The New York Times has decided to stop running political cartoons. There is a columnist whose podcast I listen to from time to time named Andrew Klavan who refers to the Old Gray Lady as “a former newspaper.” Given this decision by what once was without doubt the greatest newspaper in the world to run away from political cartooning, he may be right.
The Times’s decision has caused many journalists to weigh in, and most of them are not taking the position that the paper has guaranteed its inclusion in a second edition of “Profiles in Courage.”
Most accounts point note that the Times got in trouble a couple of months ago when it published a cartoon of Donald Trump in a Yarmulke and dark glasses indicating that he was blind being led around by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, portrayed as a little guide dog. Classy!
The Times got into well-deserved trouble for that cartoon. Two months later the Times management decides to abolish editorial cartoons completely. Thomas Nast, credited with investing the modern political cartoon, must be howling in his grave.
The management of the Times published this statement: “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.”
Yes, THAT’S what we all yearn for in political humor and satire: nuance and complexity. Hard hitting commentary is supposed to hit you up the side of the head, not engage you in a balanced discussion. It is, in other words, supposed to have an OPINION about something. To take a stand.
Cartoons are supposed to offend and challenge. That’s not the same thing as employing antisemitic stereotypes. Surely a great newspaper ought to be able to make a distinction between criticizing the U.S. government for being too pro-Israel—not that I think there is anything wrong with being pro-Israel—and employing the toxic language that has been employed against the Jews for thousands of years.
I guess if the editor of the Times editorial page lacks the discernment to make a distinction between say, portraying a Jew with a hook-nose and a bag of money and not running cartoons at all, perhaps he should try another profession.