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. Frank

    Racism is far from dead. And, racebaiting jackas*es like Limbaugh, Coulter, and Beck have worked to make it worse on a national scale. Locally, I have to endure swimming at the same pool with a guy covered in prison tattoos that promote "white power." Racism dead? No way.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense Clyde

      @Frank: His name wasn't Derrick or William or Billy or Michael was it?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Brian

    I met Murdoch's mother once. She said she had a miscarriage the day Rupert was born.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Gross. Funny....but still gross.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • HRPuckinfutz

      Rupert wasn't born, he was spawned.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. brownstocking

    I find it ironic that, the banner ad on top of this page has Piers Morgan, another former Murdoch employee on it. CNN, maybe you should look closer at your own employees.

    Yes, the cartoon was offensive and shortsighted. But, hey! Is anyone surprised? Bill O & Faux News have been trying to bury this scandal since it began.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. llinmpls

    First, the fact that the charactors in the cartoon resemble Mr. Obama is merely coincidence, that is probably how the idiot cartoonist draws all Africans. Second, I couldn't find an article published by Murdoch about famine in Africa nor did I find any group or organization funded by Murdoch specifically dealing with the situation. But then I didn't hack into anyones answering machine so maybe Murdoch is all over this issue. I think every day on Fox and Frauds they talk about poor hungry Africans. But on the bright side now Murdoch can step up and do the right thing and send those people some pies.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

    Tacky, tasteless, and sadly indicative of the feeble sensitivity of the Times' current editorial board. Shame on them.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. JKW3000

    I enjoy when extremely rich men decide that moving the conversation away from their possible misdeeds and towards major pressing world issues is now important...but obviously not important enough to fix it themselves with their checkbook, the one that could significantly wipe out that problem in the first place.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Not only towards major pressing issues, but major pressing issues that they could solve overnight but choose not to.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. brenda

    Let's just ignore the poor, starving people of the world until we need them to get us out of trouble...that's so disgusting! Murdoch and his faux news agency is disgusitng. The woman who is half his age and crawls into bed with him at night, and it's all for love–of course, not money, is disgusting. Maybe that comedian should have hit him with something harder than shaving cream.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Thank you for your reference to crawling into bed with Rupert Murdoch. Now I will definitely not be getting any sleep.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Without taking sides – the times has actually covered the developing famine very well. I fly back and forth between the the US and London every week and Murochs US products (fox & WSJ) bare mention it. So as I've read the Times for several of the last few weeks I don't think its offensive as they have been trying to get the famine story across before the hacking scandal.....

      July 22, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. Inga

    The investigation needs to be brought to the United States. I am certain that there are a lot of corporations in the U.S. that do the very same thing that News Corp and Murdoch were caught doing in the U.K. Begin the U.S. investigation with Aetna Life Insurance Company. Americans would be SHOCKED.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Nicholas Lowe

    Typical News Corp nonsence, why anyone is surprised is beyond me. If Anything we should have come to expect this from them.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. JJ

    You stay classy, Rupert.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mike Balzer

    Quick check of "Fox News" website - one mention of the Somalia famine and that was near the bottom of the page in "The World" section & 2 mentions of the Captain America movie .... Nice "Fox News"

    July 22, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike Balzer

      Oddly enough - the story leads to an article with an AP byline ... so awesome it hurts

      July 22, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  12. jimzcarz

    I thought a "Raceism" was a cute NASCAR anecdote. eg. Them tirz iz as slick as snot on a doordnob

    July 22, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. Lila

    Where are my comments?

    July 22, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. Amanda

    CNN posts a picture of the cartoon in question and still can't get the caption of the cartoon right in its own article? It says "I've" not "we've." This goes back to like the third grade CNN. Who do you have working for you? My kids have better writing skills! Besides that, this really isn't news. This is more of the stuff CNN puts on its website in the place of news because it is lazy.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. Lila

    I tried three times to let you know how I felt CNN. You didn't let any of it through. Except my question asking where my post were. Nice.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
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