Political Correctness Gone Ape

From yesterday’s New York Times:

The film director Tim Burton yesterday apologized for the closing scene in his 2001 film Planet of the Apes, which imagines a future America in which the Lincoln Memorial statue is replaced with a statue of a warlike gorilla.

In a statement Burton said:

Given the controversy surrounding the recent New York Post cartoon, which featured a chimp that many people took to represent President Obama, I now realize that many Americans are likely to find the portrayal of an ape president offensive. Although it is no defense, I would point out that when I made the film few would have imagined that our country would elect a black president so soon afterwards. The scene was not intended to allude in any fashion to a future black president, and I deeply regret any offense I may have caused to African-Americans, and indeed to Americans in general.

The distributor of Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox, has announced that all DVD copies of the movie are being recalled from retailers and will be destroyed. A new ending is being shot, which does not feature the statue, for the DVD release of the film and for future TV broadcast.

After Burton made his statement, a support group for the parents of children born with bladed implements instead of hands demanded that Burton also apologize for his 1990 movie Edward Scissorhands.


As you probably guessed from that last line, I made the above story up. Think it’s far-fetched? Then check out this all-too-real editor’s note from Sunday’s Washington Post:

The headline, illustration and text of “Below the Beltway,” a column in The Washington Post Magazine today, may cause offense to readers. The magazine was printed before a widely publicized incident last week in which a chimpanzee attacked and badly mauled a woman in Stamford, Conn. In addition, the image and text inadvertently may conjure racial stereotypes that The Post does not countenance. We regret the lapse.

As Michelle Malkin explains, the potentially “offensive” cartoon was in fact perfectly innocent, and accompanied a column about a study which found that women were apparently turned on by images of apes mating. And the reference to the Connecticut attack is, of course, a red herring: the “note” would never have appeared had it not been for the hysteria over the New York Post cartoon, which was so infectious that the Washington Post felt compelled to apologize for its own cartoon before anyone realized they were offended.

In light of this sudden outbreak of sensitivity over the depiction of primates, what are we now to make of the ending of Burton’s film — particularly since Obama is keen to encourage comparisons between himself and Lincoln? What, indeed, are we to make of the original 1968 version of Planet of the Apes and its sequels, all of which imagine a future Earth ruled by gorillas and chimpanzees? Because it appears that any and all media depictions of primates which have negative connotations are off limits for at least the next four years, lest they be interpreted as a coded attack on the president.  


So no more King Kong remakes — unless the star is a giant polar bear battling global warming. Never mind that the reason apes are such effective icons in popular culture — whether in science fiction movies or satirical cartoons — is because of their closeness to humans in appearance and behavior (how unnerved would you be by a movie in which the Earth is ruled by sheep?). And why stop with popular culture? To be on the safe side, America’s zoos will presumably come under pressure to close their monkey houses, lest they evoke harrowing memories of the civil rights struggle. Such is the toxic environment that the left has created — and create it they did, make no mistake. The row over the New York Post cartoon was as manufactured a case of outrage as you will ever see. When I first heard about it I made a few notes with a view to writing something. One was: “expect demo outside NYP offices any day — local rent-a-mob with Sharpton directing the media.” Sure enough, there outside the Post building the next day was Al, whose exploits over the years have gone way beyond anything Tom Wolfe imagined for his Sharpton-inspired caricature, the Reverend Bacon, in Bonfire of the Vanities.

Watching the controversy unfold has been a textbook study in how the left works, and the Sharpton protest was a microcosm of the wider operation: dishonest, cynical leaders whipping up the ignorant and the gullible. Some people clearly misunderstood the cartoon because they were too stupid to get it, and because they’ve been conditioned by college professors and the media to see racism everywhere. Others — influential figures in politics and the media — knew perfectly well that the cartoon was poking fun at the incompetence and hysteria that accompanied the passage of the stimulus bill and that no slur on Obama was intended. But they feigned outrage in order to suppress legitimate criticism of the stimulus package, and to slander one of the few media outlets that hasn’t climbed aboard the Hope’n’Change Express.


It was pure coincidence that the cartoon row erupted at the same time as Attorney General Eric Holder was calling Americans “cowards” for not discussing race openly, but it demonstrates why Holder’s call for a “conversation” about race is at best futile, and at worst dishonest. Leftist interests, and many mainstream Democratic politicians, have long exploited race issues to win votes and get their way, and if they ever engage in an honest debate on the subject they’ll lose one of their most potent weapons.

Obama’s victory may or may not have demonstrated that America has moved beyond its racist past, but race-baiting is certainly alive and well amongst the left. They long ago realized that they couldn’t win the arguments, and that their best bet was to take control of the media in which the arguments are debated — and then shut down debate altogether.

Perhaps they’d always calculated that getting an African-American into the White House would create new opportunities for silencing their critics, or maybe it was just a welcome side effect. Either way, it hasn’t taken them long to play the ultimate race card.


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