“Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.”
April 27, 2015 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Six PEN Members Decline Gala After Award for Charlie Hebdo [New York Times]
“The decision by PEN American Center to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has prompted six writers to withdraw as literary hosts at the group’s annual gala on May 5, adding a new twist to the continuing debate over the publication’s status as a martyr for free speech. The novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.”

Salman Rushdie slams critics of PEN’s Charlie Hebdo tribute [The Guardian]:
“If PEN as a free-speech organisation can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organisation is not worth the name,” Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”
In a letter sent on 26 April to PEN trustees, PEN president and author Andrew Solomon:
“The rising prevalence of various efforts to delimit speech and narrow the bounds of any permitted speech concern us; we defend free speech above its contents. We do not believe that any of us must endorse the content of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons in order to affirm the importance of the medium of satire, or to applaud the staff’s bravery in holding fast to those values in the face of life and death threats. There is courage in refusing the very idea of forbidden statements, an urgent brilliance in saying what you have been told not to say in order to make it sayable.”
Glenn Greenwald writes: [The Intercept]:
“Though the core documents are lengthy, this argument is really worth following because it highlights how ideals of free speech, and the Charlie Hebdo attack itself, were crassly exploited by governments around the world to promote all sorts of agendas having nothing to do with free expression.”
Letters and comments of PEN writers protesting the Charlie Hebdo Award. [The Intercept]
posted by Fizz (403 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Solomon Rushdie's quote at the end of the article makes the most sense.
posted by Flood at 7:59 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


A rather ticked-off Alex Massie asks Why are so many novelists so stupid?
posted by sobarel at 8:05 AM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


There is courage in refusing the very idea of forbidden statements, an urgent brilliance in saying what you have been told not to say in order to make it sayable
Beautifully said. I'd suggest that he simply recycles those lines when discussing next year's recipient, a woman whose speech was punished not just by random nutjobs but by her own government.

I'm referring, of course, to Sylvia Stolz whose recent 20 month sentence for Holocaust denial lead to the tremendously popular #IchBinSylvia Twitter campaign.

It is indeed sad that so many novelists are such stupid moral dwarves. Why can't they all be like Salman "Just 6 pussies" Rushdie?
posted by nicolas.bray at 8:10 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know, the protesting authors and Greenwald make some good points, but...

The Charlie Hebdo were literally killed because of their speech. You can analyze the circumstances all you want but you can't ignore that. If you can denounce the killings while also denouncing Charlie Hebdo's content, then surely you can recognize that people who were literally killed because of what they published are symbols of free speech without supporting what they wrote.

I'm a Jew and I'd say the same thing if people shot up a magazine expressing Nazi views about people like myself. I don't see how you can argue that people who died for their speech are anything but symbols of the absolute right to say what you want without violent repercussions, however abhorrent the content.

Free speech isn't only for people who say things we agree with.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:10 AM on April 27, 2015 [52 favorites]


If writers cannot make a stand on this, what can they make a stand upon?

Indeed.

(Ondaatje has always seemed like kind of a dolt, I guess this confirms it)
posted by Cosine at 8:11 AM on April 27, 2015


Here we go again. People with the most passing familiarity with the subject, but a strong opinion nonetheless, comment using strawmen and outright falsehoods. Self-righteousness really is the disgrace of the Left. Well, of any group, really.
posted by Spanner Nic at 8:13 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ondaatje, Cole, Kushner, and Carey are all writers I enjoy reading and it was sad to wake up and read this news. Rushdie continues to be the brilliant writer/satirist that I have enjoyed reading and following. Bravo sir.
posted by Fizz at 8:14 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


A rather ticked-off Alex Massie asks Why are so many novelists so stupid?

The letters that The Intercept published don't come off as stupid at all. It shows a remarkable fear of dissenting opinions to call them such.
posted by muddgirl at 8:15 AM on April 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


Free speech isn't only for people who say things we agree with.

Who in particular is arguing contrarily? France certainly seems to be making this argument, as do many other state actors who stood up in support of supposed "Free Speech" after the murders.
posted by muddgirl at 8:16 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Teju Cole:

I don’t think it’s a good use of our headspace or moral commitments to lionize Charlie Hebdo in particular.
...
I would rather honor Raif Badawi, Avijit Roy, Edward Snowden, or Chelsea Manning, who have also paid steeply for their courage, but whose ideals are much more progressive than Charlie’s. I would like an acknowledgement of the Kenyan students who were murdered for no greater crime than being college students. And, if we are talking about free speech, I would rather PEN shed more light on the awful effects of governmental spying in the US, and the general issue of surveillance.


[+]
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Favorite added!
posted by entropone at 8:20 AM on April 27, 2015 [41 favorites]


It's not censorship to say you do not want your name associated with a thing of which you do not approve and then to offer the reasons why.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:22 AM on April 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


entropone,

I understand what Cole is saying, but is it not possible to champion both Charlie Hebdo and those other individuals at the same time. I guess his withdrawal draws attention to the causes and ideas he wants to focus on which is certainly his prerogative.
posted by Fizz at 8:24 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


From Deborah Eisenberg's letter:
This is now a common, and quite potent, tactic: inducing support for highly illiberal western government policy by dressing it up as support for liberal principles. And it highlights the fraud of pretending that celebrations of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are independent of the fact that the particular group they most prominently mock are Muslims, a marginalized, targeted, and largely powerless group in France and the west generally.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:24 AM on April 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


Sangermaine: “Free speech isn't only for people who say things we agree with.”

What's silly here is that the novelists protesting actually totally agree with Charlie Hebdo. They just don't seem to understand that. Every French Muslim I've talked to thinks Charlie Hebdo is either hilarious or boringly innocuous – none are offended by it in any way. But us left-liberal Americans really, really want to find some excuse to take a stand against anti-Islamic prejudice (which unquestionably exists in the world, particularly in America) – so we'll even invent one if necessary.
posted by koeselitz at 8:34 AM on April 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


It's important to recognize the difference between courage and being victimized here: bad people can be killed for awful reasons, and they often are. The writers at Charlie Hebdo are, not to put too fine a point on it, choice assholes. Any fine words aside about 'saying what people tell you not to say because freedom of expression is important,' there's a reason they picked Islam to go after and not, say, public corruption or another hard to touch subject. We absolutely need to preserve their right to speak their minds, just as we need to preserve freedom of expression generally; however, we should not delude ourselves into confusing trolling for speaking truth to power.

Mourn the dead, be they heroes or villains, but do not pretend that the circumstances of their deaths alone make them worthy of canonization.
posted by fifthrider at 8:35 AM on April 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


Deborah Eisenberg's letter is as stupid as the others. CH mocks the institution of Islam, and stands with Muslims. Just as they do with Judaism. On the other hand, they copiously mock Catholicism as well, but don't seem to have a lot of affection for conservative Christians.

Her choice of words tends to hint that she doesn't know that much about the subject, too. Racism in France is overwhelmingly against Arabs (used for North-Africans in general, it includes the non-Arabic Berbers), not Muslims. Being Muslim won't matter for all practical purposes. It may seem like a fine point, but it's telling.
posted by Spanner Nic at 8:36 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Enough already.

Again and again people repeat the false idea that Muslims were the main target of Charlie hebdo's satire. In the New York Times article linked above, there's a quote from Teju Cole, who says that Charlie hebdo "has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations."

In fact, the main target of Charlie's satire has been the French racist party Front national. After the massacre, Josselin Moneyron studied one year of Charlie hebdo covers and concluded that the party and its leaders Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen "have been Charlie Hebdo’s most consistent targets over the years." If you still believe that the purpose of Charlie hebdo was attacking Muslims, please read what Moneyron has to say.

If the Charlie hebdo cartoonists were mocking Muslims and other immigrants, why did Jean-Marie Le Pen call the people who were killed in the massacre at the editorial office "enemies of Front national" while their bodies were still warm? (Source)

I also recommend you to read Olivier Tonneau's A letter to my British friends. He wants to clear up any misunderstanding about what the magazine was doing and defends Charlie hebdo from a leftist point of view.

You might also want to see all the Charlie hebdo covers for yourself.
posted by Termite at 8:36 AM on April 27, 2015 [65 favorites]


From the quote from Deborah Eisenberg's letter:

And it highlights the fraud of pretending that celebrations of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are independent of the fact that the particular group they most prominently mock are Muslims, a marginalized, targeted, and largely powerless group in France and the west generally.

This makes no sense. Over and over critics of Charlie Hebdo insist that they can both denounce the killings and the content of the magazine.

Yet it's a fraud to say that the people who died at the magazine are symbols of free speech while also not endorsing that same content?

You can't have it both ways. If you can mourn the deaths while denouncing the content, you can praise their sacrifice without praising the content.

I suspect the reason for this hypocrisy is that, deep down, people expressing these opinions don't mourn the deaths quite as much as they insist they do, and feel that the Charlie Hebdo people got what was coming to them.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:42 AM on April 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


PEN should give no attention to this protest.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:43 AM on April 27, 2015


The problem with the criticisms of the PEN award to Charlie Hebdo is that they suppose that their individual reading of the magazine's content is the correct one. Many people have accused Charlie Hebdo of racism and sundry other prejudices, but none have been convincing. In most cases the offended person has spectacularly failed to understand who the target of the satire even is, never mind its content. When challenged on this they can cite nothing more than "context" as though they--most often not even French--have a greater understanding of the context than anybody else and that context should, in any case, be a limitation on free speech.

Greenwald's criticism, that repressive government have exploited the massacre and therefore...something, is too pointless to even consider.
posted by Thing at 8:48 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


The writers at Charlie Hebdo are, not to put too fine a point on it, choice assholes. Any fine words aside about 'saying what people tell you not to say because freedom of expression is important,' there's a reason they picked Islam to go after and not, say, public corruption or another hard to touch subject.

Ce n'est pas vrai. Vous n'avez lisez pas Charlie Hebdo si vous croyez ça.

That said, I'm inclined to give Salman Rushdie the final word on this matter.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:48 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


In a sentence, Sangermaine, not every tragedy is a martyrdom.
posted by fifthrider at 8:49 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm referring, of course, to Sylvia Stolz whose recent 20 month sentence for Holocaust denial lead to the tremendously popular #IchBinSylvia Twitter campaign.

Forgive me if I am wrong, but Stolz was not murdered for her opinions, was she? As well, besides this rather false analogy, it's also ignoring the fact that synagogues and a grocery store were also planned as part of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Inaccurate and insensitive. But the only risk to you or to me here voicing our opinions is disagreement, nothing more.
posted by Nevin at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Granted my french is not very good, but I don't understand how this cover is mocking the institution of Islam but standing with Muslims. Can someone with a better grasp of French politics explain it to me s'il vous plait? How is it not offensive to call Muslim women in France "Boko Haram Sex Slaves"?
posted by muddgirl at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The writers at Charlie Hebdo are, not to put too fine a point on it, choice assholes.

I read a bunch of their magazines (I can read French), and I can't understand why anyone would say this. Despite the magazine's reputation outside of France, they never "punched down."
posted by Nevin at 8:53 AM on April 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Granted my french is not very good, but I don't understand how this cover is mocking the institution of Islam but standing with Muslims.

It's a meta-joke.
posted by Nevin at 8:54 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Granted my french is not very good, but I don't understand how this cover is mocking the institution of Islam but standing with Muslims. Can someone with a better grasp of French politics explain it to me s'il vous plait? How is it not offensive to call Muslim women in France "Boko Haram Sex Slaves"?

It is mocking the insinuation that French Africans are greedy for welfare ("allocs"), made by racists in France.
posted by Thing at 8:55 AM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


For, say, a Muslim immigrant to France, what is there to distinguish between racism and "ironic" racism?
posted by muddgirl at 8:56 AM on April 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


That comment in the January thread explains best IMHO the intent and context behind the Boko Haram caricature.
posted by susuman at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]




Can someone with a better grasp of French politics explain it to me s'il vous plait? How is it not offensive to call Muslim women in France "Boko Haram Sex Slaves"?

The satire here is aimed squarely at people painting them as "welfare queens," when the reason they came to France was to escape sexual slavery under Boko Haram.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


(Re: the Boko Haram sex slaves cartoon)
From the Josselin Moneyron article linked upthread:
The second one is the hardest to explain to a foreign audience, because it features two specificities of the Charlie Hebdo humour that here blend awkwardly. The first is the conflagration of two pieces of news : the crimes of Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the attacks on the welfare system in France. The second one is the use of racist imagery in pictures that denounce racism (as seen above with Cabu’s Joan of Ark cover). The French right (and the European right in general) often point the finger at immigrants to explain why the welfare system costs too much. It’s an easy rhetoric because everybody agrees that we spend too much on welfare, but nobody wants cuts to the help they themselves receive, so blaming the usual suspects is a popular choice. Therefore, as Terry Drinkwater summarized on Quora : “Fairly straightforward, innit? The absurdity of raped and pregnant Boko Haram sex slaves acting out the welfare queen stereotype parodies the absurdity of the welfare queen stereotype.” What obviously didn’t help the cartoon to be understood as anything but racist is Riss’s rough and dirty style, which owes more to Reiser than to Cabu and Wollinsky. Little can be said about that, as it seems very much a matter of cultural taste. It does increase the insensitivity of the joke, though, admittedly.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:01 AM on April 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


I understand what Cole is saying, but is it not possible to champion both Charlie Hebdo and those other individuals at the same time. I guess his withdrawal draws attention to the causes and ideas he wants to focus on which is certainly his prerogative.
posted by Fizz at 8:24 AM on April 27 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Teju Cole characteristically turns to whataboutism in his articles commenting on such matters. His stance here is a variant on the classic style.
posted by Bwithh at 9:01 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Okay; so apparently I got meta-trolled by Charlie. Bravo.
posted by fifthrider at 9:01 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gawd, I remember trying to explain a front cover of British satirical magazine Private Eye to a Hong Kong Chinese work colleague one time. It was during the Falklands War. The tabloids were in full-on racist, nationalist mode. The Eye's cover? "Kill an Argie! Win a Metro!". Argie is self-explanatory. Metro was a popular British saloon car. The satirical attack on the Brit tabloids was lost on my work colleague.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


Okay; so apparently I got meta-trolled by Charlie. Bravo.

Well, so did at least 6 PEN writers, so you're in good company!
posted by Nevin at 9:03 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, all those right wing dummies who thought Stephen Colbert was a sincere conservative blowhard.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:04 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


from the NYT piece: (Mr. Cole declined to comment for this article.)

Odd. That seems unusual
posted by Bwithh at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2015


To me, the cover's intent doesn't matter - what matters is execution, and I think ironic racism is a poor way to execute satire.

Of course ironic racism doesn't justify the murders of Hebdo writers and cartoonists. Nothing justifies those terroristic actions. But I don't think anyone who is objecting to the award are saying that it does.
posted by muddgirl at 9:07 AM on April 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


muddgirl, you seem to have not read the things you're criticizing, or even really read the English articles about them linked by others above. Maybe you should read up on the situation first before launching in with a series of "Sure, but what about this?"
posted by Sangermaine at 9:07 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


To me, the cover's intent doesn't matter

Then God preserve your soul, you're going to have a hard time.
posted by Thing at 9:09 AM on April 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


For an example of Charlie Hebdo absolutely lacing into the French far right:

Comment j'ai mangé mon père - Charlie Hebdo N°1186 - 15 avril 2015.

"How I ate my father" is the headline. Marine Le Pen's speech bubble says: "The hardest part is shitting out his glass eye."

Marine Le Pen has been trying to distance herself from her father Jean-Marie's more...apparent neo-Nazism, let's just say. This is a joke about her trying to make him disappear, as I read it, but there are some things that remain...undigested.

The glass eye bit is a callback to some comments jean-Marie Le Pen made a few years ago when he was accused of trying to physically intimidate female opponents:

On one occasion, a female political rival claimed that I was looking at her with a 'hard stare'. I replied: 'But of course, madam. You are looking at my glass eye,'" he says with a boisterous laugh.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:11 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Like Atom Eyes pointed out, Charlie is basically a magazine version of The Colbert Report. With less filters.
posted by I-baLL at 9:12 AM on April 27, 2015


The Colbert Report was also repeatedly called out for its use of ironic racism.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Steven Colbert wasn't murdered. Jesus.
posted by gwint at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


muddgirl, you seem to have not read the things you're criticizing, or even really read the English articles about them linked by others above. Maybe you should read up on the situation first before launching in with a series of "Sure, but what about this?"

Ah, the classic "you just don't get it" argument. Because the only reason why someone has a contrary opinion is because they just don't understand, and thus need to be educated. The idea that they may actually disagree with the argument presented is thrown but the wayside.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


muddgirl: “To me, the cover's intent doesn't matter - what matters is execution, and I think ironic racism is a poor way to execute satire. Of course ironic racism doesn't justify the murders of Hebdo writers and cartoonists. Nothing justifies those terroristic actions. But I don't think anyone who is objecting to the award are saying that it does.”

Is it ironic racism? I actually have a very hard time seeing a cogent racist reading of the cover. That's part of why it's brilliant.

Also, yes, intent doesn't matter. Reception does. Context. The way people in the country where it was published see it. And that is what we are missing here completely. Assuming that Muslims who have recently immigrated to France have the same context as us Americans is a pretty big mistake.
posted by koeselitz at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yet it's a fraud to say that the people who died at the magazine are symbols of free speech while also not endorsing that same content?

You can't have it both ways. If you can mourn the deaths while denouncing the content, you can praise their sacrifice without praising the content.

I suspect the reason for this hypocrisy is that, deep down, people expressing these opinions don't mourn the deaths quite as much as they insist they do, and feel that the Charlie Hebdo people got what was coming to them.


This is just totally wrong. I do not think political cartoonists are getting what's coming to them if they are murdered. I don't even believe in the death penalty for people who murder or torture.

And I absolutely believe that, for example, racist homophobes should have the right to print a newspaper espousing their racist, homophobic views. However, no fucking way will I attend a gala dinner honoring them!

I know that is not the exact circumstance here, but there's no reason to say if I endorse someone's right to express their views, I also have to endorse their views.

Teju Cole's statement reflects my opinions well: It's wrong to say that I endorse murder just because I don't want to attend a dinner applauding the people who were murdered. There are other oppressions in the world related to expression and knowledge acquisition that could have a light shined on them. One example Cole points to is the murder of Nigerian students which got (and gets) much less attention than the Charlie murders.
posted by latkes at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Thanks for posting these links - I hadn't heard about this situation.
posted by latkes at 9:16 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, the classic "you just don't get it" argument. Because the only reason why someone has a contrary opinion is because they just don't understand, and thus need to be educated. The idea that they may actually disagree with the argument presented is thrown but the wayside.
NoxAeternum

It may also be that they don't actually know what's being presented. It's like a fundamentalist Christian denouncing some movie they've never seen based on the poster.

muddgirl, based on the comments in this thread, seems to be reacting on a gut level to the cover linked which they themself, by their own admission, can't really read since it's in French. Others have pointed out that, if you could read the cover and know the context, it comes across in a different light.

Yeah, sometimes people really do not understand what they're jumping to conclusions about. If you want to disagree with something, you should know what you're disagreeing with and why.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:23 AM on April 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


If PEN can't honor those writers because France is "culturally insensitive," then America's racial insensitivity to Blacks should disqualify any US author from any recognition for several centuries, right?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2015


This idea that Charlie Hebdo was a contemptibly racist or anti-Islamic publication has rapidly become as endemic a canard among Anglosphere left-liberals as, say, birtherism is on the right, and perhaps like other such beliefs, once established by emotional appeal, apparently it's no longer entirely falsifiable. The emotional appeal of taking the "principled" stance, the rush to find the moral high ground and the assumption that being righteous is as simple as saying the opposite of whatever the right says, seems to substitute for actually thinking the issue through or even reading about it at all. And more so when it plays into preexisting orthodoxies, like the recently omnipresent opposition to anything that can be labeled "ironic racism" (a phrase which usually, these days, seems to announce a moral opposition to irony as much as to racism). It's a shame to see people whose political judgment I often respect (e.g. Eisenberg) falling into this kind of self-justifying moralism but ultimately, fortunately, this kind of contretemps doesn't matter much, except perhaps as a miniature illustration of (a) some salient dangers of failing to think through one's ideas about satire and/or politics before taking a stand and (b) how hard it can be to reason yourself back down once that stand is taken, even about a relatively trivial or symbolic question.
posted by RogerB at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2015 [41 favorites]


It may also be that they don't actually know what's being presented. It's like a fundamentalist Christian denouncing some movie they've never seen based on the poster.

Or perhaps they have heard the argument presented, and think that running headfirst into Poe's Law tends to be a poor way to make satire.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:35 AM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


The fact that this is an award for "courage" specifically seems to be relevant here, reinforcing the unfortunate implication that you can only defend Charlie Hebdo's absolute right to publish without fear of violent reprisal by arguing that they were doing something noble. And yet of course the whole point of freedom of speech is that you don't have to be noble to have a right to it.

This is why all the Frenchsplaining about the real Charlie Hebdo misses the point too; a magazine should be free to mock only Islam even if that was all it did. Likewise, you should be able to decline to call their publication courageous, whatever its contents, without being called a supporter of murder.

There's nothing wrong with this award or with people dissenting from participation in it. What I can't abide is the relentless implication from the dissenters' critics that their motives could only be sinister ones.
posted by oliverburkeman at 9:38 AM on April 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


Nathan Poe is from the United States (therefore can only be interpreted through an American cultural lens) and is talking about comments on Internet forums (where commenters are, unlike the Charlie Hebdo staffers who were shot to death with assault rifles, anonymous).
posted by Nevin at 9:39 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


For, say, a Muslim immigrant to France, what is there to distinguish between racism and "ironic" racism?

That is a difficult question. I am French, not a Muslim, but, like many French people, with an immigrant background, and some African ancestry. I can offer some background and opinion, not the unattainable "whole truth".

One fundamental fact about French society and main culture is its aversion to "communities": groups of people bound not by citizenship or shared interests and opinions, but by inherited cultural and religious identities. Those identities should remain in the private sphere and not play any role in public life: that's basically the meaning of laïcité. This attitude was born with the Republic, against the Catholic church, more than 100 years ago. Of course, from the far right to the far left, dozens of interpretations of this generally shared approach coexist: the far-right, and less openly some in the moderate right parties, use it more liberally against immigrants and Muslims than against Christians; some in the left defend more of an anti-religious, atheistic, position of the state rather than the current neutrality (which is largely flawed, as it benefits religions that have existed in France for a long time, mostly Catholicism, protestant churches and Judaism to an extent).

Charlie Hebdo belongs to that left-wing culture. At the same time, most people here know that it is largely an equal opportunity offender, as far as religions are concerned, and that its main political targets are the racist far-right National Front and its enablers among the "moderates", first among them Sarkozy. Islam has become more of a target in the last decade, both following and provoking political debate, but not to the exclusion of other religions, far from it.

French political culture is also very slanted towards polemic, broad strokes and posturing rather than compromise. It also enjoys a great deal of sarcasm and irony towards pretty much every possible target, and most notably those guilty of a most cardinal sin here: hypocrisy. Anti-immigrant rightists who dare not voice their racism explicitly but use dog-whistling are hypocrites, but, to Charlie writers and many others, religious fundamentalists of every persuasion are too. The willingness to use racist clichés or talking points against their inventors is also very high and valued.

A good sarcasm detector is consequently both vital and pretty easy to acquire when you live in France and are exposed daily to the culture here. The problem with the immigrant youth who fall to jihadist propaganda is largely that they were not integrated into that culture, mostly I think through the dismal failure of the education system.

So let's go back to your question: first, "Muslim immigrants" are hard to define and are not a very pertinent category. You have North-African and West African immigrants, and their children, who have French citizenship. The immigrants themselves are mostly older, as the borders have been progressively closed since the 1970s. Some are religious, some not. Their children also are far from all being Muslims, but more of them tend to go back to religion, and more extreme versions of it, as a reaction against their continued exclusion from French society. That exclusion is racist, not anti-religious: it stems from their being "Arabs" or "Blacks", not Muslims. Religion gives them a new identity built around opposition to French values, as they see them as deeply hypocritical. These will tend to see every production of French "dominant" culture, such as Charlie, as an attach on them, and as racist. Meanwhile, those children of immigrants who have achieved success and integration into society, usually against strong odds - some religious believers, some not - know the difference between racism and "ironic racism", they know the codes, and even though some disapprove of the extreme laïcité that Charlie defends, they rightly understand that the cartoonists were not racists.

Sorry for the rambling, I hope it brought at least some answers, even though, in France as elsewhere, it can be a never-ending and pretty depressing debate.
posted by susuman at 9:45 AM on April 27, 2015 [67 favorites]


What I can't abide is the relentless implication from the dissenters' critics that their motives could only be sinister ones.
oliverburkeman

But you can abide by the implication from the dissenters (and from some of them like Eisenberg, not an implication but an outright declaration) that the supporters really only support Charlie Hebdo because the magazine mocks Muslims, and all this talk of free speech is just a facade for racism.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:47 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


a magazine should be free to mock only Islam even if that was all it did

Exactly, all this hand-wringing about how it's ok because they aren't really mocking Islam only supports the idea that it is therefor NOT ok if it was mocking Islam.

It's the same as people who argue whether being gay is a choice or not, even if it turns out that it is a choice that doesn't therefor justify denial of human rights or homophobia in general.
posted by Cosine at 9:47 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I feel like the whole intent of the award comes down to: "bullies-with-guns shouldn't be allowed to murder people into not saying things they don't like." It doesn't matter who those bullies-with-guns are or what their reasons were or what the things being said were. The fact is that bullies-with-guns shouldn't dictate what can and can't be said.

Sure, there were other people silenced by bullies-with-guns. It's a thing that constantly happens every day. Picking one example over another will always be an arbitrary choice.

When bullies-with-guns are in a room with unarmed people, they are always the ones with all the power regardless of any larger social context. They've reduced "power" to it's most cynical (honest?) form. That some people still say what they want to say despite very real threats from bullies-with-guns is admirable.
posted by ghostiger at 9:51 AM on April 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't think Charlie Hebdo is "contemptibly racist", but as someone who does have little context for French or Muslim (or French Muslim) cultures, mores, etc, I am taking my lead from people who do have more information and context than me, namely progressive Muslims who do understand European journalistic traditions. I welcome any links to blogs, journalism, etc authored by European socially progressive Muslims. In the mean time, what I've been able to find seems to endorse a position that Charlie Hebdo consistently uses content that can at best be considered "insensitive" to a huge percentage of the world's population.
posted by latkes at 9:51 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


But you can abide by the implication from the dissenters (and from some of them like Eisenberg, not an implication but an outright declaration) that the supporters really only support Charlie Hebdo because the magazine mocks Muslims, and all this talk of free speech is just a facade for racism.

This is a bit of a strawman. The dissenters are not a unified bloc, and many of them are explicitly not casting aspersions on the motivations of supporters. The key takeaway is that Charlie Hebdo has done a spectacularly poor job of conveying its intentions and message in a way that is intelligible to all sides. Whether that means you want to elevate them as a champion of heroic irony or pass them over for recognition in favor of other, more effective users of free speech (such as, for instance, Edward Snowden,) is entirely a matter of personal choice. Either option is valid.
posted by fifthrider at 9:52 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had never even heard of PEN before today. With that membership, they can probably send one hell of a strongly-worded letter.
posted by Hoopo at 9:53 AM on April 27, 2015


Given that PEN is an organization dedicated specifically (although not exclusively, but from their own literature it seems fair to say primarily) dedicated to the protection of an unfettered right to freedom of expression as a good unto itself, the choice of Charlie Hebdo seems appropriate.

Defending the freedom of expression of someone when you don't agree completely—or better yet, vehemently disagree—with the things being expressed is the real acid test to determining just how far your commitment to freedom of expression as an abstract ideal or moral rule goes.

Suggesting that Snowden would have been a better choice for PEN's award than Charlie Hebdo, simply because Snowden's politics are more palatable, is ... weak. I am struggling to come up with an adequate descriptor of the person whose commitment to freedom of expression only extends as far as their politics, and I cannot find a particularly good one that doesn't slander by association short people, but that term seems to fit the bill.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:53 AM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Plenty of French people believe that Hebdo's cartoons were, in fact, shitty and gross and gross. In fact, shockingly, many French Muslims have serious problems with them:
Many of France’s Muslims — like Abdelaali — abhor the violence that struck the country last week. But they are also revolted by the notion that they should defend the paper. By putting the publication on a pedestal, they insist, the French are once again sidelining the Muslim community, feeding into a general sense of discrimination that, they argue, helped create the conditions for radicalization in the first place.

There were also sharp differences Tuesday about the cover of Charlie Hebdo in its first edition since last Wednesday’s attack, which leaked late Monday. In it, Muhammad sheds a tear and holds one of the now-omnipresent signs saying “Je Suis Charlie” under a headline reading “All Is Forgiven.”“I wasn’t shocked by this cartoon, it’s not as obscene as others might have been,” said Binakdan. “It was rather well done, way softer than what was published previous. At least they are not showing the prophet making love with a goat.”

Others in the Muslim community were less impressed. “My first reaction was angst, this does nothing to make things better,” said Nasser Lajili, 32, a Muslim city councilor and youth group leader in Gennevilliers. “I want to make clear that I completely condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo. But I think freedom of speech needs to stop when it harms the dignity of someone else. The prophet for us is sacred.”
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:57 AM on April 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


Suggesting that Snowden would have been a better choice for PEN's award than Charlie Hebdo, simply because Snowden's politics are more palatable, is ... weak.

It's not that his politics are more palatable; it's that he's had a much greater influence. Snowden exposed the heart of the American and British surveillance apparatus to the scrutiny of the world. Charlie Hebdo managed to make a lot of people very confused and uncomfortable and in the process several of their number were shot dead by a pack of reactionary losers. I'd say there's a convincing argument to be made that the former contribution is more important.
posted by fifthrider at 9:59 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


But his sacrifice was not as great.
posted by gwint at 10:00 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


One fundamental fact about French society and main culture is its aversion to "communities": groups of people bound not by citizenship or shared interests and opinions, but by inherited cultural and religious identities. Those identities should remain in the private sphere and not play any role in public life: that's basically the meaning of laïcité.

This is one of those things that sounds good on paper, until you realize that minorities are rarely allowed to leave their cultural and religious identity in the private sphere by society.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:03 AM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


But his sacrifice was not as great.

The way I see it, competing to see which side has been harmed more is how disagreements turn into holy wars. It's just not worth going down that line of reasoning.
posted by fifthrider at 10:03 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


A good example of someone who has been the target of both European racism and anathema from Islamic fundamentalists as an "apostate" and cartoonist for CH is Riad Sattouf, a French-Syrian author and movie director. Most of his work is pretty light and hilarious social commentary on the mores of French youth, but he's written about religion and his Syrian and Algerian childhood; I don't think anything's been translated into English, but here is a 10-years old paper (from a Lebanese newspaper!) about it. I might make my first FPP about him one of these days, pretty interesting fellow.
posted by susuman at 10:03 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


How about an award for Franck Brinsolaro and Ahmed Merabet? That would have the advantage of honoring courage and sacrifice in protecting the free speech of Charlie Hebdo without directly invoking Charlie Hebdo as a moral exemplar.
posted by Jahaza at 10:09 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The key takeaway is that Charlie Hebdo has done a spectacularly poor job of conveying its intentions and message in a way that is intelligible to all sides.

Because heaven forbid that a French magazine about French culture published in France should print anything without first worrying whether Americans will get it.
posted by metaBugs at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2015 [45 favorites]


It's extra ironic to me, by the way, to argue Hebdo isn't shitty because of French culture and politics. The argument, after all, is that is if we knew, if we understood, if we were French and part of French culture, we'd get it.

Because guess what? A lot of French Muslims are pissed exactly because they feel excluded from French culture and society.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:14 AM on April 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's just not worth going down that line of reasoning.

I'm not sure what you mean? Ignore the fact that these cartoonists were murdered and just focus on their work and then decide if they deserve an award?

From the award citation:
In paying the ultimate price for the exercise of their freedom, and then soldiering on amid devastating loss, Charlie Hebdo deserves to be recognized for its dauntlessness in the face of one of the most noxious assaults on expression in recent memory.
As Salman Rushdie reminded us, the whole purpose of PEN is to defend freedom of expression around the world.
posted by gwint at 10:18 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


joyceanmachine: “Plenty of French people believe that Hebdo's cartoons were, in fact, shitty and gross and gross. In fact, shockingly, many French Muslims have serious problems with them...”

The trouble here is this: reading those quotations from French Muslims – and from the whole article itself – it is clear that the only "disrespect" these people are objecting to is the depiction of Muhammad in unflattering contexts. Does the disrespect of Muhammad constitute an egregious cultural insult? That's a tough question; I think in some contexts it might, but in others it seems like a completely legitimate criticism of religion. I don't see Charlie Hebdo's work as being in the former category, although I can see how some might see that it is. But one thing I think we cannot say is that specifically the depiction of Muhammad in unflattering contexts is always racist. It may be possible to do it in a racist way; but isn't it odd that Muhammad is taken to be the figurehead of whole races, to the point where it is taken as disrespectful of a "culture" to say anything unflattering about him? Isn't that making a somewhat problematic assumption?

I mean: sometimes I notice that we Americans often use the words "Arab" and "Muslim" interchangeably. Even aside from the narrow ignorance of this – most Muslims aren't Arabs – isn't it odd that we just flatly assume that all Arabs must be religiously affiliated with Islam because of their race? Ah, but this is complicated further by another thing: many Arab Muslims I talk to seem to make the same assumption. There is enough pretense here for the whole situation to be ripe for satire; and this, as far as I can tell, is part of what Charlie Hebdo has attempted to take on.

In short, though – Muslims aren't disrespected by Charlie Hebdo. The predominantly African Muslim immigrants to France aren't disrespected by Charlie Hebdo. Muhammad is disrespected by Charlie Hebdo – which is something people ought to be able to do with a religious leader.

However, the other side of the coin is that the Muslims in the Washington Post article who object to other aspects of French culture are absolutely right. Muslims have been marginalized, and their speech has been unduly limited in many instances. One can believe this without thinking Charlie Hebdo is racist.
posted by koeselitz at 10:20 AM on April 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


Because heaven forbid that a French magazine about French culture published in France should print anything without first worrying whether Americans will get it.

The key part of my unwillingness to support anything Charlie Hebdo was up to is my inability to penetrate the meaning of what was going on because I'm not a member of the culture that produced these artifacts, and from a purely aesthetic point of view that any images of Jews or Muslims with Real Big Noses (or Sambo-esque portrayals of Africans) is probably nothing I want to partake in.

Having witnessed how this stuff plays out in America, with people clinging desperately to the idea that they are GOOD PEOPLE and therefore could not produce or enjoy satire that is KIND OF QUESTIONABLE, it's only too easy to see the same thing happening with this cross-pond debate. Or it could not be happening. I have no way of knowing.

Asking us to understand it might be a bridge too far. The killings were awful and unjustifiable. But having seen the way blatantly racist rhetoric is disingenuously described as "satire" or "just thought provoking" when I do know the context here in the US, I'm wholly unwilling to buy that their stuff was innocuous South Parkian Both Sides Are Wrong BS, or that it was just plain-ole-racism disguised as leftist rabble-rousing, or that even leftist rabble-rousing can sometimes fall victim to bigoted attitudes despite the fact that leftists should know better.

What I love is the way nobody else can admit that the whole thing sucks, that even in France there is no unified sense of what Charlie Hebdo meant, and that it's probably just best to call the meal spoiled, regret the dog who shat in it, and throw the whole thing out and start anew.

*We are all the dog that shat in the casserole, in this metaphor. All of us. Yes, you too.
posted by turntraitor at 10:25 AM on April 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure what you mean?

The claim I'm responding to is the idea that the Hebdo writers are more deserving of recognition than any other party based on the consequences of their speech. This, I feel, is fallacious reasoning, since it has more to do with the outcome than it does with the original decision to speak.

The Hebdo editorial staff faced down a relatively small number of radicals, knowing that the possibility existed of them being attacked. Snowden faced down the entire NATO security apparatus, knowing that he was giving up his entire way of life for his cause, immediately. The former comes across as a risk; the latter is clearly a deliberate sacrifice.
posted by fifthrider at 10:31 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because heaven forbid that a French magazine about French culture published in France should print anything without first worrying whether Americans will get it.

What about the feelings of the, y'know, 4.7 million Muslims living in France?

Which is to say that there are definitely French Muslims who don't have problems with Hebdo. But people who pretend that all criticism of Hebdo as being shitty comes from hurf durf monolingual Amurricans are being ridiculous.

Off the top of Google links: 1, 2.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:34 AM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


After the murders, Charlie continued to publish. Surely that is brave as well?

The assholes will be coming back again.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:34 AM on April 27, 2015


People don't have to support something they don't want to support and believe they shouldn't. PEN isn't going to roll over and die because some members boycotted an award ceremony. I liked Andrew Solomon's take on the protest quoted in the Guardian: "We will be sorry not to see those who have opted out of the gala, but we respect them for their convictions. We feel very privileged to live in an environment where strong and diverse views on complex issues such as these can take place both respectfully and safely." PEN should support freedom of expression and opinion, including that of it's own members. I'm glad he chose to underline that.

That said, it's obvious the smear campaign against Charlie Hebdo has been very successful. People like Greenwald and Eisenberg really beleive that "the particular group they most prominently mock are Muslims, a marginalized, targeted, and largely powerless group in France and the west generally." They'd probably be surprised to find out that Charlie Hebdo (the actual weekly, not the symbol "Charlie Hebdo" became after the shooting) consistently opposed the sort of bigotry and marginalization they think they're expressing opposition to through the boycott.

And sadly Greenwald, though totally wrong about Charlie Hebdo's politics, is pretty much right in saying that in the "Je suis Charlie" campaign that "celebrating Charlie Hebdo was largely about glorifying anti-Muslim sentiment". (What he doesn't acknowledge is that surviving staff members of the publication have expressed misgivings about the "Je suis Charlie" campaign for pretty much the same reasons as his own.)

I kind of wish (and actually do wish) that Charlie Hebdo would refuse this award: "We cannot in good conscious accept this award. We don't represent what you think we represent ..." It would send a pretty powerful message if they did so.
posted by nangar at 10:35 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


CH's office had previously been firebombed and destroyed. They were under enough threat that the police gave them bodyguards. Snowden deserves all kinds of awards too, but it's arguing whom of a group of literally heroic people deserves one award. All do, I think.
posted by Spanner Nic at 10:35 AM on April 27, 2015


From Greenwald:

Celebrating Charlie Hebdo was largely about glorifying anti-Muslim sentiment; free expression was the pretext.

Okay maybe there's some anti-Muslim sentiment here -- for the sake of argument at least -- but I mean a bunch of people were murdered for what they wrote. I get why CH is controversial, but surely saying let's not murder people for putting pen to ink is a pretty solid idea.
posted by angrycat at 10:36 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Muslims aren't disrespected by Charlie Hebdo. The predominantly African Muslim immigrants to France aren't disrespected by Charlie Hebdo. Muhammad is disrespected by Charlie Hebdo

I mean if you want to completely dismiss the possibility that some people took Charlie Hebdo's depictions of Mohammed as disrespectful, that's fine. I'm not arguing with the point that you should be able to target a religious figure with your creative works, because I'm fine with that too. But I don't think we get the only say in what is and is not treating someone with respect.
posted by Hoopo at 10:40 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


In fact, the main target of Charlie's satire has been the French racist party Front national.

Their main target was FN. Hey, that's swell. Their secondary target was religious freedom.

Is religion not speech?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


" Their secondary target was religious freedom."

No it wasn't. I'm against fundamentalism. Does that mean I'm against religious freedom?
posted by I-baLL at 10:47 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Their secondary target was religiosity. Should expressing an opinion against religiosity be banned because some people like religiosity? How does that work?
posted by Spanner Nic at 10:48 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


joyceanmachine: “What about the feelings of the, y'know, 4.7 million Muslims living in France? Which is to say that there are definitely French Muslims who don't have problems with Hebdo. But people who pretend that all criticism of Hebdo as being shitty comes from hurf durf monolingual Amurricans are being ridiculous. Off the top of Google links: 1, 2.”

Man, that International Business Times article you linked to ” "After Charlie Hebdo Attack, Muslim Scholars Explain Role Of Satire For European Muslims" – has a whole lot of deeply interesting stuff about the complicated cultural considerations at play here. It's absolutely worth a read. Thanks.

me: “Muslims aren't disrespected by Charlie Hebdo. The predominantly African Muslim immigrants to France aren't disrespected by Charlie Hebdo. Muhammad is disrespected by Charlie Hebdo”

Hoopo: “I mean if you want to completely dismiss the possibility that some people took Charlie Hebdo's depictions of Mohammed as disrespectful, that's fine. I'm not arguing with the point that you should be able to target a religious figure with your creative works, because I'm fine with that too. But I don't think we get the only say in what is and is not treating someone with respect.”

Yes, you're totally right. I wanted to point out the various layers here, but it is going too far to say the disrespect is simple like that. Muslims are allowed to feel disrespected when their religious leader is mocked. And – as that great IB Times article points out – new immigrants to a country are understandably going to wonder if they're being excluded when their religious leader is publicly made fun of – particularly if other conditions in the country are clearly exclusionary toward them. This was an interesting bit from that article that sheds some light on this:
The Charlie Hebdo attack reminded Fatih Alev, the chairman of the Danish Islamic Center in Copenhagen, of similar incidents in his country. In 2005, satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including one that depicts him as a terrorist, were published in Danish and Norwegian newspapers. Protests ensued and xenophobic sentiment spread across secular Denmark. In 2010, Danish authorities thwarted a terrorist plot to attack the offices of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that published the cartoons in Denmark.

“I think it’s not about religious sentiment but cultural ways of perceiving satire,” Alev said. “Though I am very religious person, I was not offended [by the 2006 cartoons]. Why? Because I was used to the Danish way of debating,” Alev said. “For Muslims in Denmark who were not used to Danish debate, it was a shock. They were very offended. They didn’t understand what was going on.”
Now: that misunderstanding is not their fault! But at the same time, it's not necessarily the fault of the person misunderstood, either. This is a difficult thing to sort out, and assigning blame is not always the best way to do it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't see them opposing religiosity per se so much as militant, aggressive, oppressive and/or politically intrusive religiosity.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:55 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I assumed that in the meaning of religiosity, you are right.
posted by Spanner Nic at 10:58 AM on April 27, 2015


The appropriate retaliation for satirists publishing rude pictures of Muhammad is to publish rude pictures of Jonathan Swift. If only the killers had thought of doing that instead.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:03 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it is useful to assume that the critics who are boycotting this event -- many of who I am familiar with, and are certainly versed in satire and issues of free speech -- have the same information as you and have simply come to a different conclusion.

I mean, there is an awful lot of assuming that these guys just don't get it, man, because they are not part of the complicated matrix of France, which we on MetaFilter somehow do get, because a few of us read French, or whatever the argument is.

I don't think the case of Charlie Hebdo is settled, and find it disrespectful to the artists to treat it as self-evident what they meant, or the context of what they communicated. Art is awfully complicated, and satire -- especially take-no-prisoners satire -- can accidentally find itself used in a way it didn't expect, or interpreted in a way that is unexpected. That doesn't mean the interpreters are wrong. It means that art is unsettling, and its meaning is only unassailably clear when it is propaganda. We can appreciate the go-for-the-throat anarchy of the cartoonists while recognizing that not every cartoon hit their targets perfectly, or hit the right target, and considering that Muslims also die in great numbers for their speech at the hands of fundamentalists of all stripes, we can understand that not all want to to make Charlie Hebdo the standard-bearers for free speech when so many others die without mention or recognition.

This is a complicated subject and it is all right to disagree about it. However, it's strange to take an absolute stand on free speech and yet get so irritated when authors express speech you don't agree with, simply because you do not agree. It's not as clear cut as we pretend it is here.
posted by maxsparber at 11:04 AM on April 27, 2015 [27 favorites]


Well, said, but there's something lost here:

I mean, there is an awful lot of assuming that these guys just don't get it, man, because they are not part of the complicated matrix of France, which we on MetaFilter somehow do get, because a few of us read French, or whatever the argument is.

In most notable cases what I saw was was not Mefites insisting "I get it and you don't" but "I'm not arrogant enough to assume I understand this thing that is embedded in a complex and dynamic foreign cultural context at first glance and am willing to make the effort to do so before I speak. Perhaps you should do the same."
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:15 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Though on re-reading your comment perhaps that is implicit in your later observation "I find it disrespectful to the artists to treat it as self-evident what they meant, or the context of what they communicated." So take it as read.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:19 AM on April 27, 2015


In most notable cases what I saw was was not Mefites insisting "I get it and you don't" but "I'm not arrogant enough to assume I understand this thing that is embedded in a complex and dynamic foreign cultural context at first glance and am willing to make the effort to do so before I speak. Perhaps you should do the same."

And I think the flip side of this is that some of us are not arrogant enough to assume that critics of Charlie Hebdo are benighted, confused, ignorant of context, or ignorant of satire. There is a point where it is useful to say, I just don't know either way, and so I cannot comfortably support or criticize.
posted by maxsparber at 11:22 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it's perfectly okay to point out that someone is unsophisticated if they cannot read French but still insist on having an opinion about Charlie Hebdo.
posted by Nevin at 11:25 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The trouble here is this: reading those quotations from French Muslims – and from the whole article itself – it is clear that the only "disrespect" these people are objecting to is the depiction of Muhammad in unflattering contexts.

It is so depressing to me that non-Muslims think they can determine what should be offensive to Muslims.

You may not be offended by the same things, but surely, there are things that deeply offend you, and which you would object to seeing on the cover of a newspaper. Your offense-taking at those things is not reduced by others finding your concern unimportant.
posted by latkes at 11:42 AM on April 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think it's perfectly okay to point out that someone is unsophisticated if they cannot read French but still insist on having an opinion about Charlie Hebdo.

Really? Because a lot of people have opinions about a lot of things where they don't speak the language. Islam, for one thing.
posted by maxsparber at 11:53 AM on April 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


Islam isn't a language. Islamic people publish in many languages.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:07 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


This episode is repugnant. I suppose these "authors" assume that they have never written an offensive thing in their lives. It is not just free speech for cute and cuddly people.

What happened was murder and a grassroots death sentence. That is all there is to it. Make excuses for murder all you want, but you can always find an excuse to play God and devil if you wish.

And the immoral logic mystifies me. It would be the same if a dozen women were slaughtered and people declined because, well, they heard a couple of them had to gargle after every date, so gee, maybe they had it coming. Or maybe they drew some sarcastic images of men that weren't all that flattering, those sexist ladies.

I have been around long enough to have been offended by sexist images and editorial cartoons that were a gross insult to my ancestry. Not only would I never assassinate anyone who did it, I would be the first to condemn it should anyone else do it.

This affront is vile. It is wicked, immoral, patronizing, and insensitive. You cannot call yourself a writer or author if you turn your back on others just because they do or say what you don't like.

Shame on the lot of them.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:15 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


However, it's strange to take an absolute stand on free speech and yet get so irritated when authors express speech you don't agree with, simply because you do not agree.

But that's called disagreement, right? Perfectly consonant with an absolute stand on free speech. Rushdie, for example, isn't suggesting that Ondaatje, to pick one, be muzzled. He's just saying he thinks Ondaatje's a, uh, "pussy."

Ondaatje's free to call him a stupid poopy-head back.

Actually. I'd pay to see that writer's panel.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:17 PM on April 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Islam isn't a language. Islamic people publish in many languages.

This is actually a pretty good example of where an understandable (Occidental, non-Islamic) lack of knowledge causes an involuntarily large lack of understanding. In Islam, "the Qur'an is taken as the original scripture as revealed in Arabic and any translations are necessarily deficient, which are regarded only as commentaries on the Qur'an." In other words, the vast majority of Muslims speak and read at least some Arabic. Not necessarily at a conversational level, but still.

Salaam alaykum, peace out.
posted by fraula at 12:20 PM on April 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


A couple of cartoons here:

1. A beheaded guy's severed head saying "perhaps if I understood Arabic I wouldn't be so quick to judge this".

2. An American saying "Charlie Hebdo is racist and Mr. and Mrs. Hebdo should be ashamed of the man their son has become."
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:30 PM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is actually a pretty good example of where an understandable (Occidental, non-Islamic) lack of knowledge causes an involuntarily large lack of understanding.

Actually a close friend of mine was a student of Arabic and traveled in the Maghreb regions, and has related to me how she was often asked to read from the Qur'an because her Arabic dialect was close to the ideal, and that is considered to confer benefit.

My statement was in no way ignorant: Islamic people publish in many languages and very widely in English. There is nothing remotely untrue, misinformed or uninformed in this statement.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:41 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


maxsparber: “There is a point where it is useful to say, I just don't know either way, and so I cannot comfortably support or criticize.”

Fair enough, but standing up and stridently protesting an organization because it dares to associate itself with a publication which you deem to be racist and offensive is way past that point.

me: “The trouble here is this: reading those quotations from French Muslims – and from the whole article itself – it is clear that the only ‘disrespect’ these people are objecting to is the depiction of Muhammad in unflattering contexts.”

latkes: “It is so depressing to me that non-Muslims think they can determine what should be offensive to Muslims. You may not be offended by the same things, but surely, there are things that deeply offend you, and which you would object to seeing on the cover of a newspaper. Your offense-taking at those things is not reduced by others finding your concern unimportant.”

My problem is not that French Muslims are offended at the wrong things. My problem is that that Washington Post article doesn't reflect the things French Muslims are offended at; it cherry-picks and adduces brief, simplistic quotations as though they were representative of a whole culture's orientation toward French democracy. But, as a Catholic, if you shove a crass cartoon of the Pope having relations with a unicorn in front of me and demand to know whether it's offensive, then, yes, after some consideration I'll probably say it is. Still, that's not to say that I think it should be banned, or even that I disagree with the person who drew it; I don't know them, and I don't know why they did it. If you read that IB Times article posted above, you'll see a lot of Muslims saying the pictures of Muhammad aren't religiously problematic in themselves; they're problematic exactly to the degree that a mockery of a culture's religious leader in France, a nation where that culture has not been welcomed and has often been excluded, is problematic.

When it comes down to it, Charlie Hebdo has done a nuanced by sometimes frustrating thing: it has continually mocked Muhammad and the trappings of religious authority while at the same time expressing solidarity with Muslims worldwide and expressing contempt for those who hate Muslims. I think that, given that whole picture, what Charlie Hebdo said and did was noble, even if I don't agree with all of it.

But everybody doesn't see the whole picture. And that's fine. If people glance at a cover and don't know what's going on but don't like it, that's okay. But you're not doing justice to their perspective if you don't ask more closely what they believe and why they believe it.

Sincerely – I say this as someone who spends an hour every day working to learn Arabic so that I can read the Quran and various medieval philosophical works in that language – to respect someone's perspective is to try to learn what they really think about things, not to get a soundbyte to justify rejection of a publication as offensive.
posted by koeselitz at 12:43 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is not a topic somebody should approach without being prepared to accept that it is nuanced.

The bottom line is if some KKK folks got murdered for marching in Ferguson people would not be lining up to call it an outrage that some don't think they deserve worldwide admiration and award for their free speech bravery regardless of content. The content matters as far as how much your sacrifice will be admired. Some things aren't worth sacrificing for. Racism is one of them.

The racial offensiveness of the content in Charlie Hebdo is under dispute from a diverse audience. I've read links from people who worked there who criticized it. It is not as simple as Americans don't get it. While yeah, to my American perspective it does seem racist that a lot of the examples I see have a bunch of Muslims as identical racially characterized big lipped blobs while white characters seem to get more personal detail, that isn't the end of the story. But it is part of it. Satire isn't just about intent, it's about execution.

Basically nobody in the mainstream supports the killings. The qualities of the content are under dispute. Racist content should not be celebrated in the same way speech exposing government or cultural wrongdoing should be. It should only be tolerated as a necessary evil for a free society. What category some of what Charlie Hebdo has published falls into is under honest and reasonable dispute. We should behave with the according sensitivity no matter which perspective we take.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:48 PM on April 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


as a Catholic, if you shove a crass cartoon of the Pope having relations with a unicorn in front of me and demand to know whether it's offensive, then, yes, after some consideration I'll probably say it is. Still, that's not to say that I think it should be banned,

But it's not an exact parallel: Catholics would find that imagery offensive, but it is not as central to Catholic belief system to disallow any depiction of, say, Jesus, as it is to Islamic belief to forbid depictions of Mohammed.

Looking for a corollary example is useful for building empathy, but that corollary may not be as exact as you suggest here. What image is truly forbidden by your values? Perhaps a political cartoon depicting a violent rape or making light of a violent murder. You can't expect everyone to have an exact corollary value to yours. In a diverse society, we must take others at their word about what they find offensive, and not expect their feelings to fit our own logic.
posted by latkes at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Drinky Die: “What category some of what Charlie Hebdo has published falls into is under honest and reasonable dispute.”

Yes, but Charlie Hebdo's strident anti-racism and specific advocacy for Muslims worldwide and their strong stand against anti-Muslim hatred are being utterly erased here, and that's problematic.
posted by koeselitz at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


And also, no one here says those images should be banned. (And it goes without saying no one here supports murdering political cartoonists). I just don't want to celebrate a newspaper that continually prints images that are deeply offensive to vast swaths of the human family.
posted by latkes at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, but Charlie Hebdo's strident anti-racism and specific advocacy for Muslims worldwide and their strong stand against anti-Muslim hatred are being utterly erased here, and that's problematic.

Yes, because when I think of advocacy, I think of using demeaning caricatures of the people I'm advocating for, and attacking their beliefs and actions.

Their "advocacy" is being erased because it isn't.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, but Charlie Hebdo's strident anti-racism and specific advocacy for Muslims worldwide and their strong stand against anti-Muslim hatred are being utterly erased here, and that's problematic.

No, it's not. Plenty of people are making that case. They got the award, remember?
posted by Drinky Die at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Islamic belief to forbid depictions of Mohammed.

The funny thing of course is that even within Islam there is not agreement on this, and my best understanding is that the Qur'an itself is silent on the subject and the Hadiths that say anything about it only prohibit Muslims from making depictions of Muhammad, and that appears to be (not atypically within Abrahamic religions) an anti-idolatry measure. I don't think anyone was in danger of worshipping those cartoons.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just don't want to celebrate a newspaper that continually prints images that are deeply offensive to vast swaths of the human family.

So no images of Obama then?
posted by Cosine at 1:06 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


latkes: “But it's not an exact parallel: Catholics would find that imagery offensive, but it is not as central to Catholic belief system to disallow any depiction of, say, Jesus, as it is to Islamic belief to forbid depictions of Mohammed.”

Well – I know you probably realize this, which is why you couch this in terms of things being "central" to a religion, but it's not really the case that depictions of Muhammad are forbidden across the board in Islam. Among Shiites, depictions of Muhammad are not at all regarded as prohibited, and are actually quite common. Among the Sunni, depictions of Muhammad are often forbidden specifically because they might lead to idolatry of Muhammad, a prophet who is not actually God. So one could argue (some Sunni have) that even among the Sunni these kinds of irreverent images don't specifically violate the prohibition since they are not at all intended or likely to become objects of idolatry.

But you're right – there is not going to be an exact parallel. That's kind of exactly what I mean to point out; in no sense should we take a brief statement by a French Muslim and assume without any more investigation that it can simply be taken as an endorsement and justification of our condemnation of a French publication. We need to strive to understand the perspective of French Muslims before we assume we know what they're offended about and why.

“Looking for a corollary example is useful for building empathy, but that corollary may not be as exact as you suggest here. What image is truly forbidden by your values? Perhaps a political cartoon depicting a violent rape or making light of a violent murder. You can't expect everyone to have an exact corollary value to yours. In a diverse society, we must take others at their word about what they find offensive, and not expect their feelings to fit our own logic.”

I agree. But it takes some examination to understand what people are really saying when they say they're offended by something; that was my point. We must accept that they mean what they say; but we can't pretend to read one line and understand their whole orientation toward a subject. We need to listen more closely.

“And also, no one here says those images should be banned. (And it goes without saying no one here supports murdering political cartoonists). I just don't want to celebrate a newspaper that continually prints images that are deeply offensive to vast swaths of the human family.”

And I don't agree that Charlie Hebdo is "deeply offensive to vast swaths of the human family." I just don't – their anti-racism and anti-bigotry is a fine thing, and I feel as though it ought to be celebrated. I appreciate that others here read the magazine the same way, but we are not "vast swaths," and neither are a few out-of-context quotations. I'd rather have more protracted thoughts like those from various Muslim leaders quoted in that IB Times article above, to be honest.
posted by koeselitz at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


As I said, that whole debate is pretty depressing, and even more so as it takes place over some pretty fresh graves.

One of the Muhammad cartoons published some years back by CH said "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons" (it's hard to be loved by jerks"). In some ways, the surviving journalists and cartoonists must be saying that same thing to themselves every day: the mass murder turned them all from controversial satirists into heroes of the global establishment: really, in the literary world, is there anything more establishment-y than the PEN club? The irony's pretty painful. Add to that the homage from a bunch of oppressive regimes and opportunist politicians at the Paris march...

All that to say that both sides of that PEN club dispute seem to me pretty far removed from what took place in France from the first Muhammad cartoons till the killing of their authors: both sides are now loudly exercising their right to free speech though, which is all fine and dandy, and should carry on as long as they have the energy and willingness. There are worse people to honor at a gala, but CH (as well as Snowden actually) seems too obvious a choice: wouldn't such honors serve a better purpose by introducing to the Western literati less well-known defenders of free speech?

As for us (would it be French people or Metafilter readers?), I think we can either express our solidarity or our outrage at either side, or we can try to figure out what the fuck went so wrong in France that a bunch of cartoonists, Jewish shoppers and a Muslim cop got shot in cold blood by three French citizens in the name of radical Islam. And try to figure out how to get out of this mess. Neither the explanation nor the solution would fit into one comment, I would bet.
posted by susuman at 1:11 PM on April 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


Neither the explanation nor the solution would fit into one comment, I would bet.

I think clavdivs could do it, but none of us would understand what he meant.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


NoxAeternum: “Yes, because when I think of advocacy, I think of using demeaning caricatures of the people I'm advocating for, and attacking their beliefs and actions. Their ‘advocacy’ is being erased because it isn't.”

I'm still not sure what people are talking about when they say this. We've already seen how the Boko Haram cover was absolutely not racist, and in fact was advocating for Muslims in France and in Africa and mocking mercilessly those racists who demean them. Or am I giving Charlie Hebdo too much credit there?
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Islamic belief to forbid depictions of Mohammed.

Depictions of Muhammed are common in Iran
posted by Mister Bijou at 1:19 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


When someone criticizes the type of caricatures, it's more about art style than message. The art style stuff is highly dependent on context so I can't really say if some of what I have seen is racist in a French context. I make no judgement on that.

But consider if you had a cartoon that made a really good point about race relations in America but did it with every black person depicted holding a bucket of fried chicken and a watermelon. The intended message would be a side point.

I repeat for emphasis, I have zero understanding on if the caricatures in CH are similarly offensively stereotyped in their context. I can only say that if they were in an American context, a lot of what I have seen would be to my eye. The Boko Haram one is definitely part of that group.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:21 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


the Boko Haram cover was absolutely not racist

I think the thing that a cartoonist should ask themselves is how lazy/edgy-but-lazy are they being when they ironically draw satirical images of immigrants, foreigners, Jews and Muslims using the exact same sort of exaggerated characteristics that people who unironically hate those same groups use.

If you take the text off of your "anti-racist" political cartoon and it looks like A Wyatt Mann drew it, you might have some more work to do.

It's that moment of clarity we'd hope every white fraternity kid has as he puts on the afro wig, finishes up the last few daubs of blackface and prepares to go to the Crips and Bloods Party on campus, that catching himself in the mirror for one moment and saying Wait a second, what the hell am I doing?

I'd hope that any cartoonist who has any sense of history would have that same moment of pause as they find themselves drawing hook-nosed Jews or images of Muslims that rely on stale Arab stereotypes, but here we are...
posted by turntraitor at 1:21 PM on April 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Further to susuman's comment, it would be awesome, and entirely in character from what I've seen so far, if CH were to express solidarity with these six dissenting writers.

One definitely gets the impression that they're not impressed with the way they've been stamped into ideological currency, and who by.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


if some KKK folks got murdered for marching in Ferguson people would not be lining up to call it an outrage that some don't think they deserve worldwide admiration and award for their free speech bravery regardless of content

I dunno, maybe we need to invent the Fred Phelps Memorial Award?
posted by Hoopo at 1:25 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, because when I think of advocacy, I think of using demeaning caricatures of the people I'm advocating for, and attacking their beliefs and actions.

Demeaning caricatures? If you're thinking about the Boko Haram one again, it's been pretty debunked upthread, and matches the "house style" of making absolutely everyone ugly as hell, even people CH is sympathetic to. Attacking their beliefs: well, I guess you refer to the caricatures of Muhammad, whose degree of offensiveness is debated even among Muslims. Attacking their actions: I'm at a loss what you mean there. There's also some heavy irony in your use of sarcasm to denounce caricatures.

And to illustrate that nothing is ever as simple as we think it is, here's a cartoon from last year by Charb about the Gaza war. Translation: "-Hamas takes the population hostage! -So let's kill the hostages..."
posted by susuman at 1:35 PM on April 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


My problem is not that French Muslims are offended at the wrong things. My problem is that that Washington Post article doesn't reflect the things French Muslims are offended at; it cherry-picks and adduces brief, simplistic quotations as though they were representative of a whole culture's orientation toward French democracy.

Having linked to both of those articles, I'm not sure what you're talking about. The Washington Post article uses direct quotes for a couple everyday French Muslims to talk about how some people were OK with the post-shooting cover, how others were not OK, but how there was a general consensus that Hebdo was offensive. The International Business Times article quotes a couple scholars and Muslim leaders, some of whom parse the offensiveness of the pictures a little differently than others, some of whom describe disagreements in Islamic thought and philolsophy, but there was a general consensus that Hebdo is offensive.

Maybe the people on the street didn't use as much theory as the scholars or the leaders, or they didn't spend as much time talking about cultural context, but I don't get how this divide you're drawing exists.

Moreover, I'm particularly confused by this:

But it takes some examination to understand what people are really saying when they say they're offended by something; that was my point. We must accept that they mean what they say; but we can't pretend to read one line and understand their whole orientation toward a subject. We need to listen more closely.

It's one thing to say, "This man's comments were made in a complicated social context," or "This woman's essay requires understanding of X, Y, and Z articles of prior literature." It's another thing, too, to say, "This man's comments were based on an understanding of Islam that is disputed by authorities in the field and may be textually incorrect, and the Washington Post should have done a better job of identifying that." But what you appear to be saying is that if a French Muslim individual is quoted saying that a magazine offends him because it does things that are religiously not-OK, he doesn't actually mean it and he is actually upset about . . . ????????

"But you aren't ACTUALLY upset by you're claiming to be upset by -- it's really, about __________" is a tactic used to devalue the hurt and anger of people that society values less.

I don't know if that's what you're trying to do, but it sounds a lot like it.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:39 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's a weird trend here where people come into a thread about CH saying "Yes, assassination is horrible, but it should be noted that these guys were racist and also jerks who use their satire to 'punch down' instead of up and so they shouldn't really be celebrated" and then when it is pointed out that many of the cartoons that appear racist are actually anti-racist and that most of CH's work is 'punching up' against far right wing ideologies (either secular or religious) it doesn't really change people's minds. It then just becomes "Well, they're still insensitive and their cartoons still appear like negative caricatures."

Should an anti-racist/anti-fascist, culturally insensitive satirical magazine that was fire bombed and later had a number of its cartoonists murdered win an award celebrating freedom of speech?

Yes. Yes it should.
posted by gwint at 1:49 PM on April 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


If you're thinking about the Boko Haram one again, it's been pretty debunked upthread, and matches the "house style" of making absolutely everyone ugly as hell, even people CH is sympathetic to.

You seem to have insight into the house style. My question is why do they need a more detailed caricature for Celine Dion when the Muslims are just fine as *draw them as basically the same crude identical image 20 times*. I know she is an identifiable celebrity, but since she is famous for singing that song they shouldn't need to draw her as anything but the crude default white person caricature they use for all white people, right?
posted by Drinky Die at 1:50 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


muddgirl: "For, say, a Muslim immigrant to France, what is there to distinguish between racism and "ironic" racism?"

When you're ironic, you're supposed to mean exactly the opposite of what you seem to.

joyceanmachine: "Plenty of French people believe that Hebdo's cartoons were, in fact, shitty and gross and gross. In fact, shockingly, many French Muslims have serious problems with them.
"

Usually, what people think isn't a problem. Cabu thought that respecting the freedom of speech enjoyed by the newspaper, within the constraints of French law, was necessary to one who wanted to be French. You could fight Charlie Hebdo if you wanted to, but had to do it with ideas.
If you think that some people don't deserve to live and then proceed to kill them : that is a problem. Thinking isn't one.
posted by nicolin at 1:51 PM on April 27, 2015


Demeaning caricatures? If you're thinking about the Boko Haram one again, it's been pretty debunked upthread, and matches the "house style" of making absolutely everyone ugly as hell, even people CH is sympathetic to.

Yeah, I read the "debunking" upthread, and I don't buy it - to me, the piece comes across as pulling people who aren't involved into your fight, and treads on the point that Drinkie Die made about using stereotypes. Which leads into the "house style" argument - the thing is that just because the style is "ugly" doesn't excuse using offensive racial stereotypes in the design.

As for attacking beliefs and actions, I remember seeing their "hijab up the ass" piece in support of the headwear ban, which is a pretty clear example of the matter.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:54 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


matches the "house style" of making absolutely everyone ugly as hell, even people CH is sympathetic to.

If your house style involves portraying oppressed people that you sympathize with through means that many, many of them have repeatedly and clearly said they do not want used by anyone -- yeah, if you're actually sympathetic, you should probably rethink your house style.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:55 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's a weird trend here where people come into a thread about CH saying "Yes, assassination is horrible, but it should be noted that these guys were racist and also jerks who use their satire to 'punch down' instead of up and so they shouldn't really be celebrated" and then when it is pointed out that many of the cartoons that appear racist are actually anti-racist and that most of CH's work is 'punching up' against far right wing ideologies (either secular or religious) it doesn't really change people's minds.

Yes, it's odd that people would point out that for people who claim to be anti-racism, they make a lot of racist portrayals. Guess we're just not in on the joke.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:58 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


My question is why do they need a more detailed caricature for Celine Dion

Actually it looks a lot more like Kate Winslett, which more people would recognize as she was the one depicted standing in the prow of Titanic. (Personally I had no idea what Celine Dion looked like until just now when I went searching.)

As for why bother? Probably because it is meant to be a recognizable individual. They do that when depicting what are meant to be actual known persons as opposed to standins for larger demos.

As for crude generic white people caricatures, I loved their "But who wants the English in Europe?" cover.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:59 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even the French Muslims who take offense at the cartoons don't say they're racist. In fact, we have no French person on record saying they're racist. So the charge that they're racist starts to seem peculiarly American.
posted by koeselitz at 2:00 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


My question is why do they need a detailed caricature for Celine Dion when the Muslims are just fine as *draw them as the same crude identical image 20 times*

Dunno. But I know I do love this Charlie Hebdo cover by the same cartoonist (Luz) after Charlie Hebdo office got firebombed and gutted in 2011.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:02 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Translation: "Love is stronger than hate".
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:05 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Usually, what people think isn't a problem. Cabu thought that respecting the freedom of speech enjoyed by the newspaper, within the constraints of French law, was necessary to one who wanted to be French. You could fight Charlie Hebdo if you wanted to, but had to do it with ideas.

If you think that some people don't deserve to live and then proceed to kill them : that is a problem. Thinking isn't one.


1. I don't see how any of this is relevant to a discussion of whether Charlie Hebdo's caricatures are grossly offensive. Please also point to anything in this thread where people arguing that Hebdo's caricatures were offensive says that the Hebdo staffers deserved the violence that was caied out against them.

2. As the articles above explain, Muslims are discriminated against in France because of what people "think" of them. The anger of many French Muslims about Hebdo takes place in that context.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:06 PM on April 27, 2015


There are numerous studies showing France to be a very racist country, somewhat of an anomaly among their peer countries. Example 1, Example 2, Example 3.

At the same time, France as a whole does not seem to consider itself to be racist. These studies are usually explained away or simply ignored by the French media. I've also heard from French people that not only are French people not racist, they are the least racist, and their willingness to answer honestly about their prejudices is actually proof of a more enlightened attitude, even when the results paint the country as less tolerant than peers.

I think CH must be seen within this context. I do not believe the writers there think they are racist, and believe their style is equally offensive to "everyone". Most French, from what I can tell, seem to be able to view images that in other countries would be crude racial/ethnic/religious stereotypes and say they can see something more complicated.

From the outside, however, it often looks different. I don't have a conclusion here, but I think it's essential to see CH within its context of a country that seems to be the most racist in Western Europe, but stridently believes that their society is honest and sophisticated and not racist.
posted by cell divide at 2:08 PM on April 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


joyceanmachine: "Plenty of French people believe that Hebdo's cartoons were, in fact, shitty and gross and gross. In fact, shockingly, many French Muslims have serious problems with them"

This reminds me of Dani Alves. Are you supposed to change that drastically when people don't like what you say ?
posted by nicolin at 2:11 PM on April 27, 2015


Actually it looks a lot more like Kate Winslett

Dude, no it does not. It's Celine.

I loved their "But who wants the English in Europe?" cover.

Well, then you love offensive racial stereotypes and fat shaming I guess?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:11 PM on April 27, 2015


I loved their "But who wants the English in Europe?" cover.

Well, then you love offensive racial stereotypes I guess?


I'm English and that cartoon makes me laugh. Even if it was a foreigner what drew it.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:15 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


The funny thing of course is that even within Islam there is not agreement on this, and my best understanding is that the Qur'an itself is silent on the subject and the Hadiths that say anything about it only prohibit Muslims from making depictions of Muhammad, and that appears to be (not atypically within Abrahamic religions) an anti-idolatry measure. I don't think anyone was in danger of worshipping those cartoons.

Yeah, that's funny. Now if someone would just explain this to them Muslim people, so that they can stop with all those bombs every couple of weeks. Can't we get the Muslim pope to declare a fatwa or something to clear this up once and for all? But then again, maybe the murderers acted in the old Abrahamic tradition of "fence around the law": Kill everyone who may have made a likeness of the prophet - it's the only way to be sure.

... or maybe they didn't care about religion at all and were just assholes who acted out their inferiority complex.
posted by sour cream at 2:15 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: not that much insight, really, just some years of low-level exposure (never bought it, read it at times at the library for some chuckles, remember more cartoons of politicians involved in various sexual activities than anti-Islam ones actually). As for the Titanic cartoon, George Spiggott said it above better than I would have. The identical mass of black people drowning is an indictment of European indifference: just as Céline Dion keeps singing while they sink, we avoid facing the thousands of faceless people drowning every year trying to cross into Europe. Crude racial caricatures are de rigueur at CH for "anonymous" characters: not my cup of tea, but I don't think it makes them racists, and I haven't heard any Black organization such as the CRAN make the charge.
posted by susuman at 2:16 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dude, no it does not. It's Celine.

Because the Montreal Journal is the authority on what CH depicts? There is a movie which features that song in which Kate Winslett stands in the prow of the Titanic with her arms spread. It isn't her singing that song but nobody would know it was Celine Dion from that scene. Also, it looks like Kate.

Well, then you love offensive racial stereotypes I guess?

Why no! But thanks for asking.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:17 PM on April 27, 2015


This reminds me of Dani Alves. Are you supposed to change that drastically when people don't like what you say ?

For anybody playing along at home, nicolin is saying that if Abdo had listened to the people it supposedly sympathized with and stopped using super-shitty imagery that offended them, it would have been exactly like a professional soccer player backpedaling on Twitter after doing something that offended a major corporate sponsor of his team.

nicoloin also appears to be saying that Muslim anger about Charlie Hebdo is as unjustified as official Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide.

I don't even have words.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:20 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is the stupidest argument I have ever been involved in on Metafilter, and that's saying something! This is Kate Winslet in Titanic. This is what Celine Dion looked like for the Titanic promotions for the song. It's Celine. It's obviously Celine. Literally every other Titanic aware human being on the planet will look at it and see Celine.

Here are the google results for "celine dion titanic hebdo". Here are (NSFW, because none of the results are about Hebdo and most are about her nude scene in the movie) the Kate results. Let it go!
posted by Drinky Die at 2:26 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


cell divide: "There are numerous studies showing France to be a very racist country, somewhat of an anomaly among their peer countries. Example 1, Example 2, Example 3.

At the same time, France as a whole does not seem to consider itself to be racist. These studies are usually explained away or simply ignored by the French media.

From the outside, however, it often looks different. I don't have a conclusion here, but I think it's essential to see CH within its context of a country that seems to be the most racist in Western Europe, but stridently believes that their society is honest and sophisticated and not racist.
"

You seem to ignore the answer to Example 1. Sincerely, this kind of ranking reads like a joke. You mean that French people are so full of themselves that they can't see they're just as racists as the rest of the human race ? You're not afraid of ethnic stereotypes. Racism is a problem here, of course, but Charlie hebdo... that's another level.
posted by nicolin at 2:27 PM on April 27, 2015


This is the stupidest argument I have ever been involved in on Metafilter

And you have the passion for it to match! I get a Winslet vibe from the nose, chin, do, pose and context, but hey, seriously, take it. It's yours.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:30 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


joyceanmachine: "This reminds me of Dani Alves. Are you supposed to change that drastically when people don't like what you say ?

For anybody playing along at home, nicolin is saying that if Abdo had listened to the people it supposedly sympathized with and stopped using super-shitty imagery that offended them, it would have been exactly like a professional soccer player backpedaling on Twitter after doing something that offended a major corporate sponsor of his team.

nicoloin also appears to be saying that Muslim anger about Charlie Hebdo is as unjustified as official Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide.

I don't even have words.
"

I didn't say "this is exactly like", but "it reminds me of", actually something I heard today, like "he has strong opinions, but he couldn't stand tweet pressure". This is just an image, you didn't like it, thank you.
posted by nicolin at 2:32 PM on April 27, 2015


Stop being wrong on the internet, damn it!
posted by Drinky Die at 2:33 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


cell divide: Yes, racism is strong in France, but I'm afraid it's not that much of an outlier in Europe. I could go on and on about racism in the Netherlands. I think that in the rest of your comment, you fall prey to what some have been accusing CH defenders to do: telling members of a community (French people here, Muslims elsewhere) that they, the outsiders, know better what is wrong with their own group. CH people know perfectly well that France is full of racism - they would disagree with you, and with many other French people too, whether criticism of Islam plays into that racism or not. But I know few people here, whatever their skin color, who would accuse them of being racists, or even expressing some subconscious racism: on the contrary, they have been lauded more than once for exposing the racism of many politicians.
posted by susuman at 2:34 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


You mean that French people are so full of themselves that they can't see they're just as racists as the rest of the human race ?

No, it's more about something that has been brought up in other threads about French culture and acceptance - that there is a heavy focus on what is "French", and that there is a heavy sense of exclusion in that identity. I think that a lot of what we would see as racism gets swept aside as issues of identity, and that is the problem.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:39 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


A couple of months ago I heard an interview on NPR with an African-American woman (I get the feeling I should remember who she was but it's escaping me) who's been living in France for some years, who said that she was generally received with great warmth and friendliness everywhere she went...

...except as her accent improved. The less she appeared to be an American struggling with French and the more she came to sound like a Francophone immigrant or of immigrant descent, the more coldly strangers would treat her. This suggests to me that the the French may not be so much racist as culturally intolerant, particularly as relates to immigrant culture.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:43 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


So many perfectly objective comments castigating the French for their racism. There must be something paradoxical here.
posted by nicolin at 2:50 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


This suggests to me that the the French may not be so much racist as culturally intolerant, particularly as relates to immigrant culture.

Well, the main target of cultural intolerance in France is usually the US, so... I'm afraid the second attitude was the default, which could be either general cultural coldness to strangers (very strong especially in Paris) or racist coldness towards black people (still prevalent in many people), that was at first tempered by the American accent: many French people often enjoy proving to Americans they are not as rude as their reputation says, and also have a peculiar fondness (reverse racism, in a way) for African Americans (jazz! victims of slavery and oppression! Obama!).
posted by susuman at 2:53 PM on April 27, 2015


Remember when The New Yorker did this?
posted by Apocryphon at 2:55 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


>Really? Because a lot of people have opinions about a lot of things where they don't speak the language. Islam, for one thing.

I personally have never had an opinion about Islam. Having lived overseas for a long time I have noticed that it is almost impossible to really understand a different culture unless you have lived it.

In other words, pretty much everything you read in the news is fiction. Everything.
posted by Nevin at 2:56 PM on April 27, 2015


Just wanted to thank susuman for bringing the kind of unique, substantive, in-depth perspective I've come to expect from & love about MeFi.

So many perfectly objective comments castigating the French for their racism.

It's starting to feel like some sort of abstract dialectic ploy. Drinky Die, NoxAeternum, joyceanmachine: does it just come down to a defintive "I don't buy it", no matter what evidence is brought? I'm asking just to be in the clear to what extent you are prepared to double down on something that should at the very least appear problematic to you by now.
posted by progosk at 2:59 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here are the google results for "celine dion titanic hebdo". Here are (NSFW, because none of the results are about Hebdo...

*coughs*

*looks around nervously*

Kind of a nonspecific search. Hebdo is short for hebdomadaire, so basically "paper" or "mag."

So very broad. Just sayin', not "Frenchsplaining."

*ducks*
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:01 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eight days ago, a young woman, Aurélie Châtelain, was found shot dead in her car in the suburban town of Villejuif, in the south of Paris. The same day, an Algerian man was arrested by the police. He had accidentally shot himself in the leg and called an ambulance (shades of Four lions here) ; the police followed a trail of blood and found a stash of weapons in his car. The man killed the woman earlier in the day (possibly in a failed attempt to steal her car), and was planning to attack two Catholic churches in Villejuif, carrying out orders from his handler(s) in Syria. Catholic churches are offending, I guess, and so are young women on their way to a pilates class. One of the churches, Saint-Cyr Sainte-Julitte, is round the corner where I live (church on the left, home on the right; this little square is named in remembrance of the Paris massacre of 1961).

I sort of understand the dissenting writers' point of view. They certainly mean well, in their little anglospherical bubble of righteous ignorance (or ignorant righteousness). And it's probably safer to vilify murdered cartoonists than the killers walking around in my neighbourhood. Offending the latter, or just standing in their way, could get you killed or something.
posted by elgilito at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Drinky Die: why do they need a more detailed caricature for Celine Dion when the Muslims are just fine as *draw them as basically the same crude identical image 20 times*

For the same reason they do when they draw Christiane Taubira.
posted by progosk at 3:09 PM on April 27, 2015


It's starting to feel like some sort of abstract dialectic ploy. Drinky Die, NoxAeternum, joyceanmachine: does it just come down to a defintive "I don't buy it", no matter what evidence is brought? I'm asking just to be in the clear to what extent you are prepared to double down on something that should at the very least appear problematic to you by now.

I think I've been pretty clear that I am entirely agnostic on if the content is racist or not in the French context. I've seen arguments from both sides and I don't have the understanding of the French or worldwide Muslim context to say anything definitively. As I said from my first comment, no matter which perspective you approach this from the only way I think you can go totally wrong is to pretend the potential for racism in this sort of content is not a nuanced subject.

The New Yorker cover is a great example of how even in an American context where most of the Metafilter audience has more understanding the conversation isn't simple.

I'm a fan of American media which relies on crude, offensive stereotypes as a house style. Family Guy and South Park are two shows I have enjoyed since they first aired. Sometimes they use offensive caricature to make good satirical points, sometimes they use it for humor based purely on offensiveness, sometimes it's just what they lazily do for a living. I don't think the creators are bad people, I don't think I'm bad for watching. But if a trans gender person wants to tell me they are seriously upset about the depictions in those shows...I'm not going to quibble with them. I'm not gonna hold up the creators as heroes. If offensive caricature is part of your style, you are probably going to sometimes be perceived as offensive.

Does Charlie Hebdo belong in that group? Well, as I said I've read arguments from a former staffer that some of the content has crossed the line so I can't really rule it out. TLDR, I don't feel like I'm the one making any sort of definitive, "I don't buy it," here on any other topic than that it is, without debate, Celine.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:12 PM on April 27, 2015


For the same reason they do when they draw Christiane Taubira.

I guess I'll need a primer on why that black lady is drawn as a monkey now too.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:14 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here you go.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:18 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here is elgilito's January primer on that.

Oh, and Taubira's tweet, on hearing abouth the Paris shootings: "#CharlieHebdo first wall and the last bastion of democracy, the free press is the enemy of obscurantism and violence. ChT"
posted by progosk at 3:20 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see, after Googling.

Next you have to note that the text next to that cartoon says "Rassemblement Bleu Raciste". This is a play on "Rassemblement Bleu Marine", the slogan of Marine Le Pen's national front, and the tricolor flame next to it is the party logo.

So, what you then need to know is that the cartoon was published after a National Front politician Facebooked a Photoshop of the woman in the cartoon as a monkey, and then said on French TV that she should be "in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government".


So, basically it's taking this image of Obama and putting the caption on it, "Republicans are racist."

Like, okay, did we need to make another version of it to do this?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:20 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am entirely agnostic on if the content is racist or not in the French context

What exactly are you holding out for? The way it reads, is that there isn't anything that would actually convince you.
posted by progosk at 3:22 PM on April 27, 2015


I don't know one way or the other if France is more racist than other countries it counts as peers, but the statistics in numerous studies show at least one thing- that French people as a whole are more comfortable admitting their prejudices. In the first example I liked upthread, France is a clear outlier, and the Pew study also seems to show this.

You mean that French people are so full of themselves that they can't see they're just as racists as the rest of the human race ?

No. Apologies if it was poorly worded, but my personal experience and the evidence in some of the articles on French racism seem to agree with the idea that the French, as a group, do not consider themselves to be any more racist than any other country, and may even think of France as a place where racist attitudes have no place. This does not square with the self-reported evidence of people's beliefs when compared with other similar countries, which is something worth exploring in this context.
posted by cell divide at 3:24 PM on April 27, 2015


Nevin: Forgive me if I am wrong, but Stolz was not murdered for her opinions, was she?

Yes, I understand, you're against murdering people for their speech but perfectly fine with imprisoning them. But, remember, we're talking about PEN here, who have made it very clear that what they're doing is supporting complete freedom of speech full-stop without regard to content. That's why they're so vocally objecting to Stolz' imprisonment.

As well, besides this rather false analogy, it's also ignoring the fact that synagogues and a grocery store were also planned as part of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

I've tried a few times to figure out how this is supposed to be relevant to my comment but I've got nothing.

Spanner Nic: CH mocks the institution of Islam, and stands with Muslims.

Yes, you can tell that they stand with Muslims because while they might publish cartoons of Muhammad on all fours with his penis and scrotum on display, they tastefully (and wittily!) obscure his anus. A lot of people have talked about missing the subtext in Charlie's cartoons but there's no way to misunderstand that clear message of support!
posted by nicolas.bray at 3:26 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like, okay, did we need to make another version of it to do this?

See: here.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:28 PM on April 27, 2015


On a more general note: a comment from the New Yorker thread Apocryphon linked, by stavroslepouletmerveille, seems apt here too:

I fully support any media output that assumes people are smart, rather that what we've become used to. I support things that challenge us by dragging the dirt and stupidity out into the light, where the sun can disinfect it and we can laugh at it all.

The kind of overweening sensitivity and tremulous caution that anyone be offended about anything ever that has been a defining characteristic of what passes for the left (or at least the Democratic end of things in America) in recent decades has, I reckon, been one of its greatest weaknesses. It's part of what's gotten us to where we are, which is not a good place at all.

I sometimes wish folks would just buck up and stop being so afraid of pointing and laughing at the stupid and the indoctrinated.

Remember the Mohammed cartoon brouhaha? I've said it before, but I believe that neither words nor images in and of themselves can or should give offense. It is the thought behind them, the intentionality, that is either praiseworthy or execrable. But people are naturally hesitant to actually think. Stuff like this -- even if it makes the more emotionally vulnerable among us wring their hands -- can make us think, and laugh.

Thinking and laughing are good things.

posted by progosk at 3:28 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


What exactly are you holding out for? The way it reads, is that there isn't anything that would actually convince you.

No, that I have not been persuaded is not evidence that I can't be any more than your lack of a shift to my more agnostic viewpoint is evidence that you can't be persuaded. I would have to understand the French cultural context and the cultural context of the Islamic world a lot better before I would decide to speak up for either one instead of just keeping an open mind in this case.

I went though similar issues with things like the "Dickwolves" where I spoke out a lot before really listening to what people were saying with their critiques, and that was something created in an American culture I am a part of and a gaming sub-culture I am a part of. There are blind spots all over these sorts of situations even when you think you have a handle on them, and this is a situation where I have no handle at all.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:28 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like, okay, did we need to make another version of it to do this?

See: here.


Yes, many people found it offensive and I think they had some reasonable arguments.

Barack Obama's campaign is condemning as “tasteless and offensive” a New Yorker magazine cover that depicts Obama in a turban, fist-bumping his gun-slinging wife.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds quickly e-mailed: “We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive.”
posted by Drinky Die at 3:30 PM on April 27, 2015


Yep. And I fully support the right of people to call Charlie Hebdo's (or any other) cartoons tasteless and offensive if they so wish. I do not support the right of those people to do anything else, such as censor, attack, or murder.

If the New Yorker offices had been stormed and people massacred in response to the cartoon of the Obamas I would be fine offering blanket support for the New Yorker. Similarly, because the CH offices were stormed and people massacred I am completely at peace with my decision to offer CH blanket support.
posted by Justinian at 3:33 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


You have drastically misread this thread if you believe anybody is in favor of murdering or attacking cartoonists.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:38 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess I'll need a primer on why that black lady is drawn as a monkey now too.

I'll be happy to explain! Christiane Taubira has been the minister for Justice (equivalent to US Attorney general) for the past 3 years. She is, basically, an idol of the left and the object of much hatred from the right. Why? Mostly because she's pretty much the only minister left who hasn't swooped under the carpet most of their ideals in favor of some vague austerity. She managed to get same-sex marriage voted through parliament, as well as the first penal reform law in 30 years that was actually less strict than the previous one and not about filling up even more already overcrowded prisons just to be tough on crime. She also happens to be black, from the faraway department of Guyane, and a lot of dog-whistling has been going on on the right about her lack of "Frenchness" or unability to understand "our traditional Christian values" because of some obscure "cultural" reasons.

One far-right magazine then made its cover about her, with the title "Maligne comme un singe, Taubira retrouve la banane". Literally: "Smart as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back". Both phrases are common expressions (retrouver la banane would be better translated in most contexts as "gets her groove back"), but were obvious racist dog-whistles. Anti-racist organizations and the state sued them for racial hate speech and won, even though at the trial, the publisher protested of the innocent nature of the words he used...

That is when Charlie published that cartoon, as a way to denounce the far-right, notably Marine Le Pen (known for using "Rassemblement bleu marine" as the name for the FN candidates at the last elections), attempts at making themselves look more respectable while using implicit racist discourse to keep the nastier part of their electorate. Hence the "Rassemblement bleu raciste" and FN logo around the Taubira monkey: that cartoon aims at showing the real face of the racist FN as they attempt to deny it. CH writers also expressed their total solidarity with Taubira in a non-satirical opinion piece.

And she was their friend too it seems, as she came to one of the slain cartoonists' funeral and made a speech defending the "right to mock".
posted by susuman at 3:38 PM on April 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


Quit showing off with all your nuance and context, susuman!
posted by progosk at 3:43 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Getting back to the topic of the post, I have a lot of respect for a couple of those six authors and I'm not unsympathetic to positions along the lines of

- You can respect CH's stand on free speech without, in effect, declaring it the most important and significant such stand all year, or their speech the most significant such speech;
- There's a bit of nil nisi bonum going on;
- Celebrating something that has had the shit celebrated out of it already by everyone + dog adds little to our discourse.

It's just the irremediable "oh but they're racisty racists who are racist" positions that make me sad. I truly believe that there are a lot of people who, once someone has been called a racist, will insist forevermore that person is a racist, because for them it's one of those "if you're accused you're guilty" things. They will never take the chance of alienating their base by defending someone a substantial part of their base will never exonerate no matter what.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:46 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Here's the thing, progosk - it's easy to say that one shouldn't be offended by words when one is in a position where words are just that. But for many minority groups, words can be reminders that they are not treated as full members of society, if not the markers of being cast as second class citizens. And I find the argument that people don't have the right to be offended when their identity is attacked and to voice that offense.

In short, laughing is quite often a privilege.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:46 PM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


You have drastically misread this thread if you believe anybody is in favor of murdering or attacking cartoonists.

I didn't say anyone was in favor of attacking cartoonists, I said that if people attack cartoonists I'm going to offer them full support even in the face of cartoons with which I might otherwise be uncomfortable.
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, support their right to life and to free speech. We are all agreed.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:53 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well clearly not since this entire thread is about six PEN members withdrawing from the Gala over PEN offering full support to CH.
posted by Justinian at 3:54 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


joyceanmachine: “If your house style involves portraying oppressed people that you sympathize with through means that many, many of them have repeatedly and clearly said they do not want used by anyone -- yeah, if you're actually sympathetic, you should probably rethink your house style.”

The unresolved issue here is with the "many, many of them have repeatedly and clearly said they do not want used by anybody." I can't for the life of me figure out who "them" is here. What oppressed people have been portrayed by Charlie Hebdo and objected to the way it was done?

This isn't an idle question or a "gotcha." I genuinely believe that there are huge contextual differences between the US and France. The most glaring one to me: the United States has a long and storied history of racist imagery and caricature that France does not share with us. We in the United States have in our history generations of lawn jockeys, tar babies, fat-lipped cartoons, blackface minstrels, and such a huge chunk of racist ideals and pictograms that it's impossible (I think) for many outsiders to comprehend just how rich and storied our culture of racism really is. Hundreds of years of pictures intended specifically to belittle and vilify a race – that's something that's hard to communicate. And it's certainly not something we share with other countries, although of course they may have their own contexts.

So there are certain things we do, often just instinctively. For example: in the United States, decent cartoonists tend to be careful not to stick noticeable lips on black characters. Why? Because huge lips were a buffoonish characteristic of cartoons of black folk for years; at this point, even small but noticeable lips feed into that stereotype, so it's better to just try to avoid it.

So when we Americans look at that Boko Haram cover, the first and foremost thing we tend to see is LIPS! – which keys us to racist imagery. At best, we think – as many people have said here – that they're trying to be "ironic-racist" by drawing things in a racist style as a way of joking about that racism. But I don't think it's ironic at all! I don't think Charlie Hebdo was at all trying to play on a tradition of racist imagery wherein African people are portrayed with huge lips – because France doesn't have a tradition of racist imagery wherein African people are portrayed with huge lips.

The thing about racist imagery is that it's very specific. No image is racist without context; there has to be a tradition behind it, a custom of signaling and hinting at racism by emphasizing certain things. France has a different one, and if I'm not mistaken, it's a tradition more often used by fascist political cartoons; they do not, as America does, have a whole culture of slaveowning white supremacy that built up an entire entertainment around that racist imagery. Where we Americans are very sensitive to racism creeping into imagery, we have to understand that our tradition of racism is actually pretty uniquely evil and different from that in other countries.

Incidentally, it's worth noting that hours after the tragedy the fascist party in France, its greatest advocate for racist hatred of immigrants, stood up and said publicly that Charlie Hebdo was evil and deserved what it got. Surely that counts for something. I don't say that the enemy of my enemy is my friend – but if fascists hate you, it might be because you're actually standing on the right side and fighting for the rights of immigrants.
posted by koeselitz at 3:55 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well clearly not since this entire thread is about six PEN members withdrawing from the Gala over PEN offering full support to CH.

Yeah, it looks like I am right, you have gotten confused. They withdrew because they didn't think CH deserved an award, not support.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:00 PM on April 27, 2015


because France doesn't have a tradition of racist imagery wherein African people are portrayed with huge lips.

You're kidding, right? One of the classic examples of how those images were used to normalize racism is quite French.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:01 PM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


You and I clearly have different ideas of what constitutes full and unconditional support.
posted by Justinian at 4:01 PM on April 27, 2015


Nox is correct here: France has a history of racism and racist imagery used for Black folks which is significantly longer than the United States has existed as a nation.

It may well be a different iconography and I am not qualified to speak to the specifics, but it certainly has a racist history and iconography directed at Africans and those of African descent.
posted by Justinian at 4:03 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


You and I clearly have different ideas of what constitutes full and unconditional support.

Yes, but I'm more trying to drive again at the idea that the level of support one is willing to give is going to depend on the content. I would give pretty much unequivocal support when it comes to awards for Malala Yousafzai but less so for Westboro Baptist while maintaining unconditional support when it comes to being against trying to kill either of them.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:05 PM on April 27, 2015


The idea that one would give full and unconditional support to a person or group of people simply because they've been attacked is just completely bonkers.
posted by nicolas.bray at 4:09 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the classic examples of how those images were used to normalize racism is quite French.

And by French of course we mean Belgian.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:10 PM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not a group of people, a group of cartoonists. Who draw cartoons.
posted by Justinian at 4:12 PM on April 27, 2015


You're kidding, right? One of the classic examples of how those images were used to normalize racism is quite French.

Belgians tend to take offense when people assume Hergé was French...

But that aside, you're definitely right that France has a terrible history of racist imagery of black people. The lips were definitely part of it, but they did not become as much of a symbol of it as in the US, I think. Mostly, when the intent of a caricature using racial stereotypes is obviously satirical and aimed at the actual racists in the room, people, be they white or black, tend not to get offended but to approve exposing the enemy's ugliness (the racists') : an extended reclaiming process, by the victims of racism but also their allies (very different from the US where only members of the oppressed community may so reclaim slurs and such).
posted by susuman at 4:14 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Quick cross-cutural check: is Robert Crumb to be suspected-until-proven-innocent of racism, anti-semitism (etc.) given his house style?
posted by progosk at 4:20 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, I'm not really arguing with you about the racism thing, although I think you are dead, dead wrong about the French not having a long, shitty history of racist imagery of black people. I mean, if that were actually the case, if French anti-black imagery was completely unlike American racist imagery, then the upthread justification for that Hebdo cartoon about Taubira just goes straight out the window.

I can't for the life of me figure out who "them" is here. What oppressed people have been portrayed by Charlie Hebdo and objected to the way it was done?

Link to Wikipedia on Charlie Hebdo and their history with the French Muslim community. Wikipedia link to Islam in France.

In all seriousness, though. Just because there are some Muslim people or some Muslim communities who don't find the pictoral descriptions of Muhammad to be offensive, that doesn't negate many, many, many actual, living Muslims in France do. You clicked on a bunch of the articles that I linked to. You saw the quotes. From this article, you saw that controversies about Hebdo have received a great deal of publicity inside France. If you poke around, you'll find roughly 1,001 articles where actual Hebdo editors and cartoonists acknowledge that they know their work is offensive to many French Muslims. But they don't care. Or think it's less important than their other goals.

tl;dr: Hebdo doesn't need to be racist in order to be shitty. Hebdo just has to not give a shit about the fact that in order to achieve their goals, they're going to trample rough-shod over the feelings of many people they're supposedly defending.
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:21 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


you're definitely right that France has a terrible history of racist imagery

I know what you mean, they're always depicted with berets and striped shirts with boat collars, huge noses, neat little moustaches, usually holding a baguette, and if there's audio it's invariably of an accordion.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:23 PM on April 27, 2015


> ... I think it's essential to see CH within its context of a country that seems to be the most racist in Western Europe, but stridently believes that their society is honest and sophisticated and not racist.

Charlie Hebdo has published a lot of condemnations of racism in France and French politics. I certainly think they think racism is a problem in France. Ironically, some of their cartoons tackling this issue have been trotted out in the English-speaking media as proof that they're all a bunch of right-wing, racist bigots who hate immigrants. (Has some of their satire been hamfisted? There are definitely critics familiar with their work who think so. But that's rather different from the "criticism" I've seen here that relies so much on pure fabrication and deliberate misrepresentation of their ideology.)
posted by nangar at 4:29 PM on April 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Justinian: Not a group of people, a group of cartoonists. Who draw cartoons.

So if someone were to shoot the KKK's in-house cartoonist over their latest racist or anti-Semitic cartoon, you'd offer that racist and anti-Semitic cartoonist your full and unconditional support?

Again: bonkers. A racist asshole doesn't stop being a racist asshole just because someone shoots them.

George_Spiggott: I know what you mean, they're always depicted with berets and striped shirts with boat collars, huge noses, neat little moustaches, usually holding a baguette, and if there's audio it's invariably of an accordion.

Really? Are you really comparing stereotypical depictions of French people to stereotypical depictions of black people?!
posted by nicolas.bray at 4:34 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I would give pretty much unequivocal support when it comes to awards for Malala Yousafzai but less so for Westboro Baptist while maintaining unconditional support when it comes to being against trying to kill either of them.

I think equating Charlie Hebdo with the Westboro Baptist Church is pretty ridiculous.
posted by nangar at 4:43 PM on April 27, 2015


> So if someone were to shoot the KKK's in-house cartoonist over their latest racist or anti-Semitic cartoon, you'd offer that racist and anti-Semitic cartoonist your full and unconditional support?

Again: bonkers. A racist asshole doesn't stop being a racist asshole just because someone shoots them.


Same as above. What's with your insistence on portraying Charlie Hebdo as pure absolute evil?
posted by nangar at 4:47 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think equating Charlie Hebdo with the Westboro Baptist Church is pretty ridiculous.

Me too. The point is very specifically that all content should not be treated as if it were equivalent.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:50 PM on April 27, 2015


They're not, they're arguing that it's natural for there to be gradations of support based on whether the attacked party is worthy of support outside the context of being attacked. I'm the one they're arguing with and I don't think it's all that hard to understand.
posted by Justinian at 4:50 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Same as above. What's with your insistence on portraying Charlie Hebdo as pure absolute evil?

Nobody is. What is getting pointed out is that to a good number of people, their "anti-racism" stance isn't all it's cracked up to be. Think of, say, Chait or The New Republic on race.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:19 PM on April 27, 2015


Quoted again: ... the KKK's in-house cartoonist ... A racist asshole doesn't stop being a racist asshole just because someone shoots them.

There's nothing ambiguous about that comment. It's impossible to have any kind of discussion with people like you.
posted by nangar at 5:43 PM on April 27, 2015


I appear to have managed.
posted by Justinian at 5:49 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


With more honesty, I'm just too angry to try any more.
posted by nangar at 5:55 PM on April 27, 2015




I'm honestly confused by what part of that you might disagree with, nangar. Do you actually believe that being shot somehow makes people less racist? That would be very odd.
posted by nicolas.bray at 7:03 PM on April 27, 2015


I disagree with your assertion that people who attack racism are racist assholes just like the KKK. Your comment comes across as just taunting people, nothing more.
posted by nangar at 7:41 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


nangar, here is how you should try and read the argument that is being made.

The racism or islamophobia level of previously published Charlie Hebdo content, non-existent or high, remained unchanged after the shooting. If one believes the content was racist or islamophobic and has a reasonable basis for that, they might reasonably oppose special award for Charlie Hebdo's work even after the shooting, even though the shooting itself can never be justified.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:13 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Really agog at the amount of sophistry being spilt here to paper over the idea that some of the magazine's images might be even kind of racist. If you're a black seven-year-old and you see a magazine at the newsstand with a black politican drawn as a monkey, or a boat full of golliwog caricatures, are you going to lead yourself through some sort of exegesis about the cultural reverberations of laïcité and the nuances of irony, or are you just going to feel fucking shitty? Racism means your feeling shitty and demeaned gets to be someone else's coffeehouse debate.
posted by threeants at 8:22 PM on April 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


That's a completely ridiculous misreading of my comments, nangar. If one says, as Justinian did, that you fully support any cartoonist who is attacked for drawing cartoons, then a simple consequence of that would be that one would have to fully support, e.g., a KKK cartoonist who is attacked for racist and anti-Semitic cartoons. Pointing that out is not saying that the people at Charlie Hebdo were equivalent to KKK members in any way. It just means that if one wants to fully support CH then one needs to either also fully support this hypothetical KKK member or actually deal with the content of CH. Justinian might be willing to do the former but I think the vast majority of people would balk at that. Yet many of them still try to phrase their support in this "free speech above its contents" fashion. You just can't do that.

I'll also note that you've completely begged the question by identifying the people at Charlie Hebdo as "people who attack racism". (After all, what issue could anyone possibly have with "people who attack racism"!?) The entire point here is that a lot of people out there are less thrilled with CH's "people who attack racism" cred than you apparently are.

Justinian, if you're trying to make me regret my usage of the word "bonkers", you're succeeding. Even though we might disagree on some basic level, it's nice that we can actually communicate in an honest way. The irony here is that the position that I and others are arguing for is actually the one being adopted by the PEN folks. No one here has even bothered to address the fact that while Solomon might claim "we defend free speech above its contents", PEN won't be handing out awards to imprisoned Holocaust-denying authors anytime soon.

Solomon's claim might be transparently false but it's is quite a convenient stance to take when people start criticizing the contents of the speech that you're giving awards to. A juxtaposition here might be the ACLU who regularly defend the free speech rights of people who make Charlie Hebdo look like...something I can't even come up with a simile for. They really do defend defend free speech above its contents, but they're also not handing out awards.
posted by nicolas.bray at 8:37 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Threeants, if you've read nothing else in this thread, you might at least read susuman's comments. This one, for example.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:43 PM on April 27, 2015


What a weird response to threeants comment, George_Spiggott. Unless you're planning on printing out copies of susuman's comment to hand out to black seven-year-olds at French newsstands, it seems just completely orthogonal to the kind of concerns they're raising.
posted by nicolas.bray at 8:54 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


The point is the cartoon's subject understood precisely what it meant. Admittedly, I don't have an answer to "oh won't somebody think of the children I'm imagining" because I don't inhabit threeants' imagination. But the CH image was a retort to a genuinely racist image (which our hypothetical child could just as easily have seen), and contains the word "racism" in it, making it comparatively easy to explain to this rather precisely imagined child, who apparently comes across this image with just exactly the right proportions of comprehension and incomprehension of its content to suit threeants' irate daydream.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:02 PM on April 27, 2015


Actually I do have an answer: if creating an image that would upset a hypothetical child with a hypothetical level of understanding makes one a racist irrespective of the actual intent of that image or its meaning as clearly discerned by every actual person it was created for, then yeah, damn. Whatever. But if it takes that kind of deck-stacking to make someone out to be a racist then what does it say that you have to try that hard?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:14 PM on April 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Admittedly, I don't have an answer to "oh won't somebody think of the children I'm imagining" because I don't inhabit threeants' imagination.

I lead a rich and improbable fantasy life that involves some children being non-white
posted by threeants at 9:16 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Actually I do have an answer: if creating an image that would upset a hypothetical child with a hypothetical level of understanding makes one a racist irrespective of the actual intent of that image or its meaning as clearly discerned by every actual person it was created for, then yeah, damn. Whatever. But if it takes that kind of deck-stacking to make someone out to be a racist then what does it say that you have to try that hard?

I am not talking about people "being" racist, as that doesn't seem very constructive and frankly I don't know what it means. So I am certainly not "making someone out to be a racist". I am talking about the potential for specific images to communicate racist messages. Personally, I feel that there are readings of these images that could justify them as either satirical or racist (or both). If you want to talk about trying hard, how about insisting that there is no possible way to read an image other than in the specific way it was allegedly intended, requiring significant context to discern this fact?

The idea that any image could represent something immutable and constant seems, frankly, medieval.
posted by threeants at 9:24 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Threeants: all images, are of course inherently to be interpreted. And the interpretations will of course vary. Are you saying that all interpretations are equally valid? How / by whom would that validity be established? (And furthermore, separately, but more crucially: how should negative interpretations be considered actable-on?)

Your assertion that a political cartoon drawn for an adult audience might not be understood by a seven year old (of whatever color or provenance) is, at one level, almost tautological, but could be interpreted (yes, I see what I did there) to mean that all cartoonists must be held to a standard decided by all seven-year olds, or even by your personal feelings about the feelings of hypothetical seven-year-olds.

The real question, which keeps getting drowned out, is not whether something could offend someone, it is: to what end is "offense" (actual or hypothetical as it may be) being elevated/leveraged?
posted by progosk at 10:27 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's pretty much my feelings on the subject. For something to be problematic it's not enough that some people find an image offensive, it must also be reasonable for them to find it offensive. That pushes the question down the road towards "by whom?", of course, but almost any standard does that.

On that level I don't think it's particularly reasonable to be offended by the mere depiction of a historical figure such as Caesar or Abraham Lincoln or Muhammed (as opposed to an inherently offensive depiction such as Piss Christ or various obscene drawings of Muhammed that jerks have drawn) so take that as you will.
posted by Justinian at 1:45 AM on April 28, 2015


nicolas.bray : Unless you're planning on printing out copies of susuman's comment to hand out to black seven-year-olds at French newsstands, it seems just completely orthogonal to the kind of concerns they're raising.

Do you really think that seven-year old kids read Charlie Hebdo ? What is the rule, in your country ? Does absolutely all contents have to comply with the rule "don't write it if a seven-year old shouldn't read it" ? That must make for a pretty interesting press. Charlie Hebdo is considered to be quite adult content. I guess you knew that.
posted by nicolin at 2:41 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The context:

threeants: If you're a black seven-year-old and you see a magazine at the newsstand with a black politican drawn as a monkey, or a boat full of golliwog caricatures, are you going to lead yourself through some sort of exegesis about the cultural reverberations of laïcité and the nuances of irony, or are you just going to feel fucking shitty?

George_Spiggott: Threeants, if you've read nothing else in this thread, you might at least read susuman's comments.

nicolas.bray: What a weird response to threeants comment, George_Spiggott. Unless you're planning on printing out copies of susuman's comment to hand out to black seven-year-olds at French newsstands, it seems just completely orthogonal to the kind of concerns they're raising.

I guess you knew that, nicolin, but decided that you'd add the massive pile of purposefully obtuse comments on this thread.
posted by nicolas.bray at 2:57 AM on April 28, 2015


Well, I knew that, and I repeat : Charlie Hebdo is not written to be read by kids, it is written for adults. What is your concern ? That they might interpret the pictures they've caught a glimpse of without getting their irony ? Let them just ask their adult of choice. I'm sure some people around here still talk to their children.
posted by nicolin at 3:05 AM on April 28, 2015


And I add : Why should I feel shitty because of a picture if I don't when a ship sinks at the bottom of the sea with several hundred people who were trying to make it to the coasts of Europe ? Is it really what matters ? Feeling shitty ? I guess that's the gist of it : pictures that make you feel shitty, but about the right reasons. If more people felt shitty once in a while, stopped making terrible choices, recognized they have their share, and tried to fix this mess, well, you catch my drift.
posted by nicolin at 3:16 AM on April 28, 2015


So it's not OK to incorporate distortions of other people's idiotic, racist speech if that means you might remind them in any way about the racism of the original speech? Congratulations—you've just outlawed Stephen Colbert.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:05 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Who is talking about outlawing anything? What I might say about Colbert is that it appears some asian folks did not like the way he used his racist asian caricature "Ching Chong Ding Dong" to make an anti-racist point. I don't think Colbert deserves awards for that bit. Here's what I like about Colbert though, once he realized that his good intentioned satire had missed the mark and insulted some people he explained the context and why he felt the criticism was off point but...he stopped doing the bit. Likely because he understands good satire will minimize that sort of collateral damage and misunderstanding.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:07 AM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ruben Bolling answers Garry Trudeau today.

Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald says of certain critics of the PEN dissenters "I don't know if this is dishonesty or ignorance", which is funny because I said the same thing when he claimed yesterday that Muslims were CH's most frequent target of mockery, which is blatantly false and trivially disprovable. Rather than link to that article I'll scroll down a bit and link to a rather more informed and broadly informative rejoinder from the comments section. (Link goes to Hans Bavinck 27 Apr 2015 at 2:12 pm, in case your browser doesn't quite hit it on that link. All his comments are well worth reading.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:07 AM on April 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Le Monde actually did a break down of the themes of Charlie Hebdo covers which debunks the claim that 'Muslims were the most frequent target of mockery'. Apparently only 7 out of 523 covers concerned Islam.

Non, « Charlie Hebdo » n’est pas obsédé par l’islam

But beware of using Google translate on that article because it's currently translating 'antiraciste' as 'racist' thus giving the exact opposite meaning to what's being said.
posted by Flitcraft at 9:40 AM on April 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


> Here's what I like about Colbert though, once he realized that his good intentioned satire had missed the mark and insulted some people he explained the context and why he felt the criticism was off point but...he stopped doing the bit. Likely because he understands good satire will minimize that sort of collateral damage and misunderstanding.

What do you want Charlie Hebdo to do? You're not even in a position to judge what's offensive to their audience, and what portions of their audience they might be offending.

I think the criticism Charlie Hebdo should respond to is criticism from groups they claim to support, including African immigrants in France, but not rantings by uninformed English speakers on the internet, like us. The marginalized groups groups in France that CH claims to support, and is supposedly mocking and offending, are fully capable of speaking for themselves, and they do. And, yes, Charlie Hebdo has come in for some criticism.

I mentioned in an earlier thread that CH has been criticized by some leftist immigrant bloggers for what we would call "whitesplaining". Since then, they've hired the French-Moroccan feminist and civil rights activist Zineb El Rhazoui, who sought asylum in Europe after her involvement in the February 20th Movement (Moroccan Arab Spring), and the Algerian political cartoonist Dilem. I don't know if these hiring decisions were influenced by this kind of criticism, but they may have been. It seems like maybe the people who make up Charlie Hebdo can respond to criticism when it comes from people they care about who know their work . There is no reason at all that they should care about the opinions of people on MeFi. We're not the people that count.

There was also quite a bit of criticism of Philippe Val and Caroline Fourest, two former writers for Charlie Hebdo who both quit in 2009. Val was also chief editor from 1992 to 2009. (Riad Sattouf, a French-Syrian cartoonist who grew up in Libya had a strip in Charlie Hebdo from 2004 to 2014 called "The Secret Life of Teenagers". His tenure overlapped with Zineb El Rhazoui's by a few years. Her column is called "The Weekly Heretic".)
posted by nangar at 2:37 PM on April 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


The marginalized groups groups in France that CH claims to support, and is supposedly mocking and offending, are fully capable of speaking for themselves, and they do. And, yes, Charlie Hebdo has come in for some criticism.

The Le Monde article Flitcraft linked addresses this interestingly, commenting their finding that whereas in the '90's, CH were sued by either the far-right or by Catholic associations, since 2007, virtually the only actions against the publication were taken by Islamist groups (my translation):

"On closer inspection, it appears that Charlie Hebdo, in keeping with its reputation, is an irreverent leftist paper, undeniably anti-racist, but staunchly averse to all religious obscurantism, Muslims included. What calls for explanation, therefore, is not Charlie Hebdo's supposed Islamophobia, but rather why, nowadays, only extremists who claim Islam for themselves, seek to silence a newspaper that mocks - among many others things - their religion."
posted by progosk at 3:04 PM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


>What do you want Charlie Hebdo to do?

In that comment I was simply explaining how one excellent satirist handled his own confrontation with the backlash against using racist imagery for satire purposes. It was something I admire. That's it.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:39 PM on April 28, 2015


Thank you George Spiggott for the link to Hans Bavinck's comments on Glenn Greenwald's site. They were just what I needed to read!

To anyone following the link: be sure to search for all of Bavinck's comments on the page. They are an excellent debunking of the myths / false claims / misunderstandings that surround Charlie Hebdo.
posted by Termite at 12:22 AM on April 29, 2015


It's so irritating to be repeatedly told that my disagreement is a "misunderstanding".

It's possible for people to have the same information and come to different conclusions.
posted by latkes at 7:03 AM on April 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


You may also have noticed that people who are critical of Charlie Hebdo are ignorant Americans who shouldn't have an opinion, but people who are uncritical of Charlie Hebdo are informed Americans who get to have an opinion.
posted by maxsparber at 8:13 AM on April 29, 2015 [3 favorites]



people who are critical of Charlie Hebdo are ignorant Americans who shouldn't have an opinion

What's with this defensive posturing?

It's possible for people to have the same information

I think a lot of effort has been made here to provide exactly that: information, especially of the kind that might not have been considered, since it hasn't made international headlines. Is a finer reading something to be spurned a priori, now?

Refusal to engage the arguments presented and sticking to your guns no matter what - yes, that can be irritating.
posted by progosk at 9:48 AM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, progosk, a generous interpretation would be that while some of us are defending the murder victims of the charge of being racist themselves, what others are hearing is "you have no right to find their images offensive". Personally I'm not saying the latter. CH definitely engaged in their right to be offensive, in a way you can't really get away with in this country anymore. As Robert Crumb, who's been living in France for quite some time now, said:
We don’t have a context for this tradition here, merciless, political satire. One thing I keep noticing is commentators here are pointing out that the cartoons were very offensive and insulting. It’s as if we don’t understand that was by design. Very intentionally offensive, and very clear about why that couldn’t be compromised. That’s the part we don’t get, as Americans. It’s like, “Why did they have to be so mean?”
Here, by the way, is his response to the killings, as solicited by Liberation.

Crumb himself, particularly in his day, aggressively used stereotyped images in a way directly comparable to what CH does, and was generally understood and appreciated for his genuinely intended meaning by the underground and subculture the way CH is in France now. This could never happen in America today.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:04 AM on April 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


Framing links as pure "myth debunking", when they actually represent an opinion-based argument is disingenuous. I'm absolutely interested in reading more factual information and opinion, especially opinions of French Muslims and of progressives who have direct knowledge of French immigration, Islam, secular Islamic values, etc.

But again, I read your link, and it's not just information. Your assumption that your opponents have not done "finer reading" on this topic is patronizing. Maybe we just disagree with you.
posted by latkes at 10:05 AM on April 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


The "fine reading" was my phrase, and not as something I claim to have done more of, but to describe the wealth of further reading material that is being offered here. Since you're surely not saying that you're above reading it all, either you've done so before - but I don't believe you're saying that - or you're saying you've read it all but your opinion is still the same as when you came in. In which case it would be convivial to share the unshakeable foundations for your opinions. What's not fair is to play offended, just because others are sharing the basis of their own opinions in the effort/hope for a deeper mutual understanding.

Opinions do not exist in a void, opinions are formed, and that's what I took these threads to exist for. I have learned enormously from the various Charlie Hebdo threads on MeFi. I'm sorry you feel you haven't.
posted by progosk at 11:21 AM on April 29, 2015


What's not fair is to play offended, just because others are sharing the basis of their own opinions in the effort/hope for a deeper mutual understanding.

We're offended because every time we say "I dissent", the response is to act as if we are uneducated, and to tell us that our "problem" is that we just "don't get it".

No, the problem is that you are unwilling to accept that we just don't agree.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:51 PM on April 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hans Bavinck's comments linked (twice) above provide a lot of elements, in a very clear way, to understand what it was all about (unfortunately, it seems one has to search for them, but it's worth it). Btw, the comments on this page mirror the discussion there, especially the part about "getting the facts right".
Interesting. Thanks !
posted by nicolin at 12:56 PM on April 29, 2015


Actually, it seems to me what we're in effective disagreement about is what is really the important question here. If it's just going to be about who finds what offensive, then yes, there will be plenty of difference in opinion, and there won't be much headway made.

I would submit however, that what's really at stake, both regarding the shootings themselves, and also the PEN polemic, is: to what end is "offense" (actual or hypothetical as it may be) being elevated/leveraged?

Or do you see a stalemate there, too?
posted by progosk at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2015


Or do you see a stalemate there, too?

Yes, and I've explained why in the past - because when the usual canards about "offense" get trotted out, there's that unstated codicil that dare not be spoken, that "offense" is something to be dismissed, because the people who are "offended" should just deal with it quietly. And if they choose not to, then they have to have some ulterior motive, because it can't be because they are offended.

The reason that offense is being elevated is because people are offended, and they are not going to be quiet about it. As for why they are offended, they've made that clear as well. Instead of looking for hidden motivations, perhaps you should listen to the ones that people are telling you.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:22 PM on April 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


No, OK. But after

people are offended, and they are not going to be quiet about it.

the question is: what is the next step from there? What does the feeling of offense give them the right to do/demand?
posted by progosk at 1:31 PM on April 29, 2015


the question is: what is the next step from there? What does the feeling of offense give them the right to do/demand?

To "petition for a redress of grievances", to paraphrase the First Amendment. Just like anyone else who has a problem.

Let me put it more bluntly - the "offense" argument is nothing more than an attempt to dismiss the arguments that have been made against the content. It's saying "your grievance is false, go away, " but in a manner such that you aren't bluntly dismissing the matter.

If you think they have no real grievance, then say that - and own it. I think it's that last part that is the real issue.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:46 PM on April 29, 2015


Can you expand on "redress of grievances", in relation to CH? Who should petition whom, and what type of redress do you consider appropriate? (As before, these are honest questions on my part.)
posted by progosk at 2:02 PM on April 29, 2015


Anybody who is offended has the same rights anybody has when they are offended. Speak out to the publisher, the sponsors, persuade the public to do the same. If local laws might apply (for instance in cases such as libel or slander), use the legal system as well.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:12 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK - which, as pertains to CH, is something that Le Monde article looked at, tallying the cases brought against their work throughout the years.

What do you make of the question they raise, that I translated above?
posted by progosk at 2:30 PM on April 29, 2015


(The article examines CH covers, providing raw data on how overwhelmingly infrequent it was that they specifically targeted Islam.)
posted by progosk at 2:35 PM on April 29, 2015


Well, I find the problem to be this statement:

On closer inspection, it appears that Charlie Hebdo, in keeping with its reputation, is an irreverent leftist paper, undeniably anti-racist, but staunchly averse to all religious obscurantism, Muslims included.

The issue is that they cannot see how the latter position undermines the former. If you claim to be opposed to racism, but at the same time argue that the reason that some group isn't being accepted is because of their beliefs and that they need to conform, then you actually aren't opposed to racism.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:19 PM on April 29, 2015


What calls for explanation, therefore, is not Charlie Hebdo's supposed Islamophobia, but rather why, nowadays, only extremists who claim Islam for themselves, seek to silence a newspaper that mocks - among many others things - their religion."

As I have observed many people who are not extreme Muslims who seem to be speaking out against the CH content I entirely reject the premise of the question.

But then I might ask in return, "Why is it that only a racist Asian caricature led to a 'Cancel Colbert' campaign? Don't you know that he targets white people way more often?"

Can you think of any reasons a straight white middle class male Catholic American like myself might not be as upset about being a primary target of his satire as a member of an American minority group might?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:26 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Meantime: Two dozen writers join Charlie Hebdo PEN award protest. Including Joyce Carol Oates misreading choosing to disagree about the Taubira cartoon.)
posted by progosk at 3:27 PM on April 29, 2015




LOL. Joyce Carol Oates twitter feed is full of white men explaining satire for her.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:33 PM on April 29, 2015


If you claim to be opposed to racism, but at the same time argue that the reason that some group isn't being accepted is because of their beliefs and that they need to conform, then you actually aren't opposed to racism.

That is not what CH "argued". But I can understand that Charb's own analysis of the hidden racism implicit in the patronizing communitarist relativism might just be really hard to make sense of from an entirely entirely different cultural perspective.

As I have observed many people who are not extreme Muslims who seem to be speaking out against the CH content I entirely reject the premise of the question.

I thought we wanted to talk data, not mere opinion.
posted by progosk at 3:37 PM on April 29, 2015


So your claim is that objective data supports the idea that all critics of Charlie Hebdo's content are extremist Muslims?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:39 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


That is not what CH "argued". But I can understand that Charb's own analysis of the hidden racism implicit in the patronizing communitarist relativism might just be really hard to make sense of from an entirely entirely different cultural perspective.

Ah, "you just don't get it." Always a classic.

How about you actually start acting in good faith, instead of treating us like we're just stupid uncultured boors who need to see the light?
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:45 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


No.

My claim is that the idea that Muslims were, as Greenwald et. al. put it (and as you do in your Colbert parallel) a "primary target" is a gross misrepresentation of what CH's mission was - and that precisely this misrepresentation was purposefully amplified so as to become the central CH "issue" by extremist Islamist groups, whose specific aim it is to deepen the social divide and thereby extremise as many Muslims as they can, in order to staff up their own ranks.

And it is just so sad to see it working so subtly/widely.
posted by progosk at 3:54 PM on April 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Go ahead and send a letter to Greenwald if you want to argue with him about what he said. I'm not Greenwald!

You completely misread me, my fault with phrasing but the point probably should have been clear. Asian Americans were never a primary target of Colbert. They are simply a vulnerable target so a minor recurring bit was enough to set some people off. Colbert can hammer on white comfortable male Catholics all day long because that group has major power and influence in our society and he identifies a a member of that group. It's incredibly easy to shrug off in those circumstances.

You are hammering a case here against a set of arguments that exist out there, but I am certainly not making. I think I've been pretty clear that I'm not making judgments on CH because I don't have the context. That's why I frame things in terms of the potentially offensive humor I enjoy. Colbert, Family Guy, South Park, and Penny Arcade are some things I have referenced.

So, when you ask me why Muslims might be speaking out but members of other groups are not even though Muslims are less frequently a target, I'm explaining to you an alternative theory that in my experience might possibly apply besides...well...besides what, progosk?


Why is it?
posted by Drinky Die at 4:12 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


And, Nox, if you think that racism-and-nothing-else is really what the CH killings reduce down to, and nothing that's been shared here has lent any more depth than that... then yes, I've got nothing more to offer.

(It's very late here. Good night.)
posted by progosk at 4:14 PM on April 29, 2015


And, Nox, if you think that racism-and-nothing-else is really what the CH killings reduce down to, and nothing that's been shared here has lent any more depth than that... then yes, I've got nothing more to offer.

My point is simple - you are not the sole arbiter of meaning. Your entire argument has been "you just don't get it," claiming that anyone who doesn't see things your way is in the hold of a "gross misrepresentation".

Sorry, but that's not how art, and especially satire works. You may intend for something to be read one way, but if other people read it differently, the fault is not on them for "misunderstanding", but on you for leaving ambiguity.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:32 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


"LOL. Joyce Carol Oates twitter feed is full of white men explaining satire for her."

No, no. That was an old episode of Newhart.
posted by clavdivs at 5:17 PM on April 29, 2015 [3 favorites]




Oops. That was by Dorian Lynskey not Kenan Malik.

This is Kenan Malik's piece: WRONG ABOUT FREE SPEECH – AGAIN
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:20 AM on April 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


You may intend for something to be read one way, but if other people read it differently, the fault is not on them for "misunderstanding", but on you for leaving ambiguity.

Even when misunderstanding is actually occurring because people are deliberately continuing to interpret things in a vacuum even after being told they don't have all the relevant information? There's a point beyond which you shouldn't have to repeatedly debunk inapplicable criticism.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:33 AM on April 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


But what if there is disagreement about what is and is not relevant? The people who supported #CancelColbert did not care about the anti-racist message not because they were too dumb to see it, but because even with it the Asian caricature was too offensive just on its own.

If Colbert had decided to go forward and continue to use it once he knew some of the audience felt that way, his actions couldn't be seen in a vacuum either. If you want to use satire that is racially provocative even after you have been told that some people find it hurtful you just have to get used to the fact that some people are going to think less of your satire no matter what your intentions are.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:08 AM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you, GE, for those two very eloquent links.
posted by progosk at 6:41 AM on April 30, 2015


Honestly curious, Drinky Die, as you are very meticulous in your agnosticism/neutrality on this: on reading the two pieces GE just linked, what is your reaction? That they are simply opinion pieces, to be agreed with, or - with equal validity - just disagreed with?
posted by progosk at 6:57 AM on April 30, 2015


Neither link changes my previously stated views in this thread.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:01 AM on April 30, 2015


This line, to me, highlights the issue:

However, there is a difference between a left-wing newspaper gone rotten and a racist publication.

This is absolutely wrong. Just because one is ostensibly on the "left" does not somehow preclude their ability to be racist. And it is this point that seems to be the stumbling block, as it seems to be that the act of saying that something is racist is a horrible act in of itself.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:26 AM on April 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Golden Eternity. Thanks for the link to the Kenan Malik, which includes gems such as this:

"But this episode is about more than just the willful ignorance of a unilingual left luxuriating in its whipped-up dander; there are deeper worries about how such left and liberal critics are approaching freedom of speech in general. The whole affair is quite the nadir for the identitarian left, an object lesson in how its current tendency toward a censorial, professionally offence-taking prudishness is limiting the left’s advance, cutting us off from how most ordinary people live their lives and navigate prejudice, and a breach with hundreds of years of leftist thought and practice with respect to the enduring question of freedom."
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:45 AM on April 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


The weird thing about this argument is I keep being told that I should support Charlie Hebdo's right to free speech. But I do support that right. I just don't have to support a gala in their honor. Many (all?) of the authors who are backing out of participating in this event still support PEN and still support Charlie Hebdo's right to publish. (It goes without saying that none of the authors condone or seek to excuse the murders of the CH staff!)

Free speech means free speech for all. I unoquivickly demand free speech for even the Ku Klux Klan and NAMBLA. BUT I won't go to a dinner celebrating those organizations! Is that so complicated?!

And before you go there: obviously, and in the minds of the dissenting authors, CH is not the KKK. They are a generally lefty newspaper that occasionally produces pieces that those authors find problematically inflammatory towards people who are already members of an oppressed group within French society. Like those authors, I support the right of that paper to exist, but like them, I also do not want to celebrate the parts of their messages that I find very problematic.

This isn't about my lack of understanding of French culture, this is about my disagreeing with the content and intent of some issues of Charlie Hebdo. (And no matter what anyone claims my position is, I never said they are overwhelmingly racist! I wouldn't say it because I don't think it!)

Anyone can disagree with my position, perhaps because they think the positives about CH outweigh the negative, perhaps because they think there is nothing at offensive in their publications, or perhaps because of the enormous terror and suffering they have recently endured. That is a perfectly reasonable perspective and one that is shared by the PEN leadership. If you have come to that conclusion, right on! I support your right to state it! I don't conclude that you only came to that conclusion because of your ignorance of context.
posted by latkes at 11:06 AM on April 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Salman Rushdie, writing to Francine Prose today:

What the act [of publicly dissenting with the award] says is that you judge CH as being at fault. And by making that public judgment, the act, not any words you say, places you in the enemy camp. It just does.”

“In politics you can’t both be for and against. Your act says you are against. And that makes you (plural) fellow travellers of the fanatics. I wish it were not so, but it is, and when Peter Carey asks if it’s even a free speech issue, and calls PEN self-righteous for taking it up, and then attacks the entire nation of France for its arrogance; and when Teju Cole says that Israel is the cause of anti-semitism; then you have some very unfortunate bedfellows indeed. I hope that our long alliance can survive this. But I fear some old friendships will break on this wheel.”

posted by progosk at 11:20 AM on April 30, 2015


"If you are not with us, then you are against us."

It's sad that someone like Rushdie has fallen to that level.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:30 AM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


@SalmanRushdie: "The award will be given. PEN is holding firm. Just 6 pussies. Six Authors in Search of a bit of Character."
posted by Drinky Die at 11:37 AM on April 30, 2015


Nick Cohen: The literary indulgence of murder.
posted by progosk at 11:49 AM on April 30, 2015


Rushdie explained that he was using someone else’s phrase, and apologized for it.
posted by progosk at 11:55 AM on April 30, 2015


NoxAeternum: ""If you are not with us, then you are against us."

It's sad that someone like Rushdie has fallen to that level.
"


He doesn't know what he's talking about. You do.
posted by nicolin at 11:57 AM on April 30, 2015


Honestly curious, Drinky Die, as you are very meticulous in your agnosticism/neutrality on this: on reading the two pieces GE just linked, what is your reaction? That they are simply opinion pieces, to be agreed with, or - with equal validity - just disagreed with?

Would you honestly expect the answer here to be "No, these opinion pieces are not simply opinion pieces, and it is invalid to disagree with them"?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:57 AM on April 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've honestly never encountered such steely resolve, be it technical (Drinky Die) or ideological (NoxAeternum et. al.) so, yes, this really is new territory for me, and I have no preconceived idea what to expect.
posted by progosk at 12:04 PM on April 30, 2015


So wait...you just expected us to roll over and accept your argument, and never once considered that we might possibly view things differently?

How about actually accepting that we actually came to our positions through thought, instead of treating us like ignorant children?
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:09 PM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've honestly never encountered such steely resolve, be it technical (Drinky Die) or ideological (NoxAeternum et. al.) so, yes, this really is new territory for me, and I have no preconceived idea what to expect.

I mean, I like over-the-top ironic humor, I support Charlie Hebdo, and I'm glad that people have been explaining these context-heavy cartoons to an Anglophone audience, but your apparent insistence that reasonable people couldn't possibly disagree on whether a superficially racist style of caricature, in the service of a joke at the expense of racists, is still racist, is way more obnoxious than Drinky Die's agnosticism.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:11 PM on April 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not even agnostic on the topic, just the case of CH since I don't know them. I've gotten practically zero engagement when I try to shift the topic to somewhere I'm more grounded though.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:19 PM on April 30, 2015


It is possible to like Charlie Hebdo, support their right to publish, feel their representation of Muslims had problems, feel they should not have been murdered, and feel the authors who do not support the PEN Award have a right to their opinion and are not somehow siding with extremist murderers simply by expressing their opinion.
posted by maxsparber at 12:20 PM on April 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Salman Rushdie's take on this might be influenced by the fact that he himself was subject to credible death threats and went into hiding because of them.
posted by nangar at 12:45 PM on April 30, 2015


Nick Cohen: The literary indulgence of murder.

Nick "Ten years on, the case for invading Iraq is still valid" Cohen is one to talk about the literary indulgence of murder.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:54 PM on April 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Justin Smith, Harper's: The Joke
In the days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks I stalked Paris as if lost, dazed and despondent not only at the senselessness and irreversibility of murder but also at the great gap that had appeared between me and so many people I consider friends and equals: educated, cultivated, sensitive people, defenders of the oppressed and marginalized. Righteous folk.

I heard from them countless variations on the banality that “violence is always wrong.” How did I know that this judgment, though perfectly true in itself, was only a banality, the expression of a sentiment that had little to do with pacifism? By the clockwork predictability of the “but” that always followed.

But what?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:58 PM on April 30, 2015


Five cartoonists had just been killed by a death squad, and many on the left and the right seemed uncertain about which party had committed the greater offense.

Finally someone has had the courage to suggest that maybe the critics are sympathetic to the murders.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:04 PM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


L'arme jamais by Tété, (static image video, acoustic guitar and voice, 4min 7sec) lyrics inside video description.
posted by phoque at 4:39 PM on April 30, 2015




Stéphane Charbonnier (b.1967 - d.2015): Letter to the Islamophobia Frauds Who Play into the Hands of Racists.
posted by progosk at 2:23 AM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


That piece illustrates the issue, progosk, in that it's the same sort of justification that I routinely see stated by people who seek to offend others "for their own good". He argues that the problem is racism, but then argues that it is impossible for racism to be informed by hatred of a religion, and thus he should not be concerned with the fact that for many people, religion is a key part of their identity in a cultural sense. It's interesting that he blames Sarkozy's push for "national identity" as the source of the increase of racism in France, and then promptly turns to the same well in defense of his own arguments.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:12 AM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


(And it should go without saying that he should not have been killed for what he said. I may disagree with his words and worldview, but I find his (and his compatriots) brutal and cold blooded murder to be chilling and disgusting.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:22 AM on May 1, 2015


Religions that are homophobic, misogynist, support slavery, are offensive.
posted by Mister Bijou at 5:39 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


J.F. at The Economist: Free all speech.
posted by progosk at 3:06 PM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just keep thinking about how differently all this would be perceived if it had been neo-Nazis who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices. Sometimes, and I've seen plenty of examples of it, mockery of the white far-right slips into classism- the "these people are dumb inbred backwoods redneck hicks" kind of thing. This is not a good thing, it betrays the principles that most people doing it ostensibly hold, and it is in all ways better avoided. However, if one flat-out refused to verbally oppose the KKK and their beliefs for fear of being classist, or had a tendency to assume that classism was the underlying motivation behind anti-KKK speech, well, I don't think I need to say why that would be incredibly misguided.

Charlie Hebdo, from what I've gathered, was very specifically aiming their satire at ISIS and al-Qaeda types, not all Muslims. It's quite possible that some of this shaded into stuff which was actually Islamophobic, in kind of the same way that some satires of the white far-right can slide into classism- I don't have the cultural context or knowledge of French which would allow me to make a sufficiently informed judgement on that question. And yet, if the Charlie Hebdo attacks hadn't been carried out by followers of ISIS and al-Qaeda, but by neo-Nazis angry at the paper's hostile depictions of them- well, I cannot begin to imagine a group of writers doing this in response, in that case. Even if there was a case that Charlie Hebdo fell into classism at times in their mockery of the white far-right, to make a public show of denying solidarity with a group of writers murdered by fascists for mocking fascism would seem grotesque, and I can not imagine that the question of whether or not the murdered cartoonists were guilty of classism would become a major topic of debate that dominated discussion of the whole issue. I don't think what's actually happened here is all that different from that scenario.

To be clear, I think Islamophobia is absolutely a bad thing (as is classism). There are currents of ideological thought within the Islamic world, however, which are virulently oppressive, which wield considerable power in certain places (ISIS rules over millions of people- they are not an insignificant organization), which aim to enforce their beliefs through violence wherever they can (including outside of the areas they directly rule), and which are utterly anathema not only to leftist/progressive ideology, but to basic human decency in general. These currents of thought are not representative of all of Islam, of course, which means both that one shouldn't accuse Muslims in general of believing what ISIS does, and that one shouldn't automatically assume that an insult to ISIS and/or their ideology is an insult to all Muslims. ISIS are not in any way less bad than neo-Nazis are, as far as I'm concerned (in some ways, I think they're even worse), and it should not be considered Islamophobic to satirize them and their ideology. If it slides into actual Islamophobia, point that out by all means- yet even if Charlie Hebdo fell into it (which, as we have seen, is a debatable question), it seems from what I know of them that it was more a product of carelessness than conscious agenda. Still a problem if so, yes, yet I can not see that as being more important than the fact that cartoonists were murdered by followers of an ultra-rightist theocratic ideology that seems to be rapidly growing and which has no qualms at all about using violence against those it perceives as opposed to it. I have come to feel that, though I think much of it is motivated by a genuinely noble desire to avoid Islamophobia, some disturbing double standards have taken shape on much of the left with regards to this subject.
posted by a louis wain cat at 6:24 PM on May 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


"It is not merely that an assault on an ideology is different from a threat made to a person; it is that it is the opposite of a threat made to a person. " — Adam Gopnic, The New Yorker
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:41 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just keep thinking about how differently all this would be perceived if it had been neo-Nazis who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices.

I wonder what it would have been like if neo-Nazis had attacked the WTC.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:57 PM on May 1, 2015


Cute.

Neo-Nazis are a frequent target of Charlie Hebdo's ridicule. They are active in Paris and commit acts of violence. They are more likely to corner individuals and beat them with pipes and perhaps firebomb offices than invade with automatic weapons and shoot to kill, but otherwise it is a completely realistic scenario in terms of motive and M.O.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:11 PM on May 1, 2015


White supremacist groups are active terrorists in the US too, McVeigh carried pages from the Turner Diaries with him for the OKC bombing. I don't know why you thought I was joking.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:15 PM on May 1, 2015


Sorry, took it for a bad faith bit of cherry-picking, not a serious question. I shouldn't let myself be on edge like that. You're quite right of course, and that's actually a damn good question, given the way we as a polity and particularly media and government fear to allow "right-wing" and "terrorist" to even occupy the same sentence.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:17 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


NP, weird thread.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:22 PM on May 1, 2015


Just a reminder:

“The Charlie Hebdo artists were executed in cold blood for drawing satirical cartoons, which is an entirely legitimate activity. It is quite right that PEN should honour their sacrifice and condemn their murder. This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well-funded and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.”

Salman Rushdie
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:49 AM on May 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Arrrggg!! Just a reminder:

The writers who are expressing a critique of the PEN recognition of CH are also horrified by the murders there, also understand the chilling effect on all speech that these murders caused, and would also express intense disagreement with Islamic and other religious fundamentalism and fanaticism.

Continuing to post opinion pieces about this is unlikely to swing your audience toward your belief. Because everyone is in agreement about the fundamental horror of what was done to the CH staff. Talk about straw man! My personal belief is that continuing to intentionally inflame a broad audience of Muslims by intentionally creating materials that many of even the most mainstream Muslims would find offensive is a huge disservice to the cause of reducing terrorism.

We all agree on the facts. And we all agree on the horror. We disagree on the best way to combat the growing violence perpetrated by a particular thread of ultra-violent Islamic fundamentalism.
posted by latkes at 9:31 AM on May 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


We all agree on the facts.

With respect, I don't think we do. Many of the PEN dissenters are saying, or tiptoeing wordily around saying, that Charlie Hebdo is guilty of hate speech and so they don't deserve the award. Your characterization of what they did doesn't really fall far short of that. We disagree on CH's meaning and purpose in doing what they did.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:51 AM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


latkes: "Arrrggg!! Just a reminder:

The writers who are expressing a critique of the PEN recognition of CH are also horrified by the murders there, also understand the chilling effect on all speech that these murders caused, and would also express intense disagreement with Islamic and other religious fundamentalism and fanaticism.

Continuing to post opinion pieces about this is unlikely to swing your audience toward your belief. Because everyone is in agreement about the fundamental horror of what was done to the CH staff. Talk about straw man! My personal belief is that continuing to intentionally inflame a broad audience of Muslims by intentionally creating materials that many of even the most mainstream Muslims would find offensive is a huge disservice to the cause of reducing terrorism.

We all agree on the facts. And we all agree on the horror. We disagree on the best way to combat the growing violence perpetrated by a particular thread of ultra-violent Islamic fundamentalism.
"

You say that CH shouldn't have been that offensive towards mainstream muslims. CH used caricature to attract attention and unveil contradictions. They thought that muslims living in France should accept caricature, which belonged to French culture (Cabu said that in an interview). They also thought that treating muslims in a different way was a kind of reverse racism (see the interview linked up thread), implying they couldn't understand irony and caricature. So they thought it through and chose their tone knowingly.
You also say that fundamentalists should have been treated differently than the usual targets of CH, because it wasn't the proper (or best) way to fight them. Don't you think that there were far more catastrophic decisions, from a variety of actors, with long-term and far-reaching consequences than the choices of a small team of journalists ?
CH wasn't fighting muslims, but fundamentalism. It was obvious, but obscured by fundamentalist propaganda. Fundamentalism doesn't only progress in prisons. In France, news report that kids, young ladies are leaving to join the fight in the middle-east, a fight again a giant alliance led by the USA. The propaganda is on the internet, it is in the relentless discourse of agents in suburbs. Soufiane Zitouni, a philosophy teacher has resigned from a muslim private school because he noticed that there were channels of propaganda. A young lady has testified that she was promised to be a nurse for children in Syria but ultimately she missed the appointment that was to take her there and changed her mind. She was not the only one to think about such a move.

So, I think that I doubt that the remaining members of CH care about the award. Luz has recently said that he didn't want to draw more prophet caricatures, because he wasn't interested in him anymore. I can't imagine his fatigue. How to explain once again that you've got the right to draw these caricatures, explain once again that it wasn't meant to hurt mainstream muslims after...

It should be noted that CH staff weren't anthropologists, they weren't paid to make sociology, they weren't paid to dedicate themselves to the fight against fundamentalism. They were writers who used caricature to get their point across, which most of the time was that people in charge were twisted, showing it in pictures.
posted by nicolin at 11:15 AM on May 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The president of SOS Racisme isn't having any more of this. In addition to reading the translation it's worth watching the video even if you don't understand French; his tone and conviction might help drive it home.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:18 PM on May 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


"I wonder what it would have been like if neo-Nazis had attacked the WTC...McVeigh carried pages from the Turner Diaries with him for the OKC bombing. I don't know why you thought I was joking."
posted by Drinky Die

Hmmm. Well since the people who did carry out the WTC attacks had religious writings are you suggesting a pattern, are you suggesting that the Turner Diaries are equalivant to the Koran?
posted by clavdivs at 1:00 PM on May 2, 2015


No, but a lot of Al Qaeda/bin Laden's philosophies are certainly good comparisons.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:02 PM on May 2, 2015


Oh, philosophies are similar. Uh huh.
posted by clavdivs at 9:50 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


@PzFeed: "FBI Investigating Shooting At 'Draw The Prophet' Exhibit."

Could this be the first ISIS attack in the US?
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:15 PM on May 3, 2015


Why were the police wearing camo?
posted by euphorb at 8:03 PM on May 3, 2015


You also say that fundamentalists should have been treated differently than the usual targets of CH,

I did not say the things you claim I say. If you want to argue with me, respond to what I really said. I don't agree with CH. You can repeat your perception of their intent all you like but intent isn't everything in this world, unfortunately.
posted by latkes at 8:07 PM on May 3, 2015


Could this be the first ISIS attack in the US?

Seems more likely to be your garden variety religious assholes to me.
posted by Justinian at 8:44 PM on May 3, 2015


Why were the police wearing camo?

Pam Gellar paid $10,000 to have a SWAT team provide security for the event. Money well spent.
posted by riruro at 8:46 PM on May 3, 2015


@Charles_Lister: "Interesting - this account (@atawaakul) appears to pre-claim the #Texas attack & announce #IS allegiance:"
@atawaakul: "The bro with me and myself have given bay'ah to Amirul Mu'mineen. May Allah accept us as mujahideen.
Make dua

#texasattack"
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:34 PM on May 3, 2015


I'm sorry an officer had to be shot protecting the hate group dumbasses from the violent dumbasses. Thanks for the sacrifice.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:24 PM on May 3, 2015


My personal belief is that continuing to intentionally inflame a broad audience of Muslims by intentionally creating materials that many of even the most mainstream Muslims would find offensive is a huge disservice to the cause of reducing terrorism.


This would have been treating a group in a different way than the usual CH way.
posted by nicolin at 11:19 PM on May 3, 2015


I don't think CH should make a special exception for terrorists.

I believe their usual humor, in the way that it includes intentionally offending a massive segment of the human family who have already been subject to decades of a terror campaign by the US and it's allies (Iraq war, Afghanistan war, Guantanamo, almost random drone strikes, etc), is a problem.

If their "usual way" is pissing off a massive number of people who have nothing to do with terrorism (but are associated in the minds of outsiders) and are already marginalized in French society and in the world, there is a problem with the "usual way".

Folks in this thread seem very intent that we all understand the subtlties of French culture, and if only we did we would understand (and agree?) with the CH editorial policy, yet show little interest in understanding Muslim values, even though there are many, many more Muslims (and Muslim cultural groups, etc) than there are French people.
posted by latkes at 6:17 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nobody wants you to change your opinion. Some French people are on the same page as you are (Emmanuel Todd, for instance). That's perfectly fair, and no one has to embrace the I am Charlie motto without thinking twice.

Nevertheless, since it's a recurring idea that the caricatures were racists, that CH staff were bullies who didn't care if they offended the muslim community, I think it's informative to hear from Charb himself on the subject, to hear from people (not necessarily French) who live or lived in France, knew the staff and their work as readers or because they had work connections (the interview of the president of SOS Racisme is interesting). Maybe it's interesting to consider that the muslim community itself, even at its most mainstream, isn't made of one piece, and that many muslims supported CH (Soufiane Zitouni, for instance).

You don't have to change anything and if you think that their way of communicating wasn't appropriate, it's perfectly OK. So do I, to some extent. But : we're in France and we don't have to comply with the laws Isis want us to follow. There are French courts, and muslims are entitled to ask that any content they find offensive be prosecuted.

I didn't support the idea of nous sommes tous Charlie whole-heartedly. But I think that they were trapped by fundamentalist communication, that they were framed, and I can't accept the idea that they were the cause of their murder, since to me, they were only victims, scapegoats. The kids, the soldiers killed by Mohammed Merah a few years ago had nothing to do with Islam.

One of the first target of Cabu's caricatures was the Beauf, and I can tell you that I know many "français de souche" who have got some level of resemblance with the caricature (myself, of course, or as Cabu said, even himself sometimes). Muslims weren't at the top of their targets list, this has been said over and over.
posted by nicolin at 7:31 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


What's so crazy making about this conversation (and I know it's not just one conversation, but multiple overlapping conversations, but there are themes that seem common) is that you and others keep saying things like, " I can't accept the idea that they were the cause of their murder", as if someone disagrees with that.

Everyone is in agreement on that point and no one thinks Charlie Hebdo staff are to blame for their own murders. The only point of divergence is that some people do not wish to confer special honor on CH, because we disagree with the message of their editorial content.

I doubt anyone in this thread would want to attend a dinner in honor of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, even if their members had been killed in the recent events in Texas. Why? Because we all think the American Freedom Defense Initiative is a bunch of racist assholes. CH is no AFDI, but it is also problematic, and folks who don't want PEN to honor them are coming from the place of disagreeing with CH's editorial policies, not from the place of blaming them for the violence they were subject to.
posted by latkes at 7:50 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The only point of divergence is that some people do not wish to confer special honor on CH, because we disagree with the message of their editorial content.

And that's fine. But your opinion about their editorial content is not the only possible opinion: it is not only disputable, it is vigorously disputed by people whose lived experience encompasses that content and the focus of that content every single day. When you make claims about what "the message of their editorial content", is, as you repeatedly and insistently do, you have no reason to expect those claims to go unchallenged by those who consider them to be offensive, unsupported, and to give comfort to the real targets of CH's work.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:59 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree it is not the only possible opinion. However, the claims that if only I understood French culture, I would surely be on board with CH's editorial policies, is also wrong. There are French people who disagree with Charlie Hebdo, and a bunch of really smart writers who know all about satire, history, etc, also disagree with Charlie Hebdo, and many, many mainstream and even secular Muslims are also offended by Charlie Hebdo.

So likewise, your perspective is not the only right perspective. And suggesting that those who diverge from your opinion just don't understand really chafes. Finally, the idea that my critiques of CH "give comfort" to the targets of CH is deeply problematic. I don't ever agree with "if you're not for us, you're against us". The scale of the violence doesn't make that kind of point of view automatically true.
posted by latkes at 8:09 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know for a fact that Al Qaeda and the Front National (to name two astonishing bedfellows in this) are delighted by the disparagement and misrepresentation of CH by the PEN dissenters and those who echo them, because I wouldn't read their blogs even if I knew where they were. But it's certanly hard to imagine why they would not be.

Of course "for us or against us" is reductio ad absurdum , and I have not said it: if you're so concerned that others not put words in your mouth, try not doing it yourself. But since you bring it up, if in a matter regarding free expression, fatwa and fanatical, globally hegemonic ideological murderers, I found myself on the opposite side from, say, Salman Rushdie, and a host of anti-racist activists in the country in question , I would at least want to be very sure that I knew what I was talking about before I opened my mouth.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:19 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Salman Rushdie is a tremendous douche. The fatwa against him was chilling to writers as a group, and horrifying for him as an individual. But I will never agree with everything Salman Rushdie says because he has said many tremendously idiotic things. I say that as someone who enjoys his fiction.

I'm not sure why I shouldn't "open my mouth" to disagree with Salman Rushdie, but it's OK to disagree with the dozens of other well educated, thoughtful writers and proponents of free speech who disagree with him.
posted by latkes at 8:26 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Where have I said it's not okay for you to disagree? I said in your position I would want to be sure I knew what I was talking about, not that it was forbidden or that it should be actively prevented. When someone disagrees they are not denying you some right . But if you feel that to be the case, let me turn it around: why is it not okay for me to disagree with you? See absurd that is? Not allowing your claims to stand unchallenged is not denying you your civil and human rights. Any time you set out your claims about Charle Hebdo and what their message is, there is every chance -- and it is certainly to be hoped -- someone will challenge it.

Having it both ways is something you've repeatedly attempted. "Charlie Hebdo is not the AFDI, golly, I don't even know why I brought it up.... oh yes, because they're 'problematic'." In other words, what they both do, per you, is 'problematic' in a way that covers them both. Using a weasel word to cover the conflation doesn't let you successfully pretend you're not really conflating them.

You're welcome to your charming opinion of Rushdie as well, it has no bearing on his understanding of this situation as compared to, say, yours or mine. As it it happens, and despite agreeing with all her core message as well as being atheistic myself, I have a lot of issues and concerns about Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And of course her outspoken writings and opinions about Islam are certainly not less "offensive to millions of Muslims" and it's nearly all she does, utterly unlike Charlie Hebdo (pace the usually respectable Glenn Greenwald's bullshit). But if she were gunned down alongside eight innocent bystanders, I would not be saying "she should have known that she was being offensive". I doubt you would either.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:02 AM on May 4, 2015


Having it both ways is something you've repeatedly attempted. "Charlie Hebdo is not the AFDI, golly, I don't even know why I brought it up.... oh yes, because they're 'problematic'." In other words, what they both do, per you, is 'problematic' in a way that covers them both. Using a weasel word to cover the conflation doesn't let you successfully pretend you're not really conflating them.

It definitely doesn't help that anti-Muslim hate groups have been deliberately using cartoons to provoke Muslims. Without that background, CH probably would not have earned such notice for their cartoons. In that atmosphere, it can be harder to appreciate that naked Muhammed with a star on his ass ass or naked on a bed being filmed from behind as not the same sort of content.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:41 AM on May 4, 2015


It definitely doesn't help that anti-Muslim hate groups have been deliberately using cartoons to provoke Muslims.

Yeah. To me it's like the difference between Theo van Gogh and Terry Jones (no, this one). Very, very different purposes and meanings, but when represented (and misrepresented) with sufficient dishonesty and superficiality, both of use to and exploitable by Al Qaeda.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:54 AM on May 4, 2015


Yeah, if without context you presented someone with the winner of Geller's contest or the naked Muhammed caricatures and were asked which one was produced by an anti-Muslim hate group and which by a respected satirist a lot of people would probably pick the CH content as the hate group.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:55 AM on May 4, 2015


I'm not arrogant enough to imagine or pretend I can speak for, or with authority of, any part of French society, either dominant or marginalized. But If I were to guess I'd say that Charlie Hebdo were right in their belief that France, in whole or in part, is strong and civilized enough to withstand their kind of speech. It's not that I think no-one was offended, but it wasn't the offended of France who killed them. It was a bunch of hegemonic theocratic shitbags who were only to glad to exploit the pretext. And if pressed for an opinion about them (try to stop me), I wouldn't say that bunch was ever offended in the slightest. I'd say they were thrilled. And perhaps if Charlie Hebdo is to be dinged for anything, it would be for that. Not for offending Islam but for serving the purposes of shitbags. And if their martyrdom is to serve any good purpose at all, it would be to counter that. And the PEN dissenters -- who are of course entitled to their opinion -- aren't helping with that one bit.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:46 AM on May 4, 2015


the winner of Geller's contest

Wow, that's so bad/amateurish it's not even funny.
posted by progosk at 11:15 AM on May 4, 2015


"Yeah, if without context you presented someone with the winner of Geller's contest or the naked Muhammed caricatures and were asked which one was produced by an anti-Muslim hate group and which by a respected sa"

This is disingenuous. A few comments up, you saw little difference between the Koran and the Turner diaries as motivation for violence, now you make a distinct comparison of two pieces of art?
posted by clavdivs at 6:13 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]








Thanks, tmotat - that article neatly/poignantly addresses many points that keep cropping up here, too.
posted by progosk at 11:12 PM on May 5, 2015




GE: in these times of cultural short-circuiting, wouldn't it be great to get Bertrand Cazeneuve (France's Interior Minister) to have a sobering conversation with Matt Olsen (former director of the National Counterterrorism Center)?
posted by progosk at 4:40 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Punch Me Up, Punch Me Down - "Satirists and cartoonists working in the Middle East weigh in on PEN, Charlie Hebdo, and the meaning of free expression."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:51 AM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Great link, tmotat.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:11 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Its misleading subtitle (the article features an overabundance of opinion which isn't from "satirists and cartoonists working in the Middle East" at all), the omission of Dilem, and its rather opaque portrayal of Karl Sharro's thoughts (which are laid out more fully in Sharro's own article that tmotat linked above), do give some pause about cherry-picking, though.
posted by progosk at 8:29 AM on May 6, 2015


Albaih saw that cover as a missed opportunity. “They could’ve done something that brought everybody together,” Albaih told me. “There are a million ideas of what they could’ve done. They could’ve gotten a Muslim cartoonist to do something, they could have done something about we are all the same, they could’ve done something about the unification of France, the republic—a million things—but instead they kept doing it again.
Let me get this straight. He's saying what the surviving Charlie Hebdo could and should have done in the immediate aftermath to the slaughter of their colleagues. Like that's up to him.

And then he concludes with more open, undisguised and unnuanced victim-blaming: saying in so many words "even murdering half of them didn't stop the other half from doing the thing that got them murdered." Holy living fuck, I don't think I've seen it quite that naked before. Words fail, and that's not a figure of speech. They literally fail.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:06 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


(I'd linked Time's 2013 profile of Dilem in the Trudeau thread.)
posted by progosk at 10:06 AM on May 6, 2015


"Punch Me Up, Punch Me Down" is largely a reiteration of similar things the "but"-heads (i.e. "of course they should not have been killed, but...") have been saying since january. And it's cute the way he cherrypicks wingers David Frum and Ross Douthat to represent disputation of Trudeau.

And this sort of painfully stretched interpretation just cracks me up:
Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of Muslims with big noses and scraggly beards.

FFS. Charb drew practically everyone with big noses. Hell, the Gauls in Asterix are all drawn with the same nose he used almost all the time. And personally I didn't even know that Muslims had big noses: does that include African, South Asian and Indonesian Muslims? Muslims in France, from whom you would derive such visual cues if you wanted to stereotype them for French readers, are overwhelmingly from North Africa. Their noses are not large compared to some imaginary European mean and certainly not larger than the stereotyped Frenchman's.

As for scraggly beards, the Taliban cites scriptural authority for an untrimmed beard, and brutally enforces it. Algerian cartoonist Dilem draws terrorists with scraggly beards and flies buzzing around them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:23 AM on May 6, 2015


And personally I didn't even know that Muslims had big noses: does that include African, South Asian and Indonesian Muslims?

I have a rather small nose for a Jew, no beard, do not wear a hasidic outfit, and do not greedily clutch at bags of diamonds, but if that image appeared, I sure as hell would know it was a Jew being represented.

There are issues with their representations of Muslims. They might have meant well, and free speech hooray, but, Jesus Christ, the way they showed Muslims is consistent with historically Islamophobic representations, and if it was their house style, and they really did sympathize with Muslims, they would have been doing everyone a favor by reconsidering their house style in this instance.
posted by maxsparber at 11:36 AM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


What about the way Dilem drew Africans in the recent Titanic cover? Good God that is ugly. If CH has a mission to combat racism they certainly seem to be failing at it in a big way. I know, I know: "they only draw people that way to mock racism."

KEITH GESSEN: On PEN and Charlie Hebdo - Why I signed the letter protesting the PEN Annual Gala
And yet I keep thinking of the piece we published on Charlie Hebdo back in January by Thomas Chatterton Williams, a young black writer from New Jersey who’s been living in Paris since 2009. Williams compared his own experience in Paris to that of James Baldwin in the 1950s, and found that not too much had changed. There were still, he writes, reminders of France’s colonial past everywhere one looked, and French people, it seemed, did not always want to look. “To my mind,” Williams went on,
in addition to the French tradition of anti-authoritarian satiric wit, this is also very much a part of the context of our current crisis, whether we want to talk about it now or not: France has a violent, racist, and unexorcised past. There is no self-respecting way for me to identify with these objects that I sometimes see, just as there is no self-respecting way for me to hear the still-in-use French word for ghostwriter—nègre (literally an unacknowledged, unpaid laborer: a nigger)—without flinching; and there is no self-respecting way for me to gaze on that hideous Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting France’s first black Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, as a monkey.
A couple of months ago I heard an interview on NPR with an African-American woman

It may have been this interview with Janet McDonald, author of Project Girl. She is an amazing woman and the interview is a fascinating perspective on the differences between American and French racism.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:52 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


[...] and there is no self-respecting way for me to gaze on that hideous Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting France’s first black Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, as a monkey.
Absolutely. It is disgusting, vile and contemptible. It is meant to be. It is meant to sicken any decent person.

It is so because it is a translation of what the Front National did, and to make that absolutely clear they put the Front National logo right into the image, as well as the very word Racism. It says clear as day, "Front National, stripped of the cutesyness, this is what you did, and it is what you meant by it." And Mme Taubira has made it pretty damn clear that she herself understood that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:06 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


And so did Thomas Chatterton Williams.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:17 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes. His essay is worth reading, not disregarding.
posted by maxsparber at 12:22 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


How can you say I disregarded it when I agreed with him? I said in. So. Many. Words. How disgusting and hard to look at it it was.

But what you are disregarding is why it is that way and the fact that its very subject appears to have understood it. Do you have an explanation that means "Charlie Hebdo are racists" for why they included the Front National logo and the word "racism" in the very image itself from which it could not be readily separated without obvious manipulation?
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:28 PM on May 6, 2015


How can you say I disregarded it when I agreed with him? I said in. So. Many. Words. How disgusting and hard to look at it it was.

You agree with the smaller point -- that it was a disgusting image -- and ignored the larger point -- that France had a weird, unaddressed history of racist iconography that they seem to be less knowing and thoughtful about and more oblivious and unpleasant about.
posted by maxsparber at 12:35 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do you have an explanation that means "Charlie Hebdo are racists" for why they included the Front National logo and the word "racism" in the very image itself from which it could not be readily separated without obvious manipulation?

Oh, in answer to that question: I didn't say they were racists. But they are using racist imagery, and we run into the same problem here we do with many rape jokes. I don't think comedians who tell rape jokes are rapists, but I think a lot of them don't have proper respect for how much pain those jokes can cause, and don't have the proper concern for the effect they have on the audience.
posted by maxsparber at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, I did not address another part of the article. There are a lot of pieces of content directly and indirectly referenced in whole or in part in this thread that I have not addressed. What I have addressed are the points made to me.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:38 PM on May 6, 2015


Well, as I said, the rest of the article is worth addressing.
posted by maxsparber at 12:40 PM on May 6, 2015


Understood. But I hope and expect that by now that Mr Williams is aware of the original that Charlie Hebdo's "translation" was meant to expose, and for all that it is intrinsically horrible, at least is aware that it is sickening because it is supposed to be. I am genuinely sorry for the way it made him, and some others in his position, feel. I am not sure if I'm the one to say whether they should or shouldn't have done it that way. But they did, and by their thinking they struck hard, and I can see why, and so can an awful lot of others in at least as strong a position to be offfended as Mr. Williams was.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:44 PM on May 6, 2015


And I would make the case that it represents an obliviousness that comes with privilege, and something that it is worth being sensitive to. If you really forcefully want to make a case about how hurtful racism is, if you have created an image that hurts the same people hurt by racism, your satire has overspilled its goal and contributed to the very pain you find so contemptible. And is that likely to happen with racist images, even when they are being radically reinterpreted?

Yes, it is likely to happen. So likely it seems inevitable.
posted by maxsparber at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your larger point is understood and has been well made by you and others. I would dissent on one point -- it seems impossible, in the sense of internally contradictory, that their choice involves obliviousness to hurt, because it is a condemnation of hurt, rendered in a maximally hurtful form that is the very core of its message.

It is a brutal way to make a point, and I confess that I am a little alienated by their choice to do it when they must have known that with or without context attached it is ugly in every sense. If it twists MY guts to look at it (white anglo-irish looking guy) I can only begin to imagine what it must do to some others who only too readily spring to mind. I do question their decision, even more because it is clear to me that they absolutely are not lacking in empathy. The editorial decision to make it difficult to separate from its meaning and context by those who might wish to makes it clear how well they understood what kind of life it might take on after publication.

I would not have done it. But we have to answer those who use it to suggest something very, very untrue. I do recognize that that's not what you're saying.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:57 PM on May 6, 2015


What about the way Dilem drew Africans in the recent Titanic cover? Good God that is ugly.

That cover is not by Dilem, it's by Luz.

Sorry if it seems a minor point, but there's so much being flung about here, I find that clarity in details helps clarity of thought.
posted by progosk at 1:35 PM on May 6, 2015


It's a conflation of two cartoons, actually. While I'm sure Dilem's heart was in the right place, that's indeed a ... problematic ... depiction.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:46 PM on May 6, 2015


Interesting, that. The same slip was amply annotated in the other thread - and here we are repeating ourselves?

Beyond that (and as before, elsewhere): I would posit that the actual problematic is how the concept of "offense" is being leveraged today beyond all other criteria. It's a dynamic that now seems employed for its own sake, given the power it has shown to bestow on those leveraging it. A virtual weaponizing of offense. With the age-old aim to divide, and to disempower the individual of her/his universal rights.

Sad times...
posted by progosk at 2:19 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


People on my side are offended by my cartoons, which I deliberately drew in the style of our mutual enemies. Huh????
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:38 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry about that, for some reason I had the impression from the last thread that Dilem had done both cartoons. That demonstrates my won obliviousness pretty well, I guess. I was referring to Luz's in this case. Both depictions hit me in a bad way. But I'm not going to pretend that I can get completely into the author's head and know what s/he is truly doing. I was quite fond of Luz in an interview he did just after the attacks where he described how he felt about his Muhammad character. I'm sure it is possible he and Dilem do not see these particular images as offensive at all, particularly as they both draw many characters of different races in a similar ways. It seems possible to me that they are somewhat oblivious to the reality of racism and French colonialism and are not able to empathize very well with how sensitive some people are to certain images they draw. Anyway, I think a work of art should also be judged on its own, apart from what the original artist claims about his intent, and I don't think it is the case that different people will or should see a work in the same way. It seems to me a lot of artistic creativity is subconscious, and to me MetaFilter's "debunkings" often fail to realize this. Wasn't there at least one case where MetaFilter's accepted explanation of a cartoon was at odds with CH's own explanation of it? And any explanation is probably going to come after the creative process, anyway (and probably from completely independent brain processes for that matter). Interestingly, CH's own twitter account sent out this tweet immediately after receiving negative feedback from the Muslim community about their Boko Haram sex slave "Allocs" cartoon. It seems to be at odds with the idea that they only used an ugly caricature of Muslim women to mock racism and anti-immigration, if I understand it right:
Quand on dessine en une les lycéennes enlevées par Boko Haram, certains nous reprochent de les faire voilées. Mais qui les a voilées?
— Charlie Hebdo (@Charlie_Hebdo_) 22 Octobre 2014
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:17 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


PEN Honors Charlie Hebdo Amid Protest from Dozens of Writers
The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has been awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award at the PEN American Center gala in New York City. The newspaper was honored months after the massacre at the paper’s offices in Paris, which the gunmen called revenge for cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo editor Gérard Biard accepted the award to a standing ovation.
Gérard Biard: "I perfectly understand that a believer can be shocked by a satirical cartoon about Muhammad, Jesus, Moses or even the pope. But growing up to be a citizen is to learn that some ideas, some words, some images can be shocking. Being shocked is a part of democratic debate. Being shot is not."
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:22 PM on May 6, 2015


CH's own twitter account sent out this tweet

GE: that meltybuzz.fr item is the kind of slapdash net-skimming non-journalism that a sane world could really do without: it claims first a "majorité", then only "some" internet outrage, then goes on to show three tweets from readers, plus one from someone apparently writing in CH's name - when Charlie Hebdo doesn't even have an official Twitter account.
posted by progosk at 10:00 PM on May 6, 2015


progosk, I am quite sure that was their official twitter account. The tweet still existed when I first read the meltibuzz article after the shooting and the account looked fully legitimate, but it has since been removed.

Here is another article making reference to that twitter account as CH's account: What Is Charlie Hebdo? The Cartoons that Made the French Paper Infamous

There was another article critical of the "allocs" cartoon, just after it was published, in a French Muslim lifestyle magazine, I believe. I'm not sure if I'll be able to find it now, but if I have time later I'll look.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:11 PM on May 6, 2015


Here's another article referencing it: Charlie Hebdo's mysterious last tweet before attack
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:20 PM on May 6, 2015


OK, that looks legit enough, then (though meltybuzz is still making up that there's a "polemic" - and getting zero comments for its trouble...).
posted by progosk at 10:39 PM on May 6, 2015


No doubt there were people offended by the cartoon, that's par for the CH course, as we've established.

As to what their tweet is getting at: I think it translates as "some people are reproaching us for drawing the schoolgirls with (head)veils - but who was it that veiled them in the first place?"

So - in a typical satirists move - it's turning the tables on the accusation, calling for more than a face-value reading. Some of the exact hermeneutics escape me here; what was your reading of it?
posted by progosk at 11:13 PM on May 6, 2015


The same. I thought the tweet was pointing the finger at whatever Islamic custom would force women and girls to wear a burqa. This was not mentioned in any of the debunkings I read, though, which leads me to believe there is no straightforward "debunking" or interpretation of the cartoon as has been done so often after the shooting.

Well, maybe it isn't too surprising that there aren't a lot of comments in the article. CH was a failing magazine before the attacks. Part of the reason they decided to publish the Danish prophet cartoons was to get more publicity. It was probably a niche audience at that point in time. And it probably wasn't offensive to very many people, anyway.

I think this is the other article I may have been thinking of: « TOUCHEZ PAS A NOS ALLOCS », la nouvelle Une Islamophobe de Charlie Hebdo

They seem to miss some of the satire, and I don't blame them too much on this one. There is no reference to national front or right-wingers anywhere in the cartoon. The welfare cut being proposed was for higher income families, and wouldn't affect low income immigrants anyway. Also, what about the Michael Jackson cartoon, or the naked girl with the Burqa stuffed up her behind? Whatever. I need to go back and find the previous MetaFilter debunkings for these.

I do think it is a good cartoon though: it brings attention to a few different social issues in a shocking way, even if offensive. CH isn't coming from a deeply racist place, that is obvious to me.

Here's another article that also emphasizes the idea that CH may have decided to run more controversial immigration and Islam based cartoons to raise revenue.

La dernière caricature islamophobe de Charlie Hebdo a fait un flop

Well, immigration and multiculturalism are huge issues in Europe, and should be covered. I'm not sure CH is doing it in a productive way. Maybe they are, but not if the communities they are attempting to help are responding in an overwhelmingly negative way to what they are doing, I would think.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:27 PM on May 6, 2015


the communities they are attempting to help

From what I've gathered, they'd both decline their general anointing with a specific social or political mission - as a collective of satirists, their only acknowledged common aim is mockery against stupidity - and also shy away from any reasoning in terms of communities - the very notion of communautarisme is surely high on their anathema list.
posted by progosk at 12:28 AM on May 7, 2015


By the way: the Oumma article, via its link to a Metronews piece, actually adds another important layer of exegesis to the cartoon: in early October 2014, a photo of a group of burqa-wearing women supposedly in line at the Allocs office was circulating among French twitter users - only to be called out a couple of days later as a fake, someone having photoshopped the CAF sign into a photo taken in London.
The CH cover appeared end of October - and thus very likely a direct response to an instance of islamophobe social media trolling.
The Oumma author's take is pretty gratuitous, and obviously in bad faith: that either CH was being as islamophobic as the fake photo - or that they were just trying to cash on on the polemic.
posted by progosk at 4:40 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also: meltybuzz published 22 Oct, 0 comments; Halalbook, published 1 day later, 2 comments; NegroNews published 2 days later (citing meltybuzz), 1 relink, 1 comment.

Wannabe-storm... in a teacup.
posted by progosk at 4:50 AM on May 7, 2015


Maybe it's worth repeating that the drawings always refer to the news, to what happened in a week span. Charlie, Le Canard Enchaïné are the "wednesday satirical newspapers" and they deal with what just happened. It's pointless to discuss the drawings out of context, since that's precisely what occured in the previous days which is hinted at.
posted by nicolin at 6:19 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Beyond that (and as before, elsewhere): I would posit that the actual problematic is how the concept of "offense" is being leveraged today beyond all other criteria. It's a dynamic that now seems employed for its own sake, given the power it has shown to bestow on those leveraging it. A virtual weaponizing of offense. With the age-old aim to divide, and to disempower the individual of her/his universal rights.

Ah, the classic argument - "you don't have the right to not be offended, but neither do you have the right to show any offense you have."
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:05 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


To each sea, its lion.
posted by progosk at 11:21 AM on May 7, 2015


Well, I'm tired of tone-argument shitfights between the left; where on the one hand people of courage are taking the fight to the real enemy, and their reward is to be sucker-punched from behind for their trouble. I picture the ultra-right laughing their asses off at this, and who could blame them? It must be wonderful to see those who have been making you ridiculous taken down by the very people they've been trying to protect from you. Beautifully ironic.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:14 PM on May 7, 2015


Ah, the classic argument - "you don't have the right to not be offended, but neither do you have the right to show any offense you have."

Not nearly so classic as that one. "If you argue with me you are taking away my rights." I haven't seen that rolled out so many times in rapid succession since Eternal September in the early 90s, where every year a thousand new arrivals on Usenet had to have it explained to them that the First Amendment didn't protect them from being disagreed with.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:17 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm tired of tone-argument shitfights between the left; where on the one hand people of courage are taking the fight to the real enemy, and their reward is to be sucker-punched from behind for their trouble.

"We're all in this together guys!"

*draws their sacred figure naked and in position to receive anal penetration multiple times.*

"Guys? What...was it my tone?"
posted by Drinky Die at 12:20 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


And yeah, ultra right Pam Geller is indeed laughing her ass off right now.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:25 PM on May 7, 2015


[One comment deleted. Please don't make it personal, and if you feel super annoyed with each other, it's fine to take a break from the thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:35 PM on May 7, 2015


"how dare you oversensitive liberals be provoked by this, an intentionally provocative style of cartooning" - my side of this argument
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:36 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let me restate, as obviously I failed to communicate my message: Lefties have to be able to criticize each other without it being interpreted as somehow sabotaging other lefties. That's not a sucker punch; it's communication.
posted by maxsparber at 12:41 PM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


NoxAeternum:

Ah, the classic argument - "you don't have the right to not be offended, but neither do you have the right to show any offense you have.""


Nox, could you please stop starting your comments with a condescending "ah, the classic....". like in

Ah, "you just don't get it." Always a classic.
or
Ah, that good old "suffering is good for the soul" routine
or
Ah, the classic cry of the privileged


I gather that you know already each and every way one could feel about those issues, and that it's a bit tiresome for you, but to discredit opinions in this way can get rather tiresome too.
posted by nicolin at 1:15 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Charlie Hebdo and a Rubicon Moment for Free Speech, Amanda Foreman in the WSJ.

"While denouncing the PEN boycott, Mr. Bernard-Henri Lévy referred to the “deplorable Congress of Dubrovnik of 1933, at which the predecessors of Peter Carey refused to take a position against the book-burnings in Germany.” The Dubrovnik conference, in what was then Yugoslavia, took place on May 10, 82 years ago.

The PEN president at the time, H.G. Wells, tried to maintain neutrality between those who wanted to speak out against Nazism and those who argued that politics had no place in a literary organization. His aim was defeated by the sole American delegate, Henry Seidel Canby, who forced through a resolution crafted by PEN America that restated PEN’s core mission as an advocacy organization.

Because of Canby’s courageous stand, the exiled German playwright Ernst Toller was able to make his own speech the following day—an impassioned plea on behalf of writers suffering Nazi persecution. The German delegation and others walked out."
posted by progosk at 3:10 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


And here's a neat example of the offense-creep I was referring to earlier.
posted by progosk at 3:16 PM on May 7, 2015




Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech, And The Freedom To Disagree, Julie Wittes Schlack for WBUR.
posted by progosk at 3:52 AM on May 8, 2015


Je Suis Charlie - But I’m Not Pamela Geller, Art Spiegelman in TIME.
posted by progosk at 3:55 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


An op-ed in the latest edition Charlie Hebdo by Philippe Lançon on the PEN America boycott. (in French)
posted by nangar at 6:24 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


It would be nice if Spiegelman would assume good faith and treat the people opposed to the award as educated individuals who came to their stance through actual thought and deliberation, instead of falling back on "they just don't get it" as an argument. But again, we've seen that same issue throughout this thread as well.

The one thing that I keep coming back to is that there is one simple way that the criticism that was leveled could have been disarmed - to make the argument that whether or not they were racist was besides the point of the award. The fact that not only has that argument been studiously avoided, but that so much ink has been devoted to explaining why there is no way that they could have ever been racist in fact confirms one of the key points of the critics - that there is, in fact, more to the award than just exemplifying bravery in the name of free speech. And the ink that has been spilled illustrates how difficult it is for people to grasp that racism and other forms of bigotry have never been solely the provence of the right side of the spectrum. They take different forms, mind you - but even the left has its own demons.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


there is one simple way that the criticism that was leveled could have been disarmed - to make the argument that whether or not they were racist was besides the point of the award.

The criticism that was levelled by the PEN-dissenters was that the CH content was offensive, and therefore they were not deserving of an award. You have repeatedly boiled that offensiveness down to the racism that you perceive in their work.

So basically Charb (gunned down while he and staffers were planning a conference on antiracism) as well as the director of SOS Racisme, Dominique "CH, the most anti-racist weekly in the entire country" Sopo, are mistaken about racism. They just don't get it.

So that's where we'll have to leave it: I guess they don't, certainly not the way that you do.


how difficult it is for people to grasp that racism and other forms of bigotry have never been solely the provence of the right side of the spectrum. They take different forms, mind you - but even the left has its own demons.

Wait - so you're not even talking about CH anymore at all, then? Your axe is a meta-grind, about right and left?

Perfect choice for a play-out! Have a nice weekend.
posted by progosk at 10:15 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


It would be nice if Spiegelman would assume good faith and treat the people opposed to the award as educated individuals who came to their stance through actual thought and deliberation, instead of falling back on "they just don't get it" as an argument.

You keep the saying the same thing, but let's flip it around: on what basis do you, for your part, assert that Mr. Spiegelman hasn't thought about it and is '"Falling back on" they just don't get it. You are doing precisely what you accuse him of doing. In fact he just says they're wrong. There is no evidence whatsoever he hasn't thought about it or that he thinks they have not thought about it. Just for a start, perhaps we might suppose that he has, as some of us here have, actually read the protest letter, which reads in part:
To the section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized, a population that is shaped by the legacy of France's various colonial enterprises, and that contains a large percentage of devout Muslims, Charlie Hebdo's cartoons of the Prophet must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering."
[Emphasis mine]

What CH intended is not unknowable, nor entirely within the realm of opinion. They are willing to say, they have said and unless you think they are liars, then they do not intend to cause humiliation and suffering to ordinary persons.

In any event, that position as a matter of fact or falsity is not what I'm disputing here -- we can argue that all day and have done for days. (And doubtless someone here will ignore what I'm actually saying, quote that and dispute it just to keep that going.).

My point here is that your claims that others haven't thought about it is indistinguishable from your complaint about others claiming that the other side hasn't thought about it. But for my own part and purely as a matter of guesswork, I find it difficult to suppose that you know anything about Art Spiegelman for one, if you think he hasn't even considered their actual positions. His entire life's work weighs against any likelihood of that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:25 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


The criticism that was levelled by the PEN-dissenters was that the CH content was offensive, and therefore they were not deserving of an award. You have repeatedly boiled that offensiveness down to the racism that you perceive in their work.

So basically Charb (gunned down while he and staffers were planning a conference on antiracism) as well as the director of SOS Racisme, Dominique "CH, the most anti-racist weekly in the entire country" Sopo, are mistaken about racism. They just don't get it.

So that's where we'll have to leave it: I guess they don't, certainly not the way that you do.


Well, I'd say that they aren't willing to confront the deeper cultural issues involved. From a lot of what I have read about French culture and society, including items that you have posted yourself, it's built on a fundamental structure of erasure - there is only one way to Be French, and either you conform to that idea or you are an outsider. And this is not just something that strikes North African immigrants - this piece discusses how the idea that there is only one way to Be French works to create a divide between French and Jewish identity. And to be fair, it's not like the same sorts of arguments aren't made elsewhere - read up on "respectability politics" in the US if you want to see how that sort of argument plays out on this side of the pond.

The difference, at least for me, is that in the US, there is a willingness to consider that "respectability politics" is racist. In comparison, it appears that in France, an unwillingness to conform to the cultural mold (especially in cases of religion) is seen as a personal failing of the nonconforming individual, not as a societal failing of lack of acceptance.

In short, the position of "hey, it doesn't matter what color you are as long as you come out of the same mold" is still a problematic one.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:16 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know why


France is this, France is that, France is built on something simple, that can be dealt with in a couple of sentences, and Charlie Hebdo can be treated like a very simple object, even if it was a newspaper with a long story, made by different people (Siné, Gébé, le professeur Choron, Cavanna, Cabu, Val, Luz, Charb...) who didn't agree with each other, because it all boils down to one thing : racism, which runs deep in the French collective mind. How dare you say that we haven't thought it through ?


should be objected to.
posted by nicolin at 11:46 AM on May 8, 2015




Religion is Fair Game in Norway After Blasphemy Law Repealed, Sputnik News.

"After the infamous Charlie Hebdo massacre in France, Conservative MP Anders B. Werp and Progress Party MP Jan Arild Ellingsen proposed to scrap the law, claiming that it "underpins a perception that religious expressions and symbols are entitled to a special protection" and insisting that "it is time to stands up for freedom of speech, even in religious matters."
posted by progosk at 6:28 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The week that cable news failed free expression, Erik Wemple in the WP.

"This strain of thought speaks to the power of precedent. In January, terrorists carried out a massacre of the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, a publication that had compiled a record of depicting Muhammad in satirical ways. The attack, per force, elevated the newsworthiness of those cartoons: There was no way to fully understand the alleged motivations of the attackers without sampling the drawings that had placed a target on the magazine.

Yet the American media folded into a crouch of cowardice and rationalization. The Associated Press’s statement said it would “refrain from moving deliberately provocative images.” The major networks stayed away from the pictures, and the cable networks followed suit, for the most part, with Fox News showing glimpses here and there. CNN said it was withholding the images as a measure to protect its personnel in overseas hotspots. (In the immediate aftermath of the attack, The Washington Post’s news side didn’t traffic in the images, though the editorial side published one on its op-ed page.)

At the time, those decisions appeared isolated to the news event at hand. They now loom as something far more significant. A judgment has emerged that preaches compliance with the notion that this particular form of expression means you’re asking for it. That viewpoint has trickled down from the bosses of these news organizations into the coverage, as Geller has discovered. Once the media draws a line, it’s tough to undraw."
posted by progosk at 6:34 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Or else: The Aesthetic Failure of 'Charlie Hebdo', Jeet Heer in the NR.

"The strategy of using racism to fight racism itself can be questioned. Juice that gave energy to Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor has turned sour after more than four decades. Charlie Hebdo is the French counterpart of Robert Crumb, but the magazine is a Crumb that has never changed or evolved, that keeps using in 2015 an artistic strategy from the 1960s. The real sin of Charlie Hebdo is not so much racism but arrested development, a grave aesthetic failure because political cartoonists have to keep up with times and be mindful of the impact their images have."

That's what it was: they just weren't mindful enough.
posted by progosk at 7:24 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


To further delve into the aesthetic of CH, with elements showing how it evolved under the influence of Philippe Val (who was directing the newspaper when the caricatures were issued), Choron dernière (with subs 1 2 3 4, a movie about le Professeur Choron (unfortunately, the film hasn't been subtitled in its entirety).
One can see through the movie how French people reacted to CH (or Hara-Kiri, its predecessor) tone, but also how the artists, writers and journalists who made it were divided.
(And... this is really NSFW, often pretty shocking.).
posted by nicolin at 8:20 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


A judgment has emerged that preaches compliance with the notion that this particular form of expression means you’re asking for it. That viewpoint has trickled down from the bosses of these news organizations into the coverage, as Geller has discovered. Once the media draws a line, it’s tough to undraw."

I remember when criticizing US foreign policy in the Mideast meant you thought the US was asking for 9/11. Good times, the early Bush years.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:24 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Another free thinker murdered (The Daily Star). The third censorship killing in Bangladesh this year.
posted by progosk at 3:52 AM on May 12, 2015


'Fear of causing offence becomes a fetish', Nicole Lee on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's PEN World Voices closing lecture (Guardian).

"Though couched in a thoughtful set of anecdotes, Adichie had sharp words for her mostly young and vocal audience about the “codes of silence” that govern American life.

“To choose to write is to reject silence,” Adichie went on to say.

Adichie had [...] had a front-row seat to the roiling debates about Charlie Hebdo that overshadowed most of the festival’s other events. “There is a general tendency in the United States to define problems of censorship as essentially foreign problems,” Adichie said, in what seemed a gesture towards acknowledging that.

Using the contrast between Nigerian and American hospitals as an example, Adichie pointed out that Americans like to be “comfortable”. And she worried that the comfort has brought “dangerous silencing” into American public conversation. “The fear of causing offence, the fear of ruffling the careful layers of comfort, becomes a fetish,” Adichie said. As such, the goal of many public conversations in the United States “is not truth … [it] is comfort”. "
posted by progosk at 9:55 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Adichie identified social media as a contemporary “tool of silencing”. The Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which was focused around the abduction of 200 girls in Nigeria, the narrative had been forced to make out as if perpetrators Boko Haram were targeting girls, “so that we could say oh, it’s just like the Taliban,” said Adichie. But, she pointed out, Boko Haram is opposed to western style education for both girls and boys. “It is censorship to force a story to fit into something that already pre-exists,” she said.

NBC News: 29 Boys Killed as Boko Haram Attacks Boarding School in Nigeria.

I'll be here waiting for social media to force them to take the story down.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:19 AM on May 12, 2015


Doesn't censorship usually refer to a government or other authority banning material? "Everyone needs to read/hear/talk about what I want them to and agree with me about everything" seems more like fascism than censorship to me.

If CH is truly opposed to multiculturalism even in a post-colonial society, it should be no surprise that part of the Left are opposed to them.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:01 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Understanding Islamic Feminism

I caught part of this and it was quite good. There is an interview with Rayhana, an Algerian actress and playwright who was attacked by Islamists, and a discussion about laïcité in France.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:56 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


In consequence of the January attack, tempers at (and around) CH seem to be fraying:

- as she releases her book Maudites, Charb's partner Jeannette Bougrab claims her dead partner's entourage cut her out because her Right-wing credentials didn't fit his image as a Leftist "womanising bachelor".

- Zineb el Rhazoui has been suspended from the magazine, and is facing possible firing at a disciplinary review called by the editor later this month. (She attributes it to tensions between contributors and management, following her signing an open letter calling for CH to be run as a collective from here on out.)
posted by progosk at 2:05 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems CH has not solved the wealth inequality problem:
Where will the EUR 30 million received b6 Charlie Hebdo since the killing of 7 January go?

[...]

Currently, the distribution of the newspaper's shares is as follows: the cartoonist Riss (now director since the death of Charb) holds 40%, CFO Eric Portheault has 20%. And the remaining 40% belong at the moment to Charb's parents.

[...]

During the time he was director of the newspaper, Val would have received a total of nearly 1.6 million euros in dividends according to BFM Business.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:13 AM on May 16, 2015


Cartoonist Luz to quit Charlie Hebdo


"Many people push me to keep going, but they forget that the worry is finding inspiration,” Luz said.

While he had thought about leaving a long time ago, he said he “continued in solidarity, to let nobody down. Except that at one point, it was too much to bear”.


also

Charlie Hebdo has been split over the use of the money, however, with some staff members accusing management of not being transparent enough about its plans.

Fifteen of the magazine’s 20 staff members, including Luz, called in April for all employees to become equal shareholders in the magazine.

Charlie Hebdo’s management said on Monday that €4.3m (£3.1m) in donations, received from 36,000 people in 84 different countries, would be “handed over in full to the victims”.

posted by progosk at 11:01 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Luz's full interview isn't online yet, but there's important context to his decision in these extracts in Libération. It's to do with something nicolin mentioned above.
posted by progosk at 11:56 PM on May 18, 2015


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