Newspapers in decline? Why, the Melbourne Herald Sun today breaks a huge story (the Daily Telegraph picked it up, too): a Melbourne toy shop has moved some of its products out of its display windows. Hold the presses, boys!

Why, you might wonder, should anyone care about the windows of the Dafel toy shop?

Ah, because the toys in question are golliwogs, and the Hun wants to fan one of the oldest beat-ups in the book: “innocent children oppressed by PC killjoys”.

Thus we read:

They were popular toys for generations of children but now golliwogs have become casualties of the Hey Hey It’s Saturday blackface controversy — banished to the back of some shops to keep them out of the public eye.

Now, you don’t need to be a genius to recognise that golliwogs are — whisper it! — based upon racial stereotypes. The Hun handily poses one of the dolls next to some young Aryan and if you compare the photo to Pelaco’s notorious “Mine tink it they fit” advertisement, you get the general idea.

As for the arguments about the long history of the golliwog, it’s reminiscent of the scene in Borat in which Sacha Baron Cohen’s gormless protagonist showcases a local festival known as “The Running of the Jews”, with whooping locals re-enacting a program against hook-nosed puppets. The movie’s seat-squirming humour comes from Borat’s cheery cluelessness as to why anyone might take offence: why, “The Running of the Jews” has been popular for generations!

Yes, granny might have loved her golly as a child but surely most of us can understand that the world has moved on a little since the days when black people were inherently funny, and so there might be something a little problematic in kids absorbing racist stereotypes in the cradle.

But there’s another aspect to the story, too.

In the aftermath of the blackface caper, Hey Hey’s defenders ran two arguments more or less simultaneously. On the one hand, anyone who complained about the show was thin-skinned and should calm down. On the other hand, the negative media coverage, particularly from overseas, was tremendously, outrageously unfair. It’s a familiar one-two routine, in which white Australia tells others not to whinge even as it engages in a prolonged, self-pitying whine about how no one gets the exquisite comedy of blackface.

What makes the Herald Sun story so bizarre, however, is that it launches straight into the usual pity party about PC victimisation without even the customary pretence that such victimisation has, like, actually occurred.

Thus, we have an interview with someone called Alan Williams, who works, not in Dafel, but somewhere altogether different. Williams thinks that denying kids golliwog dolls would be a step backwards for multiculturalism, since “children should not be bothered by issues surrounding the colour of the toys they want to play with”.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Ms Diarne Revelle, of Golliwog’s Toy Store in Brighton, agrees.

“In multicultural Melbourne, our little customers should be allowed to walk in and select a doll of any colour or any race of their choice,” she says.

Blackface toys as symbols of multiculturalism: you couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, perhaps the Golliwog Toy Store should start peddling a line of Ching Chong Chinaman figurines or Hooknose Hymie dolls — just to give the kids a choice.

But here’s the thing: has anyone closed down Revelle’s shop or slapped a writ on Alan Williams or done anything whatsoever to Dafel? Um … no, not quite. In fact, the Herald Sun’s information about Dafel comes from anonymous sources, with the staff themselves declined to comment. And, at the very bottom of the article, we learn that the manager of the shopping centre has explicitly denied telling Dafel to change its display.

In other words, there’s no evidence whatsoever of anyone preventing this apparently lucrative trade in golliwogs. So what’s the Hun’s story about? It’s about nothing — nothing at all — other than the rights of white people to feel aggrieved.

Peter Fray

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