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. NoCoincidence

    July 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NoCoincidence

    July 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim mraz

    Even made the guy look like obama, racist Effrs fox news....corp

    July 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. saywhat

    "Sorry folks, I never knew them those creature in a place called Somalia or something were humans I always thought they were muslims or something" I am Murdoch.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. William O'Dell

    Yes, if only we could stop focusing on phone hacking we could solve world hunger. Give me a break. The people who are known for beating a story into the ground now think it's time for us to move on to more important issues?

    July 21, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. David

    Rupert Murdoch et al's attempt to make themselves look like the victim of the phone hacking scandal is ridiculous. His entire empire should be shut down. The world would be a better place.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. W. Nicholson

      Excellent suggestion!

      July 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. J. W. Nicholson

    Murdoch = DISGUSTING

    July 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alex

    I guess Murdoch's papers only like a scandal when it's someone else s.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob U

    This is no surprise. This Brits are the most crass and low-class people on the planet.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Voiceinthewind

    Get rid of this Jew already. Find a editor with fair and honest reporting not an anti American, Anti freedom one, a editor with morals and a sense of justice and freedom. Mur-duck should be in prison.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe

    Just when you think the Murdochs have hit rock bottom, they dig the hole deeper.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MARK

    I Would have thought that everyone would have figured out that his job is to SELL NEWS PAPERS. And that is exactly what this cartoon did. Probably by the truck load. And how many folks signed up on-line just to see what all of the fuss was about? Today was a good marketing day........

    July 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. RenegadeFL

    The scary part is the huge percentage of people whose knowledge and opinions are entirely informed by those responsible for greenlighting this "cartoon". A Democracy cannot survive without a well-informed and educated populace. When the media abdicates that responsibility in favor of ratings, or worse, twists coverage to support an outside agenda, the whole country suffers in the long run. It is a spit in the face to our system of government.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. cadecker

    so its ok for CNN to show it?

    July 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nancy M. B.

    The "talk and chew gum" comment was right on target. The media CAN focus on both.

    July 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
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