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. Bribarian

    Rofl, great cartoon. Props to whoever did it.

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

      This was in very poor taste.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • whostillreadspapers

      NAILED IT!!!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      Cartoon is thought provoking, truthful and bold. The only thing distasteful is the hypocritical source of this cartoon – Murdoch and his ilk

      July 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Acaraho

      I find the cartoon tasteless, racist, and self-serving. Tell me what has the Times of London done to alleviate hunger in Somalia? I would venture to guess that they haven't even had a reporter set foot on the ground in Somalia.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • moronsoncnn

      and here come the conservative trolls. If you notice they don't really ever add anything intelligent to the discussion. I used to a be a Republican. Now I can't stand them.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JJ

    Well, waddaya expect? Murdoch doesn't have any taste, just look at the zipperhead he married!

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

      It's 2011. Racism went out in the 60's. Get over yourself.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slim

      @Really. Not sure if that comment was meant for CNN, the cartoonist, or someone who posted. Not even sure what it means. Racism still exists today.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      The issue with the cartoon had nothing to do with racism. It was because he was using the starving Africans issue as either a point of humor or as a point of distraction. It was just a little over-the-top. Even my old, racist, FoxNews apologist relatives thought it was ridiculous.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jill

      Exactly Slim.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
    • PAvoter

      Yeah, that's what people like you want to keep saying to people of color such as myself. Funny thing however, is that you'll NEVER say that to a Jew that speaks of anitsemitism. I mean, this cartoon is like looking back in time during the Jim Crow era in America, like nothing has changed. Except it is 2011! And it shows that there are people out there that still don't have a clue, nor care. So what do they do?

      They say what you've said, that racism doesn't exist, or you're playing the race card; which there is no such thing as a race card. Just a cowardly way of saying, I'm not man enough or woman enough to address the elephant in the room, for fear of myself being called racist. So instead, people like you just say moronic comments like that to make people of color feel as though we're making a big deal out of nothing. Yep, the exact same words said to black people all the time during the Jim Crow era.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Well said... and with dignity. If anyome wants to 'move on', stop reaching for your box of Crayloa's.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mot Samonson

      Well said, racism is certainly not dead in the world. I want to point out that the characters in the cartoon look a little too much like how President Obama is drawn in similar political cartoons. This is quite a miserable piece of propaganda.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Most of us are with you, PAvoter.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Kita

      Actually, PAvoter, plenty of people DO say the same thing to Jews. It's too bad in your otherwise spot on reply you felt the need to throw in that little bit of racism of your own.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Acaraho

      Really, racism went out of style in the 60's? So where have you been living since then, in your basement?

      July 21, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Really, it didn't. Open your eyes.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiambe Tunsil

      Mr. "Really,"
      I "really" don't know WHAT to say, in response to your statement. I guess I should ask what your definition of racism is. It's like discrimination against women: just because you don't SEE it doesn't mean it's not there. Put in more blunt terms: just because people aren't hanging from a tree anymore or riding in the back of a bus DOES NOT mean that racism does not exist. That includes ALL forms of racism by ALL groups of people-black, white, asian, hispanic, anyone.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Racism is gone? Are you blind? What planet are you living on? I'd like to live there.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • stylemaster

      if u arent a troll the you are an idiot.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      What planet are you living on?

      July 22, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. Caron S.

    Murdoch and everyone associated with him and his ilk are utterly disgusting, filthy dirty, and not worthy of being a media outlet. This cartoon is devoid of humanity. Low lifes.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • apes

      Murdock has more integrity in his little finger than you and your ilk combined.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Acaraho

      To apes: Murdoch's little finger is wrapped around every sleazy fabricated story money can buy.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • apesmommy

      This is your mother! I told you to get off my computer when its past your bedtime! I don't care if you are 41 – when you live in my house, you live by my rules!

      July 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Greg McColm

    Considering Murdoch's history as a humanitarian deeply concerned with the disadvantaged, and the tireless championing of the rights of the underprivileged by him and his organizations, there seems little doubt that the cartoon reflects the idealistic motivations of the Times, its staff, and most of all, its publisher.

    And what that august organ of the press proposes should be done about Somalia is...?

    July 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caron S.

      I hope you were being sarcastic. Murdoch is a vulture who could care less about the disadvantaged.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Caron S.

    The public is astute enough to focus on more than one story at a time. Rupert Murdoch and his criminal organization needs to be on the front page for at least a year - humiliated, punished, shamed. The front pages have enough room for the famine news, too.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Which is what makes this cartoon, in my opinion, a hideous mocking of the starving people.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Caron S.

    Just like Murdoch to try to hide behind a poor, starving population. He is so shameful.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • sambo

      very much like the obomber himself

      July 21, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan H

    What would we have thought if the Nazis had a cartoon featuring people in their camps? This is no better – Rupert is simply a mean, evil, crass man.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • sambo

      Obama would deny that there were such camps

      July 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Sambo, take your brain dead idiocy elsewhere please. Crackhead conspiracy theorist neo-cons should keep to themselves, far, far away from the rest of civilization.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Beefburger

    What about the millions of dollars that these Somali pirates have gotten away with? All of that money and Somalis are starving? We need to start doing what the SEALs already did, just drop their a$$es with headshots until they at least start supporting folks in their own country somewhat.

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

    Wow, so classy...just keep shooting yourself in the foot, Murdoch...

    July 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Northeast

    What? Did you really expect something tasteful or ethical from the Murdoch propaganda machine?

    July 21, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. buctootim

    Brooks, the guy who did this is a briiliant cartoonist. He is independent, free thinking and usually funny whilst making a serious point. Search google images for Brooks cartoons and it you will see this is context of what he does. He isnt a Murdoch puppet.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Howard Thomas

    The problems in Somalia, highlighted by The Times' cartoon, are due to the greed of a few power-hungry individuals ignoring the rights and needs of everyone else.
    Interestingly, that also seems to be the problem at The Times' owners, News Corporation.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. buctootim

    Peter Brookes not Brooks

    July 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. David

    It is just a part of "the great game", referenced by Prince Andrew. Soulless vampires enjoying their ability to destroy others and feed off of their misery in the process.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. WoI Admin


    July 21, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
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