Robert Crumb certainly has a way with words. Specifically, his use of the term “Yipe!”

In The Sydney Morning Herald recently he marveled at the media manipulation that led to a heavy-hearted decision on his part not to travel to Sydney to headline the Graphic festival at the Sydney Opera House. He made the decision after starring in this dial-a-quote story courtesy of The Sunday Telegraph.

You know the recipe:

Step 1) snip a candid quote from Crumb used in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald

Step 2) source some links to notionally offensive images by Crumb

Step 3) send images to anti-child abuse campaigner Hetty Johnson

Step 4) press record

Step 5) insert lede:

”Cartoonist Robert Crumb’s visit, funded by the Opera House and endorsed by the City of Sydney, has sparked outrage with s-xual assault groups describing the France-based American artist as ‘sick and deranged’.”

Step 6) simply sit back, relax and watch the comments and follow up copy roll in.

We’ve seen it all before, but that shouldn’t excuse it. Crumb’s words serve as a useful reminder about why this brand of journalism is harmful:

“One can see in this example how skilled media professionals with low standards of integrity are able to mould and manipulate public opinion, popular beliefs and, ultimately, the direction of politics. The majority of the population in most places is not alert to this kind of deceptive manipulation. They are more or less defenceless against such clever ‘perception management’.”

It’s not just about Crumb, his worried wife, the disappointed festival organisers and Crumb’s very pissed off fans. Most importantly, stories like these take the public for mugs.

Note: An original version of this article said The Sydney Morning Herald column was written yesterday. It was in fact written on August 13.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey