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. Remford

    Get over yourselves.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. tony

    As if any of Murdocks papers ever gave a rat's behind about starving African children. Murdock's media all about scandal, embarrasment, anger, fear, greed and hate conjured by ultra capitalistic politics. If one truly reaps what they sow, his empire will fall on its moral and economic sword

    July 22, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • The Public

      Dear British people,
      As with governments, you tend to get the news service you ask for. Stop blaming News for your own schadenfreude.
      regards,
      the rest of the world.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • oldboldgold

      Dear The Public. Please, speak only for yourself.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. vrim

    Put every single one of his trashy rags out of business for good!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • borisjimbo

      The paper would be better left as trees; at least it would provide shade and sequester carbon that way.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rob

    How tasteless, and typical of that "empire".

    July 22, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. jeremy

    I this the message of the cartoon was misunderstood. I opine the fact that there's more pressing issues around the world that needs attention (famine and drought in Africa) other than phone hacking scandal or whereabouts of casey anthony. The world doesn't have its priorities straight.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Ituri

      People didn't miss the message. Its the SOURCE that is offensive, even more so than the cartoon itself. Murdoch is so full of himself that he thinks he can influence people using the same papers he's recently lost face for. Its astonishing gall, and of course its transparent in its attempt to save Murdoch some of the fury he's earned for his business practices.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
    • felix sabiniano

      i agree with ituri........murdoch and his paper is full of hypocrisy. although the cartoon has a valid point, he still is accountable for his paper phone hacking action.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
    • oldboldgold

      I understood it fine. You and Murdoch do not understand how dreadful this cartoon is. Yes, we already know Murdoch will stop at nothing for sympathy... I imagine the little pie routine was set up so folks would quit calling his old lady a ho and feel sorry for him. Note: distraction was offensive and did not work. What next, fool?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. Paul

    One more reason to keep digging ... if News Corp is so much working at quieting down the story, it is because they fear what else could come out ... these guys are in damage control mode. Then, real investigative journalists out there, if there still are any ... start digging, the Watergate took a long time to unravel.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
    • oldboldgold

      Investigation is in order. His News America Marketing company in the U.S. has been in court several times for computer hacking. He even bought Floorgraphics to stop their lawsuit... must have thought the penalty would be more than the price of the company. Dirt bag.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. Real Champion

    A super-rich guy who manipulates the media with no ethics is sick of the phone hacking story not starving African people.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. Paschal

    I think they wanted to water down the feelings of the readers, and in the proccess divert their attentions. The tasteless pics mimicking the suffering poor masses in African nation of somalia, has invariably lost the taste for good journalism. And the readers are asking where is the ethics. In all fairness there is nothing the newspaper can do at this time short of paying the victims some substantiial amount of money in compensation will resolve this. It is apparent the did is done and unfortunate it was not caught on time, therefore the only way out of this cancer is for Mr Murdoch to pull out his check book and start writing. After all he can not take back the bad did.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
    • oldboldgold

      Actually, payoffs is what Murdoch does best, doesn't bother him a bit. Jail would catch his attention.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. jill

    Pull the other one Murdoch.All you care about is getting James off the hook ,now that he has twice lied to the British Parliment.A tasteless attempt at that.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    Murdoch could cure the famine with his own personal wealth to tomorrow, if he was so inclined.

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

      great point Joe, Murdoch and his papers have not shown any interest in solving poverty before and as you point out, with all his wealth and power he really could have made a difference.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. Phil Lunney

    These people really do not have any shame. But, it tells you what the Murdoch's think. Rupert reminds me of Big Jim Taylor from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Jimmy Stewart version). It is time that we all watch that movie one more time. Murdoch took a local/state mogul archetype and took it global.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. borisjimbo

    Sorry but there is no comparison between starving children and a media mogul's delicate ego.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cathy mcrorie

    How do we make news corps leave our country. They are vile

    July 22, 2011 at 4:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. uhohitsme

    I think it's a brilliant cartoon! Everyone is talking about it. not everything about a black person is racist lol. some people crack me up

    July 22, 2011 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dr.Tong

    Murdock is evil.

    July 22, 2011 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
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