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APC Says Cartoon Breached General Principle 6

The [Australian] Press Council considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by the publication of a cartoon in The Australian on 14 August 2020. The cartoon depicts a scene of the then United States Presidential candidate Joe Biden giving a speech congratulating Kamala Harris on being the Vice-Presidential candidate.


© The Australian/Johannes Leak

The Daily Cartoonist reported on the furor last year.

At the time the cartoon had far more detractors:

“I’ve never seen a cartoon more naked in its ambition to be discussed on TV. Its cleverness-to-offensiveness ratio is grotesquely out of whack which is a firm indicator of attention-seeking. Further discussion just generates clicks for shit work.”

Annabel Crabb’s summation of the cartoon in today’s edition of The Australian is 100 percent accurate. The cartoon is shameless in its mission to “shock and run”. Indeed, it elicits no other response and holds no other agenda. It’s not “clever” or “witty” “or “satirical”. It doesn’t make any poignant points or present any jarring metaphors or euphemisms. It is racist and sexist and that’s all it was ever intended to be.

than defenders:

It’s a source of great irony that the left’s darling in the fight against President Trump, US presidential candidate Joe Biden, loves to play the race card…

So despite his reference to “little black and brown girls”, the left didn’t bat an eyelid.

He probably could have used ‘the n word’ and the left would have waved him through – he’s their man after all. 

But when Johannes Leak, gifted cartoonist for The Australian, directly quoted Biden in a caricature of the left’s ironic racism, he received an entirely different reception…

For simply using Biden’s own words, Leak copped a merciless onslaught from the left’s offense police.

Because, of course, according to the left everybody on the right is racist and nobody on the left could possibly be so.

The cartoon was referred to the Australian Press Council and a year later they’ve made a decision.

In response to complaints received, the Council asked the publication to comment on whether the material breached its Standards of Practice which require it to take reasonable steps to avoid causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice, unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest (General Principle 6).

[GP 6. Avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice,
or a substantial risk to health or safety, unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest.]

The Council has consistently expressed the view that cartoons are commonly expressions of opinion examining serious issues and which use exaggeration and absurdity to make their point. For this reason, significant latitude will be given in considering whether a publication has taken reasonable steps to avoid substantial offence, distress or prejudice in breach of General Principle 6.

The Council acknowledges that the cartoon is a comment on what the cartoonist considers a hypocritical choice by Joe Biden to secure votes from people of colour rather than out of any genuine concern to address racial inequality. The Council does not dispute the public interest in dissecting politicians’ statements and the words and actions of US Presidential candidates in particular. Nor does the Council dispute a publication’s right to publish its and its cartoonist’s partisan views.

So what’s the verdict?

While the Council notes that the publication and the cartoonist have strongly stated that there was no intention to cause offence, distress or prejudice, the Council considers the prejudice to women and particularly women of colour which the cartoon contributes to is substantial and that it offended a wide range of people, in particular women. The Council considers the public interest in questioning Joe Biden’s words and actions was not sufficient to justify the substantial offence and prejudice caused, and that criticism of identity politics could have been achieved without such offence and prejudice. Accordingly, the Council concludes that the publication breached General Principle 6 [emphasis added].

Read the APC’s full determination here.

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
August/19/2021
@ 9:04 pm

Taking an expression, “girl,” which was being used to refer to little kids who will likely grow up to be women, and then applying it to a woman, is not “a direct quote.” It’s taking any words he ever uttered, then putting them together in new contexts in a fictional way, and then feigning outraged innocence when called on it.

#2 Christopher Eaton
August/20/2021
@ 1:02 am

The perpetrator as the victim defense. Is that all they got?

#3 Mary Ella
August/20/2021
@ 7:19 am

@Christopher Eaton: Yeah, I think that’s pretty much all they’ve got.

#4 Greg Carman
August/25/2021
@ 6:11 am

Like father like son.

Johannes Leak is the son of Bill Leak, who was hunted to his death – he died of a heart attack at the height of his persecution by the government – by a Little Hitler bureaucrat at Australia’s Human Rights Commission who had to travel from Aboriginal settlement to Aboriginal settlement in a desperate attempt to find someone who would be willing to put their name to the complaint he had drafted, so that he would have the power to go after the cartoonist.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-20/bill-leak-singled-out-for-racial-discrimination-investigation/7952590

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