Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama as the 3 monkeys

By anarchist cartoonist Seth Tobocman, a friend of a friend...


Blogger Dearborn said...

Thank You Laila.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Christina Gorton said...

Though the people of Gaza are in desparate need of aid I think that it would be very presumptuous of my soon-to-be president to push President Bush out of the way and act out on this issue.

8:31 AM  
OpenID embers8 said...

Isn't it rather racist to call Obama a monkey, seeing as how that's how various white nationalist groups have referred to black people for the past several centuries?

8:43 AM  
Blogger American 6103 said...

anarchists of course are against nearly all political figure but us here in America are happy enough Obama isn't distracting himself with your problem when we have enough of our own.

9:12 AM  
OpenID egypt4 said...

Are you aware of how racist this is?

4:08 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Are YOU aware this is a take on an ancient Japanese pictorial maxim "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" that is commonly used to describe someone who doesn't want to be involved in a situation, or someone willfully turning a blind eye to the immorality of an act?

5:22 PM  
OpenID egypt4 said...

Yes, I am. But you're the one who called it "Obama as 3 Monkeys."

But the reality of it is that if Obama is going to make any change at all from the Bush administration, the best thing for him to do is to wait to speak out until he is actually president.

I don't think the oppression of a group of people justifies people from that group invoking racist stereotypes.

5:27 PM  
OpenID Intern in Israel said...

When I first looked at the cartoon, I did not even remotely consider it racist, and now that I've read the comments, I still don't. The point for me has nothing to do with any comparison to a monkey, but to the old pictorial maxim of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" and that Obama willingly chooses this stance. If a white person was portrayed here, we would most likely not consider it racist. No one put a tail on him or enlarged his ears. I do understand the value of being careful here, but focusing on the "monkey," I think, misses the point.

Obama's going to be president and we need to be able to be critical without always being worried about it being perceived as racism. Again, not that we shouldn't be careful and aware.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

The maxim is entitled "The three wise monkeys". That is what I was referring to in my post. Don't make this out to be something it isn't.

5:33 PM  
OpenID egypt4 said...

In the United States, you cannot portray a black man as a monkey and do anything but invoke centuries of racism. It's not your intentions. It's the message.

It's particularly cynical given renewed and important conversations about race happening in the US right now.

Honestly, this is one of the most racist portrayals of Obama I've seen.

And, sadly, I am all too familiar with Arab racism towards Africans. So it's a double whammy.

I'm not the only one who mentioned racism. And what I am is a liberal American who is just the kind of person likely to encourage Obama to support Gaza right now.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Fao said...

Laila, I pray that Allah ends this suffering. If the people in Gaza are to die, then let them die without suffering. It is Allah's will that we live or die. I pray that the children who have been hurt do not feel the pain. I pray that those children who have been killed did not suffer, and that they are now in the garden of paradise, playing and laughing while waiting for Qiamah when they will meet again their parents who have missed them so much... Amin.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

If Obama will behave like that picture, the citizens of Gaza strip and West Bank will really start living like in third world countries.

Thank him for giving you 50% of your foreign aid.

6:56 PM  
Blogger shishir said...

We will witness one of the most important inaguration of history and its a finale of a great campaign.
If we look it closely it resembls mix of top brands. have a look

7:02 PM  
Blogger littlehorn said...


This also exists in South America. One of my uncle who lives in Guyana once came back to France with those three monkeys as a gift. Laila speaks the truth. It has nothing to do with racism, and everything to do with cowardice in the face of evil.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Yonit said...

You'll speak out against Obama, but then welcome his tax cuts with open arms...Obama will be the best thing to happen to this country in a long long time.

8:19 PM  
Blogger handfulofsoup said...

Racism was also the first thing that came to my mind when I saw this post. Most people know where you're taking this from. That doesn't mean that YOU should pretend to be blind to the implications of this comparison.

8:41 PM  
OpenID embers8 said...

Definite nouns take an article in English. If you were attempting to reference the maxim, you could, and should, have referred to THE 3 monkeys. As it stands, what you wrote calls up references to centuries of bigotry against Africans. Even if it wasn't what you intended, it still seems wise to avoid offense, especially when it would be so easy.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Pearl said...

I agree with Egypt4 and handfulofsoup.

The origin of this illustration is well-known. However, the point would've been effective enough without the title, "Obama as 3 monkeys".

Americans just got through a bitter and divisive presidential campaign, filled with racial undertones. We don't need more, even if the comment was not meant to be racist.

I sympathize with your plight and do hope that Obama brings real change to the Middle East, but can we inaugurate him first?

9:27 PM  
Blogger ihath said...

Funny, but sad

9:41 PM  
OpenID ananosa said...

I am sorry, I really didn't see any racism behind this post.

I really REALLY didn't, what struck me most aabout it was Obamas's indifference to the Gaza massacre.

I didn't see the whole monkey except here.

meh i am tired of all this talks, its obvious what Laila means and intends. I am not gonna take this further.


10:58 PM  
OpenID greenberger said...

How can even the people reading this intelligent blog have such ridiculous notions of what "racism" means? The issue of race is so emotionally-embedded in people that one can't make a poignant comment without someone searching for a way in which to misinterpret this so that they can continue getting offended, rather than paying attention to the message. It is not racist to compare Obama to this mythical monkey. He is a person, and the monkey is a metaphor for people doing what he is doing; therefore, the shoe fits. He's not a monkey because he's black, he's THE monkey of the old maxim.

It is, however, racist to continually view the world through such a narrow prism that you are constantly aware of people's skin color in everything you see. To these outraged commentators- you're not fighting racism, you're perpetuating it by constantly reminding the world and yourselves that Obama has dark skin. Who cares what his skin color is? The sooner you stop paying attention to that, the sooner this world would leave such outdated notions behind...

11:07 PM  
Blogger ~Macarena~ said...

I agree with egypt4:
In the United States, you cannot portray a black man as a monkey and do anything but invoke centuries of racism. It's not your intentions. It's the message.

Laila, thank you for being a source of truth about Palestine.

It is unconscionable for Obama, as a human being, never mind a world leader, to remain silent about Gaza. His inaction condones the slaughter and means that etiquette is more important to him than Palestinians' lives.

1:56 AM  
Blogger said...

It is just silly. No one is *obligated* to act on another's behalf.

American could use some isolationism. Bush and the republicans tried to change a world that didn't want changing.

Trust me, the last thing most Americans want is to hear anymore about the middle east on the nightly news. They want the economy fixed. They want better healthcare and education.

They don't want our boys being shot at in foreign lands for people that don't want us there anyway.

Obama would be wise to ignore the Gaza and the West Bank. Nothing good will come of American attention. It will cost millions of dollars. It may cost lives. And in the end, Israel and Palestine both mock us and hate us anyway.

Every minute Obama spends thinking about the middle east is one less minute he focuses on why we voted him in office. We are tired of crusades.

Laila's picture was a great compliment. The very reason I voted for Obama instead of McCain... because he'll focus on us for a change.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Halla said...

I love Obama and am hoping that on Jan 20 he starts making the changes that we have been hearing about. Has to be much better than Bush, actually this cartoon should really apply to Bush not fair to apply it to Obama yet

This is not a racist cartoon, grow up people!!

5:39 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Adhocboy: what costs billions (not millions) of dollars is unconditional US financial support of Israel, with loans that do not need to be re-paid. Perhaps by truly being an even-handed broker and ending this conflict, that money can be used to repair the US economy instead of keep injustice and Apartheid afloat

6:15 AM  
Blogger Amna said...

hi, i was wondering if your friend seth would mind me using this picture somewhere.

8:50 AM  
Blogger empty_slot said...

Although some people here mistook the message for something that it isn't, I found it very significant and correct. While hiding behind the most 'popular', i.e. economical problem in the US, the president-elect forgets that polls repeatedly suggest a pro-Palestine position among the US public. I may have to eat my tongue in a week, but judging by the cabinet he picked and by his neutral position, he hardly will be a US president to finally help bringing peace in this old old conflict.
The most frightening, however, is the fact of his silence NOW, at the time of the most vicious and crucial segment of the war. The war will end, the talks will start, but the importance of here and now will be in the past. Lives that could have been saved by a simple statement are already lost. Instead, he is hiding behind an obscure formality. A typical politician: just as remote from the suffering and from life itself as everyone else in Washington.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Θάνος Δ said...

Racist? I simply cannot imagine how anyone can call it racist…

And even if I am disturbed by Obama’s ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’, I am more shocked by Bush’s ‘ Hear no evil… except Olmert’s orders.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Gert said...

adhocboy is one of the millions of Americans that simply don't know, nor want to know, just how culpable the US is in the I/P conflict. If adhocboy was shown what unconditional support for 'Israul' for 40 years had caused (and cost : $ 3 billion/year!!) he'd dismiss it as 'leftist propaganda'. Back under that rock with you, adhocboy!

BTW, those who see racism in the 3 monkeys picture obviously don't know what it references to...

1:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Laila, I agree. American taxpayers have no business supporting the Israeli government.

It is upsetting to think that my earnings are going into the purchase of bombs to be dropped on Palestine. It is a double insult.

America should stop supporting Israel. Nations that cannot survive without a constant IV of cash... don't need to.

OR.. :) let Americans (not the US government) have a vote in the Knesset. Wow. Imagine how that would change things this week.

- btw, Laila, I appreciate the information you are providing. I especially appreciate the stories of the conversations with your father. This is not a geo-political event; it is a human tragedy. Thank you for keeping that in front of us.

1:45 PM  
Blogger FloridaYogi said...

i continue to be SHOCKED that so many americans actually can't see through barack! he's not, not acting on this issue because he isn't president. as a matter of fact, he has already been asked his position on the issue and he's been clear that he intends to support israel because they are our friend. by the way this is in stark contrast to the position he held when he was running for democratic nominee. i can't know what he truly feels but the fact is while he once was in support of diplomacy he now openly supports israel's desires. i'm hoping this is a strategy for keeping israel happy until he gets into office and pressures them to talk. if not, then it's clear - he has succumb to pressures of ... american weapons companies ?? powerful pro israel lobbying??

if america wants to salvage their reputation around the world at all we have got to 100% stop supporting the killing of innocent people. we support the current actions, it couldn't be happening without our support and the world knows it!

5:46 PM  
Blogger American 6103 said...

it's racist in the context of american history and culture not on it's own.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Kathy Podgers said...

I believe that Bush and Israel is using this savage barbaric killing in Gaza as an attempt to preempt Obama's plans to re-assert Americas image in the world through his dream of hope and change.

This "war on Gaza" is an attack on Obama, as well as an attack on the Palestinian people, who are being punished for voting for Hamas.

3:14 AM  
Blogger said...


I and other Americans DO know that we are supporting Israel and have for about 40 years. We are not hiding or deceiving ourselves.

Things don't work like that in America. We go along even with policies we don't support. Even with policies we dislike. It is part of the social contract, and why on Tuesday a lot more than 52% of America will support the new president.

If it helps people deal with America, please continue to assume we are clueless. But, uh, we are civilized and must learn to live together in compromise and concession. No one person ever sees the truth of the world.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

I am very honored that my graphic is on your website. Honestly , it's not my best work and I understand peoples complaints. I did it very quickly on a short deadline for an Israeli anti-war publication. I hadn't expected it to be published over and over again. I think that what's going on in Gaza right now is a genocide and Obama should do something about it. I will send you a better graphic soon.
Seth Tobocman

9:14 PM  
Blogger Yonit said...

When did Obama EVER say he was anti-Israel? Last time I checked he said Israel had a right to protect itself (and said if his daughters were being attacked like the Israelis are he'd want to protect them too).

Just because he thinks Israel can protect itself doesn't mean he's anti-diplomacy. Republican and democratic presidents have supported Israel. It's not a new thing. The US gives Israel (and many other countries) financial aid, but it gets support in return. Israel helps keep the rest of the Middle East "in check" for the US.

If all you people are unhappy with giving money to other countries, with the way our government works, leave the US. All you do is complain complain complain.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

How is it that these folks turned YOUR blog about YOUR experience into an attack on THEM? How self-absorbed.

I don't know enough about this conflict to offer a comment other than this but I'm here reading your blog to educate myself.

Be safe.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Tummydoc00 said...

Let us not read racism into EVERYTHING !!! That is our main problem. To me it seems that Laila did not intend or even imagine the racist angle till someone pointed it out. Let us try and be constructive and not read into issues that dont exsist. I DO hope that Obama stands up to his word "CHANGE"

4:29 AM  
Blogger Yonit said...

When you post a blog, advertise it on CNN, and open it up for comments, you obviously want a reaction. Laila knew when she posted the blog that people will comment. And she also knew that not everyone would agree with her. It's a risk you take when you go so public.

11:10 PM  

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