Wall and the Warriors of Change go on the warpath – don’t laugh, folks – over a newspaper cartoon

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People who were pissed off with cartoons published in The Press and the Marlborough Express last year did what we are all entitled to do and expressed their objections at the time.

They exercised something wonderful called their freedom of speech (as did the enterprising Toyota dealer who devised the advertisement shown here).

Soon there was a debate raging. Were the cartoons racially offensive – or were they not?

And then we were all huffed and puffed out. It was all over. Or should have been.

Alas, some sad bastards get their knickers in a serious twist and want to see heads roll if they have taken offence or otherwise been affronted.

It looks like we can slot Labour MP Louisa Wall into this category.

She has joined forces with an outfit called Warriors of Change to take the newspapers and their parent company Fairfax to the Human Rights Review Tribunal after Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy criticised the cartoons but had the enormous common sense to leave things at that and not take the matter further.

Fairfax reports today on how it is being hauled over the coals by Wall and the Warriors of Change (whose idea of change, Alf imagines, is to create a very disagreeable society in which he would live very unhappily).

Cartoons by Al Nisbet about the Government’s breakfast in schools programme ran in The Press and the Marlborough Express in May last year.

One depicted a group of adults, dressed as children, eating breakfast and saying: “Psst … If we can get away with this, the more cash left for booze, smokes and pokies.”

The other depicted a family sitting round a table littered with Lotto tickets, alcohol and cigarettes and saying: “Free school food is great! Eases our poverty and puts something in you kids’ bellies.”

So there we have it.

A cartoon.

Either you laugh – or you don’t.

Oh, or you could become an earnest academic and study it.

University of Waikato senior research fellow Dr Leonie Pihama told the tribunal that the cartoons could not be representations of non-specific ethnic groups from poor backgrounds. Their depiction of brown, obese, smokers who were dishonest beneficiaries, were clearly racist stereotypes of Maori and Pacific people.

These stereotypes can lead to physical and emotional violence and harm for ethnic minorities, Pihama said.

“If our people believe we are not worthy, that we are less than, or inferior than; or we have less rights than other people, that can lead to issues of suicide,” she said.

Alf has seen lots of cartoons that portray politicians as unworthy, inferior and so on too.

He has not been driven to physical and emotional violence.

Nor does he think other politicians would be so affected (although he can not speak for the likes of Louisa Wall).

But whoa.

Could the cartoonist not point out that Maori and Pacific people are statistically more likely to be obese, smokers, and use alcohol?

He could.

But this line of argument won’t get him very far.

Under cross-examination, Pihama accepted that in New Zealand Maori and Pacific people were statistically more likely to be obese, smokers, and use alcohol. However, in the cartoons’ representation of the group as dishonest, willing to rip off children and the government, they became a dangerous stereotype.

“The thing about representations is that it comes as a whole package. This depiction is built upon many generations of ideas of racist thinking of Maori and Pacific people,” she said.

So what about the sensitivities of the delicate Louisa?

Earlier, Wall told the tribunal the central characters in the first cartoon were Maori or Pacific Islanders and the family group in the second was “very clearly a Maori family”.

She said the cartoons were “insulting and ignorant put-downs of Maori and Pacific people”.

The MP for Manurewa said the cartoons were “unlawful discrimination” as they violated Section 61 of the Human Rights Act.

Her electorate had 30 mainly low-decile schools with predominantly Maori and Pacific Island rolls.

The cartoons would have a “profound effect on young people”.

“Many young people have to deal those depictions alone,” she said.

Wall acknowledged she was disappointed her complaint to the Human Rights Commission had been  “dismissed without any further action”.

Her complaint now is that the commissioner seemed to have only assessed whether the cartoons were racist when the word racist was never used in Section 6. But…

Section 61 says it is unlawful to publish matter that is “threatening, abusive, or insulting … words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons … on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons”.

The tribunal has allowed five days for the hearing.

Five bloody days to decide if a bloody cartoon breaches some bloody human rights code.

You’ve gotta laugh, eh?

Oh – but you will be pleased to know this country isn’t the only one that must suffer the protestations of zealots.

A TOYOTA dealer in Australia has been slammed on social media for making a Rolf Harris joke in an advertisement for a used Toyota HiLux utility.

The critics claim it is is in bad taste.

For mentioning Rolf Harris?

Or for something that escapes the member for Eketahuna North?

Here’s the gist:

Under the photo of a second-hand HiLux for sale, the description reads: “There’s more hope of Rolf Harris getting a babysitting gig than us finding a better example,” a reference to the 84-year-old Australian entertainer who was jailed for child sex offences in London earlier this month.

The advertisement then matter-of-factly goes on to list details about the vehicle, including the
$28,990 asking price and that it is a 4×4 diesel and comes with a steel tray and bullbar.

A cutaway of the offending advertisement, which published three weeks ago, spread across social media sites Facebook and Twitter over the weekend.

The advertisement was for Goldfields Toyota in Kalgoorlie, West Australia, and was published by the local newspaper, the Kalgoorlie Miner, about three weeks ago.

Did all Aussies enjoy the joke?

Nah.

Now Goldfields Toyota general sales manager Darryl “Shack” Evans is apologising – sort of.

He told News Corp Australia:

“It wasn’t meant to offend. We try to make our ads a little bit interesting and a little bit lighthearted but we blurred the lines of good taste and bad on this occasion. It was only printed once, but it’s somehow got on social media after someone took a photo of it, even though we’d taken it off the website.”

The dealership has form trying to write engaging advertisements for its second-hand vehicles.

An advertisement for another used Toyota HiLux plays on the name of the model called the Workmate. “I’ve worked with a few unreliable workmates before, hi Brett, but this one won’t let you down”.

An advertisement for a Toyota Prado 4WD claims the vehicle will “cover more ground than the Mars Rover”.

Toyota Australia says it contacted the dealer as soon as it became aware of the ad last Friday.

The Toyota tossers asked for the advertisement to be removed online.

Too late. By then the ad had appeared on social media.

Betcha Rolf would have had a jolly good laugh.

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