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Powell-traitor cartoon receives condemnation

Gordon Campbell calls Powell a Traitor

A recent cartoon by Gordon Campbell is being called out of bounds due to its racially charged message depicting Revolutionary War general Benedict Arnold with a black face with the words “Benedict Powell… Race Patriot” referring to former Secretary of State Collin Powell as a traitor because of his endorsement of presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Clay Bennett, editorial cartoonist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press reportedly responded, “to inject race into the accusation (as if skin pigmentation was the determining factor in the endorsement) seems to be playing to all of the ugliest sentiments being expressed by the lynch mobs that John McCain is trying to pass off as campaign rallies” on Rob Tornoe’s Politicker blog.

Syndicated cartoonist Matt Bors called the cartoon, “top ten worst political cartoons ever created. Since time began. Hands down.”

In Rob’s blog post, Gordon defended the cartoon saying, “No sane person would question his patriotism toward the United States or even the Constitution and the principles of democracy, but his support of such things as affirmative action and Roe v. Wade placed him too left of center for the bulk of the GOP electorate.”

The blogosphere in general has come down equally hard on the cartoon.

Community Comments

#1 Tom Wood
October/21/2008
@ 4:33 pm

I suppose it’s a matter of free speech to dismiss an endorsement by arguing that it’s based on skin color. It’s also a -requirement- of free speekers to make the argument that a legitimate endorsement is more than skin deep.

#2 David Crews
October/21/2008
@ 5:01 pm

Funny I didn’t hear any of these libs rushing to Powell’s defense all those years he was being labeled a “race traitor” and an “uncle Tom” for being a part of the Republican party.

#3 Charles Brubaker
October/21/2008
@ 6:07 pm

It gets better. The drawing of Benedict Arnold used is the first results in the Google Image Search.

Seriously, does this guy actually DRAWS? It seems that his “cartoons” are nothing more than Photoshop manipulations with captions.

No wonder this guy got laid off.

#4 Charles Brubaker
October/21/2008
@ 6:08 pm

It gets better. The drawing of Benedict Arnold used are the first results in the Google Image Search.

Seriously, does this guy actually DRAW? It seems that his â??cartoonsâ? are nothing more than Photoshop manipulations with captions.

No wonder this guy got laid off.

#5 Charles Brubaker
October/21/2008
@ 6:12 pm

…and I made a double post (I thought I was able to stop the first one from appearing so I could fix the embarrasing spelling and grammar errors).

#6 Matt Bors
October/22/2008
@ 12:28 am

Also, the flags come from the first Google Image result for “white flag.”

#7 Wiley Miller
October/22/2008
@ 8:07 am

>>Gordon defended the cartoon saying, â??No sane person would question his patriotism toward the United States or even the Constitution and the principles of democracy, but his support of such things as affirmative action and Roe v. Wade placed him too left of center for the bulk of the GOP electorate.â?<<

Ok… so what does that have to with his race and dismiss Powell’s endorsement as being nothing more than race based?

And, David Crews… who ever made such a ridiculous accusation? I think you need to back that statement up with some facts.

#8 John Auchter
October/22/2008
@ 10:17 am

Okay. Beyond the talk of quality and appropriateness and Google art, I honestly don’t get the cartoon. To whom is Powell a traitor? His party? His race? His country? His self? All of them? Some of them?

It strikes me as a muddy effort that comes from hewing too close to an ideology instead of making a strong point.

So even though I’m pretty sure Mr. Campbell is a white guy and I myself am a white guy, I cannot endorse this cartoon….

#9 Jeff Kersten
October/22/2008
@ 12:01 pm

For Campbell’s colleagues to condemn this toon as racist shows me that even satirists have a weak stomach and can MISS THE POINT.

Who, for example, do you suppose this toon is aimed at? I believe it is aimed squarely at the radical Republican base who somehow can’t comprehend independent thinking beyond party lines. My response: Bravo to Colin Powell for being independent in his philosophies & BRAVO to Gordon Campbell for having the guts to shine the light on the folly of those who believe everyone in their respective political parties MUST tow the party line.

The winners today are independent thought and freedom of speech, IMHO.

#10 Jim Bradford
October/22/2008
@ 12:30 pm

Only Powell knows whether his 11th hour decision was based on race. The assertion is debatable, whether one finds it distasteul or not. My problem with Campbell’s effort ( or lack thereof) is that there is NO ATTRIBUTION. The portrait of Benedict Arnold was done by John Turnbull during the period of 1775-1819. H.B. Hall later based an engraving on this portrait in 1865. Mr. Campbell has manipulated artwork glommed from the web and passed it off as his own. Readers and editors expect editorial cartoonists to be controversial, but they have no appetite for borderline plagiarism and the fact that the copyright on the Turnbull portrait has lapsed is no excuse for Gordie Campbell’s intellectual improbity or his glaring artistic laziness.

#11 Jeff Kersten
October/22/2008
@ 12:47 pm

Jim-

Your point is well taken. From your perspective here, I’m left scratching my head as to HOW an editorial cartoonist could do this. It certainly reveals Campbell’s attitude toward the Orphan Works Act controversy. I agree — what a shame.

#12 Jim Bradford
October/22/2008
@ 5:44 pm

Made a typo in my previous thread. It’s John Trumbull, not Turnbull.

#13 James Middleton
October/23/2008
@ 9:57 am

It appears that race is the third rail on which only the intrepid dare to tread.

While I don’t believe Powell’s sole motive was one of race, who could blame him if it was the deciding factor. I think he’s still a bit embarrassed by the whole Iraq War build up and his assertions before the UN. Who knows…

More to the point, however, is the vitriol being heaped upon poor Gordon Campbell. By all means if Clay Bennett and Matt Bors (or is it Boring?) are repulsed by this, then it must be wrong…hogwash! It might be in poor taste, but unless we can tastefully refer to race in satire, are any of us really free of the taint of racism?

#14 Matt B
October/23/2008
@ 10:40 am

Sorry I left my last name out. I seriously don’t need to be getting racist hate mail. The white flag for surrender, so he’s surrendering to… what? Or whom? And what did he surrender? Then there’s Benedict Arnold in blackface, inplying traitor… so… but he’s wearing an Obama pin, so is he supposed to be a traitor to Obama? “Race Patriot?” What does that even mean? So, supporting Obama somehow magically converts Colin Powell into some sort of traitor because he is alleged to be a “race patriot?” Or is the meaning supposed the be that he betrayed Obama? Like, why are the white flags there, then? Whatever. This cartoon fails as art becuase it is a pasteup of stolen photos, and fails as satire because it is obtuse and confusing.

#15 Beth Cravens
October/23/2008
@ 11:44 am

…because drawing’s too hard. C’mon man.

#16 Clay Bennett
October/24/2008
@ 11:44 am

Colin Powell was quite eloquent in his endorsement of Obama. In the many reasons he gave (some supportive of Obama, other critical of McCain), not one was based on race. For Gordon to post this depiction of Powell (just minutes after the endorsement) struck me as reactionary in every sense of the word.

Not only did the cartoon liken Powell as the most infamous traitor in US history, but it based Powell’s ‘treason’ on his “wishes to see someone who looks like himself in the White House.”

With cries of ‘traitor’, ‘terrorist, and ‘kill him’ (not to mention racial epithets), following any mention of Barack Obama at Republican rallies, this year’s presidential campaign has become dangerously combustible. For Gordon Campbell to casually add more gas to that mixture, just seems to be the height of irresponsible journalism.

#17 Matt Bors
October/24/2008
@ 2:53 pm

The Matt B that commented is not me.

#18 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
October/24/2008
@ 11:47 pm

Very well described, Mr. Bennett!

My question is, where was this published?
Are not the editors equally culpable?

#19 Clay Bennett
October/25/2008
@ 8:41 am

Joe Rank asks, “My question is, where was this published? Are not the editors equally culpable?”

Gordon is published through syndication with Cagle Cartoons, so I suppose Daryl Cagle would be his editor.

As for culpability- that would be spread equally between Gordon and any editor irresponsible enough to publish the cartoon in question.

For those of you who would defend this cartoon on the grounds of free speech, I would remind you of the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

This cartoon, in my opinion, is very close to being just that.

#20 Charles Brubaker
October/25/2008
@ 10:30 am

“Gordon is published through syndication with Cagle Cartoons, so I suppose Daryl Cagle would be his editor.”

Actually, no. While Cagle’s website runs Gordon’s work, they do not syndicate it Cagle Cartoons.

#21 Clay Bennett
October/26/2008
@ 12:00 pm

Thanks for the correction, Charles.

You’re absolutely right about Gordon Campbell’s syndication. He is NOT in the stable of Cagle cartoonists.

I stand corrected. My sincerest apologies to Daryl.

#22 Mike Lester
October/27/2008
@ 9:51 am

Clay: “With cries of â??traitorâ??, â??terrorist, and â??kill himâ?? (not to mention racial epithets), following any mention of Barack Obama at Republican rallies, this yearâ??s presidential campaign has become dangerously combustible. For Gordon Campbell to casually add more gas to that mixture, just seems to be the height of irresponsible journalism.

Sorry, my red-bearded friend, according to the FBI, there has been no verification (reported by one reporter) of these accusations. To report heresay as fact was “irresponsible journalism”.

However, it appears that lynching a Mother of five in effigy is art. Try that w/ the Democratic nominee and get ready for a JoethePlumber colonoscopy.

http://cbs2.com/local/Sarah.Palin.mannequin.2.849299.html

#23 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
October/27/2008
@ 7:56 pm

Mike…Distasteful, poor excuses of satire by insipid amateurs is not the question. Those sad and pitiful displays have no apologists.
We are concerned with a breach among our profession, and it has aquired the condemnation it deserves.

Your false equivalency falls flat.

#24 Clay Bennett
October/28/2008
@ 6:25 am

The Palin effigy was outrageous and offensive, Mike. And if our country had a history of lynching white women with obnoxiously folksy accents, it would have been even more offensive.

As for the validity of the hatred spewing from McCain rallies, well, it has been widely reported. I’ll just post this link as evidence:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVFWahLTdUo

Right after McCain states’ “Who is the real Barack Obama”. You can clearly hear someone shout, ‘kill him’. Notice the pained expression on McCain’s face after the cry. Too bad he didn’t chose to repudiate the sentiments when he had the chance. Instead, good ol’ John McCain saved his scorn for John Lewis, who likened the McCain/Palin rallies to those of George Wallace. Lewis went on to comment, “As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.”

I agree with John Lewis.

#25 Mike Lester
October/28/2008
@ 8:02 am

“Distasteful, poor excuses of satire by insipid amateurs is not the question.” -the Krankster

Joe, you don’t like me. I get it. But there’s no reason to bring your work into the discussion.

Clay, no we don’t have a history of lynching women with accents libs don’t find sophisticated (yet), but blacks could vote before women, rap and porn make a living off of mysogeny and if that’s not enough, seems they’re willing to do it all for the low low price of 80cents on the dollar (compared to men).

In 1972 John Lennon lamented the indecencies inflicted on a group he termed the slave of the slaves in his song “Woman is the Nigger of the World” so forgive me if I don’t elevate one persecution over another. Jesus Christ notwithstanding.

I agree w/ John Lennon.

#26 Mike Lester
October/28/2008
@ 8:06 am

btw: the Campbell cartoon is what it is: his style and his opinion that Powell’s endorsement was about race. It was. It was also a job interview for an Obama administration position.

#27 Alan Gardner
October/28/2008
@ 8:35 am

Rule #2 for commenting on TDC: Avoid personal attacks on a cartoonist or other commentators.

Please keep things things in check.

Thank you.
Alan

#28 Clay Bennett
October/29/2008
@ 7:08 am

Lester writes: …”Powellâ??s endorsement was about race. It was.”

And the secretaries of state who have endorsed McCain did so because he was WHITE?

I guess those endorsements were solely based on a desire to have someone in the White House who looks like them. Oh wait, we’ve had 43 of those already.

#29 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
October/29/2008
@ 8:05 am

Compounding this offensive cartoon ( that was intended to offend, IMO ) is that it is intellectually lazy.

Consider if it had been another high profile Republican that had endorsed Obama, but was white….say, Bob Dole. I think it doubtful that a similar rendition would have been thought up.
In fact, there HAVE been a number of prominent Republican endorsers of Obama that ARE white: Weld, Pressler, McClellan, Buckley. There may be some in the GOP that question the loyalty of these people, but I have not seen any cartoons opinionating about them.

#30 Pat Shiplett
November/3/2008
@ 9:25 pm

We declared that â??All men are created equal, yet our constitution countenanced slavery. For 80 years, American politics roiled over the right to own human â??property.â? And then the war came and six-hundred thousand people (equivalent to 6 million today) died. The 13th amendment was written to abolish slavery. The 14th to protect former slaves from the tyranny of the states. The 15th secured the vote. It took another century for an amendment that prohibited poll taxes on voters of color. After all that, on the eve of a critical election, the carelessness of Gordon Campbellâ??s cartoon is simply staggering.

#31 Garey Mckee
November/3/2008
@ 10:05 pm

Is there something wrong with me that I don’t get it? I can’t even agree or disagree or take any stance whatsoever, because I can’t understand what Campbell is trying to communicate here.

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