Culture

Andrew Bolt, One Nation And Other Conservatives Are Trying To Make “Je Suis Bill Leak” A Thing

It's great to see they've got their priorities sorted.

Just when you thought conservative media commentators in this country couldn’t become more unhinged, they go and appropriate a slogan used to express solidarity with French cartoonists murdered by terrorists. Welcome to “Je Suis Bill Leak”, the latest campaign being waged by Andrew Bolt and The Australian.

Bill Leak has drawn highly offensive cartoons for a long time now. Just this year his cartoons have targetted Indigenous Australians, women and supporters of same-sex marriage. Here’s the rogues gallery:

The cartoons have attracted complaints to the Press Council, a hashtag campaign in response to their awfulness, and a brilliant takedown by The FeedOh, and he was declared “Cartoonist of the Year” by his employer, News Corp.

One of Leak’s cartoons, depicting the arrest of a young Indigenous person, is being investigated by the Australian Human Rights Commission for alleged racial discrimination and conservatives have gone absolutely ballistic.

Yesterday The Australian published an opinion piece titled “Bill Leak cartoon: the war on free speech has just begun”. Whinging about “free speech” has become the standard defence of conservatives who just can’t get enough of Leak’s garbage cartoons. But it doesn’t really make sense.

Being criticised for drawing stupid cartoons doesn’t really have anything to do with freedom of speech. Even if Leak stops being published in the country’s national newspaper (something that, unfortunately, doesn’t look like happening anytime soon) that still wouldn’t have anything to do with freedom of speech. I don’t have a regular cartoon in The Australian. Neither do 99.9999999% of Australians. Does that mean our freedom of speech is diminished? Of course it doesn’t.

How often do the targets of Leak’s cartoons have the opportunity to respond to his attacks? Generally only after the Press Council has forced The Australian to allow them too.

So how is Leak responding to latest furore? Drawing more completely bonkers cartoons. Like this one today, about race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane:

Andrew Bolt (surprise!) is jumping on Team Leak. He’s written an article today called “Why doesn’t Turnbull say ‘je suis Bill Leak’?” Um, maybe because it’s a completely cooked slogan? The “Je Suis Charlie” slogan was already quite contested but was generally used to express solidarity with Charlie Hebdo cartoonists attacked by terrorists. What do they have in common with Bill Leak? Not much.

The Australian itself is doubling down on “Je Suis Bill Leak” publishing another column today on the subject. This one’s titled “Does anyone have the courage to declare, ‘Je suis Bill Leak’?”. One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has gotten on board as well.

    So we’ve got The Australian, Andrew Bolt and One Nation on a unity ticket, throwing their support behind a cartoonist notorious for his dumb, offensive cartoons who makes ‘jokes’ about domestic violence and Indigenous incarceration. It’s great to see they’ve got their priorities sorted.