Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Ignoramuses

May 6, 2015 • 7:10 am

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “Brave,” is perfect; there’s nothing I can add but to link you to an excellent Atlantic article on the Charlie Hebdo affair by Jeffrey Goldberg, “The dangerous myths about Charlie Hebdo” (h/t: reader Cindy). It should be mandatory reading for those thick-skulled PEN members who understand neither the magazine’s aims nor the principle of free speech.


I can’t resist giving an excerpt from Goldberg’s piece, one of the best articles written about the whole affair:

Another myth: Charlie Hebdo is interested in advancing a “narrative” of “white privilege,” and therefore specializes in ridiculing powerless people.

The novelist Francine Prose, one of the writers protesting the PEN award to Charlie Hebdo, wrote recently that, “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.”

Prose’s coldness toward the victims of violence matches Trudeau’s. The 12 people killed at Charlie Hebdo were not extras in a George W. Bush-scripted imperialist narrative. They were human beings who were murdered because they offended the beliefs of theocratic fascists.

Goldberg also has a few choice words for Garry Trudeau, the Ben Affleck of cartoonists.

48 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Ignoramuses

  1. What these liberals who defend the religious orthodoxy of the Muslim world (in the belief that they are protecting an oppressed minority) don’t realise is that they are making themselves accessories to the oppression of the true underdogs of the Dar al-Islam. Not the firebrand preachers or the enraged zealots burning effigies and embassies and shooting cartoonists and filmmakers, but the silent atheists who know what will happen if they speak out, and the brave few who did so anyway (Raif Badawi, for example); the women battered and brutalised by men who know that their violence is religiously sanctioned; and the gays who must deny their nature their entire lives or face a life of persecution and rejection.

    1. As I said in another comment:

      They threw Glen Greenwald off the roof of his hotel to his death. Terrible, terrible.

      But! He was openly gay, and that offended their religious sensibilities, so … you now, he provoked them. He sort of had it coming. He should have known better.

    2. Goldberg makes this point in his article, and it’s arguably the best bit. He wrote it at the end, and it’s so good I’m going to copy it here:

      One more myth concerns the way in which the Left understands Islamism. No fundamentalist interpretation of any religion deserves the protection and sympathy of progressives. Islamists — adherents of a politicized, radical strain of Islam — are misogynistic, homophobic, and anti-enlightenment, and possess no tolerance at all for members of religious groups whose beliefs conflict with their own. These are traits one traditionally associates with the far-right, but some on the left are happy to support Islamists—even Islamist terror groups—simply because they stand in opposition to the West. (Judith Butler, the Berkeley comparative-literature professor, famously described Hamas and Hezbollah as “social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left.”)

              1. Now it works. Maybe our esteemed host can clarify this in “Da Roolz!” point 15:
                It says:
                “[to] create a link[i.e., embed a hyperlink], use the following html formulation:
                LinkText (note space after first “a”)

                Maybe less prone to misunderstand:

                That is: Don’t put the URL in quotation marks.

              2. “Don’t put the URL in quotation marks.”

                Jerry’s advice in Rool 15 is correct; quote marks are required in properly-formed HTML. Just make sure they’re correctly paired, and use plain old ASCII quote marks instead of Unicode smart quotes.

                When in doubt, use an online HTML previewer like this one.

            1. Peter, I’d like to read that but the link gives a 404 error. Is there a different link? Thanks.

        1. She who confuses obscurity for profundity, who sacrifices clarity for dense, jargon-packed prose.

      1. I like that Goldberg, like many others, is labeling these people “the Left,” as opposed to “liberals.” It makes more sense and the point is clearer. You can be a totalitarian and on the Left: consider Communists.

        Doing this also helps distance secular liberals from anti-muslim conservatives. Sentences which start with something like “Here’s why liberals have it wrong…” imply that the speaker is conservative. Someone can be with some conservatives on certain issues without being conservative oneself.

        Our complaint re the anti-Hebdo protests isn’t directed at “liberals.” WE are the liberals. Our complaint is against members of the Left who are not living according to liberal values which they ought to agree with (and seem to think they do.)

    3. Thank you! This is what I would have tried to say, but you have phrased so much more eloquently.
      —From a gay Australian man in Japan, who looks on with dismay at various developments throughout the world, and offers thanks to be in a place where religion has so little influence. Though I wish I’d had the chance to marry the one I loved (so long ago)…

  2. Do we have any sense that Trudeau is re-thinking his viewpoint? Has he been questioned on it since?

  3. My belief in free speech trumps my distaste for blasphemy; in any case, my conception of God is large, and I can’t imagine He gives a shit about cartoons.

    In a well-written article, this is by far the weakest point, seemingly due to Goldberg’s theistic blind spot. The problem is not that he fails to imagine a God who gives a shit about cartoons; the problem is precisely that billions of theists the world over do imagine just such a God–a God who has a disturbingly fanatical interest in our everyday activities such as cartoons and what we do in bed, but has little to say about more important topics, such as the complete lack of evidence that he exists.

    1. As the old joke goes, it’s not the fall that kills you. It’s the sudden stop at the end.

      1. Or as the guy who jumped from the 86th floor said in response to an inquiry as he passed the 43rd: “So far, so good.”

        1. Since my night-shift oppo was put through parachute assessment in his conscription (he dodged it), we’ll trot out the old paras jokes.
          If you’re plummetting to the ground, with main and reserve chutes failed, you MUST, MUST grab firmly onto the ground when you hit – it’s the second bounce that kills you.
          When you’re plummeting to (etc, etc ; the jokes have a certain predictable form) cross left leg over right leg and land feet first. It doesn’t save your life, but it makes the body recovery easier : they just saw a slot in the top of your head and screw you out of the ground.
          When plummeting (etc …) try to land on the helicopter with running rotors. It doesn’t help you, but it means that everyone else has decent sandwiches that week.
          I shall climb into this ‘ere pit so you can cast stones uninterrupted. The paras have probably got a joke about the pits as well.

    2. The idea of “blasphemy” cements the fact that such imagined ‘gods’ and their believers are weak and tyrannical.

      It is sad that they aren’t ashamed for the crude tools of oppression they invent and propagate.

  4. When I read Goldberg’s piece, I was particularly struck by his calling to attention Prose’s reference to “the narrative of the Charlie Hebdo murders..” Without Goldberg’s attention, it probably would have gone right past me but, forced to pause, I have to see what an appalling way that is to speak of the victims.

  5. Jesus-N-Mo once again makes a great point. Most of the criticism against giving the award to Hebdo is fueled by ignorance.

    But one of the nastier, more insidious justifications for signing the protest involves the agreement that Charlie Hebdo wasn’t racist — that yes indeed, it fought against racism — but that doesn’t matter. It’s still racist to honor Charlie Hebdo because of the Little People: Muslims who can’t be expected to realize that Charlie Hebdo wasn’t racist. They’re too oppressed. They won’t understand and can’t get over the idea that blasphemy isn’t racist.

    Charlie Hebdo responded brilliantly to this:

    If we say that we can mock anything, except certain aspects of Islam because Muslims are much more easily offended than the rest of the population, what are we doing, if not discriminating? Shouldn’t the second-biggest religion in the world, supposedly the second-biggest in France, be treated like the biggest?

    It’s time to stop this appalling paternalism from white, “left-wing,” bourgeois intellectuals seeking to exist in the eyes of “poor, ill-educated wretches.” I, who am educated, of course understand that Charlie Hebdo is being funny because, on the one hand I’m highly intelligent, and on the other it’s my culture. But, out of respect for you, who have not yet discovered irony, I’ll join you in condemning these Islamophobic drawings and pretend that I don’t understand them. I’ll come down to your level to show you that I love you. And if I have to convert to Islam to show that I’m even closer to you, so be it!

    These ridiculous rabble-rousers are doing nothing more than trying to satisfy a huge hunger for recognition and a formidable domination fantasy.

  6. I was sorry to hear that Francine Prose would say something like that. I have enjoyed her book Reading Like a Writer. We are all such complicated beings. But there again, what I said the other day applies– It’s not good thinking to consign to the flames someone who writes perceptively about many things, but then says something with which you strongly disagree. It cuts both ways.

  7. One more quick comment: The subtitle of the Atlantic article: “Critics don’t seem to understand that the magazine specializes in attacking ideas, not people” is a good point.

    The persons who get offended by Charlie Hebdo think they are being insulted precisely because they identify with their beliefs and ideas. They should only identify with how they came to those beliefs and ideas.

  8. A similar question might have been addressed previously, but I can’t recall the answer.

    This event leads me to wonder.
    If there’s no free will, are the cartoonists partly to blame / responsible for the attacks against them?
    Is there some fair way of appropriating responsibility in a society without free will considering that all our actions are interconnected?


    1. If you believe there’s no free will then there is no real reason to blame the terrorists or the cartoonists. Instead you blame the circumstances (f.i. false beliefs, bad luck).

      But, of course, you can still try to improve society to prevent bad things from happening again.

      And you can still defend moral responsibility when you think it has good consequences, though it would be a bit dishonest for a free will denier.

      1. There is chance, but no “luck” — only adventitiousness without built-in advantage, fortuity without good fortune.

    2. I have been greatly educated (and often confused) by the many discussions of free will on this website, and I am grateful for the education. My (current) position is that we humans are decision makers, and the decisions are determined by the inputs we receive over our lifetimes. We all receive multiple and conflicting inputs and, hopefully some of these also determine how we integrate and accept or reject others. The question is not one of assigning blame to individuals, but holding them responsible for their actions.

      The actions which we accept or reject, as a society, are determined by historical cultural norms. Generally, we approve or allow inputs of words, or manifestations designed to persuade and reject violence and coercion.

      The Kouachi brothers were not recent immigrants to France, perhaps suffering from culture shock, but were born and brought up in France. They could not have been unaware of the meaning of CH satire but some other inputs over-rode that awareness. Those inputs come from the well funded salafi fundamentalist voices who have silenced, or at least muted, more compromising versions of Islam. We do not even have to blame these voices, after all they have no free will either, but we can and should, as a society, hold them responsible for the actions they impel.

  9. According to the New York Times, Charlie Hebdo’s staff received a standing ovation at the Pen gala, and a good time was had by all present:

    The best article I’ve read in defense of Charlie Hebdo’s award was “America’s Literary Elite Takes a Bold Stand Against Dead Journalists,” by Michael Moynihan. It steamrolls the detractors and is every bit as cutting as the title suggests:

    For a look at what the French think of this affair, there’s Tablet’s article “In Paris, PEN Boycott Makes Americans Look Like Crude Provincials”:

    Lastly, though it didn’t receive much attention in January, ArtForum published good article by someone who was actually familiar with the magazine and explained the mindset of its artists:

    Exhilarating as it has been to see Charlie Hebdo delineate free speech’s champions and enemies, I’m hoping the magazine will keep publishing but stay out of the news glare for a while.

    For a non CH link, here’s a heady article that PCC might enjoy, “60 Years On: Academic Atheist Philosophers Then & Now,” by Graham Oppy:

  10. Profundity today:

    Ae the French, with Cabu, Wolinsky and Charb gone, are not only fewer, but more improtanatly, less.

  11. Oups. Missprints. That probably ruined the effect.

    We the French, with Cabu, Wolinsky and Charb gone, are not only fewer, but more importantly, less.

  12. Years ago I had a T-shirt with a silk-screened Ralph Steadman drawing and the Samuel Johnson quote that serves as the epigraph for F & L in L.V.: “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

    To someone who couldn’t read English, who had no background familiarity with the book (or with the Johnson quote), the Steadman drawing would just seem like a weird, kind of crude, ugly cartoon.

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