On Felix

By Felix Salmon
August 18, 2009
Paul Krugman and James Fallows that it is by no means necessary that Felix be African-American for Niall Ferguson's FT lede ("President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky") to be utterly inappropriate and offensive.

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As someone who knows a fair amount about Felix the Cat, I can concur with Skip Gates that he is not and was not a caricature of African-Americans. I can also concur with Paul Krugman and James Fallows that it is by no means necessary that Felix be African-American for Niall Ferguson’s FT lede (“President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky”) to be utterly inappropriate and offensive.

Which leaves only one question: What did Ferguson elide, with an ellipsis, in the email from Gates? I can’t imagine that Gates let Ferguson off quite as easily as Ferguson suggests.

Comments
9 comments so far

Ferguson is lucky. Being a Brit he doesn’t have to buy into the idiotic political correctness tyranny that exists in this country.

Posted by ARJTurgot | Report as abusive

If you know Felix the Cat, you understand he’s not a black man. (The silent Felix was best.) Ferguson writing today lacked sense in that instance because every thinking and non-thinking person did draw that connection. I should add “in America” because that kind of comment is, in my experience, more common in Britain, where language is more “colorful” by a number of measures.

Posted by jonathan | Report as abusive

Just for the avoidance of doubt (there seems to be a lot of taking things for granted here, which may be one of those ‘divided by a common language’ things – I’m a Brit) could you spell out why this is offensive? Krugman says it has nothing to do with whether Felix the Cat is African-American. So what is it to do with? I ask purely for the purposes of understanding.

This reflects one of the more terrible effects wrought by such a litigious state that is America: media can’t say anything that could possibly be construed as offensive or risk massive lawsuit. So media force projects this on to the public-at-large who are now forced to bite their colective tongues or risk being ostricized for an innocent comment. When one is faced with ‘real’ racism it is so easy to spot it’s like being smacked in the face. But flipping out over an innocent comment by someone trying to express the point that Obama’s run so far has been less than successful… it’s just silly and a waste of time. Save the fire and brimstone for real racists (Rush Limbaugh anyone) and put them in the crucible.

Posted by the Shah | Report as abusive

My problem is the same as what Gaw posted above.

Look, I don’t give a hoot about Ferguson and I have no interest in defending him, but could SOMEONE please explain to me what the F$%K is objectionable about his “Felix the Cat” lede if it isn’t about race (as everyone seems to claim now)?

Fallows uses an analogy with the Disney character Pluto in his latest post (linked above by Felix Salmon) to illustrate why Ferguson’s lede was offensive, but if it is an analogous comparison, I don’t get it in this case either.
What is supposed to be offensive about it?

If I was Ferguson, I guess I would be angry too, because I would have not the slightest idea what this is all about.

Posted by MArc | Report as abusive

The last thing Krugman wants to do right now is debate his disastrous policy opinions. It makes more sense for Krugman to appeal to the mob and launch into ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with him than to actually engage in a reasoned debate.

Posted by GaryD | Report as abusive

GaryD,

Thats the liberal mantra, facts and realities only get in the way.

Posted by Dogma | Report as abusive

If race isn’t supposed to matter then why draw attention to it? That’s the mistake Ferguson makes.

Posted by Argel | Report as abusive

the comparison is “about race” whether or not the historical Felix is African-American, because the color term “black” ONLY REFERS TO OBAMA WHEN THAT TERM IS BEING USED IN THE METAPHORICAL LANGUAGE OF RACE.

Casper the Friendly Ghost is literally “white”; Niall Ferguson is not.

Now, if I say that a couple of the earlier commenters remind me of Casper the Disingenuous Ghost…..

Posted by nick | Report as abusive
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