By Marcus Honesta.
Well, it was bound to happen. The snivel libertarians are in meltdown yet again; screaming from the rooftops and baying for blood. They’re out for the blood of Warren Brown, cartoonist- at- large for the Murdoch publication the Daily Telegraph. Naturally, leading the pack is the former Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, who last night was attempting to whip up a racial frenzy, appearing on the ABC to accuse Brown of “fear mongering.”
Speaking on the left wing taxpayer-funded left-wing current affairs program “The Drum, ”, Dr Soutphommasane accused the cartoonist of “fermenting anger” over his depiction of an Afghan asylum seeker chasing a nurse.
The program followed a message on The Drum’s official twitter account that suggested Brown’s work was a “cartoon which has been described as racist” in the lead-up to last night’s show.
The cartoon in Monday’s edition of the paper was in response to a court case in which an asylum seeker — in Australia for medical treatment — is accused of groping two nurses. Daily Telegraph editor Ben English last night rejected the criticism of his veteran staffer, saying: “Cartoonists as courageous as Warren are an exception at a time when free speech is under attack. This is an assault on freedom of expression and another sign of a worrying intolerance for caricature, irony and visual commentary.”
Dr Soutphommasane followed up the Twitter attack with his appearance on the ABC. “If we’re talking about hate and the role that cartoons can play in creating or fermenting hate, it’s to do with two things. It’s to do with fear and to do with anger,” he said.
Dr Kerryn Phelps
The cartoon offered a commentary on the Afghan man’s case on the eve of MP Kerryn Phelps’ successful push to pass a bill allowing the medivac of asylum seekers to Australia.
“If we’re talking about a cartoon such as the Daily Telegraph’s cartoon yesterday, that was fearmongering. That was a clear example of (taking) a particular group in our society, or who wants to come to our society, namely Arab Muslim men, and depicting them as a pressing threat to white women in Australian society,” Dr Soutphommasane said.
Why we’re still giving this dolt airtime is a mystery to me. I would suggest that his opinions are irrelevant and out of touch with mainstream Australian thinking. His views may sit well with the café latte -swilling set in Glebe and Surry Hills, but in the real world, we are more concerned with paying our ever-increasing power bill and the cost of putting food on the family table. Dr Soutphommasane lives in an academic, political philosopher’s elitists bubble, completely out of touch with the real world.
However, in an attempt at magnanimity and to assist Dr Soutphommasane, who clearly doesn’t understand the role of the political cartoon or the cartoonist in a free society, I have explained their functions in the paragraphs below.
What is a political cartoon? It is a drawing, (often including a caricature), created for the purpose of conveying editorial commentary on politics, politicians or current events. Such cartoons play a role in the political discourse of a society that guarantees freedom of speech and of the press. Cartoons are primarily an opinion-oriented medium and can generally be found on the editorial pages of newspapers and other journalistic outlets, whether in print or electronic form. Their subject matter is usually current and newsworthy political issues. Thus, in order for cartoons to be understood, readers must possess basic background knowledge about their subject matter, ideally provided by the medium in which they are published.
A political cartoon is also an artistic vehicle characterized by both metaphorical and satirical language. It may point out the contexts, problems and discrepancies of a political situation. Although a drawing reflects a cartoonist’s judgment and point of view and the visual commentary often exaggerates circumstances, responsible editorial standards prevent the artist from altering facts. During the process of rendering opinions into such a visual form, many artistic decisions regarding symbols, allegories, techniques, composition, and so forth must be made. When making decisions, the cartoonist must keep in mind whether the audience will be able to understand the editorial cartoon. When successful, political cartoons can fulfil an important criticising and balancing function in society. In addition, political cartoons can encourage the process of opinion formation and decision making as well as providing an entertaining perspective on the news.
During his tenure in the $350,000-a-year Race Discrimination Commissioner’s job, Dr Soutphommasane pursued the Australian’s late cartoonist Bill Leak under the Racial Discrimination Act for his depiction of an Aboriginal man who did not know his son’s name.
He denied soliciting or encouraging complaints about a confronting Bill Leak cartoon, despite issuing advice on the day it was published on how to make a complaint, claiming, “I reject any suggestion that I have ‘urged’ or ‘encouraged’ complaints.
“It is my function, as stated in the Racial Discrimination Act, to promote public understanding and acceptance of the act. This includes informing people about their right to lodge a complaint if they believe they have experienced racial hatred”.
“It is wrong to suggest that giving this information amounts to soliciting complaints.”
“If there are Aboriginal Australians who have been racially offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated, they can consider lodging a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act with the commission,” he wrote.
He also tweeted a news article quoting numerous parties condemning the cartoon as “racist,”, and commented: “Our society shouldn’t endorse racial stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians.”
Who is he trying to kid? Freedom of the press and freedom of speech is exactly that.
Freedom of opinion and expression is an inalienable right of a free people. Australia is committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration stipulates: “Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
In a truly democratic society, open debate, discussion, criticism and dissent are central to the process of generating informed and considered choices. These processes are crucial to the formation of values and priorities and help in finding and assessing finding solutions to social, economic and political problems.
A free press is a symbol of a free people. The people of Australia have a right to freedom of information and access to differing opinions and declare that an unfettered flow of news and views both within Australia and across the nation’s borders is basic to these principles.