Saturday, January 14, 2006

Poetic Imagery My Arse

You know, I don't normally make political or partisan comments on this blog; I figure other people can do it better than me, and I'd rather just entertain people.

But I think I will make one now, because this concerns another self-styled humourist and cartoonist who has gone out of his way to make political statements, some of which are quite vile. I'm talking about Michael Leunig.

There has been a minor blog-debate about the merits (if any) of Leunig's cartoons since Tim Blair linked to one of those cartoons on the 10th of this month.

Here is the said Leunig cartoon. It depicts Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - currently on the verge of death - as the killer of innocent old men in wheelchairs. For more analysis of its context, see this Tim Blair post, or this post on Legless In Perpetuum.

It's not the first time Leunig has done this sort of thing, either:

- In this cartoon, Leunig depicts a member of the US armed forces as a cannibal - drawing on an earlier cartoon depiction of Ariel Sharon in the same light.

- In this cartoon, Leunig compares the modern state of Israel with a Nazi concentration camp.

Leunig has since defended his cartoon, saying: "I, perhaps foolishly, made a cartoon about that strange situation that is a person's dying days - not to have a swipe at Sharon or Israel but to open up some more existential and, dare I say it, "Shakespearean" thoughts about the pathos and wry darkness of this powerful man's demise".
Yes, it was foolish. What is even more foolish - not to mention bizarre - is that Leunig then goes on to defend the cartoon as if it didn't matter. He appears to want it both ways - to admit to his human fallibility, but to be able to defend himself against all criticism because he's 'an artist'. This is a pathetic self-defence mechanism.

In an ABC interview, Leunig has this to say: "I'm trying to think, "How can I distil this into some little poetic moment that awakens people to other possibilities?""
Also: " And I'm there to challenge that notion of life. That I'm interested in the deeper humanity in us all."
It's worth taking a moment to note how, at crucial points, Leunig explains himself by using meaningless phrases like 'poetic moment' and 'deeper humanity'. Actually, both are insulting - the first to poets and writers, the second to all humans - because they replace precise concepts (poetic, humanity) with vague and fuzzy ideas (deeper humanity, poetic moments).
But there's an even more important point to make. And that is that this is the context in which Leunig defends his 'art': this is the context in which he wants his pictures comparing Auschwitz to Israel to be understood. Historical facts about Israel and the treatment of Jews by the Nazis apparently matter less than having a 'poetic moment' with Leunig's 'deeper humanity'.

Leunig used to be an exceptional cartoonist: original, and funny. Nowadays, all he appears to be producing is hate-filled propaganda. It's disgraceful, and The Age should fire him.

Legless In Perpetuum
Tim Blair

PS Sorry about the political post thingy, I'll be back in a day or so with more interesting stuff.


Wylie Wilde said...

I dream of the day when The AGE becomes a weekend magazine, sacks all its left-wing kooks, and beefs ups its EPICURE, PROPERTY, Green Guide and Entertainment Sections. Til that day, I only browse thru the AGE whilst I wait to pay my groceries.

Tim said...

Don't apologise, you are spot on. Leunig is awful.

Major Anya said...

Noooo, not a political post, Tim.

What were you thinking?

I want more poetry.

TimT said...

Well, we all have dreams, Wylie ... Thanks for the encouragement Tim.

Major Anya - greetings! You've been added to my blogroll. I guess I felt that I had to comment on this Leunig affair, because to me, the comics, the letters pages, and the humour sections of the newspaper are what I read. Someday, I'd like to get a job doing that sort of thing myself (not writing letters, obviously, but doing comics or something like that). Leunig must be paid a hefty sum by The Age for those cartoons. And what sort of work does he produce? Propaganda, propaganda, and more propaganda. He presents himself as a 'shy' and 'gentle' person, but his cartoons are full of hate.

CB said...

I'd like to beat the living shy and gentle shit out of him. He's achieved the knack of viewers contemplating his sanity ahead of his alleged artistic ability.

Anonymous said...

Leunig is awful and i agree with what has been said but the israel joke hit prety close to the truth so that maybe want a good example to use but otherwise your spot on

Anonymous said...

Leunig is awful and i agree with what has been said but the israel joke hit prety close to the truth so that maybe want a good example to use but otherwise your spot on

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