BOB WATSON AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD

Case Number: 3108

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2021

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Ruling Categories: Cartoons
Discrimination
Unfair Coverage

Overview

Bob Watson complained about a cartoon published in the New Zealand Herald on 4 September 2021. The cartoon said: “The team of 4,999,999 Delta bucket brigade” and showed a range of men and women wearing masks and carrying buckets. The cartoon also showed a bearded man with his hands behind his back wearing a t-shirt featuring the word “Anti-vaxxer”. Mr Watson took issue with the anti-vaxxer being portrayed as a white, middle-aged male. This hateful portrayal of white males could be seen as inciting vicious retribution against white males, Mr Watson said. It had portrayed them as anti-vaccination and thereby not doing the best for the country. He asked, what would the response be if the anti-vaxxer had been portrayed as Polynesian, Arab, Asian or even female?

 

The Herald replied that the cartoon was an expression of opinion and in the cartoonist’s opinion anti-vaxxers were not team players. While Mr Watson’s sense of offence was noted, the Herald noted that readers did not have the right not to be offended, as the Media Council had regularly noted.

 

The cartoon shows people of all races and sexes in the pro-vaccination group, including what could possibly have been a white, middle-aged man. There was nothing wrong with depicting a member of the majority ethnic group in New Zealand as an anti-vaxxer. Taking the complainant’s approach to its logical conclusion would mean cartoonists could never show a person who was meant to symbolise the public in a negative light in a cartoon, as whatever race they were would be unacceptable.

 

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.

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