The paper has decided if they can’t publish anti-Semitic cartoons internationally without pushback then they won’t publish political cartoons at all.

Back in late April, The New York Times landed itself in some scalding hot water after its international edition published an anti-Semitic cartoon that depicted Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog leading a blind President Donald Trump, who had him on a leash.

As Prof. Jacobson said after its publication, “The clearly antisemitic cartoon run in the NY Times is an example of how these anti-Israel antisemitic themes have worked their way into the mainstream media.”

Artist António Moreira Antunes said at the time that he did not think the cartoon as anti-Semitic, and claimed he was a victim of “the Jewish propaganda machine.” The Times gave several excuses for how the offending cartoon made it to publication, but nobody bought them.

In the end, the paper announced yesterday in a tweet that it has ended daily political cartoons in its international editions:

You’ll note that they didn’t reference the anti-Semitic cartoon from April that prompted the intense backlash in their statement but instead suggested that this idea had been in the works for over a year.

On the other hand, their website published a piece on the decision that sounded like a news outlet other than the Times wrote it:

The New York Times announced on Monday that it would no longer publish daily political cartoons in its international edition and ended its relationship with two contract cartoonists.

Two months earlier, The Times had stopped running syndicated political cartoons, after one with anti-Semitic imagery was printed in the Opinion section of the international edition.

[…]

The syndicated cartoon that prompted the most outrage was a caricature of Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald J. Trump.

The Times issued an apology, saying the cartoon was “clearly anti-Semitic and indefensible.” One of The Times’s Op-Ed columnists, Bret Stephens, denounced the cartoon and wrote that The Times should “reflect deeply on how it came to publish anti-Semitic propaganda.”


Patrick Chappatte, one of the cartoonists impacted by the paper’s conclusion, lamented the news in a lengthy post on his website:

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.

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.

Chappatte is right in that social media mobs “rise like a storm” and leaves little room for discussion in the aftermath, but in the case of the Times and the controversial cartoon in question, his blaming social media mobs is widely off the mark.

First, it’s been almost a month and a half since the publication of the cartoon, so the decision to stop daily cartoons in its international editions did not come in the heat of the moment.

Secondly, the Times is no stranger to controversy when it comes to editorial decisions involving the publishing of political cartoons. For example, in 2015 the publication was roundly criticized for their decision not to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, a decision those in charge said they made out of respect for their Muslim readers, who they worried would be offended by the depictions of Muhammad.

Dean Baquet, their executive editor, said he was also concerned about staff safety in the aftermath of the deadly Islamic attacks against the Charlie Hebdo journalists.

Their call to not include the cartoons in stories about Charlie Hebdo was reminiscent of the Times‘ decision not to publish the Muhammad cartoons that first appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005.

In both cases, the Times stood firm in spite of the fierce national and international criticism they received over their decision. To be sure, there were safety considerations – as I noted earlier. But the more significant concern to the paper was whether or not the cartoons would offend their Muslim readers.

In the case of the Netanyahu/Trump cartoon, there was no such concern. Why? Because the paper’s coverage of Israel has been slanted against Jewish people for years, so much, so that anti-Semitic cartoons like Antunes’s didn’t raise any alarm bells:

The Times‘ decision to end political cartoons in its international editions is not a sign of any growing sensitivity towards the concerns of Jewish people. Nor is it the result of “moralistic mobs” online getting their way. Instead, the paper has decided if they can’t publish anti-Semitic cartoons internationally without pushback then they won’t publish political cartoons at all.

In spite of their decision, this doesn’t signal the end of the paper’s slanted coverage against Jewish people and Israel. It just won’t be in cartoon form anymore.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —

 

 

 

 

 

 

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