Before Gerald Scarfe caused outrage in the last Sunday Times with a cartoon so tasteless (and, critics said, anti-Semitic) that Rupert Murdoch issued a personal apology, our columnist Charles Moore pointed out a trend:
Idly flicking through the latest Sunday Times, I notice the cartoon by Gerald Scarfe. It shows President Assad of Syria, covered with blood, picking the severed head of a child from a mound of corpses. ‘Syria,’ says the caption, ‘60,000 slaughtered and still counting’. It feels as if one has seen this Scarfe cartoon most weeks since the 1960s. Whether it was Biafra, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, or any other faraway conflict, Scarfe has always been fearlessly against tyrants killing the innocent, especially children, and his way of showing this is to depict the tyrants covered with blood and the children, heaps of them, dead. And that is it: no gloss, no wit, no political nuance, no juxtaposition that might tell you something, just an extremely well-paid half century drawing tyrants covered with blood, and a CBE too. We columnists, who have at least to pretend to think of something new each week, can only gasp with envy at the way Scarfe — by being against war, genocide etc — has escaped any editorial attention whatever.
And here’s this morning’s Today programme discussion of Scarfe’s cartoon:
UPDATE Martin Ivens, acting editor of the Sunday Times, has released the following statement:-
“Everyone knows that Gerald Scarfe is consistently brutal and bloody in his depictions, but last weekend – by his own admission – he crossed a line. The timing – on Holocaust Memorial Day – was inexcusable. The associations on this occasion were grotesque and on behalf of the paper I’d like to apologise unreservedly for the offence we clearly caused. This was a terrible mistake.”
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.