In case you didn't already know, The Australian's cartoonist, Bill Leak, died last week. The newspaper was/is inconsolable and carried/carries glowing tribute after glowing tribute... along these lines:
"Awesomely talented, wickedly funny, brilliantly insightful, relentlessly engaging, and defiantly courageous, Bill Leak came to be the beating heart of this newspaper." (Bill Leak was brilliant, fearless & widely loved, Editorial, The Australian, 11/3/17)
Let's see how such plaudits stack up against Leak's last cartoon of March 10.
Predictably, it was one of the many editorial weapons deployed by The Australian on the latest front in its relentless, decade-long (at least!) crusade against all things Islam.
Having moved on - for the time being at least - from mauling Q&A panelist Yassmin Abdel- Magied, the paper was now on the warpath over the struggle to uphold our virginal Aussie Values in those hotbeds of Islamist radicalisation, the public high schools of Western Sydney. Ground zero for the struggle was/is Punchbowl Boys High School, whose principal and deputy had recently been stood down for some reason that still remains swathed in mystery.
Leak's last leak, if I may so indelicately, but accurately, describe his last spray, featured a reporter with a mike interviewing NSW education minister Rob Stokes outside the gates of Punchbowl Boys: "So, Mr Stokes - about this latest kerfuffle...," he asks. Stokes is depicted, smiling, severed head in hand, saying "Oh, y'know - boys will be boys."
Wickedly funny and brilliantly insightful?
Not if the expose Inside Punchbowl High: a battle for hearts & minds (John Lyons/ Paul Maley/Jennine Khalik), which appeared in the paper the day after, can be believed*.
Here, essentially, is what that 'Inside Story' revealed: that Punchbowl Boys' principal Chris Griffiths was not Jihad Dib, the school's former principal, show pony, and now Labor MP for Lakemba; that Griffiths had a different management style to Dib (who was characterised as 'diplomatic'); that Griffiths declined to involve the school in a deradicalisation program; that Griffiths was "hardworking" and "guided by the best interests of his students"; that, while Griffiths was a Muslim convert, "parents were dumbfounded at the suggestion [he] was zealous"; that "there is no evidence [the school] was, or is, a hotbed of radicalisation"; that his religion "was [Griffiths'] strong point at the school, but his weakness at the department level when people made complaints"; that "Griffiths... might have an unfair dismissal case against the government"; and that, according to a parent, "If there are families who... wanted to be very Islamic, they would've gone to an Islamic school".**
In short, Leak's last spray could not have been wider of the mark, so to speak. So much for funny and insightful.
As one reader commented pertinently over at the Independent Australia website, in response to their piece, Bill Leak: speaking freely of the dead:
"Bill Leak had a glass jaw and not much by way of artistic talent. Half of his cartoons needed a Bill Leak cipher expert to translate the cartoon for ordinary readers. All his cartoons seemed to come from a fantasy world in which straight, white, right-wing men are treated like a needy, endangered species, while everyone else, GLBTs, women, non-Caucasians, all pose a terrible threat to traditional white power. It's going to be impossible to miss the little, right-wing drummer boy. That's about the nicest thing I can say about Bill Leak by way of a eulogy."
Tomorrow: Bill Leak's wickedly funny and brilliantly insightful cartoons on de Middle East.
[*To be fair, some journalism in The Australian is actually quite good; **By way of insightful contrast: "'But every time I've been treated like absolute garbage it's exclusively been by young, well-dressed, former private school boys. How do I know they went to a private school? Because they all have the same routine of commenting on my appearance, then asking me what school I went to.'" (Brisbane Uber driver airs gripe over sexist questions from male passengers, au.news.yahoo.com, 14/3/17)]