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. mongome

    I'd be more impressed if these people put his cartoon next to real, present day images from places like Somalia.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JD

    Every time Republicans have busied themselves prosecuting some wrongdoing of Democrats, Democrats have responded that the issue is trivial and Republicans should be more concerned about bigger problems. Of course, when the tactic is used against them, Democrats whine.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • heliocracy

      What Democrats? You really think this is some kind of party issue?

      July 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • whatsimportant

      Trivial like Common, rite?

      July 21, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. guess who

    The caption is not funny. Why a cartoon when a photo would be much more effective?

    July 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. alleygator

    Typical billionaire humor.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sarah

    how come with all his money can't he do both?Repair his empire and help feed the starving?

    July 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jacque Sue Roycroft

    that's disgusting.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Chris

    next time, use a fist not a pie on that geezer...

    July 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. PensacolaPete

    WOW! Rupert Morloch is looking more like Faux News every day. Or, is it the other way around?

    July 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ahlamhelwa

    The man his company and his employees appear to be nothing but arrogant manipulative odious toads using the crisis in Somalia to off load the Murdoch scandal...in exactly the same way as the zionists used the crisis in Dafur to off load the scandal of their own siege on Gaza....now where is the link and who is learning off whom I wonder

    July 21, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe M.

    Murdoch is drawing attention to the famine in Somalia and making the point that attention is better focused elsewhere. That is an accurate depiction of what a starving Somali child looks like. It's liberals' fault if they find it offensive, since nothing has been done about it and they'd rather talk about Murdoch.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • PensacolaPete

      Joe M., starving children should not be the subject of cartoonists. How callous can you be? Are you a Christian, Joe M.? 10 to 1 you call yourself one.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • sbk

      And it's pretty disgusting Murdoch is using his own newspaper and taking advantage of the famine to deflect interest of his own failure.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. PensacolaPete

    Rupert Morloch will probably get a 50M bonus, but won't notice it since he's worth 40X that much. Faux News should show this cartoon every 10 minutes. I'm sure many Rethuglicans in the USA would love it.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    So how many stories on starving Africans does this paper run?

    July 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin Observation

      Including this cartoon.... one.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. PensacolaPete

    Joe M., starving children should not be the subject of cartoonists. How callous can you be? Are you a Christian, Joe M.? 10 to 1 you call yourself one.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Shawn

    This is the most incensitive pic ever. Phuck you London Times. Rot in hell.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ezno

      >incensitive

      I thought I smelled something nice

      July 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Common Sense

    I'd like to see what the hell efforts this news organization has made to ameliorate the plight of these people!!

    They are very exploiting!

    July 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
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