Not OK, Lost for Words

I don’t know how many of you overseas are aware that in the Pacific Islands there has been an outbreak of measles in Samoa. There’s been thousands of cases and at the time I write 55 have died, almost all of them young children. And this afternoon via Twitter I was horrified to find the Otago Daily Times today published a vile cartoon that shouldn’t ever have been penned to paper let alone published. I live in Otago and I feel so ashamed of this cartoonist who lives near Queenstown (part of Otago) and of the ODT that bears the name of our region in its title – what’s wrong with these people? How can they be so heartless? The paper has since apologised but really it’s too late and it was a lame apology anyway.

“They are us” – remember those words from our Prime Minister after the mosque tragedy in Christchurch? These words seem to have entirely missed the mark with some people.

If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about and why I’m angry there’s an overview of the story at The Guardian. The title is:  New Zealand newspaper publishes cartoon mocking Samoa measles crisis.  >> Link to the article

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
South African part of Dunedin Botanic Garden, New Zealand.

I chose this photo to express my deep-felt sadness for what Samoa is going through right now and how terribly sad I feel for the families affected by illness and loss.

Here is my response on Twitter after I found out about what had been published in the Otago Daily Times:

odt_samoa

I won’t remove existing ODT news links from my blog as they’re an integral part of the posts they’re in but they don’t represent any kind of endorsement of the paper.

For the record I’ve also emailed a Formal Complaint to the editor this afternoon.

Right now I just feel sad and angry, and ashamed. I strongly condemn the ODT for their decision to publish the offensive material.


Text by Liz, photo by Nigel; Exploring Colour (2019)

17 thoughts on “Not OK, Lost for Words

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  1. I’m very glad to hear that you made that official complaint, Liz. I really can’t believe the total lack of empathy the editor and especially the cartoonist have shown towards the bereaved. How could they not consider the sheer grief of the families involved – it’s hard to believe that anyone could act like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our PM of course was horrified. Most of the Dunedin City Council expressed their displeasure in a public letter to the editor. My feeling is that a lot of people who are usually too apathetic to take a stance have actually said something for once. I’m relieved there is a strong pushback against the paper.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robert, and I’m using this reply to post a general update …

      Lots of anger on Twitter and a protest outside the ODT HQ in Dunedin this afternoon. The editor actually fronted and read out an apology (which can be viewed via the link below). The cartoonist has been stood down for now – I hope this will be permanent! He was born 1941 and from a generation that resents “political correctness”. He partially apologised in a radio interview this morning but also said this which I find troubling: “In this politically correct atmosphere that we’re being suffocated by you have to be aware that there is a growing number of people who wake up in the morning and their first intention is to find something to be offended about, so that’s something that we didn’t have to deal with in the past to the extent that we do now.”

      LINKS:

      ODT editor apologises in street: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/117920163/samoa-cartoon-labelled-extremely-appalling-by-race-relations-commissioner

      Tremain radio, article+audio: https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/first-up/audio/2018725300/cartoonist-not-sorry-for-measles-cartoon-labelled-as-racist

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I find that troubling too – some parents are waking up every morning with the first thing hitting them being the awareness that there child has gone.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I got a response to my complaint that appears to be a template reply to all people who complained. Part of it mentioned they’d be doing staff training about cultural awareness. I replied and pointed out they need a change of heart, that training is good but a superficial thing. That thousands of people didn’t need “training” to understand the cartoon was wrong. That the core problem was a lack of empathy and kindness. I mean, how could they lack basic human decency? The decision was just from a few editorial people – other staff are dismayed at what happened. They’ve immediately widened the group of staff who decide the cartoon from now on. SIGH – this situation should never have happened to begin with.

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          1. PS. Oops, “less than” and “greater than” signs don’t work in these comment boxes and it mucked up the end of my previous response. Have now edited it to read better.

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  2. Thank you for your stand, Liz. This kind of thing exposes an element of NZ that we should all be ashamed of. There are plenty out there who would have found it amusing. Lack of empathy is pervading our lovely country. We’re not the friendly, tolerant and welcoming place we like to think we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some editor was asleep at the controls. There is no excuse for such a cartoon making it into what should be a respectful publication. I understand peoples’ anger at folks who disdain vaccination at the peril of all but to make jest of victims is inhuman.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t understand it at all Mike. Lots of Samoans live in New Zealand, mostly in Auckland but some live down here in the South Island too. The lack of understanding and empathy is staggering! Thanks for commenting, I feel quite shattered right now.

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