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Peter Brookes replies to criticisms

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Tonight is News Club – a society I’ve started that meets monthly (or thereabouts) to discuss current affairs. Each member picks a news story that’s interested them over the past month and presents it to the group, who then discuss it.

I’m having a lot of trouble narrowing down my options from the feast of stories on offer. I might focus in on a tiny part of the Hackgate scandal – the Peter Brookes cartoon published in the Times on the 21st July, featuring a starving Somali kid with the bloated stomach of famine saying, “I’ve had a bellyful of phone hacking”. Here’s a link to a pic of it that someone posted on twitter:

It garnered quite a few objections (and not just twitter outrage, which doesn’t count, as people will get outraged on twitter over just about anything). But there weren’t that many objections  on the comments page for the cartoon. Perhaps the venn diagram of “people who are angry about Rupert Murdoch” and “Times subscribers” doesn’t have an enormous overlap? I’m a Times subscriber actually, though not for long. But while I’m behind the paywall, I thought I’d share the comments that were posted in response to the cartoon… and Peter Brookes’ replies to them.

Firstly, a comment from this guy:

John Rowe

July 21, 2011 4:59 PM
Tasteless and poor.

And what a self-serving, servile attitude to those in power.
The phone-hacking scandal clearly can’t disappear fast enough for News International and The Times.
I suppose apparent corruption in the Prime Minister’s office, the media and the police is of interest only to Westminster village, left-wing Guardian readers.

What happened to the no-holds-barred media the Murdoch press supposedly gave us?

To which the cartoonist replied:

Peter Brookes

July 22, 2011 9:05 AM

Thank you for your comment. Criticise my cartoons as much as you like, by all means, but please do not impugn my motives.

God knows how many deaths caused by famine, with pretty meagre media coverage, no deaths (as far as I know) caused by phone-hacking, with blanket coverage for three weeks. Drawing how angry I feel about that is a no-brainer, and where I work is irrelevant.

I commented too. I didn’t think the cartoon in itself was offensive, just its context.

Louie Stowell

July 21, 2011 1:16 PM

I think the priorities cartoon is good work from Brookes, and an excellent point, but it doesn’t work for the Times. Changing the conversation to more pressing matters is admirable. But a News International paper doing it in this way seems a little slimy.

It wouldn’t work in most papers for different reasons – any paper that’s been running and running the story would look silly saying, “change the record” when they put the record on in the first place.

Brookes replied:

Peter Brookes

July 21, 2011 2:53 PM

Thank you, and I’m sorry you thought I seemed a little slimy. I just thought I was being human.

I think I do believe he was drawing in good faith. But cartoons don’t exist in a vacuum. Where he works DOES matter. There’s no universal humanity to be had when you’re getting paid by the person you’re doing a cartoon about. Money changes things.
As I said in the comment, The Times isn’t the only place that I think is wrong for this cartoon – if The Guardian did it, it would fall down for different reasons. But, The Times is definitely the worst spot for it. I blame whoever approved it more than Brookes. As a satirist, he should’ve realised the irony of his position, but, churning out cartoons on a daily basis, it’s not surprising that some ironies would slip past you.

One response »

  1. The implication of the cartoon is that ethics is a zero sum game. In other words that each of us has a fixed sum of ethical availability, and if 90% of our concern is devoted to Murdoch then only 10% can be devoted to anything else. Maybe that is true of newspaper space but it seems an odd way to think about how people deal with these issues. You can fume at Murdoch even as you put money in the OXFAM box.


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