daily, had one of the most retweeted responses to the cartoon.

She tweeted the following: @EMMAGKELLER: "Anyone else wondering if this cartoon from today's London Times is part of the Edelman strategy? http://yfrog.com/kezx9np"

Keller is referring to the giant public relations firm that is now working with Murdoch and his team to try to repair their damaged image after the phone-hacking scandal.

There's been a lot said in the media and online about how the Murdoch empire has handled the scandal. In a post on media blog Mediaite about the cartoon, writer Alex Alvarez calls it a "tacky, potentially offensive cartoon" and says it probably isn't the right way to divert attention.

"There are several methods of dealing with a much-publicized scandal, some less advisable than others. Issuing a public apology for mistakes or poor judgment? Pretty much always a good idea. Holding individuals responsible for their roles and dealing with them accordingly? Usually works out pretty well," she writes. "Publishing a tacky, potentially offensive cartoon making light of serious allegations AND life-threatening poverty? Oddly enough, that rarely ever works."

She does, however, agree that more attention needs to be paid to the crisis in Somalia and elsewhere - and she's got a suggestion for what The Times of London may do to really make a statement about the issue.

"We agree that eradicating childhood hunger is still a global priority and that outlets diligently, even obsessively, covering the phone hacking scandal were probably not devoting too many headlines to the plight of starving, saucer-eyed children in the first place? Although, hey. Maybe the Times of London can change the tide by donating to charities fighting to end hunger, or devoting an issue to poverty instead of offering up condescending, out of touch editorials that only work to reflect poorly on its already beleaguered employer."

And there is indeed a major problem in Somalia. The president has issued an urgent appeal for international aid as his drought-stricken country faces a famine that has left half of the population in dire need.

Anna Holmes, founder of the popular news blog Jezebel.com, which caters to women, acknowledged in response to someone else that she believes there's truth in the cartoon that the famine news has been buried. But she tweeted (@AnnaHolmes) "the media/public can walk and chew gum at the same time. They can talk about hacking *and* famine."

Ryan Bourne, an economic and statistical researcher at the UK Centre for Policy Studies, tweeted (@RyanCPS) "I know the point The Times are getting at, but I find this cartoon very distasteful."

Was it an attempt to guilt-trip readers into changing their focus? Political Scrapbook, a political blog, tweeted (@psbook) that the cartoon was an attempt to tell us to "move on," and in an post on its site, it said "the third and most tasteless prong of resistance has come from a graphic in The Times depicting children in Somalia, suggesting that talking about phone hacking has prolonged their starvation. No one is stopping The Times covering both stories."

Jeff Jarvis, well-known media critic, journalism professor and creator of the BuzzMachine blog, (@jeffjarvis) simply tweeted:  "Good God. Murdoch's troops no bounds" in response to Viner's search for feedback on the cartoon.

Others, like Tim Karr, campaign director of the Free Press, a media reform group, called it "shameless." A lengthy search through the responses finds similar synonyms and sentiments, including that it was "brutal."

One of the most retweeted comments in response to Emma Gilbey Keller's tweet was from (@TeresaKopec), who said the "Cartoon in Murdoch's London Times may be most offensive thing they've done yet."

There's no doubt the comments will keep coming, and in a variety of forms, just as the tentacles of the story continue to grow and the implications of the scandal continue to murk the media waters.

Let us know what you think of the cartoon and the meaning behind it in the comments section below.

soundoff (423 Responses)
  1. us1776

    This cartoon is just asinine.

    .

    July 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Kimo

    Put a cloak on Murdoch and he'd look like the emperor in Star Wars.

    July 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ian Webster

      He kind of sounds like him too...

      July 21, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Stewart

      You are absolutely right. While I watched his testimony this past week I thought exactly the same thing. All he needs is the hood, & he's a dead-ringer for the Emperor

      July 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Spec5

    Very very poor taste.

    July 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Miami Mike

    Seriously? Can anyone be more tasteless? There are so many people starving to death... homeless... children dying... this is so disgusting it's beyond words.

    July 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. sciihs1958

    Cartoon is truthful.

    July 21, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deej59

      Truthful? In that it shows a real situation, namely starvation in Somalia? Sure it's truthful, but it's ridiculous at the same time. By that logic they should have thrown the Casey Anthony case out and never bothered with the trial because people are starving. Everywhere! The two are unrelated. And by the way, how come the London Times didn't ALWAYS have daily coverage of the starvation in Somalia? Why wasn't it front page every day? Suddenly it's important to them? Please. Go shoot someone in public and see if the cops let you go because you point out people are starving in Solalia. Let's see how far you get with that.

      July 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jordan

    this cartoon is disgusting.people are dying in Somalia.
    no decent human being would ever draw a cartoon like that never mind put it in a newspaper.

    the only place i would expect to see something on this order would be in some Neo-Nazi website or paper.
    Murdoch's Empire is truly disgusting.

    July 21, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. John

    From a man of such high morals and priciples(LOL) why are we surprised. The whole world could bang on his door and chastise him and he would not care. He lives in his own world, and the only way to get to him is to take his world apart. Then and only then would he open his eyes a bit.

    July 21, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. studypeople

    Well this is another example of why De-Regulating the Media three times in the last 30 years was a mistake. Before the 2nd time of deregulating.... You had to be a Natural Born Citizen to own a Network, TV/ Radio Station or Newspaper. The reason why was... A Foreign Born Owner might not care if he plays around, lies, or mess's with our Country with one huge megaphone.

    Yea, I know Mr. Murdoch is an American Citizen.... But he was born down under.

    July 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Simon

    This is a great editorial cartoon despite how much I despise everything about Rupert Murdoch. There are 10 million people starving to death in East Africa and that story is receiving very little press. Who cares what a bunch of twittering fools have to say about it? Fact: The average Twitter or Facebook user i sless intelligent, sophisticated, literate and educated than the average non-user.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Joe

    Murdoch is a stupid old tea-bagging nut case!

    July 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Darryn Cooke

    wonder what FOX news is making of this? oh right they are acting as none of this is happening. Way to be a "News" organization.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Wzrd1

    PNG him and his foreign staff, then suspend their business licenses as a foreign owned firm.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Saboth

    Pretty humorous that a scandal rag is getting grilled on its illegal practices and barely after any time goes by, they come out with a cartoon stating "ok, enough with the hacking nonsense, let's move onto more important issues." I'm sure if sides were flipped, they'd be digging harder than ever for front page news on someone else's scandal.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Deej59

    Is anyone out there really stupid enough to look at this cartoon and say "Yeah, they're right, what they did was no big deal in the grand scheme of starving children"? This is a major story. It deserves all the ink it can get. If the press loses focus, the public loses focus, and the case withers and dies on the vine. This is disgusting stuff that has happened, and it looks more and more like it's not a few isolated instances but rather a culture of scofflaw behavior by this man and his employees. Does the starving in Somalia deserve more attention? Yeah! Duh! Starvation has always been largely ignored by the press and all people with roofs over their heads and food in their bellies. Doesn't change the basic fact that this is an important story that needs to come out in its entirety.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. brako

    time to finish murdoch and his entire worthless parasite jew network of deceit and filth

    July 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deej59

      You had me until the antisemitic bit. Then I knew you were just another inbred dinosaur.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
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