Yesterday's Bill Leak cartoon

Step One: Nine-time Walkley winner and of late, notorious Australian cartoonist Bill Leak has a cartoon published in The Australian. It uses gimp teachers, racial stereotypes or inner-city lefties holding coffee while they have a ridiculous conversation. The “joke” is not subtle. Frequently, it is expanding on an argument already published at length in The Australian, but the cartoon will be more outrageous because most things are less outrageous in prose.

Step Two: Someone finds the cartoon and tweets in outrage, and it gets hate-retweets. Many question why The Australian feels the need to publish such offensive tripe. People call for Leak to be sacked. Cruel jokes are made. Others talk of the damage of such depictions. Some talk of cancelling their Australian subscriptions. Complaints to the Press Council are fired off. Bill Leak trends on Twitter.

Step Three: People tweet in support of Bill Leak, sometimes to the Bill Leak Explained Twitter account (whose dry explanations of Leak cartoons are meant to be satirical but are not far off the real thing).

Step Four: At a press conference, a politician is asked to respond. The politician will, in the first instance, say he or she has not seen the cartoon.

Step Five: The earliest think pieces. Members of oppressed minority or their allies write open letters to Leak explaining why he is wrong. Some point out Leak’s history of this type of thing. Reporters file factual reports on the outrage, approaching Leak for comment. The Australian responds on his behalf, saying everyone has misunderstood the cartoon. Andrew Bolt, who always has his finger on the pulse, questions why a public broadcaster is trying to vilify Bill Leak (through an earlier think piece or news story on the scandal). Politicians, who now have seen the cartoon, express their disappointment.

Step Six: The whole thing can end here. But if the initial outrage is loud enough, The Australian’s editorial wades in support of Leak, who may also write an opinion piece on how he is being silenced and “the Left” JUST CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. A follow-up cartoon may be commissioned, perhaps depicting Leak as the true victim. The themes of the offensive cartoon are noted for future material. Leak is booked on The Bolt Report. Conservatives shower him with effusive praise about being the best cartoonist in Australia — a “truth-teller” in our cloistered, censorious age. Supporters write to The Australian’s letters page, pledging their goodwill and appreciation of Leak in this difficult time. If letters condemning Leak are sent to the paper, they are rarely published.

Step Seven: The Australian’s opinion writers have so, so much more to say on the issue of censorship by left-wing liberals. By this stage most of those who initially criticised the cartoon have moved on.

Step Eight: The Spectator takes on Leak’s critics, who, it agrees, cannot handle reality. A panellist on Q&A wades in. More coverage in The Australian follows. Crikey makes fun of The Australian for being so self-obsessed. The Press Council, after a long silence, has something to say.

Step Nine: Bill Leak gets News Corp awards and executive approval. Keeps drawing cartoons. Many repeat similar themes but do not provoke such outrage. But occasionally, he gets lucky.