1. tulse says

    “Eric Garner’s death is regrettable, but he was selling loose cigarettes. That does not justify his killing, but is essential background.”

    “Her rape is deplorable, but she was wearing provocative clothing. That does not justify her rape, but is essential background.”

    I really don’t see how such a “but” is anything other than an implicit justification.

  2. says

    Actually, I think that it’s perfectly legitimate to condemn the killings while still pointing out that the magazine is heavily racist and misogynist. They may have a right to be douchebags, but the bullets don’t mean that I have to ignore the fact that they made their living assaulting and mocking the powerless. #JeNeSuisPasCharlie

  3. md says

    sorry tulse, not comparable. Selling loose cigarettes is illegal. Wearing provocative clothing is not. Writing provocative cartoons is not. Selling loose cigarettes is the most minor of misdeameanors, but still illegal. Cops are hired to enforce even the most minor of laws. If you think this is unnecessary oppression, then lobby for the unregulated sale of tobacco. If your livelihood was the stop-and-go legally selling cigarettes and other knickknacks, and someone was sitting out in front of it selling things illegally, you’d be well within your rights to call the cops to get him to quit. Eric Garner deserved a 50$ ticket, not death. But he also had a responsibility to comply with the police when they asked him to.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    they made their living assaulting and mocking the powerless

    Insults doesn’t mean the same thing as assault, you fucking moron.

  5. says

    md – that’s bullshit. The police have discretion, and they don’t ruthlessly enforce every single violation of every possible law. They can just warn people, and they do. They can turn a blind eye, and they do. They can prioritize, and they do.

  6. Vincent says

    Charlie-Hebdo is not and never was a racist (nor sexist) newspaper. Unless you consider that ridiculing Islam is racist, in which case they are racist against white as well when they ridicule Christianity with the same energy. And against Jews, Hindus, Scientologists…

    Their weapons were drawing and humour.

    To the commentators here : before stupidly repeating that that newspaper is racist, read it.

    (But be careful, bad taste is the tone)

    There is a racist party in France (the “Front National”) but it has never been targeted by Muslim terrorists, and probably never will. They openly want to kick all Muslims out of France, but they want it as Christians, not as secularists or (even less) atheists. Therefore, they are not targeted by religious fundamentalists. They are basically on the same side, and that is not the side of secularism and freedom.

    Charlie-Hebdo cartoonists were slaughtered for blasphemy. For atheism. They always have been actively fighting racism and the Front National. Please respect at least that.

  7. md says

    Ophelia, what exactly is bullshit? That he deserved a 50$ ticket?

    Eric Garner was arrested 34 times in 30 years. How many more times was he let go? Why would a cop think discretion would work the 35 time?

    If you are in violation of the law and the police tell you to quit doing something it is your responsibility to comply. Do you find that bullshit, Ophelia? That’s fine, but you are an anarchist.

    If you manage a WaWA and would like the police to move loiterers along from the front door, police whose salaries you pay, and they do not, is that not bullshit?

    I’ll leave it there. The OP wasn’t about Eric Garner. Then again, I didn’t bring him up.

  8. says

    OK, I posted here earlier today and yesterday at my own blog about the image of the people at CH that I got from the film It’s Hard Being Loved by Jerks. The film shows them (including some of the victims of the attack) in meetings planning the issue in which they’re going to publish the Danish cartoons, meetings in which they’re choosing the image for the cover. They’re also interviewed, and various court testimonies are reproduced. As shown in the film, they’re courageous and thoughtful people who are openly concerned that their message doesn’t come across as racist or incite hostility to Muslims generally. They take pains to show that the blasphemy in this case is inclusive – it’s exactly what they’ve long done to other religions.

    I’ve also read others now saying it’s an antiracist publication. But I don’t read it, cartoons are very culturally specific and I’d probably miss important references and context if I did, and the film I cite, which I saw in 2011, came out in 2008. So my information is dated, but I’m surprised now to hear characterizations of it as publishing racist cartoons. It’s improbable but possible that CH has changed that significantly over the past six years, and this would be relevant to my characterization, so I would be interested in solid, fully contextualized evidence that it’s become a racist publication or printed racist cartoons (the evidence that I’ve seen so far is weak, especially given my prior knowledge – they published an antiracist cartoon whose message some might not recognize and such). (I don’t see the relevance of CH’s alleged misogyny to anything at the moment. I don’t think anyone is suggesting it had anything to do with the response of Muslim fundamentalists.)

  9. Vincent says

    Indeed, it is an anti-racist cartoon. The red and blue flame on the bottom left is the logo of the Front National and the cartoon was made in reaction to several racist attacks on Taubira by the extreme right, comparing her to a monkey. The text reads “Racist Blue Gathering” instead of the usual “Marine Blue Gathering”, from the name of Marine LePen, leader of the French extreme right.

  10. says

    I’m wondering if some – or a lot or all – of the claim that CH is racist is simply because their style of caricature is very crude. It’s a style that’s out of fashion in the Anglophone world, as far as I know – but I think they use it for everyone, not Other Races.

  11. says

    re: “not racist”

    Christiane Taubira cover

    That was the example I saw referred to earlier. As this comment and the very first comments on Blumenthal’s tweet point out, it was a parody of a racist rightwing publication. To argue that an antiracist parody might have failed (although, again, the people bringing it up don’t seem to have the full cultural context) is worlds away from showing that it’s a racist cartoon or publication, and I’m surprised at people’s pouncing on such weak evidence to make such claims, especially in the immediate wake of these murders.

    Again, it’s possible that good evidence exists (the evidence of the film wouldn’t evaporate in any event), but that isn’t it. (Which isn’t to say that they’ve probably never printed anything I would dislike or cringe at – I’m sure they have.)

  12. tulse says

    There is a racist party in France (the “Front National”) but it has never been targeted by Muslim terrorists

    But it has been targeted by Charlie Hedbo with several less-than-flattering covers of Le Pen.

  13. says

    Who has the power to define?

    A) Could you be more clear about what you’re asking?

    B) Do you acknowledge that the intent and context of the cartoon you cited is important in interpreting its meaning, and that you might have jumped to a mistaken conclusion about it?

    Again, evidence of a racist bent in recent years could exist (I’m not thrilled they profile Houellebeq, but that’s quite minor), but that cartoon is the single piece of evidence I’ve seen offered, and the people mentioning it seem more interested in trying to find ways to suggest it’s still evidence of some undefined something bad than in the possibility that they might be unfairly misrepresenting people who were just murdered for standing up for free expression and the right to blaspheme. I’m perplexed by this.

  14. Vincent says

    Indeed, Tulse, the Front National (French nationalist party, extreme right, openly racist and anti-Muslims) is the preferred target of Charlie Hebdo, far ahead of all other political parties. CH published several ugly cartoons of the Lepens (father and daughter) along the years. I hope we get a darn good one next Wednesday, because that horrible bitch (Marine Lepen, and excuse my French) is trying to use their murder to stir up the population against French Muslims.

  15. soogeeoh says

    A) I meant it like: who has the power to define what is and isn’t racist?
    (The ones afflicted is what I’d say)

    B) comment 23 captures my problem with it

  16. says

    A) I meant it like: who has the power to define what is and isn’t racist?
    (The ones afflicted is what I’d say)

    B) comment 23 captures my problem with it

    Now I’m beginning to get angry. You’ve offered no indication whatsoever that you acknowledge that you presented a purported example of CH’s racism to be taken at face value with no mention (or awareness, possibly) that it was a fucking parody of rightwing racism. Nor have you offered any indication that you attempted to investigate the intent or context in which it was received before you put it out there.

    No, I don’t agree that any such parody automatically reinforces the thinking it intends to skewer – even if that one Colbert parody was questionable, for instance, which I don’t actually think, his work as a whole can’t validly be argued to reinforce rightwing stereotypes. In any case, saying that you with whatever level of ignorance or knowledge think a parody of racism might have backfired and therefore you have a “problem with it,” or just acknowledging that political humor can be tricky, is vastly different from showing that a publication is racist, as you initially suggested that cartoon did. Even in the worst possible reading, that cartoon is an example of anti-racist efforts.

    These people deserve better than this. You should at the absolute least acknowledge that your post about that particular cartoon misrepresented them. Instead, you’ll probably just go looking for more examples of their purported racism. Look, I understand the impulse to distance ourselves from the racist Right at the same time as we condemn the attack, and to be more sure about those with whom we’re claiming solidarity, but that doesn’t give people license to misrepresent the people of CH.

    In any case, I’m no longer going to respond to these short, unpunctuated comments.

  17. shadow says

    I do not speak/read/write French, nor have I ever seen CH except for the cartoons others have posted.

    That said, there is no reason or excuse for what happened Wednesday. In defending their prophet, the perpetrators have actually harmed, rather than helped, islam
    (the non-capitalization is intentional).

  18. says

    The cartoon was a response to a racist cover of the rightwing Minute. There’s just a ton of context there of which I know a fraction, and I have no idea how the CH image was interpreted by those “afflicted” (who didn’t, incidentally, include Blumenthal).

    Minute’s words “deny that I belong to the human race”, said Taubira, who refused to prosecute the magazine.

    Created by supporters of French colonisation in Algeria in 1962, Minute backed the Front National party in the 1970’s and has been struggling over the past years. Its publishing company went into administration last March and the magazine currently counts only three employees. For the magazine, the infamous front page has been a success: “We wanted free publicity. We got more than we could have dreamed of”, said one of their journalists. Hélène Valette, spokeperson for Minute added: “We take responsibility for this cover. It’s satirical. No one takes offense at the covers of Charlie Hebdo.”

    Satirical publication Charlie Hebdo responded to this statement saying: “Some people have actually taken offense at the covers of Charlie Hebdo, among which the Catholic far-right which has sued us 12 times in 20 years (…) Minute does not defend the freedom of the press. It prepares the ground for future racist crimes.”

  19. soogeeoh says

    [(white Minute vs.Black people) vs. white CH]:
    Minute throws a punch at Black people, and hits.
    CH throws a punch at Minute, and hits.
    But who exactly?

  20. lorn says

    Ophelia Benson @ #5:
    “md – that’s bullshit. The police have discretion, and they don’t ruthlessly enforce every single violation of every possible law. They can just warn people, and they do. They can turn a blind eye, and they do. They can prioritize, and they do.”

    Not necessarily so much as you might think. Gardner was selling “loosies” outside of existing businesses. It has been reported on NPR that the businesses and/or residents had complained to police about people selling cigarettes. The police that went to deal with the problem were sent specifically by the department head and, by line of authority, the mayor, and were charged with arresting violators because the charge is a criminal offense, not a civil offense, as a traffic violation might be. When they attempted to arrest Gardner he flat refused to be arrested. There isn’t any legal provision for refusal under any circumstances and as a matter of policy police are authorized to use force to obtain an arrest. The proviso is that the force used should be proportional to the resistance.

    The law is that the level of force used is not proportional to the seriousness of the crime, but rather the level of resistance met during arrest.

    The police involved were not free to turn a blind eye. They were under orders that were motivated by citizen complaints. They could not have written a ticket and moved on. The violation is a criminal, not a civil, violation. Gardner refused to turn around and allow himself to be handcuffed and the police were forced to use force to make the arrest. During that struggle one officer used a banned hold. That is a violation of department policy, not of law. The autopsy is ambiguous as to whether the choke hold or positional asphyxia caused Gardner’s death.

    It has become sport to criticize police but very few making the criticism are offering any affirmative alternatives as to how the job should or might be done. What happens when the police are charged with making an arrest and the person resists? A Taser might have been less physically traumatic but given Gardner’s physical condition there is no guarantee that he might not have been injured or killed. There are simply no non-traumatic ways to restrain a person that does not have some risk of injury or death even in an entirely healthy person. The risks are much higher if the person has serious respiratory and cardiac issues.

    The human animal can be both incredibly tough when resiting, but also incredibly fragile. A man I trained with was shot eight times in Vietnam, he received a silvers star for saving the lives of several dozen men, but he died after walking up a single flight of stairs. At 55 he was in gloriously good condition, regularly participated in the Ironman competition, but threw a clot that cut off blood to his brain.

  21. says

    Gosh, soogeeoh, you’ve articulated a formidable argument which hasn’t even remotely been addressed above on this thread.

    Aaaaaaanyway, when I was writing the posts above, I kept starting to type things like “Of course, it wouldn’t make any difference (beyond the accuracy of my characterization) if it turned out they were racist…” and then deleting them. Reading and linking to the post about Minute led me to begin to realize why: because it does matter.

    I started to think about what if it had been a paper like Minute – a racist one, which doesn’t care about freedom of expression, the right to blaspheme, or human rights. I would still have condemned the attack,* but I certainly wouldn’t have thought of it in terms of solidarity. Part of the tragedy of these murders is that they killed people who genuinely did courageously support these rights, and who stood up to both the Islamist and European Right and did so with humor and humanity in a highly fraught context. Were they perfect? Of course not, and I’m sure the last thing they would want would be to be sanctified. But they deserve a fair if critical account of their actions.

    *In this context. As I would have condemned an attack on Je Suis Partout in the ’30s, but supported it during the Occupation.

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