And in that they were exceedingly successful

The Washington Post has the whole text of Garry Trudeau’s speech on receiving the George Polk award, so we can do a thorough job of scowling at the wrongness.

I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began [more than] eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what he felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority — his charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful.

Wait. I disagree that the idea behind the original drawings was not to challenge authority – and for that matter in doing so to entertain and enlighten. But to challenge authority? Fuck yes! Of course it was. It was to challenge theocratic authority that was saying You Must Not Draw This One Historical-Religious Person, because our religion says so. Disobeying that wholly illegitimate command is to challenge authority. Yes the religion in question is a religion of outsiders in Denmark, so yes that complicates things, but it doesn’t make Islam not authoritarian. If only it did.

Frankly it seems pretty dense of Trudeau not to see that.

…and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free-speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech.

That first snide remark is revolting – they did not set out to get people killed, so no they were not successful.

And yes people could say toward what positive social end – toward the end of being able to talk freely about Islam, which would benefit the outsiders in Denmark, i.e. Muslims, more than anyone else.

And “judgment and common sense” is an odd label for bowing to the orders of theocrats. We need to be able to talk freely about Islam; Muslims need that much more than the rest of us do, and it’s not doing them a favor to treat it as a third rail.

And now we are adrift in an even wider sea of pain. Ironically, Charlie Hebdo — which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population — has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest.

Has it? What about the many Muslims who do the opposite? Why is Garry Trudeau erasing them from the picture?

Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.

The White House took a lot of hits for not sending a high-level representative to the pro-Charlie solidarity march, but that oversight is now starting to look smart.


No it is not. What a horrible thing to say.

Has he not heard of Raif Badawi? If he has I don’t see how he can treat Islamist violence as unproblematically a natural response to criticism. If he has I don’t see how he can treat Islam in general, Islam as a world religion that is entangled with government in many countries, as unproblematically the underdog.

Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks.

The murders. The murders, the murders, the murders.

Shame on you, Garry Trudeau.


  1. md says

    I concur wholeheartedly with everything you’ve written here, Ophelia.

    Trudeau is an insufferable blowhard and this piece he’s written is disgusting.

  2. footface says

    Trudeau’s line of thinking—ostensibly one of encouraging respect for the aggrieved—is so dehumanizing. The outraged Muslims aren’t people anymore. They’re wild dogs or swarms of bees. They’re not responsible. Who’s to blame for the cartoon riots? Why, the cartoonists who poked the beehive with a stick. He says Muslims reserve the right to be offended by Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Well, of course they do. But they don’t reserve the right to kill people. This is complicated?

  3. johnthedrunkard says

    ‘Successful?’ The Imams who deliberately started the violence had to ADD their own drawings to ramp up the Offence Level to red.

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