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. Jameth

    Insanely funny image

    July 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. kit8

    Murdoch's stable of gutless, tactless, phone hacking tabloids have been masquerading as news papers for years. Now we can all see the true colors of the Murdoch wing of the Republican party. There is a new low for this bunch everyday that can shock even those that expect the worst from the Murdoch empire.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chandler

    What a horrible cartoon. It suggests that the press hacking dead soldiers, 9/11 victims, murder victims, and bribing the police and government ARE NOT serious issues. A free press is fundamental to Democracy! The Murdoch scandal should be a HUGE deal!

    July 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Khopdi

    This is sick. If people can't help poor, at least don't make fun of them. Disgusting.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anonymous

    Ahem - there are people in the wealthiest nation in the world who are starving also. Veterans from our most recent wars are homeless and jobless.

    Maybe less hate, fear, and greed would promote more caring for ALL people in need at this time.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BVN

    I don't know about you guys, but man am I grateful for this air conditioned place where I can connect to the internet on my expen$ive device while drinking a four dollar iced beverage while admiring hot mothers. What? I beg pardon? That witch hunt for the old Aussie still helping thousands of struggling internet opportunist$ pay that electric bill? Rabbale rabble rabble says what? How much did you pay for that device you got there? Would going for something as cheap as six hundred not be a good idea for an aspiring comedian? I want to be connected at all times you see. Yes I'm willing to pay that obscene amount. You know did someone mention something about the situation in Somalia? Gosh I had better set my drink down and get to searching the extensive media network I'm plugged into. Yes sir I had better sit right here and get some work done. Better get something accomplished. Better sell something, or my AC might have to be turned off, and I just can't have that....

    July 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mark

    pathetic only begins to convey how i feel about this cartoon. shameless? clueless? so many synonyms it boggles the mind. i think they should shut down ALL his newspapers.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Epicurus

    What a sick, ignorant cartoon. The scourge of murdoch trash, abuse of power, monopoly, ruining of journalism, spying on people, disrespecting the dead, and low-brown humor is burning to the ground. I dance among the flames.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. djwazu

    Now you know why we hate these people! This goes straight to back to Rupert Murdoch and the likes of him (Fox) a bunch of f&^$#king idiots!

    July 21, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Noble9

    They made their bed, now they've got to lie in it.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ken

    Don't like the cartoon??? Then don't look at it! ... Don't like the cartoon...then help the starving people...oh and quit wining about cell phone hacks... don't want it hacked...turn the damn thing off!

    July 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JD

    How often doesn't the American complain that the cause du jour of the Republicans is trivial compared to some bigger problem? Even when that cause is pursuing liberal wrongdoing, like ACORN or Clinton?

    I didn't realize that this was yet another tactic that's only acceptable when liberals do it.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JD

    I don't think a lot of people would have realized that the cartoon offended them so deeply if CNN hadn't told them so.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ezno

    I think it's funny. Am I the only one..?

    July 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Deborah

    Murdoch needs to be taken down – hard.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
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