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Sunday 21 January 2018


The Truth Teller And The Lynch Mob

Paul Zanetti Thursday 4 August 2016

Once upon a time, long ago, cartoonists were expected to be purveyors of truth. Whether you agreed or not, a newspaper editorial cartoon made you think, and when best executed, had the added benefit of making you laugh.

Bill Leak is an old school cartoonist in that he actually believes in all the support pillars of good cartooning - a cartoon should be thought provoking, well drawn and amusing, if not outright outrageously piss-funny.

But that’s just three out of four principles.  

The fourth, and most important pillar is to be honest. To tell the truth, to inform without fear or favour.

You know you’ve done your job well as a cartoonist when you get a reaction, good, bad - but never indifferent. The truth can hurt, but it should never be avoided.

And that’s why Bill Leak, along with Larry Pickering, are our two most skillful practitioners of cartooning in Australia today, if not in Australian cartooning history.

Both hunt down the truth daily, poking around in the bushes where most fear to tread. It’s much easier to avoid getting stung by the truth nettles, but someone has to do it.

When Bill sent me his cartoon, pre-publication two nights ago, I replied he was about to send twitter into another meltdown. Not because he’d done anything wrong, but because of the nature of the twits on twitter.

Yesterday when I logged onto twitter ‘Bill Leak’ was hot trending. I clicked on the link and found myself amongst the usual sewer of ignorance, moral vanity, denial and hate. Too predictably, the lynch mob was out - yet again.

Bill’s crime? Telling the truth - yet again.  

The mob hates truth. It exposes their intellectual (and moral) shallowness.

If you haven’t seen the cartoon, Bill’s drawn an aboriginal copper holding an aboriginal kid by the scruff of the neck, handing him over to the kid’s father, who is holding a can of VB. The copper is saying to the father, “You have to sit down and talk to your son about personal responsibility.”

The father says, “Yeah righto. What’s his name then?”

Those who can handle the truth nod and say, “Spot on!”

Truth deniers howl, cry, stamp their feet, and race to the nearest keyboard and tweet.

“I’m offended again!”

“Shoot the messenger!”

“How dare he!”

“Racist, racist, racist!”

Rather than see the cartoon for what it was - addressing the core issue that aboriginal children face higher levels of abuse (violent and sexual) and neglect directly attributable to family dysfunction (often fuelled by alcohol) than non-aboriginals, the faux-outraged of the one-eyed Morality Police Force see three aboriginals, drawn as aboriginals.

Serial faux-offence taker, Mark Di Stefano, editor of kiddy news site, BuzzFeed, that earns its money from having advertisers pay for stories (sponsored news) tweeted, “Just on Bill Leak, note how he draws Aboriginal people: long arms, simian features, no eyes… it’s a monstrous portrayal”


Now, forgetting that this is not one of Bill’s Archibald entries, it's a cartoon, and that in a cartoon it’s permissible - in fact necessary - to accentuate (caricature) big heads, short legs, long arms, long noses, fat guts etc.

You get the impression that the self-appointed judge, jury and executioners of free speech are just scanning the twitterverse reaching for reasons to be offended by, where simply none exits.

Long arms? Give me a break.

In this case there was in fact a reason to be offended, that is with kids coming from dysfunctional homes and ending up on the streets, and very likely in detention. It's a pretty bloody obviously intended message from the cartoon if you have a brain - and a heart.

Today’s cartoon-in-reply by Leak summed up the silliness of the situation in which he’s found himself.

He’s redrawn the previous cartoon, this time with a white walloper holding himself (Leak) by the scruff of the neck, handing Leak over to a savage of the twitter tribe who's holding a noose and club, saying, “This bloke’s been telling the truth and he thinks it’s funny”.

The savage is shouting back “LEMME AT ‘IM!”

More truth telling. (Odd, but that one didn’t twitter-trend today.)

What’s more outrageous than the faux-outraged is the weakness of the Indigenous Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion, who came out and condemned the original cartoon as ‘particularly tasteless’.

“Although Australian cartoonists have a rich tradition of irreverent satire, there is absolutely no place for depicting racist stereotypes,” Scullion said in a politically correct statement of appeasement.

Feeling like he was on a virtuous roll, Scullion carried on…
“I am heartened that various voices from across the political and social spectrum have come out and strongly condemned the cartoon. I would urge the Australian to be more aware of the impact cartoons like the one published today can have on Indigenous communities,”

Wrong, minister.

What’s tasteless is you ignoring (denying?) the problem highlighted by Bill Leak.

So, minister, what are you going to do about aboriginal child sexual abuse, not by white people, but by their own community and worse - their own families?

What are you going to do, minister, about formulating policies that help educate and integrate aboriginals into cohesive and socially functioning societies so that the children no longer need to escape violence and sexual assault at home, walk the streets and end up in detention?

Pointing at a cartoon that should send you a very strong message that there’s something seriously dysfunctional in your portfolio, and saying the messenger is ‘racist’ and ‘tasteless’ is as piss weak - and an abrogation of duty - as it can possibly get.

Bill Leak is not part of the problem, minister. You are.

Today in a written reply, Bill Leak sums it up well:

By enabling tantrum-throwers to re-establish their feelings of moral superiority they can walk away purged, but it doesn’t get to the root of their problem: Chronic Truth Aversion Disorder.

The CTAD epidemic that is raging unchecked through Australia’s social media population is rendering impossible any intelligent debate on serious social issues, such as the rampant violence, abuse and neglect of children in remote indigenous communities.

The reactions of people in an advanced stage of the condition to anything that so much as hints at the truth, while utterly irrational, are also so hostile that anyone ­inclined to speak the truth understandably becomes afraid to do so.

Before the howls of outrage and accusations of racism that were directed at me started filtering through into my Twitter-free world yesterday, I received an email from Anthony Dillon — whose father Colin was Australia’s first Aboriginal policeman and whose evidence was pivotal to the Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption in Queensland — ­congratulating me on the cartoon.

In it, Dillon included a message he’d written to his father, in which he said: “Have a look at Bill’s latest cartoon.

“Half of me was crying and the other half was laughing. He has an incredible talent that enables him to blend humour and tragedy without losing the seriousness of the situation.”

And isn’t that just it.

An aboriginal policeman agrees with Leak’s accurate depiction of the sorry state of affairs in which aboriginal kids live - or barely survive, while keyboard supremacists sanctimoniously pretend the problem is being created by Bill Leak.

If they’re simply ignorant then they really do need to do some quiet research before labeling names on those who do know. If they’re indeed aware of the plight of these kids yet still quick to condemn the truth tellers, they are no better than the child abusers.

Which makes you wonder how do those sanctimonious supremacists sleep at night?