Michael Leunig defends ‘fascist epiphany’ vaccination cartoon
August 19, 2015
Age cartoonist Michael Leunig. Photo: Jay Cronan
Cartoonist Michael Leunig has defended a cartoon in which he calls the Victorian Government’s ban on un-vaccinated children attending kindergarten or childcare a “fascist epiphany”.
The cartoon by Mr Leunig was published in Wednesday’s edition of The Age.
The work, which has drawn criticism on social media, takes Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam and shows one hand holding a needle.
The text reads, ‘The God of Science grants politicians the divine right to enforce mass medication among babies and small children.’
But Mr Leunig said he was not saying the government was fascist but that every government could have a “fascist moment” or make “fascist decisions”
The cartoonist argued that “fascist” was just another word for authoritarian.
“Why can’t we name something for what it is?,” he said.
“Fascist is just another name for totalitarian. What are we afraid of about this word?
“I am a cartoonist who uses the words that are real. I don’t want to pussyfoot around here.”
Mr Leunig said people’s “primal hostility” towards him was driven by a “semi-conscious fear” about their and their children’s mortality.
He said the word existed before Adolf Hitler.
“It applies to overbearing, authoritarian governments telling people what they must do to comply.”
This is not the first time the cartoonist, who was declared a national living treasure in 1999 by the National Trust, has courted controversy over this subject.
In April, he drew a mother with a baby in a pram running away from a hail of needles.
“Some mothers do ‘ave ’em,” he wrote above the cartoon.
“They have maternal instincts that contradict what science thinks. They stand up to the state.
“A mother’s love may be as great as any new vaccine that man has ever seen.”
But on Wednesday, Mr Leunig refused to be drawn on his personal opinion on vaccination.
He would not disclose whether his four children had been vaccinated.
Instead, he said, his cartoon was a statement against the government’s move to make a decision about people’s bodies.
“I was conscripted for military service in Vietnam when I was young,” Mr Leunig said.
“I felt the full weight of that kind of authoritarianism for a futile and sad tragedy that took place in Vietnam.
“I am weary of compliance in the name of civic responsibility.”
Mr Leunig said his cartoon was inspired by the Victorian government’s “No Jab No Play” policy which bans un-vaccinated children from attending childcare or kindergarten from January next year.
But, he said, it was also a reference to the Abbott government’s “No Jab No Pay” policy which will strip families of unvaccinated children of childcare and family benefits from January.
“Conscientious objection lies at the heart of democracy and ethics,” he said.
“My work is to not speak for the majority, to speak the outsider’s voice, to speak to those who feel they have no voice or try and put the position of the minority or the outcast.”
Read more: www.theage.com.au