The Australian Financial Review’s David Rowe has adjusted a cartoon after complaints that it depicted the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in an anti-Semitic trope.
It would be perverse if a non-essential part of a cartoon that raised complaints of unintended racism ended up censoring a cartoon designed to make an anti-racist commentary.
That led to the unusual decision to accordingly amend the cartoon online. The cartoon published on the weekends editorial and opinion pages explicitly drew on the Emanuel Phillips Fox painting of Captain Cooks landing at Botany Bay in 1770.
Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay by the artist Emanuel Phillips Fox.
It depicted Scott Morrison as Cook in front of a flag emblazoned with Black Lives Matter and an image of the coronavirus. It played on Mr Morrisons suggestion that Black Lives Matter protesters should find a better way to protest than gathering in large numbers in spite of social distancing restrictions.
Mr Frydenberg was depicted as the young male character holding a gun to the right of Mr Morrisons Cook.
Donald Trump. David Rowe
Those who have complained about the cartoon say the Jewish Mr Frydenberg was depicted wearing a Jewish yarmulke cloth cap, with a hooked nose reminiscent of negative racial stereotypes of Jews stretching back centuries and holding a dollar sign that reinforces greedy and crooked Jewish stereotypes.
Stutchbury says he fully accepted Rowes alternative explanation of the imagery. In the drawing process, Rowe replaced the red hair of the young male character with the sailors cloth cap of a similar young male further to the right. At the time, he figured that the red hair would make it more difficult to identify the character as the balding Frydenberg.
Close examination shows the knotted tail of the cloth cap which distinguishes it from a yarmulke.
Boris Johnson. David Rowe
The “hooked nose” is Rowe’s particular caricature style that he uses for many faces including for John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop, Julie Bishop, Donald Trump, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and, in the weekend cartoon in dispute, Christian Porter. That comes with a loose and fast drawing style.
Working for a business and financial newspaper, Rowe has used dollar sign imagery for many people, especially for treasurers and businessmen.
In the cartoon concerned, it also appeared on the backs of red-coated English characters and helped signify Mr Frydenbergs position as Treasurer.
Having all three issues pointed out, Rowe said he understood why this had upset some people and apologised for any hurt that this had unintentionally caused.
Rowes amended cartoon, republished on afr.com on Monday, removes the cloth cap on the Frydenberg characters head and changes his nose, but retains the dollar symbol.
Rowe and Stutchbury agreed that cartooning and caricaturing can raise difficult issues of context, ambiguity and free speech.
This issue differed from other recent such controversies in that the offence taken was completely unintended and unrelated to the explicit point of the cartoon. The Frydenberg character could be removed completely without changing the cartoons intended meaning.
Bronwyn Bishop. David Rowe
Stutchbury thanked Jewish leaders for their constructive interaction with the Financial Review over the weekend, including their acceptance of the mastheads explanation.
Over more than three decades, he said, Rowe had become Australias most decorated working cartoonist. His work remained widely loved, including by the political and business figures he caricatures.