Now it’s 35 shits

This is absolutely disgusting.

More than two dozen writers including Junot Díaz, Joyce Carol Oates and Lorrie Moore have joined a protest against a freedom of expression award for Charlie Hebdo, signing a letter taking issue with what they see as a “reward” for the magazine’s controversial cartoons.

A protest. A fucking protest against giving an award to a strongly anti-racist and left wing magazine because they think in their ignorance that it’s racist.

In their letter the writers protest against the award from PEN America, the prominent literary organization of which most of the signatories are members, accusing the French satirical magazine of mocking a “section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized”.

That’s an ignorant uninformed mistaken accusation.

“There is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression,” the letter reads.

“The magazine seems to be entirely sincere in its anarchic expressions of disdain toward organized religion. But in an unequal society, equal opportunity offense does not have an equal effect.

“Power and prestige are elements that must be recognized in considering almost any form of discourse, including satire.”

The writers go on to say that to the certain segments of French society – “a population that is shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises, and that contains a large percentage of devout Muslims” – Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the prophet “must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering”.

Must be? Must be? Must according to whom?

In a statement, PEN said it will hold a “public dialogue” on Tuesday at New York University, with a panel that will include an NYU professor, PEN’s executive director and two Charlie Hebdo staffers.

Novelist Salman Rushdie, who hid for years after Iran’s highest religious leader issued a fatwa against him, upbraided his peers. On Twitter, Rushdie called the six other writers “just six pussies. Six Authors in Search of a bit of Character.” (He later said he should not have reused the word “pussies” from another’s tweet.) Ina letter to PEN, he accused them of having “made themselves the fellow travellers” of extremists who seek to censor writers “into a cowed silence”.

I’m sure he’ll be delighted that 29 more Soft-heads have joined the pioneer six.

Journalist Amitava Kumar, a signatory to the letter, told the Guardian that he knows “a bunch of overdressed writers in a large room getting up to applaud or, for that matter, not applaud an award isn’t going to change much in the world. Not the number of people getting killed by drones, or getting drowned in the Mediterranean, or dying at the hands of the police in the US.

“That said, one of the things that folks like Salman Rushdie taught me when I was coming of age as a writer was that you have to take sides. On the Charlie Hebdo question, I wish I had the triumphant certainty of those who are all gung-ho about the award. I mean, fuck the killers who gunned down the cartoonists.

“But as I think of the wars unleashed upon whole peoples and the brutal realities of occupation as well as theocratic rule in the Middle East, you have to ask yourself if one shouldn’t instead be championing those who see the greater violence and who rebel against our own cravenness and our complicities.”

What utter garbage. Don’t give Charlie Hebdo an award because of  wars unleashed upon whole peoples and the brutal realities of occupation as well as theocratic rule in the Middle East – what sense does that make??

Philip Gourevitch, a staff writer for the New Yorker and PEN host, said he thought the protest ill-founded and part of a debate that had “lost track of the reality of how Charlie Hebdo functioned in French society.” He said that in France, the paper “was not seen as a racist paper or as an enforcer to the French establishment hegemony.”

“The real test of support for free speech is not whether it’s speech that you approve of,” Gourevitch said, noting the magazine’s “puerile, gross, often offensive” style. “It’s whether it’s speech that has faced a crushing threat.”

He said he finds it “very sad” that the protest “seems now to be turning into a broader rift that’s very reminiscent of the way that some people basically said Salman Rushdie shouldn’t be killed, but he never should’ve written the Satanic Verses.”

Well at least we’ll know who the assholes are.


  1. says

    Jesus H. Christ on a raft. What the fuck is wrong with these people?!

    Looks like more Great Rifts are forming. Glad to know who is on the other side of the rift.

  2. ZugTheMegasaurus says

    Brilliant, Kumar. Cite Rushdie to explain why Rushdie is wrong. Think he hasn’t read it yet?

  3. says

    What utter garbage. Don’t give Charlie Hebdo an award because of wars unleashed upon whole peoples and the brutal realities of occupation as well as theocratic rule in the Middle East – what sense does that make??

    I don’t think I shall hold my breath waiting for details of Charlie Hebdo’s complicity in said wars and theocratic rule.

  4. quixote says

    35? 35? Thirty five who can’t understand that, as you quote in an earlier post, “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.”

    It’s like that old Bob Dylan song, The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. Now is the time for your tears.

    I think we know what’s behind their self-stroking ignorance. Right wingers are bigoted against Muslims. So left wingers must be the opposite. Ergo, anything Islamists do is okay. Justification in one and a half easy steps.

    Any argument threatens their Tolerant Leftist™ card, and without it, apparently they don’t know who they are.

  5. veil_of_ignorance says

    We have to face the fact that those people now represent the mainstream of the anglophone liberal left. This weird mixture of identity politics, communitarianism, simplistic monodimensional discourses about power and privilege (two terms which are seldom defined) and a soft spot for crude traditionalism and social conservatism as long as it is non-Western has become virulent in many post-Marxist leftist circles. I think it was Maajid Nawaz who strikingly noticed that the modern relativist left protects identities instead of principles.

    I have to point out – however – that I don’t agree with any (ethical) ‘Please be considerate of French culture’ argument in this debate which goes beyond (the factual) ‘Please know the cultural and political context in which CH operates’. I’m nevertheless schadenfroh that this argument is implicitly or explicitly brought up since it shows how self-defeating the ‘It’s their culture, therefore it should be exempt from critique’ argument actually is. Although most identitarian leftists, who usually prominently use this argument, but who are now themselves accused of being insensitive to the French cultural context, will certainly not notice the crux or will argue it away in a conceptual smokescreen of power and privilege.

  6. says

    Ah, but there are two positions, possible, see? You either say nothing in criticism of Islamism, or you’re a racist, a bigot, and if actually murdered, well, what did you expect? We will say nothing to encourage your ‘provocation’, as right-thinking people don’t.

    Funny how that works out. Oh, we assure you, ‘responsible’ criticisms are theoretically possible, but somehow any we actually see never are. Oh, and if you’d like more generally to say Muhammed was as full of it as ‘prophets’ and ‘messiahs’ generally are, no, sorry, we’re afraid this, too, will eventually earn you the same sideways smear, one way or another. You’re not being ‘respectful’, see. Where ‘respectful’ equals, as always, for unbelievers in any precious, fragile, protected creed–and never mind what a stifling totalitarian horror it becomes, being so protected–‘invisible’.

    But hey. Let the thirty five stay well away, I guess. It seems, under the circumstances, vastly more respectful to the twelve who died on the seventh of January.

    Je suis Charlie encore.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Not sure quite what to make of this:

    Charlie Hebdo cartoonist says he will no longer draw Prophet

    PARIS (Reuters) – The French cartoonist Luz, who drew Charlie Hebdo’s cover picture of the Prophet Mohammad after the Islamist killings at the satirical weekly in January, has said he will no longer draw the Prophet.

    “He no longer interests me,” he told Les Inrockuptibles in an interview …

  8. deepak shetty says

    I do wish these people would make clear which cartoons they found offensive and why.
    However I do think you should make allowances for the fact that satire is never perceived uniformly.

  9. says

    I’m half way through googling the list, and I’m amazed that so many white people become novelists after attending an Ivy league university (particularly Harvard, Columbia and Brown).

    Probably just co-incidental in this case.

  10. says

    deepak @11 – what do you mean? I’m not claiming satire is perceived uniformly. I’m claiming that when a bunch of satirists have been murdered for their satire, people should at least get a decent grasp of how they are generally perceived in their own country & culture & context before making a huge public fuss at the fact that they are receiving an award for courage.

  11. johnthedrunkard says

    Well, Islamists want to kill Jews and Americans. Therefore they are sacrosanct. Nothing they can do won’t be rationalized with the classic ‘whataboutery’ shown above.

    Wonder why ‘PC’ is such a handy stick to beat real progressives with? It is beyond the heaviest hand of satire to express my disgust with these cringing cowards.

    In her memoir, Hirsi Ali quotes another Somali refugee in Holland. This woman refused to learn Dutch, go to school, or emerge from her Islamist cocoon. She explained to Ali:
    ‘Just call them racist and they’ll give you whatever you want.’

  12. deepak shetty says

    But the people who are objecting to the award are doing so on the bsais of what they perceive as the content of the satire (which for whatever reason they perceive as racist or offensive). Or to put it differently -If Charlie Hebdo was an extreme right wing – anti immigrant – anti minority publication would they still be honored with the same award ?
    (Everyone agrees that there should not be any violence , no matter what the content)

  13. says

    deepak @ 17 – I’ve said that if Charlie Hebdo really were a racist publication, I too would think it shouldn’t get an award. But the people objecting are wrong about Charlie. It’s fair for them to dislike Charlie’s style themselves, but it’s not fair for them to call it racist when it isn’t.

  14. says

    I classify them as shits because they’re not listening to the people who are telling them they have CH all wrong. In the circumstances, I think that’s an ugly way to behave.

  15. deepak shetty says

    I too would think it shouldn’t get an award.
    So then it isnt just an award for standing up for free speech , against violence , it is also an award for the content within , right ?

    but it’s not fair for them to call it racist when it isn’t.
    Ok agreed – and I wish we could get them to identify specifics.

    they’re not listening to the people who are telling them they have CH all wrong.
    Theres a problem with that though. The people who could make that statement authoritatively are French Muslims. Two examples
    a. Theres a comedian called Russell Peters(Canadian of Indian origin I believe) who most Indians adore – He uses the usual stereotypes and cliches and sometimes its hard to tell if he is poking fun at Indians or poking fun at people who believe these stereotypes. But if I keep his content the same but pretend he is a White Canadian then I would find most of his stuff offensive and racist . Poking fun from the inside is different than from the outside.

    b. There was an exchange over at Ashley Miller about the Rape Olympics joke. John Greg (or someone else) tried to explain that the real target of that was Dawkins whereas Ashley had a clear answer as to why , even if true , it was a problem. So the targets perspectives matters – It shouldnt be – I spoke to some French people/know french and this is the right way to read those cartoons.

    However (not just French) Muslims probably aren’t a good standard either – Since they are too quick to brand anything that criticses their religion as too offensive , racist , Islamophobic whatever.

  16. P. Jordan Howell says

    “…people should at least get a decent grasp of how they are generally perceived in their own country & culture & context before making a huge public fuss at the fact that they are receiving an award for courage”
    @Ophelia, I am unsure how far this gets us anyway. My own French is admittedly little rusty (learned from my Mom who is a native of French Guiana) but I think I have fair grasp of French culture, (admittedly from a critical outsider perspective which again was inherited from a mother who because she is from Guyane is French but yet not quite French) and what I would say is that while it is clear that many French people perceived Charlie Hebdo in the way you are saying, there are still others who didn’t see it that way. My own mother didn’t and doesn’t see Charlie Hebdo that way. But I don’t know that very much in this conversation actually turns on how Charlie Hebdo was viewed by French people in the context of French culture and language. So yeah it is entirely possible to Charlie Hebdo was in fact as anti-racist as you and others contend and that they only used racist tropes as a way to mock racist ideas themselves. My problem is that I don’t know that any of this is quite as obvious as I think you are making it out to be.

    It is not very easy for me as a young black man for instance to easily swallow the idea that representing any black person as a monkey on the cover of a magazine for whatever reason and in pursuit of whatever intent, is ever acceptable. There is just too much history there (including and especially in France) for such a depiction to be easily dismissed as a bit of meta satirical argumentation. So much history of black people being depicted as animals (including in France) that such a portrayal should have given the Charlie Hebdo people some pause to not do it. The fact that they did, signals something about them which made me uneasy even before the most recent attacks against them.

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    Ophelia Benson @ # 16: That’s not a Charlie Hebdo cartoon.

    It does come from an intriguing site: Our Africa has excellent webcraft with a finely-chosen set of pictures and links.

    The image that Octopod linked to @ # 15 remained on the OA front page when I last saw it, with no attribution I could find other than 5 days since posting and 2,515 ♥s.

  18. says

    Jordan @ 22 – Sure, I can see that. I’ve said before that some of their cartoons do make me uneasy. The Titanic one just the other day made me uneasy.

    But I think there’s quite a lot of distance between that and what Francine Prose for instance has said.

  19. says

    whats telling about the mis attributed cartoon is that its actually drawn by an Algerian cartoonist* as an attack on both the drownings in the Med and France’s “family reunion” (its official name) policy of not allowing migrants to be joined by their families for 18 months, that is contributing to the drownings as families try to reunite in illegal and risk ways.

    Its starting to look to m that some people who are scared for their own reputations are doing their damnedest to slur the reputation of CH, and in the circumstances that is just fucking unconscionable.

    *So a brown African person, drawing in a style influenced by French cartoonists**

    **and western academics are calling it racist***

    *** Holy fuck on toast, how do I get off this planet?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *