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. NorCalMojo

    The cartoonist nailed it. The uproar over the cartoon just adds to its irony. The obsession with Murdoch is getting pretty ridiculous.

    IIf you don't like it, don't read it.

    Problem solved.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • John N. Seattle, WA

      I find it incredibly insensitive to use the famine in Africa as fodder for a cartoon, ESPECIALLY a cartoon that is trying to portray News Corp. as a victim! They are not victims, and the reason the REAL media has focused on them for this amount of time is because of the severity of the crime and the breach of the public trust of the media AND the UK Government! This is about the subversion of justice, not just the insensitivity of the reporters.

      July 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laurie

      You don't think it's a little odd that it is Murdoch's paper that printed this?!

      July 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vested

      So if crimes are occurring look the other way? Only a buffoon would make a point like that.

      Yes, I just called you a buffoon.

      July 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince

      That is like saying "if you don't like crime, don't commit it".

      July 21, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tlnst19

      Same applies to you, if you don't like all the coverage on Murdoch "Don't Read It"

      July 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • nofed

      To bad you dont see the irony of the situation. its his news paper and he approves this cartoon. waht about the murder of key witness reporter? that would be a great cartoon.

      July 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Your lack of uproar is ridiculous.

      July 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reynardine

      Well, Norcal, in Kazan, there was a man who murdered his father and his mother, and then he begged the court for mercy, because he was an orphan. If you don't like the point of this little story, don't read it.

      July 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Well said John.

      July 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      So should we ignore all crimes, just because there are starving kids in Africa? A major media outlet was found to be bribing police (two top Scotland Yard officials have already resigned) and illegally hacking into phones of politicians and crime victims. How is that not a big deal?

      July 21, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • CMFP

      I'm going out on a limb here in guessing that you lean heavily to the right? Exactly.

      July 21, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Even if you don't like it, it's still important to read know how far we've fallen from grace.

      July 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mac

      Murdoch knows he is finished. This cartoon is just a malicious parting shot with the British public. Murdoch's empire is now in the trash bin of history. Good riddance.

      July 22, 2011 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. peter

    A better caption would be "Has Murdoch put anything in your bowl?

    July 21, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • audra

      My favorite yet - that was awesome...

      July 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John N. Seattle, WA

    This is akin to everyone on Fox News bemoaning all of the media coverage..."Why wont they move on...", "Why all the fuss?", "Citibank was hacked and they didnt get this coverage" (nevermind that Citi was hackED, not doing the hackING!). If ever you had any doubt about the quality of journalism News Corp. subscribes to, this type of behavior should be enough to prove, beyond any doubt, that they have all of the integrity of a typical Republican (that is to say...none at all).

    July 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Laurie

    Is Murdoch being advised by the same PR people who handled the BP oil spill? Maybe someone will learn that hiring PR people isn't always the best move.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jerry

    The "we've got more important things to talk about" diversion, most notably used recently by Anthony Weiner, usually means there is A LOT more about this story we don't yet know, and Murdoch would rather you weren't paying attention.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Randall

    Coming from the garbage "a la Murdoch" it is not strange or a surprise.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    Expect no less from a Murdoch newspaper...fair and balance. Murdoch apologists will spin this one on Fox news and the Wall Street Journal.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jealous Dogs

    The jealous dog always want what's in the other dogs bowl. They form a pack and attack the other dog. They circle and sniff one another's butts and scratch their fleas incessantly. Dirty jealous dogs....

    July 21, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Yeah, those Boehners are ridiculous.

      July 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. PhilG.

    Murdoch thinks the wholesale breaking of the law is a joke.

    Murdoch does'nt realize that there were some parts of the rich establishement you never expose to ridicule.

    He's about to pay a very high price for his stupidity.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • HD

      Stupidity, no. Hubris, yes. Whatever happened to common decency? The man blamed everyone but himself for what transpired and because he refuses to accept his fall from grace and all of his subordinates are falling all over themselves to show just who is most loyal.

      July 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dave

    That pinche little weasel Murdoch has embarassed and ruined Journalism forever.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Meteorite

    This is not surprising. One expects racist behavior from a racist mind.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The Real Tom Paine

    Anything for a buck. Ammoral little ba$tards.

    July 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Zoundsman

    As a former political cartoonist- hits and misses. This guy comes across as being a patsy for his job.
    Bad for editorial cartoonists to look like lap dogs. It's as trite as 90 posters to blogs saying "We've got bigger issues."
    This scandal is big and important enough for the public to have it remain a major focus.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    Yet one more reason Murdoch's media empire needs new management, starting at the top. I would like nothing more than to see an end to the biased and divisive commentary put out by Fox News Corp. It's bad for humanity, just like this insensitive, self-serving cartoon.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. carlos

    and married to a chinese goldigger.......UGH!!!!!.....PHEW!!!!!!

    July 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
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