There is nothing wrong with this cartoon

In fact, it’s quite awesome.

I missed it when Robert put it out week before last, and I’m glad it’s been called to my attention now. It’s hard to imagine a more pointed evocation of exactly what’s wrong with Nikki Haley. Or one of the things wrong with her, anyway.

What might be harder to imagine, to a sensible person who understands the concepts of satire and the idioms of topical visual communication, is the controversy it engendered.

It wasn’t all that much, of course. Just intimations that he was essentially calling her a “raghead.” Or check this one out, helpfully headlined, “Reminder: Nikki Haley is a Secret Muslim Whore.” An excerpt:

Now, just a month after Haley’s victory, one Republican cartoonist has emerged from his gutterto dredge up the same vile race-baiting and sexism that failed to derail her primary campaign. In a cartoon published Tuesday (pictured above), Robert Ariail portrays the Indian-American gubernatorial candidate as a bikini-clad pageant queen in the first panel and a niqab-clad Muslim in the second.  The cartoon explicitly echos previous race-, religion-, and gender-based attacks against Haley, a practicing Methodist raised in the Sikh tradition by her immigrant parents.

Ariail depicts Haley as a radical Muslim posing as an all American pageant contestant so she can put one over on voters.  He claims that’s totally different than when State Senator Jake Knotts described Haley as “a raghead that’s ashamed of her religion trying to hide it behind being Methodist for political reasons.”

All utter … let me think of a nice word… nonsense. An ironic side note: Robert’s used to getting this kind of … nonsense… from the left, so at least this is a change of pace, reflecting the extreme right’s recent and sudden discovery of the power of Identity Politics.

Silly as it all was, Robert was nevertheless asked by a local TV station to account for himself, which he dutifully did:

The cartoon on Ms. Haley is, I think, pretty straight forward: It contrasts her campaign’s message of open government and transparency ( which I support ) with her recent closed-door meetings, her refusal to release House e-mail accounts and her explanations on consulting fees and what she did to earn them. The cartoon is neither salacious nor an ethnic or religious slur. I came up with the idea of her as “Miss Transparency” wearing the title sash and bikini and chose the burqa as the best clothing metaphor representing the opposite of transparency. The burqa is a visual metaphore I’ve used before to make similar points. It is not about Ms. Haley’s religion- after all, she was a Sikh, not a Muslim, before she became a Christian. Anyone who claims this cartoon is an ethnic or religious slur is deliberately misconstruing its simple, issue-oriented meaning.

Robert Ariail

I appreciate Robert’s extreme patience in providing this “hold-you-by-the-hand-and-explain-the-obvious” explication, but it almost ruins the cartoon for me that he had to. Explanation is death to comedy. And if there must be an explanation, I prefer the one that Robert suggested to me when I told him this morning I might post something about the foolishness that some chose to read into the cartoon. He suggested that I tell y’all, “Robert’s not thinking about s__t like that” when he does his thing. Please excuse his technical newspaperman jargon.

My message is, this is everything a cartoon should be: It makes an excellent political point that needs to be made, and it provides a laugh along the way. Good job, Robert.

Oh, one other thing. Today Wes Wolfe raised a new question about the cartoon (which is what got me to thinking about it): After saying that “After discussing the piece with friends, we decided that was perhaps not the best way to go” (which suggests to me he might need some new friends), Wes suggested that the cartoon may have had something to do with Robert parting company with The Nerve, the S.C. Policy Council Web pub Robert had done some cartoons for recently — since, you know, Nikki’s their kind of gal.

Well, that seemed unlikely to me, and Robert confirms: When you go back to work for the MSM, you can’t still be associated with what is essentially a propaganda entity. It’s just not a good fit. So he chose, wisely, the Spartanburg paper over The Nerve — and those folks understood, and they parted on good terms — as Wes notes. And now Robert’s back doing what he ought to do.

Finally, a bonus: Robert’s gotten into hot water over burqas before, ALSO over a hilarious, pointed cartoon that had absolutely nothing wrong with it. It was the one making fun over the controversy in the Legislature over young female pages being dressed too provocatively. The hoo-hah over that one at least led to something good — a conversation between me and Robert about how everybody seemed to be after him with the torches and pitchforks, which in turn led to the cover of his last book.

Anyway, for your enjoyment, a look at that earlier “offensive” cartoon:

29 thoughts on “There is nothing wrong with this cartoon

  1. Wes Wolfe

    Maybe I wasn’t clear enough — I didn’t say the cartoon was related to him leaving.

    What I intended was that Haley never publicly criticized the SCPC after the cartoon came out and I never saw the SCPC apologize for its relationship with Ariail while the brouhaha was going on.

    One guess at to whether she’d have a letter-writing campaign going on to the McClatchy board if Ariail were still employed with The State.

  2. Kristine Hartvigsen

    I’ve been an Ariail fan from the beginning when he cartooned for The Gamecock back in college! He is one of the smartest, wittiest people I know. I agree that the need ever to provide explanation ruins it for many. Lighten up, people. Thanks for this commentary. It’s bang on.

  3. Brad

    By the way, Robert — who has limited patience with such things — eventually shut down the comment thread on that item on his blog, saying:

    Folks, I think the commentary on this cartoon has gone on long enough and, frankly, I don’t feel obligated to continue to read and post some of the bile spewed this way. It particularly amazes me at how many expert mindreaders there are out there in the blogosphere who know my “real” intent in creating this cartoon.

    It might behoove some of you to look back at other cartoons I’ve done regarding Ms. Haley : Like the one with Lee Atwater proclaiming “Now that’s dirty!” defending her against the allegations made by Will Folks and the one criticizing Jake Knotts for calling her a “raghead.” In the context of my other work it’s difficult to make the case that I am in league with racists trying to derail Ms. Haley’s campaign. But I’m sure that won’t stop some of you.

    To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a burqa is just a burqa- that is, just an article of clothing that’s the most concealing. (Or would that be a Freudian Slip?)

    Anyway, that’s the last word here. I’m closing the commentary on this cartoon.

    Well said, Robert.

  4. robert ariail

    Wes, the Haley cartoon did not appear on and since I was just a contractor for them I don’t feel like they were obligated to comment on my work in other venues. Just wanted to clear that up. Thanks

  5. bud

    Shame on Arial. He has Nikki Haley labeled as MISS Transparency. But everyone knows she’s married, so it should be MRS. Let’s get your facts straight before you go and slander someone with an improper title.

  6. kc

    I get the point about her not being transparent, but that cartoon is pretty tin-eared in light of the “raghead” comments and so forth about Haley. You’d think Arial would be clever enough to come up with some other way of making the point.

    In any case, I’ve seen WAY more racist cartoons from Arial.

  7. Doug Ross

    This big white space is my artistic interpretation of the Sheheen campaign:


  8. Brad

    Doug, those dots you put on each line are presumptuous and entirely unfair to Vincent.

    You’re putting dots in his mouth…

  9. j

    Miss is a “Southern Thing,” Mr. Bud! Brad, we are grateful for your blog so we all might be able to post our humor!

  10. Ralph Hightower

    Ariail has the sharpest intellect that I know of in an editorial cartoonist. He can cut to the heart of an issue in one panel.

    Those who think Ariail is calling Nikki a “raghead” like Jakie Knotts did is only as smart as Jakie, which isn’t saying much.

  11. Greg Jones

    As a lifelong Republican, I find it funny that at least part of our party is so vehement about supporting, and protecting, Nikki’s double diversity. What a change!
    And I’d have never gotten the Sikh/Muslim distinction, or that the burqa was not correct, or that Robert uses it as a symbol.
    I’m waiting for the cartoon that shows how much Nikki “looks like” Sanford.
    The state can’t stand 4-8 more years of that type of “leadership”, but unless Sheheen generates some excitement, it’s a fait accompli.

  12. Dino

    Nikki not transparent? We know so little about Vincent Sheheen. As you said, his family is of Lebanese extraction. Lebanon is 95% Arab and 59.7% Muslim.

    Was the late Gov. John C. West (ex-U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1977 to 1981), also a Kershaw native and lawyer a role model or mentor to Vincent?

    Thanks to pro-Arab influence by West, S.C.’s PBS affiliate cancelled (Wilmington Morning Star, May 4, 1980) broadcast of “Death Of A Princess”, a 1980 documentary produced in cooperation with WGBH Boston and based on the true story of Princess Masha’il who had been publicly executed for adultery under Islamic law.

    Would early revelation of Sharia law and Islamic plans to subvert the U.S. Constitution have forewarned South Carolinians? Probably not, considering the condition of education in S.C.

    Sheheen’s family, as we all know, has been involved in S.C. education (Commissioner and Executive Director of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education) as well as a journalist like yourself, Brad.

    Of course, Sheheen has been very transparent, at least about his parents.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    Sheheen is only partly of Lebanese extraction, I believe–not that that matters one whit. He is Roman Catholic–again, not that that matters one whit.

  14. Brad

    By the way, speaking of Nikki — I just ran into her at lunch, at M Vista on Lady Street. She was there with Rob Godfrey and Tim Pearson.

    Nikki was pleasant and charming as always when I went up to chat with her. I don’t think Rob or Tim were all that thrilled to see me, though.

  15. Kathryn Fenner

    Do you suppose she’s pleasant and charming to you because she’s (a) a politician, (b) taking the higher ground, (c) a grown-up who realizes it’s not personal, or (d) unaware that you have been shooting at her?

  16. Doug Ross

    “I don’t think Rob or Tim were all that thrilled to see me, though.”

    I guess they are transparent and Nikki is not.

  17. scout

    Kathryn, great question. I wondered the same sort of things imagining the meeting but wouldn’t have articulated it so well. I’d like to know the answer, too.

  18. KP

    Most politicians learn not to take it personally when others in public life don’t agree with their views. Staff, sometimes, not so much. Some of us get a little huffy about it.

  19. Burl Burlingame

    Or (e) She’s thinking “He’s no longer with The State, so his opinion doesn’t matter. No one reads blogs.” And Rob and Tim are thinking, “A quarter of a million page views? We’re screwed.”

  20. KP

    @Doug again:

    And in the event you think I’m one of your caricature liberals, here’s the full list: Carroll Campbell, Strom Thurmond, Bill Workman, Arthur Ravenel, Barbara Nielsen, Inez Tenenbaum. I took a left when my party took a whacky right.

  21. Dino

    @ Brad

    re: “Not sure I understand where you’re coming from, Dino. Or what you’re driving at…”

    Sheheen’s voter perception problems à la his religion and culture are more awesome than Haley’s. His operatives had best not go there (unofficialy, of course).

    The transparency thing is also a bust except in the minds of die-hard Sheheen hopefuls. Haley has a significant portion of voters’ respect for being a true conservative, and even more for not being a lawyer.

  22. robert Ariail

    Greg, I already did one comparing Haley to Sanford with an elephant holding a “Haley for Governor” sign passing a mirror and seeing Sanford holding a “4 More Years of Sanford” sign in the reflection.

  23. Kathryn Fenner

    Are there really potential Sheheen voters who care about his religion and culture? I find that hard to believe. The sort of trolls who might don’t vote Democratic.


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