WHY I CAN'T VISIT SYDNEY
In an open letter, Robert Crumb explains what forced him to cancel his 2011 trip to Australia.
From The Sydney Morning Herald, Aug 13, 2011
Weeks ago, I was interviewed by a journalist named Charles Purcell for the Sydney Morning Herald concerning my coming appearance at the Graphic Festival. I was pretty open with Purcell over the telephone from my home in France, as I usually am with journalists. I'm not very clever at contriving a media image. I just bare my soul in my compulsive, confessional way.
So, we talked a lot about sex, about my sexual proclivities, and Purcell played up this angle in his article of July 30. There are some very frank quotes in the interview. ''I'm a very eccentric oddball character, weird pervert'', and so forth.
I'm also quoted putting down Karl Rove, and by extension, all right-wing politicians. OK, fine, I have no problem with such a forthright presentation of who I am and what I think.
Little did Purcell or I know who was lurking in the bushes, just waiting to pounce! The very next day, Sunday July 31, the right-wing media sharks at the Sunday Telegraph verily jumped on this juicy morsel. Me, I know nothing of Australian politics. I had no clue that there were such nasty right-wing media manipulators there. Crumb was somebody they could use against the liberals in the City of Sydney. They obviously did a little research, made some calls to the right people, like ''anti-child abuse campaigner'' Hetty Johnston, and got them to rant about what a bad person I am, that ''the Sydney Opera House was endorsing the depraved thought processes of this very warped human being'', ''These cartoons are not funny or artistic -- they are just crude and perverted images emanating from what is clearly a sick mind.'' Beautiful. Perfect. Thank you, Ms. Johnston, for your input.
After I told a journalist who sent me the article that I might not go to Australia because of this, he took it on himself to call and talk to Hetty Johnston, who told him she was contacted by ''the media'', sent links to some of my more ''offensive'' images, and asked to comment on the fact that the Sydney Opera House was exhibiting my work.
From this it is evident the Sunday Telegraph was looking for ways to discredit me and the City of Sydney by using people like Hetty Johnston. Who's going to put down an anti-child abuse campaigner? If this person hates my work, I must be a child abuser myself. And the Sydney Opera House is condoning child abusers.
The Sunday Telegraph, after contacting these groups and showing them apparently offensive images extracted from my work, can then say, as they did in their article, ''Cartoonist Robert Crumb's visit, funded by the Opera House and endorsed by the City of Sydney, has sparked outrage with sexual assault groups describing the France-based American artist as 'sick and deranged'.''
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 defenseless against such clever ''perception management''.
I was quite alarmed when I read the article in the Sunday Telegraph. I showed it to my wife, Aline, who said, ''That's it, you're not going.'' She got a very bad feeling from the article. She feared I might be attacked physically by some angry, outraged person who simply saw red at the mention of child molesters. She remarked she'd never seen any article about me as nasty as this one.
I emailed the organizers of the Graphic festival and told them I might not come on account of this article. They attempted to reassure me that no one was going to show up and harass me, that most of the media in Sydney was completely positive about my coming there, etc.
Aline and I went round and round about this thing: should I go or not? Ultimately, she could not shake her feeling of ominous dread. I knew that if I went, that she would be in a state of anxiety the whole time I was gone. She'd be praying for me, I know her. I couldn't do it to her.
Finally, I told her I wasn't going. She broke down and wept as I held her. I told the organisers the bad news and apologised profusely. They were quite gracious about it, I must say. I know my decision has caused them great inconvenience as well as disappointment. I'd been rehearsing intensively in preparation for playing music with the local Sydney ''novelty'' band of Mic Conway. I was kind of looking forward to that. Oh well, it's always good to rehearse, come what may.
While I was agonising over whether to go to Australia or not, I tried to imagine how I would react if confronted with a group of angry anti-Crumb protesters, or an angry individual.
I have no defense. I can't explain why I drew all those crazy pictures. I had to do it. Maybe I should have my pencils and pens taken away from me. I don't know. I really have no answer to their argument that I'm a sick, deranged person.
What should I say? No, I'm not? No idea. But I decided I was willing to face the possibility of an unpleasant confrontation, possible insults, even physical assault. I'm rather fatalistic that way. But I couldn't do that to Aline. I had to put her feelings in front of those of the organisers of the festival and Australian fans of my work.
Sorry, folks. I do feel bad, as I hate letting people down. But I decided I'd rather bear the pain of letting people down than subjecting my long-suffering wife to a 10-day period of dread and anxiety for my well-being. She's been awfully nice to me since I told her I wasn't going! She baked a chocolate cake even!
I know, I know, it's galling to give the Sunday Telegraph sleazeballs the satisfaction. ''Ha ha, we scared him off.'' But they have already got what they wanted out of me anyway, which was to use me to make the City of Sydney look bad.
The worst part is the apparent irresponsibility of these cynical media hacks. What if I'd gone there, and what if some Mark Chapman-type person who'd read that article decided the world needed to be cleansed of scum like R. Crumb? This possibility worried Aline deeply.
Did it occur to the people at the Sunday Telegraph that they might be stirring up such dangerous passions? Do they care? Their article showed a profound lack of integrity and social responsibility. And unfortunately, I was made the object of their hateful Machiavellian tactics. One wonders if they would have published more such anti-Crumb articles if I'd showed up in Sydney, or possibly even orchestrated some sort of public demonstration against me! Yipe!