One of my biggest pet peeves (in addition to the phrase “pet peeves”) is the responsibility free half-apology more commonly known as the “But I didn’t mean to.” Now, this is something nearly everyone does or has done at some point — myself included — so I want to acknowledge there’s a good chance I can later be painted a hypocrite, but with that in mind, let’s go to the tape on the New York Post’s “apology” for its obviously offensive cartoon equating the author of the stimulus package to a racially charged animal.
Wednesday’s Page Six cartoon – caricaturing Monday’s police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut – has created considerable controversy.
It shows two police officers standing over the chimp’s body: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” one officer says.
It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.
But it has been taken as something else – as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.
This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.
However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past – and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.
To them, no apology is due.
Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.
Let’s assume for a moment that it was “most certainly not [cartoonist Sean Delonas’] intent” to pejoratively equate the figure most associated with the stimulus bill — a black man — with the one animal most loaded with racial overtones (something by the way, I don’t believe for a moment). In this case, the cartoon still betrays a thoughtlessness so singularly complete it’s nearly as offensive as if the comparison were made deliberately. That is, being a thoughtless troglodyte is not necessarily better than being a jackass, and it certainly doesn’t exculpate one from wrongdoing.
Of course, this is a conversation for another day, but I tend to believe intentions don’t matter at all, more or less because of this exact reason. Basically, regardless of intention, people decide how to interpret events as they will. Insofar as it relates to things like this cartoon, failure to understand this fact of humanity evinces a basic lack of compassion that makes it fundamentally difficult to be a likeable person.