Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nigger = Ape, Ape = Nigger


Never mind that apes have thin lips--the simian = negro syllogism is time tested, effective...hell here's some trivia for you: by way of advertising and prototypical public service announcements (PSA) the imagery got the federal government to outlaw cocaine in the early 20th century. Nuff said. Recall the posters of Barack all through Red State world (no, not the ones portraying him as a buck toothed, dark skinned Bin Laden... I mean the monkey ones from the Palin rallies). Such is element one of this Perfect Storm of Assholishness...

Now, we all know the bend of the New York Post. For example, Mayor Mikey Bloomberg is considered a traitor to, I dunno, some form of the publisher's neocon Judiasm (which has now been discredited). Nevertheless a media outlet having an extreme, nasty or even stupid point of view isn't a crime. It's stirs discourse. That's also element two of the Perfect Storm. Hold that thought for a sec and dig this...

...I write articles, books, essays. But did you know I was a cartoonist? Far back in time to the modern age, from my high school newspaper the McDonogh Week, to the Princetonian and Nassau Herald to the Source and even Smithsonian (talk about a range!). Haven't done it in a long time, yet still I'm familiar with the cartoonist here. He's good. I also know what it means to push the damn envelope of taste. Yeah, yeah, I also know what it means to push it into full tilt asshole-realm. OK so the folks at the Post don't like the Stimulus. I don't recall such vitriol presented against the TARP or bonuses at AIG, etc., but hey. Fine. Forget that the same wingnuts in the GOP whom the Post supports now want the stimulus cash. A newspaper can be a forum for hypocrites, too. No crime either. No "intelligent design ," however. Oh, it's merely Darwinian evolution: from the dinosaur of Hearst's meglomanical yellow journalism to thebirds of the NY Post, Roger Ailes, Bill Kristol. Again, fine. But let's start connecting all this up...

...and back to the Perfect Storm we come. Here's element three: the ape stereotype, as if primates are silly, stupid, therefore the Stimulus and it's sponsor and fellow travelers are the same. You know, the Shakespeare-typewriter thing. Real digression alert here: you don't have to be a National Geographic or Discovery Channel addict to know that (1) we are pimates and (2) we humans are likely the most silly, venial, deceptive, violent of all them (them being gorillas, gibbons [who mate for life and are monogamous], oranguatans and chimps). Oh and (3), apes are pretty smart.

Which brings me to element four. The gravamen (or angle) of this cartoon derives from a chimpanzee in Connecticut who tore up a woman. The police had to shoot it as it made off with the lady's scalp. Now, is this funny? Snicker worthy on any level? Depends. Yeah, I said it. Of course it is if you're stupid and you subscribe to ape stereotype above. Ever see an adult chimp in the wild? Not Disney small and cute. Mugging for cameras, clapping. A full grown male silverback gorilla's pretty damn scary, but if he can't bluff you he might crack your skull and run. A chimp, well, it will rip you to shreds. Maybe even share your liver with another in it's troop. Maybe even murder another chimp. Of all the primates they are like us when it comes to killing or lacking empathy. When I was ten my family visited this ramshackle place called the Catoctin Mountain Zoo (not far from Camp David, Maryland--whoa, there's a nice presidential tie-in) the day a chimp--a grown female--tore off another little boy's arm. And here's some further White House convergence. The animal escaped and had to be shot by guards at Camp David once it wandered near the border of the compound. I saw the kid's blood. My mother shooed away my sister and my brother was a toddler, but I was old enough to understand what had happened. Yet I didn't know people had so much blood inside their bodies. All I'd seen was ooze from scrapes gotten in bicycle mishaps, or a cut finger or classmate's nose bleed. And here was a boy close to my age. The shrieking cut right to my stomach. His mom's shrieking, not his. He was comatose. Nope, not funny at the time, or now. Not funny to the woman's family in Connecticut, I suspect.

So, returning to element two, did anyone at the Post act as sounding board, or offer "come on, this is a little too crazy" word of wisdom? Unlikely. Indeed, I posit they in true "te he he he" wingnut form, everything this encompassed, all the elements of the storm. They didn't care,--not that they didn't know or anticipate "oversensitivity." They plain didn't care. Lord given my history, no one can accuse me of being oversensitive. The cartoonist? That's a tough call. He draws to create debate, arguments. Sometimes you get sucked into that and don't see the forest from the trees. Trees laden not with furry apes, but editors, howling and screeching and beating their chests for you to come up with something to feed the provocation machine.

Al Sharpton commented on this, and appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Interesting the nature of outlets in this duel: the Post verses urban (or bamma, 'cause I love to wax elitist) radio. This is a discourse which needs airing on a broader level, however. Unh-unh. It's not as silly as a barrell of apes. It belies something ugly, long-standing. It's just donned a new mask and other people refuse to see what's behind it despite the storm gale blowing it off . People will not learn. Smart people. But then again, we're just primates, right? Naked apes. Everyone, not just niggers...

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. You said it all and then some, air tight.

Cliff Albright said...

Good piece! On point to show the Post's different reactions to TARP vs. Stimulus.

carl said...

The old petting zoo near Frederick (or Thurmont) and the state park?! I remember that place. It was whack! You know I texted my mother and she said she recalls something about some ape the Secret Service or such had shoot!

Good post man. This time, I'm actually proud of you. Check out the dingbats commenting on the Post's website. I'm sure most of it is anti-Sharpton motivated, but this is way beyond him grumbling on the Fly Jock's show.

tchaka owen said...

Tsk, tsk, tsk.....

I guess the NY Post doesn't care much about journalistic integrity.

Snowman said...

I did not see this until my daughter in law pointed it out from another blog. My response surprised her and certainly shocked my cohorts who are not fond of Mr. Obama.
While I am not convinced this is intentionally racist, on the other hand the NYP should take into account the historical portrayal of the monkey or gorilla symbolism as it relates to their opposition to Barack Obama. This is why I was encouraged to see you couch things in terms of a "perfect storm" and not merely a screed. I'm not accusing you of a screed but for the perfect storm label. Your dismay is legitimate, and the connection to the maulings gives some good background regardless.
I, too, recall the Catoctin Mountain Zoo. The name of the place your commenter is thinking of is Greenbrier State Park. Believe it or not, I have only been there once. My pull east is toward the sylvan shores of the Severn River and the Chesapeake, as might know.
Again, I'm glad you did not cram this into a convenient racism hole, and set some context. Still, the NYP should have exercised some judgment rather than attack.

texas girl in l.a. said...

Good essay.

Anonymous said...

Me and my colleagues are sharing this over our cubicles. Some of the white male "Lunberg" types are harrumphing, but I say with confidence that the young white dudes in my office don't think it's funny either, and it missed even the mark it was supposedly drawn to hit (the stimulus).

Yes BRAVO on your Perfect Storm coalescing symbolism. It puts how full of shit the NYPOST is in full perspective.

Dick Cheney said...

All in the eye of the beholder, Big Papa. I don't recall all this ire directed at Annie Leibovitz--a darling of urbane (if not urban) folk over that crazy King Kong LeBron James-Gisele Bundcheon cover.

Lisa said...

OMG! Listen, that Missy Ann on CNN, Campbell Brown, called out the NYP on this hot mess. If her jenkty tight Barack-hating butt is squirming over this cartoon and the Post's snide 'tude, then it must be bad.

see CNN.com

So let me get this straight as I pick up my jaw. You SAW the chimpanzee tear this child's arm off or you were just there in the crowd? I hope this place has been closed.

Knute Rife said...

Face it, Chris, the Post isn't even good for fish wrap, and that's not news. As for the Vogue cover, I figure it was a slow news day for Jemele Hill to have wasted so much typing on it, and most of the folks making noise about it seemed predisposed to see a "Threatening Black Man" image. If it had been Brian Urlacher with the same pose and expression, would there be an issue? More to the point, as Jason Whitlock put it, if it had been the cover of Ebony and it was Selita Ebanks instead of Giselle Bundchen, would there be an issue?

ch555x said...

Didn't Public Enemy write a song about the NYPost back in the '90's? Doing a search on NYPost cover images basically tells me what this paper is all about, regardless of the cartoon's intent...

Noelani said...

Great post, Chris!

Monica said...

Forget about the shot-up monkey. Mr. Chambers are you listening to Tom Joyner now?

Anonymous said...

SoCal 82 Tiger Says:

Professor thanks for your missive encouraging me to respond!

I'm not sure my thoughts or response is what you expect...

I will first say that I'll defend anyone's right to free political expression no matter how wrong headed... no better yet ... ignorant and stupid it may be! With that said, the NYP’s attempt at humor and insightful political rhetoric failed miserably on both counts!

As Snowman observed - this may not have been an intentionally racist cartoon, BUT for two boys in blue to sheepishly make the comment that they will need to find "somebody else" to write the next stimulus plan while looking over the bullet ridden chimpanzee they killed can only be seen as an effort in both word and image to take a swipe at President Obama!!!

The stupidity of both the image and the statement is astounding: With all due respect to your spot on analysis of how profoundly wrong the NYP was in it’s choice of imagery - THE FACT REMAINS THAT OBAMA DID NOT WRITE THE STIMULUS BILL... That credit lies among the House and Senate Dems who pieced it together behind closed doors... Jesus - If your going to knock the man at least first get your facts about the man strait!!!

This NYP cartoon should tell an intelligent reader that they are not prepared to argue the merits of ideas only wallow about in a pen of personal mudslinging.

The need of the NYP to resort to using a cheap, sleazy, and intellectually lazy cartoon featuring a racially charged visual metaphor that equates a man of color to an ape speaks volumes about the mental shortcomings of those in charge of the NYP.

Such tactics may succeed in selling papers, but it does not win arguments or change hearts and minds. IT readily permits the "other side" to see that you really don’t have much of a point to argue.

If the best the NYP can do in making their argument against the president and his policies is to allude to people that he's is an ape then in my humble opinion they've lost the argument before it evem begins...

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece! It's time African-Americans use their economic power and protest such ignorance. A message is always stronger when it affects the profit margin and bottom line.

drewzee23 said...

Hmmm...nice piece. It is absolutely necessary, especially in this day and age, to push the envelope. Push that shit, push that shit, push that shit, but with aggressive coy and tact. That is paradoxical, but quite possible. With written word and a visual aide, there is more than enough to "say" a lot without saying much. Edit what? Please. "They musta lost they damn minds," for the sake of being ingnorant. I would love to say they are acting in a manner in which they think we don't know. But it is much more plain than that: they don't give a shit. Nice. "I pledge allegiance..." y'all know the words.

Christopher Chambers said...

Well folks (Snowman) I didn't "cram" this down the racism hole. I just out and said it was. But yes, I think it needed context.

NabilaJ said...

UNITY issued a press release with NABJ. They should have talked to you first. Good job!

Pebbles Flintstone said...

I heard somebody on WHUR alluding to your blog and your ape story. Cool.

Here was that response to your story and on other blogs which complimented your comments:

"I think the intention was to have a “safe” reading, for the sake of plausible deniability, while sating their racist base with a satisfyingly racist reading.

This really is what “post”-racial America is all about. Continuing to quietly cultivate and support the dominance of white supremacy while shouting down anyone who dares to challenge that with accusations of race-obsessiveness, regression etc."

Anonymous said...

SoCal 82Tiger Says:

Professor & Pebbles: Great Topic and Responses - Please have hope that not everyone in white America fits into your cynical but understandable assessment of our Post-Racial Post Obama America...

Some "white" folk have always wanted open, fair, and honest discussion of ideas and issues.

Alas I must admit that the open, fair, and honest seems to take a back seat to the petty, personal, and racial biases that live among all us folks!

rikyrah said...

Great post. On point all the way.

Mr. CommonSense said...

This is a joke. Liberals and blacks savaged George Bush and VP Cheney; you all even denigrated Condolezza Rice and any black person who didn't tow your rope. Now you whine over a silly cartoon and want to call out the NAACP?! The story about the monkey and your childhood was touching. You are such a cretin.
I'm glad normal Americans are laughing at people like you, and looking forward to the day four years from now when common sense returns to Washington DC!

Cougster said...

When I first saw this I thought owch that is a tad harsh making fun of something that was so awful, the woman getting her face ripped up by the chimp.

(if anybody missed that do a search, very sad story).

The point of the cartoon is that the bill was a mess, like it was written by monkeys.

No way is it saying Obama is a monkey.

BTW I supported Obama and am no fan of Murdoch, NY Post, Rush, Malkin, or any of those clowns.

Christopher Chambers said...

From JackandJillPolitics:

Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff offers psychoanalytic take on the flap over the stimulus cartoon:

"Barack Obama has been a long-simmering issue at the Post. He offends both its tabloid conservatism (however cool and witty it may have become) and, too, its latent, unreconstructed Australian tabloid—again, say it—racism. He offends it even more because Rupert Murdoch, the Post’s owner and virtual Godhead, rather likes Obama. The more and more liberal Murdoch—indeed, he was in Australia earlier this month pressing for looser immigration rules—has stifled the Post’s reflexive contempt.

So the dam burst. Repressed for most of the past year, the id suddenly broke free. Forget the post-modern crap. This is real, old-fashioned, tabloid hate.

Murdoch, I can make an educated guess, is livid. And Col Allan is shortly on his way back to Australia. "

Murdoch's more progressive ephiphanies can be traced to his new young wife, apparently.

isonprize said...

To all who say something like...

"I don't think it was intentionally racist..." I pose the following situation/question.

You and some friends are unpacking the trunk of the car coming home from a vacation. In haste, your friend slams the trunk on your hand. He didn't intend to do that, it was an accident.

Does your hand instantly heal because you know your friend didn't mean to do it?

Anonymous said...

SoCal 82Tiger Says:

Re Common Sense - So your tit for tat strategy is your well thought out solution that advances the pushes your cause for having something intelligent to say about important topics? First, I am not happy at how both extremes in this country savage each other personally. I do agree with many of your thoughts on the treatment of people like Powell, Rice, & Petraus. I also believe that cheapening serious discussions with not so cleaver imagery suggesting that the president is a Chimp is ALSO not better behavior. Savage personal rants fail because people (including yourself) are no longer focused on talking about or solving real problems and issues...

Misdirection is not just a magician’s trick – ALL political animals in our local, state, and federal governments along with their respective tools in the media use it to keep the people’s eyes off of them! When will smart people stop enabling this dynamic and resist the rush to turn every issue or disagreement into a Bonfire Of The Vanities event? It serves no good purpose...

Sure, you can argue that it was "only" a political cartoon - BUT it's a cartoon that failed to achieve any substantive goal. - It failed to be funny and inject humor into the sad events occurring in our nation AND it was inaccurate in laying the blame on who wrote the POS stimulus plan WE all now have to live with…

Now I am no Nash or Conrad, but I think a political cartoon needs to be either funny or accurate (but hopefully both) to be successful!

Dark Moon said...

Even though there is bigger fish to fry--It was obviously racist and mean spirited. The association was obvious even through all that pathetic sputtering about Satire and slow news day with the aped out chimp and the stimulus--the supposed 800lb gorilla with Obama's prominent ears.

Anonymous said...

And what the HELL do you mean by 'normal' people pissant?!! What it really is is self-centered,arrogant,thoughtless,hateful,bullying jerkweeds like you who whine when others don't tow YOUR precious little rope. Bottom line it was stupid and insensitive and insulting if not to Obama then certainly to the victim and I'm pretty sure his 'touching story' was menat to illustrate that. But you were so damn busy sucking on the air of your enormous arrogance to notice that goes triple for you too Snowman.

Bobby G. said...

Chris:
Your essay, in a word:
Brilliant!

I live among such primates, unfortunately, as this USED to be a nice neighborhood, so my perspectibve is rather unique.

It's not the majority of them that's bad, but the percentage of them that ARE, will jade even the most unsuspecting person within a short time.

Ask all my former neighbors (that have moved away).

Good blog you have here.
Continued success.

B.G.
(FTW, IN)

unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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