One of this country’s very best cartoonists is Garrick Tremain and for my money, has been for decades. Currently he’s under attack for his latest cartoon. This showed two women emerging from a travel agency and one saying, “I asked what are the least popular spots at the moment and was told, the ones people are picking up in Samoa.” The punchline here reflects a peculiarity of the English language, namely its multitude of words which have a variety of meanings. An example is “right.” It can mean the opposite of left, or an entitlement, or something correct as opposed to wrong, or a substitute for “yes.” You get the picture.

In this cartoon the critical word is “spots” which Garrick (who incidentally, I don’t know) has used to make a perfectly harmless joke using its double meaning, specifically a quiet tourist location (thus the request for the least popular spot) and measles, an infection causing spots.

Measles is currently big in the news because of the dreadful contagion in Samoa with over 60 dead, including 15 babies.

Probably any cartoon touching on the Samoan tragedy is best avoided in our unsophisticated society. The results were thus predictable. But the cartoon was a play on words (spots) and not a mocking of Samoa’s plight, as it’s since been wrongly claimed.

First came the usual attention-seeking offence-takers, led by a tattooed obese maori woman shouting abuse, in a plainly organised mob, outside the Otago Daily Times office.

The cry; not hard to guess- “racism.” It takes a fairly low intellect, certainly well under the moronic level, to find racism in that cartoon.

The second predictable event was the pathetically weak response from the paper’s editor, predictable because I’ve frequently argued cowardliness is common in New Zealand in submission under pressure to irrational hysteria.

The third predictable consequence was a Jacinda mush opportunity. She claimed she was “horrified,” adding “this is affecting children and babies.” She then contradicted herself as one’s prone to do when talking rubbish, saying, “It’s absolutely horrific no-one takes it lightly” followed by a 100% contradictory remark, “New Zealand’s doing all we can to assist.”

Easily the most predictable was the reaction from the two major newspaper chains. Both piled into the ODT. There’s a reason underlying that, namely it’s privately owned and not part of their groups and is measurably the most successful major newspaper in the country.

Last week’s newspaper audit figures showed the Stuff’s flagship Dominion Post with a record sales drop of 14.17%. So too with the Herald, down, also a record, a disastrous 8%. The ODT on the other hand fell a mere 5%.

As a newspaper lover I don’t enjoy reading those numbers but accept the inevitable, namely they’re living out their last days. But one thing’s probable; the ODT will be the last one standing. It’s a fine newspaper.

Even if unwittingly, there’s always been a cannibalistic behavioural element in the industry. The Herald expressed shock-horror, ignoring the fact its current two cartoonists, both talented, are not shy when it comes to sensitivity.

The Dominion Post wrote a pompous above-it-all editorial and its cartoonist banged one out asserting a line had been crossed. All of this is infantile. The play on words cartoon was not racist. Its worst crime was insensitivity. But one thing’s certain, that is Garrick Tremain is a national treasure and long may he prevail.


There is also a long tradition of ‘black (gallows if black is racist) humour’; of being able to laugh even when surrounded by tragedy. The Jews in concentration camps were masters of the art. We are losing this tradition because of the perpetually offended brigade.

It is interesting observing all the outrage over Tremain’s insensitive cartoon. I note there is no outrage over an entirely preventable epidemic occurring in Samoa.
They receive millions and millions in aid but they don’t prioritise vaccinations as a simple, cheap and highly effective public health issue until it is too late. This is the real obscenity.
Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.

I actually think there is a generational difference at play here. With the exception of Murray Ball, NZ cartoonists have all been about as funny as finding a dog poo on your lawn. People aren’t treating this as humour, because it’s not funny.

    Thought it was dammed funny. Exceptional use of words. There are certainly some stuckup, carrot up the bum, woke people around these days. I’m with Bob on this. Time to get back to the old days and lighten up. Must of been the time and place we grew up.

    Come on…. Nevile Lodge, Sid Scales.

First rule of comedy: If you choose to go down the bad taste path, be careful as the funny had better outweigh the bad taste otherwise you will be skewered and (arguably) rightly so, as an insipid, unfunny comment will only add to the misery of a tragic situation. As an example of a comment being more funny than offensive, this by US comedian Artie Lange on President Trump’s inauguration in 2017: “It won’t be the first time that Trump has kicked a black family out of their home”.

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