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. anillusion

    II want to know why News International with its convoluted corporate structure, is allowed to get away with PAYING NO TAXES ANYWHERE ( yes, this is the company which owns FOX NEWS), while the rest of us ARE GETTING HAMMERED to pay for the mistakes of hedgies, bankers, politicians and bureaucrats around the world.

    July 22, 2011 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. vrim

    How rotten! Murdoch I hope your entire "empire" comes crashing down! It is rotten to the core.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. goldforwow

    Haha, the comments are interesting! But, anyway, things will come to end!
    SwagVault will be gtreater and greater!

    July 22, 2011 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Natasha Evans, London

    Josh I agree. Getting back to the original question, (I don't think race has anything to do with it) the whole ethos of publishing a cheap one-liner using a subject of such severity and horror to carry it, has stunned and shocked me.

    If increasing awareness of the subject of the African famine was the intention, what is wrong with making it the paper's headline? Worried they won't get enough readers? Not explosive enough to get sales? In that respect there is no difference between the Times and the red tops.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. JoeyTx

    Come on people, racism will never be gone so get over it. That is like expecting mankind to stop hatred or anger, it is impossible. If it is not racism, then it will be tribalism, or some other kind of ism associated with hate. There will alway be ignorance among us and the those that capitalize on that ignorance. Therefore while you call out the ignorant watch the exploiters and that's the big picture.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Zaphod2011

      This isn't about racism! NBC had a story about famine in Africa just yesterday. It's horrible and this man and his minions continue to laugh at the world!!! This is about a man who has lied and blackmailed government officials, the police and who knows who else to make his fotrune.
      Even though faux news thinks that this story is not worth covering (geez, I wonder why since old man owns them) they sure covered a couple of sentences the late NPR head said ad nauseum. They are not even covering this except to ask why anyone else cares.
      WE CARE, becuase of cartoons like this and because the murdoch empire is about to crumble. I wonder what his granddaughter of a wife will do when the money is gone!

      July 22, 2011 at 6:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. marthaj03

    I believe the the point being made here that there are people starving to death, and the issues need to get out to the people of the world that can help them. Reading day after day about the phone-hacking is not going to help feed the bellies of starving children!
    I do NOT see anything that requires this chat to resort to talking about racism, except for the many racists who come here to bring up the subject.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. Duane

    At first, I was just disgusted and surprised at the stupidity of these people allowing something so insensitive to be published at this time when they need all the friends they can find. Then I began to see Rupert Murdoch and his cronies in a new light: Despite all the wealth and power, they really are "limited" and insensitive in their dealings with the majority of human beings on the planet. They really are rather socially inept. Money does not give you manners and breeding. This proves it.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. shofacke

    Excellent cartoon. Shows how we as humans are focused on stupid stuff while people are starving. Wars about who has the right religion, who has the right God, whose nose is the right size (Rwanda)...

    July 22, 2011 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Franny

    Unfortunately, Racism is NOT dead. It's alive, and kicking apparently in the GOP, and Tea party bunch!

    July 22, 2011 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. MiamiC

    The cartoons should dispel any doubts about what the Murdoch "empire" is all about. Murdoch and the people he has chosen have no brakes when it comes to getting their way: they'll hack their way into the lives of every person they want to manipulate, and hold media power over their heads. Its an old story with modern details.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. Xgirl360

    Just Sick, this just proves that Billionaire Fat Cats can't possibly understand why the "little people" who pay taxes hate them. This is an insult to the starving children AND and insult to the murder victim's family that have to have salt poured into wounds because of their need to sell more papers.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. Larry, Boston, MA

    Except for the WSJ, my impression of News Corp's publications is very low. So I guess lowly is all that can be expected from gossipy. prurient, sensationalistic "journalism". I wish the public would speak with their wallets and boycott.

    July 22, 2011 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. Amanda

    Well we are sick as a society as a whole...I mean come on, we hunger for the latest and craziest news! How have we gotten to a society that will pay a baby killer a million bucks to tell her story? Your not going to get the honest truth out of her! And yet people are starving to death in this world!!! What have we become?? I wake up more and more disgusted each day! I keep the tv off, it just all ludicrous b.s.!

    July 22, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Amanda

    would turn on the TV but it's so embarrassing
    To see all the other people I don't know what they mean
    And it was magic at first when they spoke without sound
    But now this world is gonna hurt you better turn that thing down
    Turn it around

    "It wasn't me", says the boy with the gun
    "Sure I pulled the trigger but it needed to be done
    Cause life's been killing me ever since it begun
    You cant blame me cause I'm too young"

    "You can't blame me sure the killer was my son
    But I didn't teach him to pull the trigger of the gun
    It's the killing on this TV screen
    You cant blame me its those images he seen"

    Well "You can't blame me", says the media man
    Well "I wasn't the one who came up with the plan
    I just point my camera at what the people want to see
    Man it's a two way mirror and you cant blame me"

    "You can't blame me", says the singer of the song
    Or the maker of the movie which he based his life on
    "It's only entertainment and as anyone can see
    The smoke machines and makeup and you cant fool me"

    It was you it was me it was every man
    We've all got the blood on our hands
    We only receive what we demand
    And if we want hell then hell's what we'll have

    And I would turn on the TV
    But it's so embarrassing
    To see all the other people
    I don't even know what they mean
    And it was magic at first
    But let everyone down
    And now this world is gonna hurt
    You better turn it around
    Turn it around

    July 22, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Amanda

      Jack Johnson- Cookie Jar

      July 22, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. Richard

    As a regular reader of the Times I can say that this cartoon is one of a number, by the same cartoonist, that have ridiculed the focus on the hacking story to the detriment of more important things such as the famine, the Euro crisis, the US debt crisis, etc. These are 'get things in perspective' cartoons. Maybe he'll do one about the furore over this cartoon.

    July 22, 2011 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
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