By Scott Tibbs, February 24, 2009
For the past eight years, we have seen a steady stream of jokes comparing President George W. Bush to a chimpanzee, and web sites such as smirkingchimp.com and bushorchimp.com have been set up specifically for that comparison. A Google image search finds a huge number of Bush/chimp comparisons. Both childish and humorous, the Bush/chimp jokes have never spawned a huge controversy.
Nonetheless, the New York Post punched a hornet's nest when they published a political cartoon playing on the shooting of a pet chimpanzee that went on a rampage in Connecticut. In the cartoon, police officers standing over the dead chimp said "they'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." This brought howls of protest from shameless race-baiter Al Sharpton, saying that the cartoon was a "racist" attack on President Barack Obama.
In fairness, there is a long and shameful history of comparing blacks to monkeys and apes in order to demean them. This is a tactic still used by white supremacist hate groups. The Bush/chimp comparisons do not have this type of history behind them. The Bush/chimp comparisons are directed at an individual for the purposes of mocking him, while comparisons between blacks and chimps are designed to demean and slander an entire race based on nothing but skin pigmentation.
However, this cartoon was clearly not meant to be a racist slap at President Obama. It was meant to poke fun at the stimulus itself. In an editorial, the Post wrote that it was "meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill." The thought I had when I saw the cartoon was that the message was that a chimp with a typewriter could have put together a better economic stimulus package than the leaders in Congress who drafted and passed the legislation. To make a racial issue out of this is simply laughable.
But it gets worse. NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous made the hysterical claim that the cartoon represents "an invitation to assassination." This is just stupid. Anyone who has followed the story of the pet chimp shot by police should be able to discern that the cartoon was a reference to that, not any sort of call to harm President Obama or anyone else. Given that actual threats against the President's life are illegal, this is a thinly-veiled and cynical attempt to criminalize dissent. There is an assassination attempt going on here, but it is Mr. Jealous who is attempting to assassinate the First Amendment.
A legitimate case could be made that the cartoon was tasteless, but this is hardly a political crisis. Cartoonists cartoon, and an editorial cartoon cannot be held to the same standard as an opinion column or staff editorial. As a visual medium built on satire, editorial cartoons have been tasteless, and sometimes highly offensive, for decades. What should have been a throwaway cartoon that relatively few people read has been completely blown out of proportion, but has become an worthwhile lesson in how some Leftists seek to stamp out dissent.
Barack Obama, like every President, is going to me mocked, lampooned and ridiculed. Grow up and get over it.