Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Cosmic Mirror and the New York Post Chimp Cartoon

Like many people, I was appalled by the New York Post’s cartoon depicting two police officers shooting and killing a monkey then oddly quipping, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” As I did, the cartoon was widely interpreted as likening President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee. People around the world demanded the New York Post apologize for its senseless racial and political thoughtlessness.

I was bewildered and angered with the cartoon as were employees of the New York Post, who were inundated with complaints of racial prejudice. While at first defending the cartoon, New York Post chairman Rupert Murdoch eventually stated, “Last week, we made a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted. Over the past couple of days, I have spoken to a number of people and I now better understand the hurt this cartoon has caused.”

What does the cosmic mirror have to say about what happened? From the perspective of the cosmic mirror, the editors of the New York Post initially denied considering how the cartoon could be interpreted as offensive. What was patently obvious in hindsight was the part of themselves they could not see. It was contained and hidden in the shadows of their emotional makeup. The hostility implied in their racial insensitivity was both denied and projected into the content of the cartoon itself. One way of looking at it was that the editors distanced themselves from the disowned feelings within themselves by placing it out into the world. Once, denied, the outward expression of their passive hostility took the form of the radically insensitive cartoon.

The idea of projecting our disowned and unwanted attributes onto others is ubiquitous and is the basis of scapegoating. Scapegoats come in many forms, are powerful mirrors of our own shadow, and are created to rid us of responsibility for our own failings and shortcomings. We blame others rather than acknowledging our own flaws. You can learn more about scapegoating, the psychic roots of prejudice, and the process of denial and projection in A View from the Cosmic Mirror: Reflections of the Self in Everyday Life.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say I think you're kind of giving Murdoch too much credit for being in denial. I agree wholeheartedly with the concept of the Cosmic Mirror and see it constantly in my own psyche (ah, the glorious double-edged sword of awareness!), however, I honestly believe they knew EXACTLY what they were doing with that cartoon and apologized because of the public outcry.

    Perhaps the real scapegoat is Murdoch. I see a lot of people who see him doing these outrageous things and get angry at him for this behavior. I attempt to use experiences like this to see where prejudice lives in my own heart. I have a redneck or hyper-conservative "ism" inside of me that gets reflected back in these moments.

    The Cosmic Mirror never lies if we have the courage to look into, that's for sure.

    Thank you for your offering. Good, juicy stuff.