Thursday, December 5, 2019

More thoughts on that Tremain cartoon


It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Otago Daily Times cartoonist Garrick Tremain has been hung out to dry – or as seems to be the preferred metaphor these days, thrown under a bus.

I get the impression that Tremain now accepts that his cartoon making light of the Samoan measles epidemic was grossly insensitive. But he’s hardly the only person culpable.

All newspaper cartoons are supposed to be vetted by senior editorial people and we can assume that process was followed in this case, in which case editorial heads should be rolling too, metaphorically speaking.

The paper not only failed to see how wrong the cartoon was but also misjudged the public reaction, thinking it could get away with a low-key apology on page 10. The editor, Barry Stewart, has since tried to make amends by facing protesters yesterday and publishing a second mea culpa on the front page today.

But it’s Tremain who’s being made to bear the primary responsibility. Stewart says the cartoonist has been stood down while the ODT conducts a “review”, which sounds like a damage control exercise aimed at mollifying protesters in the hope that it will all blow over.

A particularly ignoble aspect of the controversy is the spectacle of a fellow cartoonist putting the boot in. Jim Hubbard has drawn not one but two cartoons taking a whack at Tremain, which strikes me as contemptible.

Hubbard’s cartoons are often close to the bone too, though at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Tremain’s, and it’s not hard to envisage circumstances in which he too might be publicly pilloried, in which case I’m sure he would appreciate a bit of solidarity.

As an aside, I can’t help wondering whether the ODT's display of tone-deafness over the Tremain cartoon is a Dunedin thing. No offence to the ODT – a paper for which I have great respect – or to the residents of that estimable city, but Dunedin is a bit isolated from the cultural mainstream and possibly not quite in tune with how issues are viewed in other parts of the country. Could that explain the ODT’s spectacular lapse of judgment?


8 comments:

Richard said...

Tremain's cartoon was offensive to all who find joking about dead men, women and children offensive. It was stupid and tone deaf , a lame pun on a tragic truth.

What is interesting is the contrast between the reactions to this cartoon and a sports commentator's use of the word "Jew" in relation to a prominent All Black's spending habits. The former has seen the commentariat rise in a woke wave of condemnation. The latter, apart from a lone complaint from the NZ Jewish Council, has gone unremarked. The BSA dismissed the complaint with only faint opprobrium towards "casual racism". Silence is indeed enlightening. I wonder what the reaction would have been if the commentator had described a player in racially, sexually or ethnically derogative terms?

Mark Hubbard said...

Mind you, at same time there's lefty cartoonist, Sharon Murdoch, portraying David Seymour as kissing up to fascism and racism simply because he is defending free speech: so someone in favour of allowing Don Brash and Meghan Murphy to speak publicly is a racist and fascist.

Totally ignorant of the fact the principled defence of free speech is to defend speech you don't agree with. And further ignorant of the fact she exists with her cartooning only via free speech.

I think NZ cartooning is at the absolute nadir right now.

MarkJ said...

I look forward to the day where more people simply adopt a thicker skin, build a bridge, and get over it. Tasteless yes - Shining a brighter light on the horrific measles epidemic in Samoa - definitely. I cant help but wonder how many people actually give a care - indignation aside...

Andy Espersen said...

There may be other reasons why Tremain has now been "stood down". He is getting close to 80. As you age you sometimes get to a stage when you sort of laugh at everything and are continually merry - even if the situation or the event isn't actually funny.

hughvane said...

Some while ago, the Press used to publish cartoons by Al Nisbett. He too apparently crossed the ever-shifting and elastic line of public sensitivities with a cartoon depicting a covey of witches on flying brooms pursuing the Me Too theme.

Press satirist Andrew Gunn, spewing sanctimonious outrage, used his privileged position to slag Nisbett. Hypocrisy 101.

Various others seeking the limelight, the so-called ‘influencers’, joined the discordant clamour, claiming to be offended, and baying for the cartoonist’s blood. The Press, and Nisbett, sadly, buckled/bowed/capitulated - take your pick - and the reading public of NZ were thenceforth denied his admirable wit.

Luckily we can still view Nisbett’s cartoons online. Same for Tremain.

Hilary Taylor said...

Editor is more culpable in my book...proferred material, his call to publish (& be damned.) Why I emailed Kamala Hayman yesterday to suggest that she should be similarly embarrassed at printing Murdoch's lame cartoon, and a small, civil aside about why I continue to buy her daily when it satisfies me less & less in these 'times'. She is proud of Murdoch, amongst others, she said. Agree about the standard of cartooning..I rarely laugh, don't always need to, and when I do it's 'at it' not 'with it'. Predictably, a lapse of judgement has been escalated into a call for his head, but not the editor's, and a pompous slew of half-baked sanctimony. Shame on Gunn & Hubbard...Murdoch consistently pushes a personal political barrow. Reminds me of the 'cheeky darkie' righteousness, when satire was the intent, as any fool could discern, but the po-faced cheek was turned toward a spurious moral high ground. Good grief, it's all too much...

kiwhig said...

Why should the ODT care about how issues are judged in other parts of the country? It has a solid subscribership in the lower South Island. I suppose most of them would have shrugged at the weak pun in poor taste and got on with reading the paper.

hughvane said...

Late, I know, but here's the link to Tremain's cartoons. He's not letting up!
http://garrick-tremain.squarespace.com/