Scarfe turned noose

Gerald Scarfe is well known for his provoking cartoons and particularly for his daring outlooks that are expressed through the medium of art. He has been writing for the Sunday Times for 44 years, and his exaggerated drawings are intended to convey his point of view in current affairs with a comical edge, but his work has not come without controversy.

Gerald ScarfeGerald Scarfe

Personally, anyone who has the nerve to draw Bill Clinton as Pinocchio with an exceptionally long tree-willy with the caption “Bill’s been telling lies again” is in my books under “rib-ragingly hilarious.” However, there are some more extreme cartoons than Clinton as a little wooden puppet, and what of these?

The latest controversial image appeared on Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday 27 January in the Sunday Times and showed the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall on the bodies of Palestinians, cementing it with their blood. Now, one can see why this is not in the best of tastes and Rupert Murdoch himself tweeted the following apology: “Gerald Scarfe’s has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe a major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
However, Scarfe was unaware that the cartoon would be printed on such a sensitive day and so really the fault lies with the editor Martin Ivens for not thinking to sieve out what might be perceived as an antisemitic attack.

But what if the cartoon hadn’t been printed on Holocaust Memorial Day? Would the Jewish public be equally offended? Were they offended in the first place? Though the image undoubtedly did strike a nerve, the argument is that Scarfe is entitled to his opinion however brash and exaggerated it might be.

The world cannot simply tiptoe around in fear of offending someone; this is a matter of free speech regardless of what someone feels the need to express about the subject. If everyone were on the same team, how would we win the game with no-one to play against?

We have a right to our own free outlook on things and so we should utilise that. One would not simply agree with everything the government said, for example, for fear of agreeing with a politician who may say to the prime minister: “By all means Mr Cameron, make cuts to the education system, I think it’s a fantastic idea.”

Ultimately, what’s the worst that could happen? So what if you’re offended, your feelings got hurt. No one slapped you round the face with a rolled up Sunday Times newspaper.


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Zoe Jones

April 2021
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