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. Hm

    Dirk and Tod are either really that stupid or they are trolls.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • ctlawman

      Why can't they be both?

      July 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Spencer

    I don't get all the hullabaloo. Those are clearly aliens from another planet in the cartoon.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Canadian Genius

    Maybe I'll try this defence next time I get caught doing something wrong.

    "Compared to (insert global disaster), what I'm doing isn't a big deal, is it?"

    Seriously, if I was tring to sabotage what is left of Murdoch's and his company's reputation, this is exactly the kind of cartoon I would insert in their pages. It's mindboggling that they actually did it to themselves.

    July 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Linda in Seattle

    If people don't recognize this for what it is, shame on them, not the paper! It's clearly pointing out that while our media is dominated by the cyber-antics of the tabloid press, real human beings are starving to death. If entire populations disappearing for want of a bowl of food, while the mega-rich argue over who did what to whom & when, then where indeed are our priorities???

    July 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorCalMojo

      These people don't care about Somalians or the cartoon, it's just another way to get at Murdoch the bogieman.

      July 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • ann

      If the people who published this cartoon are in fact part of the same organization who did the phone hacking, then don't you think there just a bit of self interest involved? They want to distract you from their own crimes with a cynical joke about poverty and famine, not enlighten you about your own narcissism. Wake up.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Z_Ninja

    plain and simple, f*** the phonehacking. society needs to learn some empathy and help out those who have needs that they cannot meet themselves. if people don't start giving a damn, then why don't we just stop trying so hard to make our truly pointless lives better?

    July 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • SNL

      what a sweet sentiment. why can't we all just get along?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Professor Douglas Greenwright

    Arent there Mcdonalds in Somalia? No. There arent restaurants over there because all the food would be stolen. If all the people over there werent such crooks maybe they would have food and restaurants.

    July 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • thatguythere

      can't tell if trolling or just stupid

      July 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tad Pole

      Seeing as how all the comments from this professor are so silly, I'm guessing it is a student that didn't pass his course.

      July 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      If this is a joke, you have a disgusting sense of humor. Sarcasm doesn't translate well in text. If you're trying to gleam a sense of social interaction (aka troll), I feel sorry for you. Social interaction should come from more than just a CNN post.

      If you're neither of these things, there's a third option: a spoiled, self involved bigot. Given your other comment this seems a little more likely, although I'm hoping you're still just a troll (not that you couldn't be both...)

      July 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mac

      I thought Marie Antoinette was dead, 'If there is no bread, let them eat cake'!!!. That's what you are saying. Incredible in this day and age for someone to voice this. You are no Professor, you are not even human.

      July 22, 2011 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
    • max

      if you know anything about history you will know that it`s you who stole all the food.

      July 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. derek dunbar

    the press complaints department should suspend the times licence this is absolutely disgusting ! inhumane

    July 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorCalMojo

      That's it, Derek is offended. It's time to ban free press and start letting the government determine which cartoons we're allowed to see.

      July 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Professor Douglas Greenwright

    And as a highly regarded professor I must agree with the comments about INDIA. People that consider cows sacred are a little odd.

    July 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • xposer

      who refers to themselves as a "highly regarded professor?" that sounds odd!

      July 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Professor Douglas Greenwright

    I concur ol chap. Trolls are both bothersome and ignorant.

    July 21, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. (required)

    Many stupid comments here today.
    Thank goodness school is almost beck in session.
    I, For one, can't wait!

    July 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. (required)

    Sorry for the typos...

    July 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mmmmm

    Why does white arrogance before it acknowledges its shortcomings and transgressions must it blackface the sufferings of people of color...history tells us that kind of hardness of heart and lack of humility causes self-destruction...sort of let you know their days are numbered.

    July 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. pushpak

    well you cant blame the whole world for the situation in Somalia, that country had been in civil war for 20 years and 3/4 of all aid that goes to Somalia is stolen by government or warlords, UN hardly has a network to distribute the food safely, no matter how much aid or food you send if the political will to protect their own people isn't strong the world cant do much but watch.

    July 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. coder

    another group of rich, self righteous people making fun of people who have little or nothing

    side affect of being a greedy loathsome human being

    July 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorCalMojo

      Stop pretending you care about Somalians. You want to see Murdoch go down and that's the only reason you clicked the headline.

      July 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fred bazzeeda

    fcuk murdoch
    good riddance to his long time of no contesting to his manipulation of media and politics and the monopoly he has had.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
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