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AAEC to NAACP: Don’t censor New York Post

Ted Rall, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC), has issued a letter expressing concern about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) recent calls for “serious disciplinary action” against New York Post editorial cartoonist Sean Delonas and his editor Col Allen. Ted writes that while the cartoon might be a bad one, the “chilling effect” of sanctions against journalists is worse.

His letter reads:

The members and board of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) wish to express our dismay that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is calling for censorship and reprisals against The New York Post and some of its editors over a cartoon by Post staff cartoonist Sean Delonas.

According to the Associated Press, NAACP president Benjamin Jealous called Delonas’ cartoon “an invitation to assassination [of President Barack Obama]” and called for “serious disciplinary action” against the Post, including the firing of the cartoonist and editor Col Allen.

While many in our profession have questioned the efficacy of Delonas’ cartoon and the judgment of his editors for publishing it, the suggestion that he was somehow trying to incite the assassination of President Obama is simply not credible.

Surely beyond dispute is the chilling effect that demands for sanctions against journalists will have on newspapers and other publications that rely on the free exercise of First Amendment rights to do their jobs. It is particularly unfortunate that the NAACP, with its long and admirable history of defending civil rights and liberties in the United States, has chosen to reverse course over a cartoon whose meaning it has misinterpreted.

Sincerely,
Ted Rall
President,
Association of American Editorial Cartoonists

Community Comments

#1 Quint Nelson
March/2/2009
@ 2:12 pm

Right on Ted! The NAACP should be ashamed of themselves for their actions. It’s obvious that they don’t value the First Amendment and free speeech when it might “offend” some people.

#2 Ted Rall
March/2/2009
@ 2:32 pm

I have no doubt that those who took offense weren’t making up their feelings. But those feelings don’t justify firings.

#3 Wiley Miller
March/2/2009
@ 3:13 pm

The only thing that would justify firing the editor and the cartoonist (in that order) would be because of the national embarrassment and ridicule they brought on to the paper, which would be an internal business matter by the publisher. As far as those outside the paper are concerned, their voices have been heard loud and clear. That’s what freedom of speech is all about, and the damage to the reputation of the paper has been done, as public opinion has been decidedly against the Post in this matter. It’s time to drop it and move on. This over-reach of an interpretation by the NAACP only makes them look ridiculous.

#4 Nick Fechter
March/2/2009
@ 3:30 pm

Man, I was hopeing that we’d be able to sweep this little grievance under the floor-matt and forget that it ever happened, but apparently that’s not the case. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m willing to believe that there wasn’t any intention to use grotesque, racial slander in that cartoon. In other words, it was an honest mistake, just like when Gary Larson published that cartoon about Jane Goodall that was mistaken for crudely associating her with beastiality. When Sean Delonas said that he intended for the cartoon to use that running gag where things that are written horribly can be said to be written by chimps, I believed him.

#5 Carl Moore
March/2/2009
@ 7:54 pm

Your letter is on the nose, Ted. The NAACP position is clearly an over reaction and way out of proportion to the controversy. What this dispute has made clear is that any use, no matter how obscurely or indirectly, of a chimp, an ape, a gorilla or any simian used in an editorial cartoon critical of Obama is verboten, taboo, outlawed, prohibited, out of bounds, unacceptable, and, yes, unthinkable. It is also a testament to the nutty times we live in and the hysterical political correctness that still, unfortunately, afflicts too many.

#6 Joe Rank
March/2/2009
@ 9:29 pm

Of course, with the freedom of press and speech are also concommitant responsibilities. The 1st amendment is not absolute, as people are not free to cry “FIRE” in a crowded theatre, or to incite to riot.

There are numerous statutes now on the books in the wake of 9/11. This is a fairly unexplored area of criminal jurisprudence, but people that feel aggrieved will use them.

It will be the feelings of reduced revenues by Post management that will make an economic decision ( Wiley’s point ).

Some may argue with NAACP’s position; but they have broken no laws and have every right to state what they have. To attempt to stifle THEM would be an abridgement of THEIR 1st Amendment guarantees.

#7 P.S. Mueller
March/2/2009
@ 10:07 pm

I agree with both Wiley and Ted. Censorship is never the way to go, and any editor can and should be fired for the results of bad business decisions. (Surely the cartoon in question can be seen as one of those.) Editors are let go all the time for refusing to gut content anyway.

#8 Gregory Howard
March/3/2009
@ 9:32 am

Awww… the cry of the FIRST Amendment. I love it when my fellow citizens cry or use this and others as an excuse for actions.

Joe Rank… you explained it best. It is not an ABSOLUTE right. So there are boundaries and it seems like we keep trying to expand it when it seems fit for us rather than truly represent what it really means.

Interesting… this is what I found when setting up to post here. lol

“PLEASE NOTE: Please use your first AND last name when posting a comment. Please refrain from swearing. It’s one of the rules that I enforce strictly. Thanks.”

#9 Gregory Howard
March/3/2009
@ 9:35 am

You guys kill me with this censorship mess.

All of you are involved in it daily.

Go into a court and talk over the judge and he will tell you “Quiet in the court!”

And you respect it as you should because it is about order.

What was posted was also about order.
And to try and link it to the another story was about as lame as you can get.

Heck if that is the case then if that story wasn’t out then link it to one of our nature shows that just happened to be focused on a chimp sometime that week.

#10 Gregory Howard
March/3/2009
@ 9:40 am

Carl… the same would apply when certain things are said, draw or implied when it comes to a woman and you consider the struggles they have had to overcome by our democracy in the works.

We displayed our ignorance after 9/11 by profiling our people who had those rights and most of the people on this board would have found away to justify having people removed from a plane just because.

Hispanics will go through the same thing.
And if you don’t think there is anything worth crying over then do the same thing to another commmunity like the Jewish community with regard to their struggles and you’ll get the same out cry.

#11 Wiley Miller
March/3/2009
@ 9:55 am

You do know that your First Amendment rights protecting you from censorship only applies to the government, don’t you? Restricting the language used here, or in your living room, isn’t a violation of anyone’s constitutional rights.

#12 Ted Rall
March/3/2009
@ 11:23 am

Actually, you DO have the right to cry fire in a crowded theater. Look it up: the Supreme Court case that contained Oliver Wendell Holmes’ comment about said shout was later overturned.

First Amendment rights have no meaning if people are routinely threatened with dismissal whenever they say something other people don’t like.

#13 Joe Rank
March/5/2009
@ 2:31 am

One has a right to cry “fire” in a crowded theatre, if there is a fire.

The Schenck case ( which was really about distributing anti-war pamphlets in time of war ) was overturned in Brandenburg v. Ohio . That case defined speech ‘pur curiam’ as that the government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is inciteful of imminent lawless action.

Brandenburg is the standard on freedom of speech issues.
It is interesting to note that the most ardent advocate on the Court for liberal speech values; Wm. O. Douglas, considered that “falsely” crying fire in a crowded theatre would be a case of “speech brigaded with action”, and the only instance of which a person could be prosecuted for speech.

Do not make the mistake of confusing criticism with censorship.

I have thought about this long, and have other ideas…but will restrain my own considerable ability for speech for the time being!

#14 Tom Wood
March/5/2009
@ 12:34 pm

I’m reminded of this speech by Christopher Hitchens about free speech:

http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2007/03/free_speech_6.html

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