The Jewish homiletic tradition says that he who was burned by boiling water ends up blowing on cold water. A case in point is The New York Times—which a while back published a vulgar, anti-Semitic cartoon in its international edition, featuring a blind Donald Trump wearing a yarmulke and being led by his seeing eye dog with a face resembling Benjamin Netanyahu—on Tuesday revealed its decision to kill the editorial cartoons portion of the same international edition.
It could also be throwing baby with bath water, I suppose. How about, If you can’t beat them fire them? Peter Piper sacked a peck of pickled peppers? Send us your suggestions…
THE NEW YORK TIMES WILL END ALL POLITICAL CARTOONS I just learned, weeks after they published a syndicated Netanyahu cartoon that caused a scandal. For me, this is the end of an adventure that began 20 years ago. But the stakes are much higher. READ HERE: https://t.co/o8y43v88Yd pic.twitter.com/NBH0uyw9Jf
— Chappatte Cartoons (@PatChappatte) June 10, 2019
The decision was revealed when one of The Times’ cartoonists, Patrick Chappatte, blogged (The end of political cartoons at The New York Times):
“All my professional life, I have been driven by the conviction that the unique freedom of political cartooning entails a great sense of responsibility. […]In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons. Last week, my employers told me they’ll be ending in-house political cartoons as well by July. I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon – not even mine – that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world.”
Chappatte, whose works are often stinging but rarely mean or nasty, added: “I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow. This requires immediate counter-measures by publishers, leaving no room for ponderation or meaningful discussions. Twitter is a place for furor, not debate. The most outraged voices tend to define the conversation, and the angry crowd follows in.”
But James Bennet, the NYT editorial page editor, said the decision was not a reaction to the PR storm, but a long-planned change, pointing out that the US edition of the newspaper doesn’t carry cartoons.
“We’re very grateful for and proud of the work Patrick Chappatte and Heng Kim Song have done for the international edition of The New York Times, which circulates overseas; however, for well over a year we have been considering bringing that edition into line with the domestic paper by ending daily political cartoons and will do so beginning on July 1st,” Bennet told CNN Business.
“We plan to continue investing in forms of Opinion journalism, including visual journalism, that express nuance, complexity and strong voice from a diversity of viewpoints across all of our platforms,” Bennet said.
The anti-Semitic cartoon was the brainchild of Portuguese artist António Moreira Antunes, via a syndication service. Antunes insisted his images were anti-Semitic, but the rest of the planet thought otherwise.
The Times eventually apologized, announced “disciplinary steps” to land on the anonymous editor who chose the offensive cartoon, and ended the newspapers relationship with the syndicated cartoons service.