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?"

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, 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. ling chow

    i think it is pretty funny. even made me laugh. : )

    July 21, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. michaelfury

    July 21, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. yow

    Isnt Somalia where all those pirates are from. Maybe this is karma or natures way of paying them back.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      If this is Karma paying back Somalia's citizens. I guess our debt crisis is our Karma for invading Afghanistan, Iraq,.....

      July 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Maybe pirates are karma for Western countries decimating the Somalian fishing industry via there over fishing of the area.

      July 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Piracy is the result of Famine in Somalia, doesn't anyone watch Southpark?

      July 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sleepytime

      The pirates aren't the ones starving.

      July 21, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • alleygator

      Somalia is a teabagger's paradise - no government and no taxes. Somalia is what the Conservative agenda leads to.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tod

    I wish the famine was happening in India. That would pay them back for taking all the good US technology and customer service jobs.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • authorsnote

      This is undoubtedly the stupidest comment I have read on this board, and there are a lot of stupid comments this morning. You actually blame the workers in another country for what the corporations have done in out-sourcing, off-shoring a segment of jobs. Then you wish a famine upon them as payback. Try reading and studying how globalization has taken place–if you are able to read at all. Start with The World is Flat. Then maybe your comments will sound a fraction more intelligent.

      July 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mister Jones

      I wish it had happened in your mothers uterus.

      July 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • lorne

      Do you think that the world owes you a guaranteed living just because you are an American?
      Easily the most pathetically dumb comment I have read in a long time.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PAW

    Its a good illustration of how pathetic the media is over this hacking issue, Instead of Concentrating on more important global issues, they have concentrated on what can be consider a small problem. To be honest I am sick of hearing about the phone hacking, I am tired of it.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • yaguza

      I totally agree. Too many hypocrites these days.

      July 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Anyone else wondering if these two tools who don't care about major corruption in the media and british parliament are part of the Edelman strategy?

      July 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      "J": I couldn't agree more. I'm not sure in what world a major media outlet bribing police, hacking into the phones of politicians and crime victims, interfering with a police investigation, etc could be considered a "small problem."

      July 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. michaelfury

    @Tripps$rtn gonna make billions off these limited US wars- !!!

    @eddyhooks$rtn–US fires 110 Tomahawks–total cost about $63m

    @JimK$rTN is the maker of the Tomahawk’s being used on Quack-dafi. Over a $1/2 MM at a pop for those.

    @WallStreetBuddhaSell $PCLN, Obama is gonna fire up the war machine. We’re going into Libya. Watching Defense stocks $LMT $BA $NOC $RTN

    @sellputs$RTN raises annual Divvy 15% to 1.72…..All the #Tomahawk action must have instilled confidence in the board.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    People dying of starvation is incredibly horrific. We wouldn't want to tax millionaires to help out our poor either. Maybe they need a Republican party to show the children good work ethics?

    July 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mulakater

    I guess people have a hard time relating to starving people, otherwise they might be inclined to be more compassionate. If you ever saw a person die from hunger it would rock your world (for the better I hope). The world needs more compassion.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Taytelbaum

    Murdochs like tigers in the cage.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dirk

    no way dude. compassion kills. thats my motto. I do agree with the cool dude that said its a shame the famine isnt in india. peolpe from india are just no good job thiefs. maybe a big earthquake or tidal wave will hit over there. those india people are the worst.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Dirk, you do realize how idiotic you sound don't you? Time for your meds again.

      July 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mister Jones

      No ... Moronic idiots with access to the interwebs are the worst.

      July 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dirk

    authosnote is waaaaaay rude, man. he sounds really constipated. i bet he is some old dude that is grumpy and eats fiber. he even likes guys from india. i bet hey is gaaay.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • josh

      Peon dirk and peon tod can wish for famine all they want in India, but it won't stop their peon dirk's own politicians and ceo's from purposely sending his job to India.

      July 21, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dmark

      Funny, that's what your mother said to me about you the other night after I rolled off of her.

      July 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |

    Let them eat cake!

    July 21, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dirk

    my board is all waxed up man. now its time to go catch some gnaaarly waves.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Malibu Sue

      I hope to god you're not living here in the 'bu. You make me sick.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. joe

    It is the republicans fault. And George Bush. Obama did say he would repeal NAFTA but he backed out though.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. @authorsnote

    Yeah. You tell em. They are all lame Os.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
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