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. gadger

    ...show this to a starving African. If they laugh it's ok.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lawrence Weissmann

    One of the worst obscenities I have ever seen in the medea, and I'm getting close to 70. I only wish I had a subscription to the London Times so that I could cancel it and donate the money to famine relief. I hoe that all people who DO have such subscriptions will do that.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. elijahhawaii

    Since Murdoch's newspapers made him a billionaire, then the Times can tell HIM to send much of that fortune that he made off murder victims' cell phone records to starving Somalis and stop trying to tell the rest of the world what OUR priorities should be!!! HIS priorities should have been that caring and sensitive from the start!!! Ridiculous is too nice a word for this piece of narcissistic, self-centered, conceited, selfish, sociopathic "art".

    July 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BU

    A lot of the commenters here have very thin skins it seems and are *choosing* to get offended. The cartoon makes the point there are other issues besides Murdoch (as repugnant as his companys' behaviour has been) albeit with cutting wit. If people still want to get offended, I recommend getting upset over Murdoch or people starving to death and not those pointing one or the other out.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • hazmatsuits

      People have every right to be angry when a newspaper takes advantage of the fact there are starving children to try and guilt the public into leaving their boss alone

      July 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Belinda

    This will be an international scandal ,that will hopefully bring Murdoch's empire to it's knees. Is anyone surprized that these self serving,greedy,conservatives who are closely linked to Republicans,that are trying to destroy this country, in their political quest for power,would stoop so low as to cheat and lie, break the law and get away with it,and conservatives in England are still pushing to end this investigation.This needs to be thoroughly investigated here, where they will find evidence, that this has been going on for years. Disgusted with Conservatives in Texas

    July 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    I haven't read through all 19 pages of comment submitted so far, but has anyone previously pointed out that a version of this cartoon also appears on page 24 of the current Private Eye magazine – dated 22 July but usually available earlier to subscribers? There, the same scenario of starving Somalians bears the caption, 'Have you heard about the News of the World?' (I presume they're Somalians, though the artwork appears to have been executed by a drunken six year-old. Maybe it's the original rough submitted to the Times?)

    July 22, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ed

    Rupert is having a bad time of it. Even Larry Flynt dissed him.

    July 23, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. Louise

    People would rather invest their time being offended then to actually try and help a starving child.

    July 23, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. Alex

    CNN and Nancy Grace have no room to talk. The Anthony case was a total waste of media coverage that only served Casey in the end. Frivolous stories take away from media resources moving people into action such as helping famine victims. However, the hacking scandal is exceedingly relevant to our lives and rocks the very foundation of democracy.
    At issue is privacy and unbridled power. The cartoon is disgusting and typical of Murdochism.

    July 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. elijahhawaii

    Clearly, those who are stating that I as well as others are way too sensitive do not see the point that Murdoch and his ilk are basically implying with their whining piece of editorial trash that we are the ones with the bad priorities.

    one more time ... Murdoch and his band of stalkerazzi journalists who have proven their ZERO regard of humanity are claiming that the rest of the world should be caring more about humanity. That is h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-i-c-a-l, and it is vile, self-centered, narcissistic, selfish, self-centered, conceited, and sociopathic. Since they want the world to be more humane, then they can take the lead and relinquish their ill-gotten fortunes FIRST and not whine about the rest of the world who did NOT hack into dead people"s cell phones to make some quick money.

    Do I need to find some paper and pencil to draw you another picture to explain it better so that you can understand?

    July 23, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. gavin

    the world is full of self serving fools, despite appearances people hide their real motives even from themselves.I for example am a complete idiot.

    July 24, 2011 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jorn

    Well, I think people just need to grow up about stuff like this, because these are the things happening on our planet, and meanwhile our priorities are with (!@#$@) phone hacking. Which is like a molecule sized problem compared to what those children have every day of their to short life. I am 23 and I find nothing or rarely anything on the news shocking anymore, even the Norway/Utoya shooting or 9/11 (Do not mistake this for not caring at all). But a drawing, no, a cartoon as shocking? (what about the Donald Duck movies where said duck portrayed Hitlers actions?) I think it paints a beautiful yet harsh look on what we think is important in the west, and how those things are luxury based, and have nothing to do with survival. (The drawing is called Priorities... that's not for nothing...)

    July 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Valiently trying

    For a paper that thinks nothing of putting photos of naked women in it's pages to put a cartune of a starving child is beyond the pale. And on it's front page no less.

    I guess when someone like Rupert and his spawn are desperate they will stoop to even lower standards.

    Why am I not surprised.

    July 25, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mike S

    The cartoon shows the arrogance of the Murdoch family where they think they are powerful enough to dictate public opinion to serve their own purposes.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. Maynard Hiss

    I don't think most people realize the people in the picture are not Somalians but instead or Fox News reporters. It is easy spot them because they don't have any muscle on their backbones, they have no control over what they say, and are full of crap.
    In the sequel to this cartoon, the Fox news reporters in Somalia vomiting out the remains of the Murdoch empire.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
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