Charlie Hebdo was neither racist nor Islamophobic

April 29, 2015 • 10:00 am

When I first heard about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and saw some of the cartoons that, claimed the apologists, were racist and Islamophobic and thus “provoked” the murders, I did some research. I read about the magazine, looked at the cartoons in context, and, most important, consulted French-speaking friends (I read it okay, but preferred greater expertise) about what exactly the slogans and cartoons meant and what (if they read Charlie Hebdo) the magazine was all about.

From that I concluded two things. First, Charlie Hebdo was not “Islamophobic” or racist, for it made fun of all religions on a pretty equal basis, and defended real racial groups (Muslims aren’t a race by anyone’s lights) against French xenophobia. The artists and writers were clearly a bunch of heathens, and saw right through the follies of faith and real ethnic hatred. Catholicism was a frequent target. Second, the cartoons that supposedly demonized Muslims were actually either making fun of faith or calling out the French Right for being anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. They were in fact defending minority groups against real hatred and racism.

Finding that out didn’t take much work, and so I am appalled when some bloggers (and now writers and cartoonists like Garry Trudeau) still call out Charlie Hebdo for purveying “hate speech”. I’d like to point out two items that further dispel this notion, though Social Justice Warriors who have already decided to tar Charlie Hebdo with manufactured outrage will never change their minds.

First, I call your attention to the New Statesman article by Robert McLiam Wilson, “If you don’t speak French, how can you judge whether Charlie Hebdo is racist?” Wilson, though Irish, actually writes for Charlie Hebdo (he’s the sole Anglophone columnist), and he says this:

I read the papers and the blogs and the general runes. The growing consensus seems to be that Charlie Hebdo is, at the very least, deeply dodgy, if not overtly racist. Well, that’s a blow, I must say. Who knew I’d end up writing for some cartoon version of Mein Kampf?

Much of this anti-Charlie prissiness comes from how the magazine has been typified in the Anglo press. ie, idiotically for the most part. An infinity of pundits have made blithe diagnoses of general knavishness while not speaking any French at all.

This bears repeating. No. French. At. All. The point about language is absolutely crucial. Indeed, it may well be the only real point. It is so preposterous that it makes my head spin. How can you make any sensible judgement about Charlie if you cannot read it? Is it enough to look at the pictures? Didn’t we used to hesitate before doing something so confidently asinine? Can you imagine how enraged we would be if monolingual French people judged Private Eye or Spitting Image with the same blind assurance.

Do the writers boycotting Charlie in New York all speak French? If they don’t, then, seriously, how informed can their opinions be? You might as well ask your budgie for comment. So, Feathers, what’s your view?

Here’s an example of a Charlie Hebdo cartoon that, you may recall, was represented as racist right after the murders:

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This was explained to me by a Francophonic friend, but let me reproduce Wilson’s take:

A lot of this is centred around a cartoon that depicted Christiane Taubira, the French justice minister, as an ape. It is much-reproduced without its line of text Rassemblement Bleu Raciste (Racist Blue Rally). A crucial detail since it lampoons the Front National slogan Rassemblement Bleu Marine (Navy Blue Rally), a pun on the name of the FN leader Marine Le Pen. And the image itself was a mocking attack on a series of right-wing publications and websites bunged to the brim with disgraceful imagery of the minister. Without the snipped-off text underneath, and the knowledge of the lamentable tosh it was lampooning, of course Charlie would seem racist. It would seem racist to me too. But to strip the image of its fundamental components like this is akin to saying the incomparable Jonathan Swift was a baby-eating Nazi and that A Modest Proposal was actually a cookbook.

He then adds this (Wilson’s piece is funny):

Charlie is often vulgar, puerile and slightly nauseating. But everyone endures the brunt of this approach: right, left and in-between. They are not always funny (they are French, after all). But sometimes, that is because they are doing 4-page spreads on the reality of Roma camps in France or doggedly chronicling the gross extremes of France’s lurch to the right.

They have a weekly space for animal rights stories, for Chrissakes!!! Run by a woman who calls herself Luce Lapin. With the best will in the world, even if Lucy Rabbit wanted to be a racist or a fascist, how good at it would she be with a name like that? What would all the other racists and fascists think? The truth about the Charlie people is that they’re …well…just a little bit geeky.

Yes, Charlie is tasteless and discomfiting. Have I somehow missed all the gentle, polite satire? That amiable, convenient satire that everybody likes.

If you speak French and you tell me you think Charlie is racist, I can respect that. If you don’t speak French and you tell me the same, well (how to put this politely?)…sorry, I can’t actually put it politely.

Finally, the Jesus and Mo artist has sent out this tw**t breaking down Charlie Hebdo posts by topic.  You can read most of the figure without knowing much French, but the title, “De qui se moque-t-on,” can be translated as “Who are they making fun of?”

Screen shot 2015-04-29 at 4.28.22 AMh/t: Grania, Matthew Cobb

85 thoughts on “Charlie Hebdo was neither racist nor Islamophobic

  1. Good article .. but it appears in the New Statesman and not the Speccie ! Both superb magazines but they are at opposite ends of the political spectrum !

    1. Thanks – I didn’t know that. It didn’t strike me as surprising that the Spectator would’ve published it though. Most of the support for free speech comes from the right these days.

      Not that I believe they’d be so supportive if they controlled the media discourse. It’s mainly their way of attacking the left’s relatively strong influence in areas like academia, tv and newspapers rather than any genuine commitment to liberal principles.

      Where the right are in control they don’t tend to be quite so free-speech happy – eg. in the military and in big business. Just watch them scream and yell when Snowden and wikileaks speak out, when the CIA reoorts were released, or when anyone calls for transparency and openness in the financial sector.

  2. Nick Cohen wades in to the debate:

    “They not only go along with the terrorists from the religious ultra-right but of every state that uses Islam to maintain its power. They can show no solidarity with gays in Iran, bloggers in Saudi Arabia and persecuted women and religious minorities across the Middle East, who must fight theocracy. They have no understanding that enemies of Charlie Hebdo are also the enemies of liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims in the West. In the battle between the two, they have in their stupidity and malice allied with the wrong side.

    Most glaringly they have failed to understand power. It is not fixed but fluid. It depends on where you stand. The unemployed terrorist with the gun is more powerful than the Parisian cartoonist cowering underneath his desk. The marginal cleric may well face racism and hatred – as my most liberal British Muslim friends do – but when he sits in a Sharia court imposing misogynist rules on Muslim women in the West, he is no longer a victim or potential victim but a man to be feared.”

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2015/04/charlie-hebdo-the-literary-indulgence-of-murder/

    1. Thanks for the link. I’ve recently discovered Cohen. – he’s excellent.

      Sad that genuine, committed liberals like him are not only so few and far between but tend to find it almost impossible to get employment from nominally liberal, left wing publications and tv channels. See also Maajid Nawaz, Irshad Manji, etc. Instead we get illiberals like Mehdi Hasan and Myriam Francois-Cerrah, both of whom are in extremely influential positions in The New Statesman. Credit to them for publishing this piece(if they did), but it shouldn’t be such a minority viewpoint in a magazine that claims to be liberal.

    2. The quote from Francine Prose in that article explains it all: “The narrative of the Charlie Hebdo murders – white Europeans killed in their offices by Muslim extremists – is one that feeds neatly into the cultural prejudices that have allowed our government to make so many disastrous mistakes in the Middle East.”
      People like her believe that preventing that narrative from being fed trumps everything.

    3. I saw you guys bragging about Nick Cohen’s piece when I passed by earlier, so stopped back to hit the link and read it myself.

      Damn, that guy’s good. Shows what happens when clear thinking conjoins with clear writing. And Cohen’s right on l’argent about the horrid prose of Francine Prose. Her writing regarding martyred colleagues comes off like an office newsletter drafted by a clerk whose qualifications are half a semester of English Comp and the seniority to commandeer a printer over lunch break. Any writing with the phrase “working so tirelessly to guarantee,” should be run from so quickly to avoid.

  3. Although I agree with the point that you have to (at the absolute minimum) be literate in French to have any opinion worth listening to, I’d add that you also need to know a fair bit about French politics. When the murders happened, I saw a few of the cartoons and just thought ‘I have absolutely no idea what this means’. I can read French, but I didn’t recognise the politicians or the symbols they were using, or the point of half the topics. I quite often don’t understand US satire, and they at least speak the same language.

      1. I did the same. I know a few Parisians, so I got it explained to me.
        I have to say, though, the journalists who are in any way ambiguous about Charlie Hebdo should be ashamed. The only sane response is ‘these were disgusting and barbarous murders’. And it would still be the only sane response if Charlie Hebdo were the terrible gang of racists some people are trying to paint them as.

        1. I agree. I wouldn’t really matter if they were Nazis or any other vile, corrupt element. They only cartooned, for Christ’s sake.

          1. It’s annoying when someone is egregiously wrong on two fronts at once.

            Point out that the content of Charlie Hebdo doesn’t matter, the murders were wrong redgardless, and it sounds like you’re conceding that the magazine is racist. Point out that the magazine isn’t racist, and it sounds like you’re conceding that the murders would be justified if it were.

            1. That is why effective rhetoric requires the occasional semicolon, list of bullet points, or counting on upraised fingers. Shit ain’t always simple.

    1. Agreed. I effectively read French at a native level, but do not follow much French (or European) politics and hence found the stuff very confusing.

      But as I mentioned yesterday, so what? So what if it really was (the equivalent of) Mein Kampf in cartoon form? One still doesn’t *kill the authors over it*.

      Similarly, the people (like G. Greenwald) are right to point out that many Western allies have been guilty of getting their journalists killed and looking the other way, etc. So what? *A hypocrite is still making a correct point!* (Namely, that drawing a cartoon shouldn’t get you killed!) Should we correct that hypocracy, if that’s what it is? Sure. It is still a “missing the point”. (I do think it is valuable to point *out* the hypocracy, when it exists, though.)

  4. Thankyou for this post Jerry, although I doubt the illiberal leftists who excoriated Charlie Hebdo the first time around will pay much attention. It’s clear that they don’t actually want to understand the subtleties of Hebdo’s satire.

    The Spectator article(why is it mostly right-wing magazines and newspapers that are defending liberal values like free speech? It’s embarrassing.) nicely skewers the chutzpah of a bunch of monoglotic zealots telling the recently-murdered CB cartoonists that their work is racist.

    You’d think journalistic integrity would have encouraged them to spend a certain amount of time studying Charlie Hebdo’s output, perhaps even asking someone who actually spoke French for their opinion on the cartoons, instead of lunging in two-footed with a millimetre-deep summary that made serious accusations against a group of cartoonists who could no longer defend themselves – but journalistic integrity just vanished once they’d made their mind up. And once they’d committed themselves they just kept digging and smearing.

    I strongly believe, and hope, that the left’s response to the Charlie Hebdo killings will remain an embarrassment twenty years from now.

    1. Saul, I hope your last sentence is true but I don’t hold out much hope. Loads of my mates wriggled, “The CH murders are terrible, but…”

      Take a difficult example. What if CH had been Der Sturmer and Stephane Charbonnier was Julius Streicher, but set in democratic France? Would it still have been an egregious attack? Yes. Not only was free speech suspended but the law was broken. We might feel a twinge of admiration for the perpetrators but them’s the rules.

      Can I think of a situation in which exterminating cartoonists might be moral? What if I was a citizen of a Hitler state? Maybe then, if everything else had failed. But in that case I’d think it better to kill Zeus rather than Mercury. x

      1. Yes, it’s not going to be scored in stone in the same way that the Catholic church’s opening of their records on Jews circa WWII was, partly because many of the same liberals who’ve embarrassed themselves will be writing the historical accounts, and they’re unlikely to detail their own contemptible response to the CB killings.

        But time will tell, and there are just enough sane liberal people, unallied either to the illiberal left or the illiberal right, who can keep holding the Islamic apologists’ feet to the flames.

        ‘Obviously the killings were awful but…’. That little weaselly ‘but’ is enough to instantly rile me – ‘I’m an atheist but…’, ‘I’m in favour of free speech but…’, ‘I believe god loves all people, regardless of their sexuality but…’.

        I’d quite like to experiment with a ban on the word ‘but’.

        1. I just took the black / white test. It says I have a strong automatic preference for African Americans.

          Honestly?

          I suspect poor implementation of the test design.

          It works on timing how long it takes for you to assign black or white faces to the right classification and good / bad words to the right classification, and intermixes them in different ways.

          The first time through, the blacks and goodness were paired up on the one side with whites and badness on the other, and it was easy to “get in the groove” for that association. Then, they switched it; now whites were the good guys and blacks the evil ones…and it took a while to get out of that groove.

          I strongly suspect that, had I been initially presented with “white = good / black = bad” pairing, that that’s the one I would have done much better on.

          So, great for their demographics that the test thinks that I, a straight white upper middle class male prefer blacks…but I really don’t think that it’s measuring what they think it’s measuring….

          b&

          1. If my memory is right: its based on the hypothesis that people suppress racist feelings and therefore take longer to associate black people with good things.

            1. Yes, that’s their hypothesis. The question is how well, if at all, the data supports their hypothesis.

              They’re trying to answer one question by testing for something entirely different that, they theorize, is a valid proxy. But how well have they established that there’s a strong correlation between results in this particular test format and racial preference? Depending on their methodology, they could easily be measuring something much more significant than racial preference with the effects of racial preference, if any, entirely swamped by other factors.

              And I strongly suspect that that’s the case.

              …not to mention I’m not at all a fan of the basic notion of “unconscious automatic preferences” in the first place. Even if you’ve got such a preference, so what? You learned pretty early not to tell grandpa that he smells funny, even though you probably still thought so when you were grown up. Why should any other social phenomenon be any different?

              b&

    2. “that the left’s response to the Charlie Hebdo killings will remain an embarrassment twenty years from now”

      I agree completely, just one thing.

      Well I consider myself a lefty; I want some distance; so I propose another name for them:

      non liberal left
      challenged left
      totalitarian left

      But they can call me:

      racist left
      neoliberal left
      islamofobic left

      mmmmm …

      1. Yes, absolutely. I’ve been thinking about that. The best I’ve heard is ‘illiberal left’, and I try and use that if needs be. I have to say, I feel a bit embarrassed that I spend any time at all wondering about how best to clearly differentiate myself from conservatives and right-wingers – in principle one’s ideas should stand and fall on their own merits. I shouldn’t have to pre-empt the hysterical groupthink of some lefties by constantly reminding them that I’m ‘on their side’.

    3. It’s clear that they don’t actually want to understand the subtleties of Hebdo’s satire.

      You shouldn’t have to, though. “Does someone deserve to be murdered for blasphemy against someone else’s religion” is a question they should be able to answer (correctly) without any knowledge of the French language or French politics. In fact, even saying something like “we need to consider the context of Franco-Islamic relationships before answering that question” is the wrong answer.

      1. Exactly. Even if Charlie Hebdo is racist, Islamophobic etc, that’s not an excuse to murder them. I don’t think they are, but there are people who genuinely think they are guilty of some prejudice or other and that’s their right too. The point to me is that violence and murder are NEVER the appropriate response.

        If a person/group etc is genuinely Islamophobic, and there are plenty that are, they should be called out for that. But, however revolting their opinion, calling for their murder is wrong, and there is no excuse for it.

        1. Another counter-factual. What if the Private Eye satirists shot up the Islamo-fascists of the London Islamic Education and Research Academy? What would have happened then? World War III.

          As it is, we get so riled up that we give the dead an award. And get accused of over-reacting. x

      2. I think it’s pretty important that you don’t allow an enormously influential section of the media to entirely besmirch the reputations of a group of innocent cartoonists who can’t defend themselves. To that extent I care a lot. It doesn’t mean I believe that if they had actually been racist they ‘had it coming’.

        I greatly resent what seems to be a concerted effort to smear a group of dead illustrators based on nothing more than tendentious, puddle-deep conclusions drawn by ignorant, lazy journalists. I think it’s despicable.

        1. Yes, I agree with that, and I like Jerry’s article. It is important to get the facts straight too. I just think the basic principle has to be kept in mind as well.

  5. ‘They are not always funny (they are French, after all).'(/blockquote>

    Hey, what do you want from a country with 246 varieties de fromage (per Charles de Gaulle’s own count) — from a funny race, as the old saying goes, that fights with its feet, and f*cks with its face? (Not that I’m knocking that — not by a long shot — just saying why they might not have tout le temps dans le monde to polish their punch-lines).

  6. It takes more than knowing French to really understand political cartoons. Yes, it’s ridiculous that without French at all people are passing judgement, but as everyone knows, it is really hard to understand political satire of another country if you aren’t deeply familiar with their politics.

    1. I remember retw**ting some comments made on Twitter when we (New Zealand) made same-sex marriage legal two years ago after making same-sex civil unions legal a decade earlier. I thought they were hilarious, but there were some who thought the tw**ts were anti-SSM simply because they didn’t understand Kiwi culture and humour. (Mostly the same people who think “humour” is a spelling mistake. 🙂 )

        1. You missed some s’s? So you communicate via Twister? You kiwis really are behind the times, we stopped doing that in the ’70s. 🙂

  7. Many good points. Charlie Hebdo has also been defended by a number of Muslims. I’m not sure if this has been posted in previous Hebdo threads here, but there’s a nice defense given at LoonWatch (an islamic anti-defamation site that tracks alleged islamophobes). The main post is mostly arguing from “look at the pictures!” but there are good counterpoints at the bottom, like this:

    “Now, while the guys of Charlie were not the free speech heroes that some want to show as, they weren’t either the racists that others want to depict. Their work and style was a very french mix of poor sense of humor, excess, anti-religious leftist zeal which targeted everyone (from catholics to jews, they also targeted Israel, all parties).”

    1. But, again, I would ask what difference does it make if Charlie were free speech heroes or full on racists? What difference does it make if you can read French or not? It seems to me it should make no difference in the necessity to condemn the murders.
      All we are really talking about here it seems to me is whether we can protect their reputations as valuable satirists. Were they any good? Looks like yes. But it doesn’t change the problem with those unwilling to respect their free speech rights.

      1. True. A few years ago there was an attempted shooting at the Family Research Council (now classified as a hate group). If that attack had succeeded, it would be no less an assault on open public discourse and the freedoms of all.

    2. I’ve been to LoonWatch. I thought it was pretty contemptible stuff. And I’m not that impressed that there were a handful of backhanded, qualified compliments amongst the morass of brittle, vitriolic, hypocritical posts.

      I’ve seen the kind of perfectly decent liberal Muslims who get smeared on that website – people like Maajid Nawaz obviously, but even the utterly unexceptionable Irshad Manji, a woman who encapsulates Islam’s current inability to tolerate criticism from within.

      LoonWatch struck me as a nasty, thin-skinned little echo-chamber, whose initial, perfectly reasonable aims have been warped beyone recognition.

      1. I don’t think they’re quite that bad, but I agree they seem to target liberal muslims and paint them as persecutors. That happens with most religious anti-defamation groups though. I’ve often seen Catholics, Mormons or Baptists cry “persecution!” when the alleged attacks come from within their own congregations.

        1. I get why you posted this link, it’s always tempting to try and redress a balance if you think it needs it – but having read the LoonWatch post and got a feel for the comments that followed I think I might actually have been a little over-generous in what I said about them in my previous post. The article was just deeply, deeply depressing. It made me feel nauseous.

          Yes, persecution of critical reformists happens in other religions too – unfortunately in Islam there is no liberal splinter church to which the likes of Irshad Manji can turn, and the intensity and uniformity of the backlash that greets people like her is unlike anything in any other religion. Muslim ‘moderates’, MORers, conservatives and extremists all unite, shouting down the genuine Islamic liberals with, variously, purse-lipped broadsheet articles, veiled, Twitter-based exhortations to murder, out-and-out death threats, well-organised petitions and smear campaigns, and simple, widespread ostracism from the community.

          The opposition genuine Islamic liberals face from other Muslims is so fierce and so total that it just doesn’t compare with the admittedly strong opposition other religious liberals face.

          1. I’m not really trying to “redress a balance,” my point in posting it is that the commenter, a Muslim journalist with direct knowledge of Hebdo’s staff, can attest that the racism/islamophobia accusations are unwarranted. In that particular forum I think he was trying to meet the audience half way and avoid getting himself crucified as a Hebdo apologist.

            1. Okay, I get you. I agree that there were some relatively complimentary things in Mehdi’s post, but there was a lot of casuistry too. Lots of caveats and hedging.

              Perhaps he deserves credit for his kind-of-defense of Charlie, but there were Muslims at the time of the killings who genuinely defended the magazine, without caveats, who genuinely stood up for the liberal right to criticise any religion, and they were mauled and fatwahed by their co-religionists and ignored by the left. Perhaps I’m being uncharitable but I find it very difficult to give equivocatory posts like Mehdi’s much credit.

              BTW, is the Mehdi in question Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman?

    3. Love the name Loonwatch. Named in the same spirit as “climate skeptics”, the German Democratic Republic and Milloy’s junkscience.com.

    4. With respect to the discussion of Loon Watch, this Washington Post op-ed about an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) funded “honor brigade” may be of interest.

      http://tinyurl.com/npos3m9

      You can read the rest of the piece for context, but here’s what the author, Asra Q. Nomani, says about Loon Watch:

      “Alongside the honor brigade’s official channel, a community of self-styled blasphemy police — from anonymous blogs such as LoonWatch.com and Ikhras.com to a large and disparate cast of social-media activists — arose and began trying to control the debate on Islam. This wider corps throws the label of “Islamophobe” on pundits, journalists and others who dare to talk about extremist ideology in the religion.”

  8. You know, I really don’t give a damn if they were racist or not. They could have been the ultimate expression of everything Goebbels dreamed a satirical French political cartoon magazine would ever be, and I still wouldn’t care.

    That they were murdered for drawing cartoons…that I care about.

    And if you dare suggest that the cartoonists had even the slightest culpability in their own murders, or even hint that maybe they shouldn’t be drawing those sorts of cartoons….

    b&

    1. Agreed. All the attempts to point out who Charlie was and that they should be respected for their work are good and noble efforts, but beside the main issue.

      1. Yes. I agree entirely with both of you, as I’ve said above and elsewhere, and you both have consistently too.

    2. I care about that too. But I also care that a gaggle of preening, sanctimonious ignoramuses were smearing the cartoonists before their bodies were even cold. They were not racists – this is important too. I’d like someone to defend me if I were being posthumously traduced – I wouldn’t want a vast edifice of bullshit to be built over my grave and I’d hope people would try and do something about it.

      1. Agreed again.
        I’ve said before too, if a god needs to employ methods and people like this, then, not much of a god.
        I have wondered if a crucial difference between religious belief and other irrational beliefs, is that it gives people a connection to and a feeling of, the power of a god.
        Still, not much of a god.

    3. Agreed. Their motivations to write what they want may or may not be justified. Motivation to kill because of a cartoon is never justified.

      I am completely unoffendable when it comes to things like this, so people critical of Hebdo are orthogonal to me.

  9. I lived in France for most of my life, with a long-ish parenthesis in England. The late cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo have been part of my life almost on a daily basis as it should not be forgotten that they drew cartoons for several newspapers and magazines besides Charlie Hebdo. For example, Cabu had a weekly cartoon in “Le Canard Enchaîné”, a satirical investigation weekly (the most apt comparison for English readers would be the Private Eye); and Wolinski drew for Paris-Match, another weekly providing write-ups and photos about recent news. Reading the accusation of racism and of punching down minorities thrown at them is really painful because it is so untrue.

    The archenemy of Charlie Hebdo was the authoritarian right-wing. They started with a monthly named Hara-Kiri which lambasted the government of the General de Gaulle (France had a minister of the information at the time, and any sensitive news on TV had to be vetted by him, just to give you the flavour of that era). It got outlawed after they made a jest of humour about the General’s death. They then restarted with Charlie Hebdo. The catholic church being the natural support of this authoritarian right wing was logically another natural target of those journalists and cartoonists.

    As time moved on, their archenemy became the “Front National”, a far right, xenophobic, and antisemitic party (although they are trying very hard to erase their jew-hating tendencies these days). Extreme Islam became a target only after the Danish Cartoons mayhem. Charlie Hebdo had almost a knee-jerk reaction then: cartoonist are threatened because of what they drew: not acceptable! let’s side with them! I am definitively of the opinion that the subject of the Danish cartoons did not matter at all.

    So here is the saddest part of it all when I read that writers and cartoonists diss Charlie Hebdo: those late cartoonists would have supported any fellow cartoonist under threat, whether they agreed with his opinion or not.

      1. Thanks for your post. Unfortunately you’re a French-speaker with a good knowledge of both CB and the France’s politics so you obviously won’t understand Charlie Hebdo’s humour as well as we English-speakers do.

        What you French-speakers don’t realise is that it takes a load of voluptuously ignorant, cloth-eared reflex-bloggers, who’ve each spent less than half-an-hour googling the magazine, to truly understand why Charlie is racist.

        For all your experience and knowledge, you’ve come to the wrong conclusion on Charlie Hebdo, so your opinion is effectively worthless and you will be completely ignored, just like all the other French speakers who desperately tried to point out that the left was clearly talking bollocks about CB.

        😉

        1. …and what’s all this stuff about the “French poor sense of humour”, as your ironic comment underlines so perfectly. That kind of semi-conscious stereotyping really riles me – especially since some Brits and Yanks, aye and Kiwis too, are amongst the unfunniest people on the planet.

          1. Yes. I know very little about the French sense of humour and because of that I’m not going to make sweeping statements about their collective personality.

            Some people are so politically schizophrenic they’ll shout others down for drawing any conclusions at all about minority peoples and at the same time dismiss an entire country’s culture in one fatuous sentence.

    1. Thank you for your post. Given how left-wing Charlie Hebdo was–and is–it’s depressing to see how so many on the Anglo-American left have rushed to vilify it, especially when Charlie Hebdo has spoken out against the forces of xenophobia and prejudice far more than most of its detractors ever will.

    2. Very interesting to see your take. The main target of Charlie Hebdo was always right-wing politics, but that’s been pretty much ignored by many in their race to treat Islamist terrorists as precious snowflakes.

    3. This comment on Trudeau’s critique of CH summed it up well, IMO:

      http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/the-abuse-of-satire/390312/#comment-1959374398
      “Edwin den Boer • 18 days ago

      A successful mainstream PC sell-out who defends the censorship in the syndication system because it worked out it fine for him tells underground satirists working for a small leftist magazine who have been murdered for their work that they should have been more careful. Is that what he means by ‘comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable’?”

  10. To follow Charlie Hebdo it really does help to read about French political developments and reporting in France on world affairs. Reading Liberation, Le Monde, Nouvel Observateur and other news and analysis sources regularly is one way to do it. Calling it islamophobic, antisemeitic, racist, or whatever is just ignorant. Yes, it is often vulgar, but so what!

  11. I don’t know what’s going on in France these days; when I approached my French friend to get her opinion on Charlie Hebdo, all she wanted to talk about was her fears regarding Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (not without reason).

  12. Luz, who did the “Tout est pardonné” cover of the January 11th edition stated that he won’t do caricatures of Muhammad anymore. He claims the subject “bores” him. He also attacks Philippe Val (the ex-boss of CH) after Val said “the terrorists have won”.

    Of course, Luz’s reaction was all too familiar: “I jumped to the roof when hearing that!”. It continues with “This is crazy! He’s not himself anymore, that boy. He’s not Charlie anymore, he’s not Charlie! He’s just a part of Charlie’s history. He’s in denial of what he has been for this magazine”.

    If that last sentence doesn’t whiff of the usual SJW rhetoric we see spewed day in and day out, I don’t know what does.

    https://fr.news.yahoo.com/charlie-hebdo-luz-auteur-pardonn%C3%A9-ne-dessinera-mahomet-152847125.html

  13. So the Left is doing its best to suppress freedom of speech while the Right is shouting “Liberty,” even as it denies equal treatment to gays and sings paeans to torture, in the delusional belief that it will improve our “security.” Take your pick! It’s like choosing between the Blues and Greens of the circus.

    According to Reuters, Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Luz will stop drawing Muhammed. He was the guy who drew the cover picture of Muhammed after the assassinations. His reason was that “he no longer interests me,” which was the same reason he stopped drawing Sarkozy.

    On a lighter note, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was asked in a recent interview for “Der Spiegel” if he had “trust in the afterlife.” His reply: “Nah, I don’t need that.” He said his former wife, Loki, was of the opinion that, even if you were cremated, the atoms and molecules would still be there. Maybe someday they would become a plant. Schmidt: “I agreed with her.” He’s 96 years old. I wonder if we can even hope to ever have a leader like that. If you speak German, the interview is here:

    http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/tv/helmut-schmidt-bei-sandra-maischberger-ueber-politik-und-privates-a-1031171.html

    1. “It’s like choosing between the Blues and Greens of the circus.”

      Βένετοι! – Πράσινοι!

  14. The idiocy of Eliot Weinberger’s piece on the LRB blog is enough to make my blood boil. Any article that begins “The frat-boy humour magazine Charlie Hebdo…” clearly states not only the author’s cluelessness, but his pride in that cluelessness. The comments are similarly unedifying. I’m not about to cancel my subscription – I like the paper too much, for all that Tariq Ali still gets to spout his inanities therein – but am just saddened by bright people being so obtuse. Much the same goes for the writers objecting to the PEN award. I’m a great admirer of Peter Carey’s work, as of Rachel Kushner’s, to name but two. That they’re entitled to their opinions goes without saying, but they miss the point by a mile. They seem to be saying little more than that their support is too good for a bunch of snotty cartoonists.

    1. I’m glad you also found the LRB blog post despicable. And while it had one or two sane comments, most were rancid. The LRB’s coverage of the entire Charlie Hebdo affair has been nauseating–it says a lot that its longest article was by the disgraced Maoist Tariq Ali, who directly blamed the cartoonists for their own murders and said “they didn’t have to do it.” The rest of the LRB coverage has dutifully followed the talking points of yes-but crowd. Though the LRB still publishes excellent literary articles from its stable of commissioned authors, its editorial line has grown steadily more dogmatic and deranged.

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