Monday, October 24, 2016

Right wing cartooning

The best service cartoonist Bill Leak has provided to national politics is indicating that it (sometimes, at least) takes a really decent knock on the head/brain injury to convert a person into a permanent right wing ideologue.   That lesson hasn't been learnt well enough at Catallaxy, I see, where the controversial Bill Leak aboriginal cartoon (and self serving sequel) is now up as a banner.  (Even before this, the blog was one of the last places in Australia to go for moderate and intelligent commentary on race issues.) 

As it happens, I can see both sides of the Bill Leak cartoon - I certainly understand many aborigines finding it offensive; but I can also see that it fits within the type of graphic commentary whereby cartoonists frequently treat their targets with an unfair broad brush.

Leak's sequel makes his original offensiveness to large numbers of aboriginal fathers worse - indicating that he makes no acknowledgement that he doing anything other than "telling the truth", and that he thinks he was being funny.   If he had somehow acknowledged that he knew you can't accuse all aborigines as alcoholic, hopeless parents, he might have earned some sympathy.  But, no.

Hence, while I would have thought a complaint about the first cartoon under 18C Racial Discrimination Act should have been dismissed, taking both cartoons together makes it appear to me much more likely that he may be found to be in breach of the Act.  Am I concerned about that?   Not really - the Australian, if it was a decent newspaper of any standing, should not have run the cartoon in the first place; or, at the very least, offered an apology for offence caused once the complaints started coming in.  (Did they do that editorially?  I wouldn't know.) 

But then again, nor do I think that Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommanase did his position much good by inviting complaints about the cartoon.  While publicising the role of his organisation is one thing, doing it in such a specific context is unlikely to do more than re-invigorate the culture warriors in the Coalition and media, who have nothing better to do with their time other than hound Gillian Triggs and her organisation to death, and agitate on behalf of the likes of Andrew Bolt.

The HRC needs to have a high profile complaint (such as the current QUT student matter) fail in order to confirm in the public mind that they and its judges do take a hard headed approach to matters and aren't there for frivolous or ill founded complaints.  I strongly suspect that this is what will happen in the QUT case, and a decision on that cannot come soon enough.  The commission also then needs to review itself from a point of view of procedural fairness.


not trampis said...

I am not in disagreement. Leak's cartoon was blatantly racist IMHO and if the editor had any sense he would not have run it.

John said...

The irony of that cartoon is that the mother of the teenager at the center of the Don Dale controversy was interviewed on 7.30 a few days after the cartoon was published. The interview covered the teenager's early life and persistent behavioral problems. Despite the long time coverage not once was the father mentioned.