An Australia Herald Sun front page last week doubled down on cartoonist Mark Knight’s disturbing drawing depicting a wild Serena Williams throwing a tantrum at the U.S. Open.
“Welcome to the PC World,” the headline taunted along with “Satire Free Zone” encircled. Leaving no room for ambiguity, under the reprinted image of Williams were the words, “Vetoed: Large hair and lips, too angry.”
The controversy comes after Knight’s depiction of Williams in the Herald Sun drew many complaints that it was overtly racist, resembling the Sambo cartoons of the Jim Crow era. Editor Damon Johnston is defending Knight, saying the cartoon was “not racist or sexist,” but “rightly mocks the poor behavior by a tennis legend.”
Knight himself is either playing dumb or actually is dumb, saying he had “no knowledge of those cartoons or that period” — that widely known period of racism in America, which makes one question his qualifications to be a political satirist.
This isn’t the first time Knight’s run into this particular criticism. He also drew fire for his depiction this year of black teenagers vandalizing a train station. Maybe these caricatures are just how he views blacks generally — as violent, untamed and uncivilized “superpredators,” to borrow a truly terrible term from the 1990s.
But the Herald Sun would have you believe this is much ado about nothing — political correctness run amok.
“If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed,” read its front page.
Political correctness is, of course, a very real thing in America and elsewhere, and over the past decade or two it’s metastasized into a culture-corroding, soul-sucking tumor of lunacy that’s resulted in all sorts of bad decisions.
There are the truly dangerous ones: banning genetically modified foods when people are starving; telling women college students to vomit or urinate on their attackers to deter them; ignoring Islamic extremism red flags at Fort Hood because officials were “afraid to be accused of profiling somebody.”
But there are also the banal, which some could argue are just as dangerous for their seeming silliness: banning American flag T-shirts in high schools; enforcing “bias-free language,” which excludes words like “mother” and “healthy,” at colleges; suspending a second-grader for chewing his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun.
But the kudzu-like invasion of political correctness has given way to lazy opportunism. The term’s been co-opted most notably in recent years by right-wing know-nothings who use it not as a sharp tool but a blunt object to get away with all manners of offense.
President Trump is the master of this. He’s convinced legions of fans that anyone who takes issue with his rhetoric (mocking a disabled journalist or prisoner of war, slamming African nations as “s–thole” countries) or his policies (separating children from their parents, insufficiently addressing the Puerto Rican hurricane devastation) are simply being too politically correct.
Of course, none of that is political correctness. It’s just legitimate criticism of bad behavior. Knight’s drawings aren’t politically incorrect, they’re racist.
I’m not one for censorship, so the Herald Sun is free to keep publishing them if it likes. But let’s be clear: The idea that they are standing athwart “political correctness” in doing so is just absurd.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on HLN. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.