A defiant front page

Now the Herald-Sun, the Australian paper that ran the strikingly racist cartoon of Serena Williams, is doing the free speech martyr act.

The Herald Sun newspaper has republished its controversial cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams on a defiant front page in which it attacked its critics and foreshadowed a future where satire is outlawed.

“WELCOME TO PC WORLD,” read the paper’s headline, over a collection of Mark Knight cartoons, including the depiction of Williams spitting a dummy and stamping on her racquet.

The cartoons are broad, yes, but they’re not racist. That one of Williams – we’ve seen those before.

“If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed,” the paper wrote.

No, it really won’t. It’s perfectly possible to do biting satirical cartoons without racism.

Knight has rejected suggestions his depiction of Williams was racist or sexist, while others said it drew on racist tropes of African-Americans.

“I saw the world number one tennis player have a huge hissy fit and spit the dummy,” Knight said on Tuesday.

“That’s what the cartoon was about, her poor behaviour on the court.

“I drew her as an African-American woman. She’s powerfully built. She wears these outrageous costumes when she plays tennis. She’s interesting to draw. I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman.”

Er…as a generic African-American woman in the mind of one male Australian cartoonist. That is not, in fact, her face.

Australian writer Maxine Beneba Clarke said she believed the front page demonstrated a “misunderstanding” of the criticism levelled at the cartoon.

“I think it’s really interesting that the Herald Sun has not included really any other caricatures or cartoons of black people — either Aboriginal people or African-American people, black people of any descent,” said Ms Clarke, who is of Afro-Caribbean descent.

“So what you have is essentially a front page that has pictures like Donald Trump being caricatured for his hair, Tony Abbott being caricatured for his big ears, you know the Prime Minister being portrayed as a muppet, kind of this innuendo that he’s having his strings pulled … and I think it’s fundamentally different to racial caricature.”

Ms Clarke said the front page had been carefully constructed.

“What it’s trying to say is that all people are caricatured, but the criticism of the Serena Williams caricature is that it’s specifically racist, and there’s a reason why the Herald Sun isn’t able to put other cartoons that they’ve reproduced of black people on the front page.”

But what about freedom of cartooning?

Syndicated cartoonist Paul Zanetti, a friend of Knight’s for forty years, said cartooning was under threat from political correctness, and the Herald Sun front page “spelt out exactly where we are at at this point”.

“Political correctness is really all about censoring, it’s about being bullied into conforming to a view of the world,” he said.

No, it really isn’t, at least not necessarily. Take this, for instance:

Image result for nazi caricature jew

It’s obvious enough, yeah? I bet even Mark Knight would be able to see it.

Nothing of value is lost if cartoonists no longer do that kind of thing.

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