Quick to sneer

A brilliant piece by Leigh Phillips from last week on clueless accusations that Charlie Hebdo is racist and homophobic, accusations obviously emanating from the left (the right seldom bothers accusing people of racism, much less homophobia).

In the 48 hours after the Paris massacre, much of the anglophone activist and academic left were quick to sneer at public displays of solidarity with the murdered cartoonists and journalists of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and criticized the vigils, demonstrations and editorial cartoons from other artists as siding with racists.

Of course the killing of journalists is a bad thing, so the argument goes, but come on, Charlie Hebdo is “a racist publication.” So what do you expect? is the implicit, victim-blaming conclusion.

The millions of people, atheist, Christian, Jew and Muslim — including trade unionists bearing the drapeaux rouges of the communist CGT union and activists from far-left groups such as the Parti de Gauche and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste — who spontaneously filled the streets of towns and villages across France in solidarity with the slain journalists and in defence against this manifest attack on freedom of speech, or who changed their social media avatars to a black square with the words Je suis Charlie were, in the words of prominent British socialist commentator Richard Seymour writing in Jacobin magazine and on his own blog, “platitudinous,” “mawkish and narcissistic” and engaging in a “blackmail that forces us into solidarity with a racist institution.”

I don’t think Richard Seymour qualifies as prominent. He is well known to people who keep track of this kind of absurdity, yes, but not to many other people.

Elsewhere many leftists such as Jon Wilson writing on LabourList have declared “Je ne suis pas Charlie” and that this is about Islamophobia and war.

Evincing that same confusion between Islam and Islamism that I mentioned on a previous post, to the outrage of a few. Well, two, maybe.

The last few days have been a humiliation for the anglophone left, showcasing to the world how poor our ability to translate is these days, as so many people have posted cartoons on social media that they found trawling Google Images as evidence ofCharlie Hebdo’s “obvious racism,” only to be told by French speakers how, when translated and put into context, these cartoons actually are explicitly anti-racist or mocking of racists and fascists.

Then he goes through them: the Christiane Taubira one, the Boko Haram one, the “l’amour plus fort que la haine” one. On the last, he says:

In this context, the cartoon can only be seen as expressly anti-homophobic, giving a big, wet, cheeky kiss to the likely homophobic Islamists who had tried to kill them. (One friend told me after I explained the context behind this cartoon that it was still problematic because “at a time when Muslims in Western countries are the target of Islamophobic prejudice, we should be sensitive to their religious sensibilities. A cartoon of two men kissing is offensive to them.” To my mind, if there’s anything homophobic going on here, it’s the idea that gays should hide themselves so as not to offend those who maintain a hatred of homosexuals.)

Also note the assumption that all Muslims share the homophobic “sensibilities.” Well guess what: they don’t. There really are progressive liberal Muslims, and they really do need our support, so why side with people who despise them?


  1. sambarge says

    It’s amazing that a person can twist their brain around the idea that a cartoon is both homophobic and offensive to homophobes.

  2. John Morales says


    sambarge, I can easily conceive of such a cartoon; all that would be required is to simultaneously portray both groups offensively.

  3. says

    I very much appreciated this. I find it wryly amusing going through the list of pro-CH people. Let me extract some of them:
    * communist CGT union members
    * activists from far-left groups such as the Parti de Gauche and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste
    * Christiane Taubira (subject of the monkey cartoon)
    * Moustapha Ourrad (victim of the Islamist murderers)
    * Kenan Malik
    * Marjane Satrapi
    * Several Arab cartoonists from Lebanon, Qatar and Egypt
    * SOS Racisme

    I’ve also seen defenses of CH from:
    * Maryam Namazie
    * Yemisi Ilesanmi
    * Zineb El-Rhazoui
    * Lama Abu-Odeh
    * Salman Rushdie
    * Keysar Trad

    I can’t be bothered looking for more but I know I have seen a lot more French pro-charlie opinion pieces. And then there’s the young white social justice berserkers – not SJWs; warriors understand who their enemies are – who don’t even seem to understand the use-mention distinction. The ones who are berating and unfriending me for defending CH. Hmmm, who do I choose to listen to?

  4. Pierce R. Butler says


    • All barbecue restaurants must stop advertising pork ribs or using pictures of pigs;
    • All copies of Charlotte’s Web, Pooh, Freddy the Youknowwho, and Babe must be turned in for incineration immediately;
    • All vendors of alcohol must conceal their beverages;
    • In person and in pictures, all women must conceal their faces and bodies;
    • In person and in pictures, men must cover everything between their shoulders and knees;
    • During Ramadan, all food vendors must shut down their businesses between dawn and dark;
    • Maps must be relabeled so that “Jerusalem” becomes “Al-Quds”;
    • Christians (Hindus et al too) must remove all traces of their Prophet-denying heresies;
    • Atheists, report to the chopping block;
    • Jews – boy howdy!

    More comprehensive guidelines to avoid giving offense will be announced at top volume by your local muzzein and favored multiculturally-correct bloggers, starting shortly before sunrise.

  5. Blanche Quizno says

    @6 Pierce R. Butler: My only correction/addition to your list would be:

    * All women must be careful to not be seen by men or to appear in photographs that will be seen by men. In ANY context.

  6. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Not to worry, Blanche, we here at Islamo-Judeo-Xian software, Inc, LLC, GAWD, are working on an automated version of photoshop (we’re calling it Photochop, to avoid copyright issues).

    This brand spanking new software will automagically edit all images in digital form (the retroactive paper version is pending tests of the new high powered laser satellite….) to not only edit out women, pigs, prophets, dogs, etc, that may offend any religious sensibilities*, but it will autodetect blogs, words, and even recipes written by women, pigs, prophets, dogs, etc. and make them appear to be written by manly burly manly men!

    Our next release will offer an optional Hindu add-on package, but there is currently strong lobbying by a conflicting group of religious nutters….I mean, believers….who worship Saint Ronald of McDonald, and we are having some issues getting the software to comply with both.

    *Sensibilities in this case, being those who make the loudest and most believable threats of violence, although offering more $$$ would potentially win out…..

  7. johnthedrunkard says

    How the bloody hell did ISLAM become associated with ‘progressive’ or ‘leftist’ politics in the Anglosphere?

    Apparently the French know better to some degree, and my admiration for France has been boosted hugely in the last few weeks.

  8. says

    How indeed.

    I have no trouble at all understanding the train of thought that goes: Muslims tend to be POC and, in Europe/the Anglosphere, immigrants who are subject to hostility or worse. I get the further thought that therefore it’s easy for hostility to Islam to bleed over into hostility to Muslims (and people assumed to be Muslim). But the part about thinking Islam itself is progressive…nope, that I don’t get.

  9. RJW says

    @10 johnthedrunkard,

    Based on my discussions with members of the contemporary ‘Left’, probably through the filter of multi-culturalism, ‘anti-racism’, hubris and massive ignorance in regard to the Islamic ideology and its history. The modern ‘Left’ seems to have abandoned the Old Left’s progressive ideology completely, in favor of cultural relativism and allowed the Right to set the anti-Islamisation agenda.

  10. says

    I’d like a new name for the Liberal Left please, because my personal politics should have me voting SWP (in the UK) but they have allied to Respect!

    Details from maryam namazie (pdf)

    My take is that “these people” have such an over-riding hatred of America, a hatred above which they should legitimately feel for capitalism and fascism, that any individual, party or organization , however racist, misogynistic or homophobic it is, is still considered a preferable ally.

    Now America has its problems, of course it does, the death penalty being one IMO.

    However, I recently watched a leftist on TV defend China who had just admitted to having executed 3000+ people in that year, by saying that at least the Chinese were feeling guilty for the executions and had said they will try to limit them in future.
    However America, America!!! has never once apologized for executing people and China is morally superior.

    It beggers, if you will excuse my English, fucking belief.


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