“My Job Is To Challenge The Status Quo!” Michael Leunig Kicks Off After The Age Rejects Anti-Vax Content

“My Job Is To Challenge The Status Quo!” Michael Leunig Kicks Off After The Age Rejects Anti-Vax Content
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Cartoonist Michael Leunig has objected after The Age announced it would no longer publish his Monday cartoons.

Leunig has been mired in controversy for some weeks after he posted an anti-vax drawing on his Instagram when the newspaper refused to publish it. 

Leunig’s cartoon compared COVID-19 vaccines to the infamous Beijing figure ‘Tank Man’ – who advocated for free speech by standing in front of a line of tanks opposing the Chinese military. This image has become iconic – it is seen as a bold act of heroism and defiance. 

The cartoon Leunig posted wasn’t exactly subtle: it featured a giant needle, a person and a photoshopped image of Tank Man.

He captioned the drawing “mandate,” seemingly comparing mass vaccination to a massacre. 

The post went semi-viral and received over 8 thousand likes and 3 thousand comments. It also got comments from activist Clementine Ford and journalist Jan Fran, both of whom condemned the drawing. 

Ford wrote: “Everyone applauding this disgraceful comparison shows not only their scientific ignorance, but their historical ignorance too. Only the most privileged of people would find relatable meaning in this dross.”

Fran commented: “What in the hecking heck is this?”

It’s worth noting that usually, a cartoonist’s role is to poke fun and call out politicians and the rules and laws they implement. But a pandemic has different rules, it’s not about views or opinions. It is about health and science. 

This isn’t the first time Leunig has been controversial, he has previously posted cartoons with anti-vaccination sentiment, as well as one accused of judging mothers.

Leunig will now no longer file for the Monday section of The Age. Gay Alcorn, the editor of The Age, told The Australian that she had pulled “multiple cartoons by Leunig, almost entirely on the grounds that they expressed an anti-vaccination sentiment.”

“We don’t mind cartoonists challenging the readers. We encourage diversity of thought, but I had a concern with cartoons perceived as anti-vaccination.”

Leunig will continue to file for Spectrum, the Saturday Age’s arts and culture lift-out.

Despite this fact, the cartoonist gave a series of fiery comments to The Australian about the situation, saying “purge is the word that comes to mind”.

“Apparently, I’m out of touch with the readership.”

“Gay feels this type of cartoon is not in line with public sentiment, and The Age’s readership, who it does seem are largely in favour of the Andrews’ Covid narrative. But my job is to challenge the status quo, and that has always been the job of the cartoonist.”

Leunig has yet to remove the drawing from his socials and seemingly stands by his comparison. 

The Age is now trialling new cartoonists.

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Michael Leunig The Age

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