The lengths certain sectors of the Australian media will go to to protect their own is, quite honestly, awe-inspiring. With seemingly little-to-no formal accountability beyond maybe a slap on the wrist from the Australian Press Council or the Australian Communications and Media Authority, or maybe a light “you cheeky boy” grilling on Media Watch, there’s nothing in place beyond the whims of feckless ghouls (and the spinelessness of the collective industry) to stop any major outlet from publishing whatever inane, racist crap they want to. Case in point: Today’s deeply fucked Johannes Leak cartoon in The Australian, which now has an equally-as-bullshit official defence.
In case you missed it, Leak – the son of the late but absolutely not great Bill Leak – ran a staggeringly racist cartoon depicting US Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his newly-installed running mate Kamala Harris.
Here’s your little reminder of how ludicrously racist Australian commercial media are. This is in the country’s only national daily newspaper: pic.twitter.com/7oN7bjRWLO
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) August 13, 2020
Searingly fucked. There’s simply no other way to read it. A new high water mark in the career of a political cartoonist for whom belittling and demonising the oppressed is family heritage.
Following the almost instantaneous backlash, The Australian was forced into issuing an official response. But rather than acknowledge the criticism – which at this point I have to stress amounts to pointing out that the cartoon is obviously racist as fuck – editor Chris Dore has instead dug his heels in.
Speaking to The Guardian Australia, Dore first asserted that Leak was “quoting Biden’s words” directly, in reference to a Tweet Biden posted yesterday morning Australian time.
This morning, little girls woke up across this nation — especially Black and Brown girls who so often may feel overlooked and undervalued in our society — potentially seeing themselves in a new way: As the stuff of Presidents and Vice Presidents.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 12, 2020
A cop out at absolute best, and at worst a wilful misinterpretation of how words work. Saying what appeared in Leak’s cartoon is quoting Biden’s words there is a bit like singling out the words in this article that I’ve published in bold and saying that too is a direct quote. Of course, behind that one I’m more than willing to stand.
Going further, Dore then asserted that the cartoon was actually intended to “ridicule” racism actually, and lambasted anyone who did not have the context of misreading one specific tweet for being mad.
“When Johannes used those words, expressed in a tweet by Biden yesterday, he was highlighting Biden’s language and apparent attitudes, not his own. The intention of the commentary in the cartoon was to ridicule racism, not perpetuate it,” he stated.
“In the context of Biden’s words, this is evident. Clearly some, including those without that context, have wrongly attributed Biden’s words to Johannes, and in doing so have attributed abhorrent and inaccurate motives to him. The Australian, and Johannes, opposes racism in all of its guises.”
Seems logical, then, that if The Australian and Johannes truly do oppose racism “in all of its guises” then they should just stop publishing fucking racist things.
Although to hold any breath in anticipation of that moment of self-discovery would be foolish, if not fatal.