The Charlie Hebdo tragedy: The five crowds that are getting it wrong


In the wake of the atrocious murder of Charlie Hedbo’s journalists by Islamist fundamentalists which led to #Jesuischarlie, it is sad that some people have chosen this horrendous time to falsely accuse the magazine of the very thing it stands against; Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Misogyny.

As Libby Nelson wrote in Charlie Hebdo: its history, humor, and controversies:

Charlie Hebdo is known for its cartoons, which are often raunchy and provocative, whether they depicted the Prophet Mohammed or portrayed the Pope performing holy communion with a condom.

Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, who was murdered in the attack, described the newspaper’s positions in 2012 as left-wing, secular, and atheist.

Below are 5 different crowds that are getting it wrong and why.

1- The “Charlie Hebdo is racist and sexist” crowd

This crowd eagerly post some of Charlie Hedbo’s cartoons with the aim of accusing the magazine of racism and L4057-1011.0sexism, without caring to dig into the context.

The context of Charlie Hebdo’s Parodies/cartoons is easily understood by the French but not easily understood by outsiders, unless they are conversant with French politics. Some of these cartoons can be viewed and understood under the piece What are some of Charlie Hebdo’s most famous cartoons?

At first glance, these cartoons might appear racist, sexist, and ill-thought-out, but after reading the contexts, this is usually not the case.

So, “What was the context of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon depicting Boko Haram sex slaves as welfare queens?”

This is what Libby Nelson has to say:

Charlie Hebdo covers often combined two unrelated stories to make a satirical point. In the context of the magazine’s leftist politics, this seems to be about spoofing not Nigerian trafficking victims, but French welfare critics, who have argued that France should cut welfare programs to prevent immigrant women from exploiting them. The cover, in this view, seems to say, “Hey, welfare critics, you’re so heartless that you probably think that even Nigerian sexual slavery victims are money-grubbing ‘welfare queens.

This is what French people have to say about it on Quora

According to Jean-Baptiste Froment, toulousain

This cover is mixing two unrelated elements which made the news at about the same time:

– Boko Haram victims likely to end up sex slaves in Nigeria

– Decrease of French welfare allocations

In France, as in probably every country who has welfare allocations, some people criticize this system because some people might try to game it (e.g., “welfare queens” idea). Note that if we didn’t had it there would probably be much more people complaining because the ones who really need it would end up in extreme poverty.

Charlie Hebdo is known for being left-wing attached and very controversial, and I think they wanted to parody people who criticize “welfare queens” by taking this point-of-view to the absurd, to show that immigrant women in France are more likely to be victims of patriarchy than evil manipulative profiteers.

And of course if we only stay on the first-degree approach, it’s a terrible racist and absurd cover.

As Adrien points out in his answer, it was neither the first nor the last time Charlie Hebdo used this kind of “satirical news mixing”, and had no “preferred target”.

According to Adrien Lucas Ecoffet, French citizen

it’s easy now for non-French observers to imagine Charlie Hebdo as a right wing, racist, anti immigrant publication because of the fact that they have only seen covers about fundamentalist Islam.

The reality is, Charlie Hebdo is a far left, pro-immigrant publication, of which many contributors have been members of anti-racist organizations.

As the other answers have mentioned, this cover is simply the combination of two news stories to make a provocative joke. This is a very common occurrence in Charlie Hebdo front pages.”

On the cartoon depicting the Justice Minister, a black woman,  as a Monkey.

John Couroubleas has this to say:

In November 2013 a cartoon in Charlie Hebdo depicted the Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is black (not literally African, specifically she was born in French Guiana), as a monkey. This has been a very popular image to share on Twitter as evidence that Charlie is a racist publication.

As the other answers have mentioned, this cover is simply the combination of two news stories to make a provocative joke. This is a very common occurrence in Charlie Hebdo front pages.

The first clue that all is not what it seems is that the cartoon was drawn by Charb – the editor himself. He was a Communist, and his girlfriend’s parents were North African. A funny kind of racist. Next you have to note that the text next to that cartoon says “Rassemblement Bleu Raciste”. This is a play on “Rassemblement Bleu Marine”, the slogan of Marine Le Pen’s national front, and the tricolor flame next to it is the party logo.

So, what you then need to know is that the cartoon was published after a National Front politician Facebooked a photoshop of the woman in the cartoon as a monkey, and then said on French TV that she should be “in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government”.

French Far-Right Politician Compares Justice Minister To Monkey

The cartoon is literally saying the National Front are racists. I’m genuinely not sure whether propagating the imagery is or isn’t a useful way of mocking the FN, but turning an antifascist cartoon into evidence of racism based on no understanding at all takes some real pathology.

As a black woman and a Nigerian, I do not find these cartoons racist or sexist. I understand that other people including Blacks might find it racist. The point is, we are all entitled to our opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts. Facts do not change simply because our opinion does not match the facts.

Even if after understanding the context and the parody and we still think it is inappropriate cartoon, Racism is still not the word to describe the problem (if any). Unfortunately, even when presented with the context, the “Charlie Hebdo is racist/sexist” crowd has failed to accept they got it wrong.

2- The “We don’t support their murders BUT blah blah blah” aka ‘Blame the victim’ crowd

This crowd specialises in throwing around sentiments followed by accusations such as-

“I don’t like that they were murdered but they had it coming”  

“I am not saying I agree with their murders but they should not be so controversial”

“They did not deserved to be killed but they knew what the stakes were”

This crowd gets so much on my nerves because in them I see every hater who sends me hate mail or warns me to stop posting my views on Religion, Skydaddy, their paedophile prophet Mohammed or their Blue eyed, blonde Jewish saviour, Jesus.

This crowd starts by piously stating that they don’t agree with the killings but always follow it with the inevitable 2015-01-08-charlie-dave-brown-the-independentBUT. I find it very distasteful when people use ‘BUT’ to place part of the blame on victims. For example, we are familiar with those who when commenting under a rape case, spew such rubbish as:

“I don’t support that she was raped BUT she should not have followed him home,”

“I am sad that she was raped BUT she should not have worn that short skirt”

“I am not saying she deserved to be raped BUT she should not have been drinking”

Also, if I was attacked in my home by burglars, the last thing anyone should say to me is

“You should have invested in the latest security system!”

The word ‘BUT’ only helps place part of the blame on Victims and that is inappropriate. The only people responsible for rape are the rapists, the only people responsible for burglary are the burglars, and the only people responsible for murders are the murderers. The victim does not share any part of the blame.

I can’t help but think that if I was ever murdered for my views on Religion or my advocacy for LGBT rights, the BUT crowd would be privately pleased. After all, they think I had it coming. They have sent me warning mails to desist from talking negatively about religion or face the consequences. They would probably quote the many times they left comments on my social media to advise me in ‘good faith’ to stop ‘attacking’ religion. No doubt while offering their condolences to my family, they would not be able to resist adding amidst crocodile tears, “I saw it coming, I warned her but she did not listen, that is why she was murdered, if only she listened”

 This kind of attitude indirectly gives legitimacy to religious fanatics. It promotes censorship. Worse still, these in ‘good faith’ advisers truly believe that no one should mock Allah and their precious prophet. Some of them also secretly agree with the Quran’s prescribed punishment for blasphemers. The difference between them and those who actually carry out this commandment is just a matter of the type of trigger they are brave enough to pull in public.

Murdering an unbeliever in cold blood in the name of God is not the only hallmark of religious fanatics.

When believers refuse to render help to people who speak out against Religion or deny them employment opportunities simply because well, thou shall not mix with unbelievers, they are religious fanatics.

When religious believers support the criminalisation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals while spuriously quoting from the bible or quran, they are religious fanatics.

These ‘moderate’ believers are part of the problem because in their own way, they endorse religious fanaticism.

3- The “#JeSuisAhmed , I am not Charlie”crowd

I examined the reasons given for #JeSuisAhmed and I don’t buy it. Why try to poison the spirit of #JeSuisCharlie?6ee875fa-4280-4e5e-b789-8873f5846038-620x372

Charlie is not a person; it is a magazine. A magazine that had its staff murdered for refusing to be cowed by offended terrorists despite the many threats it receives daily. Charlie Hebdo’s indefatigable spirit was what those religious fanatics wanted to break. The attacks, the outrage, the solidarity are all about refusing to give in to intimidation. It is about Freedom of Speech, Liberty and the right to offend.

The death of Ahmed Merabet, like every other victim, is tragic. Ahmed, just like the other cops, was simply responding to a call of duty. However, in an attempt to take away from what Charlie Hedbo stands for, the #JeSuisAhmed crowd was quick to declare that:

  • Ahmed was a Muslim

For all we know, he was a closeted atheist!

  • Ahmed was defending people who offended his faith

Again, they assumed that Ahmed not only had a faith but also was offended by Charlie Hedbo’s cartoons. With this assumption, they imply that Charlie Hedbo’s cartoons offend ALL Muslims.

  • Ahmed died defending the right of Charlie Hedbo to offend even though he did not agree with them

The #JeSuisAhmed crowd created this story of a French Muslim cop who although was offended by Charlie Hedbo, chose to die as a brave martyr defending the right of the cartoonists to Freedom of expression. Nothing in the video clip of the unfortunate death of this police officer implies what the #JeSuisAhmed crowd is propagating. The cop was just answering a call of duty, he was not even afforded the time to draw his gun before he was shot down by the terrorists. He probably did not know the cause of the brouhaha. Ahmed was a victim of the terrorists, and the terrorist hated what Charlie Hedbo stands for and killed people for it. Ahmed is part of Charlie Hebdo story, not outside of it.

#JeSuisCharlie is not a competition about whose death is worse or more deserving of a hashtag. It is not about a single individual as #JeSuisAhmed is trying to be, but about our collective empathy, strength, and defiance in the face of this tragedy. It is no longer just a Charlie Hedbo tragedy but a national tragedy that has awakened global solidarity. The attempts by #JeSuisAhmed crowd to distance themselves from #JeSuisCharlie are unconvincing, unnecessary, and unfortunately divisive.

4- The “What about the other side (insert: West/IRA/Christian)?” crowd

This crowd is infuriating in their lopsided argument. For example, immediately the news of the attack broke and I posted about it on my wall, some immediately left comments blaming everyone but the terrorists.  This particular commenter epitomises all that is wrong with this crowd.

“What goes around comes around the west have committed untold acts of terror against the Arab world especially France with Libya…..you have to wonder when all this bloodletting will stop, what a messed up and dangerous world we live in no thanks to the Western powers”

Talking of religious fanatics Bush claimed God told him to invade Iraq, go figure……We should ban all organised religion, shit started with the crusades, they used it to colonise Africa and enslave our people and the violence continues……smh

He topped it with

this violence is a never ending cycle everybody is to blame.

No, we are not all to blame; the terrorists who went on a killing spree to avenge Allah are to blame.

He went ahead to inform me

Yemisi the only problem I have with your reasoning is that Xtianity is just as bad as Islam in my book, they are just as violent and fanatical as each other in my book, think George Bush and the IRA.

I wonder why some people think when Islam is called out, Christianity gets a pass mark and vice versa. It is possible to point out the ills of a particular religion without giving the other a pass mark. And one should be able to discuss a specific religion without someone screaming “What about Islam?” or what about Christianity?”

A post breaking the news about the atrocious murders of innocent people in the name of Allah should not be turned into an avenue to list the ills of George Bush, IRA or the Westboro Baptist Church. There is a time and a place for everything, this is hardly the time to play the compare, contrast and score game. The “What about the other side?” remark only serves to distract from the particular ill under discussion. In fact, trolls use it just to muddle up discussions.

I have always stressed that Religion is a deadly cancer. When I call out religion, I mean all organised religion and their Skydaddy, and as we know, Islam and Christianity have a common Skydaddy, the Abrahamic God. I post generally about religion, ALL RELIGION, however when a post is about a tragedy caused by a particular religion and its fanatics, it is not appropriate to scream “But what about Bush, Christians, Western power, IRA” or whatever else people use to shift part of the blame from the murderers.

This is not the time to entertain a modicum of justification for heinous acts against humanity. It is a detracting trolling attempt aimed at ‘indirectly’ justifying such acts by trying to generalise this particular atrocity with the “What about those other people” rhetoric.

5- The “Islam is peaceful, those terrorists are not real Muslims” crowd

Of course they are real Muslims, if anything they are the real Muslims, after all, they are the ones that are dutifully following to the letter, the words of Allah as espoused in the Quran.

Part of this crowd also encourages the ‘Real Muslims’ to take back Islam. Really, take back Islam? What is there to reclaim? If you take away the Holy book that commands these atrocities, what is left of Islam?

In this day and age, it should not be about reclaiming any religion; it should be about doing away with religion and all superstitions that beget atrocities. In fact, I strongly believe children should be protected from having holy books forced on them by religious parents. We often protect children from books and movies containing violence and unsuitable materials, yet we allow religious parents to force-feed children those violent Quran and Bible stories.

In the name of respecting religion, we expose vulnerable children to harmful lies and tales of hell-fire. They learn about discrimination when taught the myths of the chosen race, why women should be submissive to men and how non-virgin wives should be stoned to death. We sow the seed of homophobia when we speak about the wrath of God towards men who lay with men and we germinate fear and kill their quest to question when we scare them with divinely prescribed punishment for blasphemy. We should protect children from such atrocious teachings. If we don’t want to breed a future generation of religious fanatics, we must seriously think about protecting future generation from religious indoctrination.

When a religion provides a hiding place for bad people to commit atrocities, that religion deserves no respect. Religion provides excuse for evil people to carry out deluded activities, however, an excuse for evil is itself evil. We should be doing away with religion, not reclaiming it.

In conclusion, if you belong to any of these 5 crowds, don’t be afraid to break free because #JeSuisCharlie.

charlie-hebdo-0919

Comments

  1. rorschach says

    Gee I wish more people would read this. Thanks for posting it, too many people seem to have entirely ignored(as in being ignorant of)the French context of some of these cartoons.

  2. Lady Mondegreen (aka Stacy) says

    I did not know that people were claiming Ahmed Merabet was offended by CH (though sadly it doesn’t surprise me.)

    You know who these under-informed and over-self righteous folks never mention? Mustapha Ourrad. He was an Algerian Muslim immigrant who was among those murdered last Wednesday. He was Charlie Hebdo’s copy-editor.

  3. mig06 says

    Thank you soooo much for this! It’s exasperating to see how many on this site have not only misunderstood the very nature of Charlie Hebdo, but also refuse to understand it.

  4. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    The cartoons put out by Charlie Hebdo are racist hate propaganda, nothing more. It is difficult to see the humor, let alone the alleged “satire” in some of these cartoons, which seem to be nothing more than juvenile attempts to offend and provoke. You would have to have the mindset of Beavis and Butthead to find these cartoons humorous, “heh-heh-heh he said shit, heh-heh-heh.”

    As for their claiming to be a leftist or anti-racist publication, the bilge they publish speaks for itself. Sorry, but the emperor is clearly wearing no clothes. It’s truly revealing the number of alleged anti-racists making convoluted defenses of what is plainly obvious. They remind me of the contortions Bible-defenders twist themselves into to justify the viler passages in the Bible. If an apparently racist cartoon needs a detailed and convoluted explanation for why it supposedly isn’t racist, then much like evil Bible passages it isn’t reasonable to expect that people will not take them at face value for what they appear to be, rather than the concocted views of apologists.

    Supposed “leftists” are capable of bigotry against Muslims same as anyone else…maybe even more so in many cases. Like many on the fake left, Charlie Hebdo endorses the neocon racist, warmongering doctrine of aggressive war posing as “humanitarian interventions” as well as the the aggressive hate propaganda against Muslims designed to drum up support for these wars among the populace as well as justify attacks on civil liberties.

    You talk about the “context” of these articles, but fail to mention the context of decades of aggression by Western nations against Muslim countries much of it fed by propaganda like that of Charlie Hebdo. In the Nuremberg trials, Julius Streicher was hanged for making racist caricatures similar to those of Charlie Hebdo. But even he wasn’t tried for promoting warfare, much as Charlie Hebdo has done.

    It may make you feel better to put people into neat categories based on where they stand on this issue, but some things are obvious and really not open to debate. Most of us have eyes and don’t need you to tell us how to interpret what we see with them.

    I am not Charlie because I think for myself.

  5. says

    This is an extremely intelligent piece, of a much higher standard than is usual for FTB.

    My only quibble is that, while it may appear charitable and politic to excuse those in group 1 for not being French, it is more likely that they are simply obtuse. I’m pretty sure that everyone over a certain level of intelligence in the US has the capacity to understand the kind of thing that Charlie Hebdo does, especially those old enough to remember the underground comics of the 1970s or even the MAD magazine of the 1970s. Nor is it all that different from Viz comics, Private Eye, or the older Punch and Judy in the UK.

    Perhaps some familiarity with French politics is helpful for identifying the particular targets, but anyone with even passing familiarity with indirect speech, from irony to satire to sarcasm to burlesque, will by now have come to understand how it works and will have been sufficiently inoculated against the automatic decision that it is some sort of “-ist.”

    In any event, diversionary attacks such as accusing someone of being racist precisely because they criticize the racism of the accusers are well familiar to people everywhere with working brains. One doesn’t have to be French to see through such transparency.

  6. mig06 says

    You hit it on the nail, #5 Erik. The comment preceding yours is a fine example of what you describe.

  7. jeffreyfalick says

    I agree with every word you wrote. One small quibble just to engender some sensitivity. The use of “Jew” as an adjective (“Jew saviour”) is perceived even by atheist Jews like me as somewhat antisemitic (think “Jew lawyer” or “Jew crook). I know that it was not your intent, but “Jewish saviour” would accomplish the same goal without echoing that language.

  8. Anne Fenwick says

    Eric @5 --

    My only quibble is that, while it may appear charitable and politic to excuse those in group 1 for not being French, it is more likely that they are simply obtuse.

    I think it is more likely that they’re experiencing some cognitive dissonance or at least a difficulty in being consistent in their approach to imagery involving people of other races and religions. It’s often occurred to me that some of them are working on the basis of allegiance rather than well thought out principles and that when their allegiances conflict, they are lost. Or, to be more generous, perhaps they had independently made up their minds that such imagery was inacceptable regardless of context, before being confronted with Charlie, and they are being consistent (whether right or wrong).

    I’m still working out my own views on Charlie’s cartoons. If I wanted to be really analytically art historical about it, I would say that Charlie was only effectively anti-racist in the place, time and audience for which it was intended. One year later, one country across, that function is lost. Torn from that context, those images are currently doing other things. But what? Feeding into the debate as to whether racial caricaturing is ever acceptable, regardless of purpose, intention and context, I suspect. And into a demand for globalisation of our modes of representation (after all we live in a globalised world and images travel). But it’s not certain that the people with most power in this debate are the ones with the best answers.

  9. says

    Excellent article, Yemisi. I had been reading a lot about this tragedy, and seen people, sometimes very goodhearted people, that ends up falling in one of these categories (especially the “Charlie Hebdo is racist” one) because, as you pointed out, they fail to see te context to wich these cartoons were refering to. I’m writing from Argentina, were Charlie Hebdo was pretty much unknown, at least to the general public, so the only way to judge is for the loose images of the covers on the internet. Anyways, what I try to point out to them is that, even if they were horribly racist, and horribly sexist, their murder is still an atrocious act that should be condemned, no “but”s, no excuses. I will be refering them to this article a lot.

  10. circonflexe says

    I would like to thank you for these explanations. There is also a good summary here.

    I think you only missed the fifth one -- this is a breakaway cult from the Islam represented by the Muslims I saw yesterday in the Paris crowds. I am confident that most French Muslims consider themselves as normal, sane French people before all. For instance, the employee who saved several hostages in the casher grocery is a Muslim. There are the Muslims, who are not assassins; and the assassins, who are not Muslims. This is actually a point the Charlie Hebdo authors repeatedly tried to make!

  11. Yellow Thursday says

    I spent several hours chatting online with a Muslim man from Algiers on Friday. (I’m from the US.) He fell into categories 1, 2, 3, and 5, and was a conspiracy theorist to boot. He tried to claim that the eye-witness video of the one person killed outside the building was faked (although he agreed that those who were killed inside the building actually died). So there was one less dead, or something? I never quite understood his point.

    I continued talking with him because his conspiracy claims were so amusing. The discussion turned to 9/11, the moon landing, and creationism. I was not surprised to see him claim conspiracy on 9/11 and the moon landing, and support creationism.

  12. librasch says

    Great piece of writing -- I especially like point 3. The assumption that all Muslim people must take offence at CH nails the whole jesuisahmed stuff perfectly.

  13. piero says

    I don’t usually post at FTB, because in the past my comments have been received with, shall we say, less than unanimous enthusiasm. However, I find this piece by Yemisi illuminating, and I must give credit where credit is due. Well done!

  14. Jeff S says

    Yemisi, this is fantastic summary of all of incredibly wrong reactions that many have had to the massacre.

    It goes to show how people quickly like to jump to the conclusion they WANT to, rather than educating themselves about the issue and forming an opinion.

  15. maudell says

    Interesting points, Yemisi.

    @Sean 4
    I’m trying to grasp your warmonger theory. Are you suggesting that the people at CH are openly anti-war but are in fact secretly pro-war?

  16. sambarge says

    Thanks for this great article. As I posted somewhere else on FTB in relation to this topic, what bothers me isn’t that some people see the cartoons as racist or sexist (or, curiously, homophobic) but that they will not listen to counter arguments or examine the evidence of CH’s left-wing, anti-racism, pro-immigration position. I got the impression that some people would refuse to change their minds, regardless of the evidence presented to contradict their position.

    It seemed like a oddly un-skeptic attitude to take.

    I don’t have any beliefs about life after death except for the memory and legacy you leave behind. It is sad to me that people who worked to forward inclusive, pacifist agendas are being cast as reckless provocateurs. Their legacy should be a reflection of their lives not our agendas.

  17. double-m says

    Thank you for this brilliant article.

    Over the past few days, I’ve become so sick of First Worlders (both white and PoC) who’ve felt entitled to speaking for me, tried to tell me how a brown person must feel about the CH cartoons, tried to tell me I’m a “Muslim by race” (no, my “race” is Romani, if I were part of a hypothetical Muslim race I would gain about ten tons of privilege), called me a “native informant” (because calling the brown people you claim to speak for racist slurs makes you an anti-racist), and so on.

    Part of their First World privilege is that they can afford to see only white supremacy, and to ignore other forms of racism, colonialism, and cultural, political, and religious supremacy. They perceive the world in terms of “black vs. white” because their privilege shields them from those other forms. The idea that some of us who don’t enjoy that shielding might be fighting on more than one front doesn’t even occur to them. These people (for good reason) accuse whites of obliviousness to their privilege, yet they’re equally oblivious to their own privilege and think they’re entitled to judging matters they haven’t educated themselves on.

    They just “know” that Islamism can’t be all that bad because it opposes white supremacy. They’re so invested in their simplistic narrative that any evidence to the contrary must be labeled “Islamophobic” and rejected without inspection, and anyone who actually lives in the world they’re talking about and tries to make them understand that the world is more complex than they think, is a “native informant”. People from some of the groups you mention in your article call themselves “left-wing” and “anti-racist” when in truth, they’re the exact opposite. These “crowds” think that the whole world revolves around them, that their templates apply to every conflict on the planet, and that maintaining their narrative is worth throwing Ex-Muslims and others who are fighting for survival and freedom under the bus.

  18. Lady Mondegreen (aka Stacy) says

    @Sean #4

    I am not Charlie because I think for myself

    You do a dreadful job of it. Your argument consists of nothing but assertion.

    Now, assuming you’re not a troll, run along and campaign to get Huckleberry Finn banned, because it’s obviously a racist book.

  19. Stan Ulrich says

    Is there some way to print this without all the insufferable crap on the left 40% of the page? This is one of the best commentaries I’ve seen, but what a tragically wretched online format!

  20. says

    I agree with all the crowds except the last, mainly because it seems that from his comments in response to the firebombing in 2011, Charb himself might have been in that crowd. He was quoted by the AP as calling the firebombing Islamists: “stupid people who don’t know what Islam is” and “idiots who betray their own religion”.

  21. says

    Hi Yemisi
    Thank you for posting an article that covers every argument I have been putting forward and for a while I thought I was alone, so for me it is nice to see.

    People making the argument that the Hebdo was targeted because they were somehow part of the France’s privileged racist administration (even though they consistently target the French government) and even though Algerian (and other) immigrant classes have a big beef with the French government, Hebdo was poor target if that was the reason it was attacked. Using many of the catch phrases being thrown out there, atheists in Islamic, Christian, Jewish societies also don’t get “equal opportunity satire” especially since every single religious text and representative leader actively “trolls” atheists at least once a week and are consistently “punching down”. Who can blame Hebdo for punching back and trying to protect one of the few secular western societies.

    If you are an atheist in most of this world you’re one of the smallest minorities regardless of your class position on the planet. I don’t believe that if you live in a western imperialist country you now have to exclude a portion of the world (and their local adherents) from criticism even though they would whip, burn, stone, exile you for being atheist. It is tantamount to saying let the atheists in those countries fight that battle alone, for example should we stay silent on Egypt where you can be arrested for being an atheist. Yes the imperialist west is bad and in a position of privilege but atheists are rarely in the majority wherever they are in this planet, and for most of them the fear of reprisal (sometimes deadly) keeps them silent.

    In the end I can only conclude the Hebdo was attacked because they were atheists that had the guts to show the world what they thought of religion.

    best regards
    Leslie

  22. Matzo Ball Soup says

    I loved this post! It beautifully counters so much of the self-righteous stuff that’s been floating around on Facebook.

    (If the perpetrators did what they did because they believed their god wanted them to, I don’t see how it’s relevant whether “all Muslims” believe a certain thing. *Someone* sure did!)

  23. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    Even former Charlie Hebdo staffers agree that the once anti-establishment magazine is now nothing more than the puerile racist shitrag it appears on its face to be.

    The racism and bigotry of this publication is so obvious it doesn’t require anything more for an unbiased person than to see those cartoons and draw the only rational conclusion possible, but for those who are taking their cues from the mass media without examination, this article should put to rest any doubts as to what this magazine is really all about.

    http://www.leninology.co.uk/2015/01/charlie-hebdo-not-racist-if-you-say-so.html

    You’re right, Arab and Muslim, it’s not the same thing. But you know what? Muslim and Muslim, it’s not the same thing either. Understand this: there are all sorts, rich and poor, big and small, friendly and rude, generous and greedy, wanting a better world, reactionary or even, yes, fundamentalist. On the other hand, in Charlie Hebdo, nothing resembles a Muslim more than another Muslim. Always represented as weak-minded, fanatical, terrorist, on the benefit. A Muslim woman? Always a poor dumb thing reducible to her headscarf, with no other social function than to arouse the libido of your comedians.

  24. freemage says

    I don’t think the staff of Charlie Hebdo were racist, in the sense they hated people of color, or wanted all the immigrants to leave the country, or the like. I ~do~ think they were willing to accept racism as collateral damage in the course of their satire, and the explanations of the covers cited above do nothing to dissuade me of that opinion. That doesn’t mean I believe they deserved what happened to them, or that violence against speech is ever justified.

  25. says

    I’m pretty sure that everyone over a certain level of intelligence in the US has the capacity to understand the kind of thing that Charlie Hebdo does, especially those old enough to remember the underground comics of the 1970s or even the MAD magazine of the 1970s. Nor is it all that different from Viz comics, Private Eye, or the older Punch and Judy in the UK.

    Thanks for the compliment, but this American, at least, thinks you’re wrong. I really don’t think there are that many Americans who are at all familiar with any of the satirical publications you named. We Americans don’t do satire as well, or with as much sophistication, as we should; which is why we have to import the good stuff you mentioned, along with Benny Hill, Flanders and Swann, Monty Python, Beyond the Fringe, etc. We’re getting better, with Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and now John Oliver, but those are all relatively recent, and we still have a long way to go.

    Oh, and Sean? I’m not nearly familiar enough with CH to judge, but what I can say is that Yemisi’s take on CH looks far more informed, and far more credible on its face, than yours.

  26. says

    As for their claiming to be a leftist or anti-racist publication, the bilge they publish speaks for itself.

    Not without specific citations it doesn’t.

  27. salgoodsam says

    Good stuff. One observation, you mention how the Qur’an commands these actions? That’s actually not quite true. Aniconism is ironically more strictly prescribed by the Bible and Torah! In Islam it comes from secondary texts.

  28. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    Go Sean! Gotta love a white guy lecturing a black woman on racism.

    Because the validity of anyone’s opinion is based entirely on their skin color.

    Thanks for that little racist outburst. On the plus side, you are Charlie, in case there was any doubt.

  29. Sean (I am an not an imposter) says

    Not without specific citations it doesn’t.

    I am responding to the citations Yemisi gave in defense of her article, which included samples of Charlie Hebdo covers others considered to be racist, because that is exactly what they appear to be. I also gave a link to a former staff member of Charlie Hebdo who confirms that the once anti-establishment magazine is now every bit as racist and bigoted as it appears to be.

    Here is another site with examples of racist, sexist and homophobic cartoons by CH:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2015/01/charlie-hebdo-and-freedom-of-speech.html

    One caption reads “The Pope in France: The French are as dumb as the niggers.” Another accuses Muslims of being pedophiles.

    I am struggling to determine under which “context” this would not be considered racist, the lounge at Stormfront HQ?

    The argument being used to defend these blatantly racist cartoons is that they are really mocking the racism and bigotry of the right wing, though how anyone justifies an absurd leap of logic this huge is beyond me.

    A satirical cartoon is a self-contained message and I see no cues in any of them that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that it is the right wing being mocked, rather than the groups identified in the cartoons,as common sense would dictate.

  30. Jesper Both Pedersen says

    Dear Yemisi, you haven’t got the faintest clue about Charlie Hebdo.

    You fucking hypocrite.

  31. Okidemia says

    #36
    Was that sarcasm?

    I need context here, because if it’s a parody, it is well done and therefore cannot be distinguished from totally disingenuous.

    “Context context context, I want to say context until no single 6 yo kid at home would feel offended because of internet fracks lacking proper contextualisation.”

  32. says

    One caption reads “The Pope in France: The French are as dumb as the niggers.”

    I haven’t seen the cartoon, and I have no idea what the Pope said in France; but based on this caption alone, I’d say the cartoonist was accusing the Pope of saying something that implied he thought both French and blacks were stupid. Or perhaps the Pope is repeating the same stupid lies and con-games in France that he’s been spouting to Africans. (And BTW, is “negres” really a French equivalent of the English epithet “nigger,” or does it just mean “black?” You don’t seem to have addressed that important translation question, which further implies you don’t know what you’re talking about.)

    The argument being used to defend these blatantly racist cartoons is that they are really mocking the racism and bigotry of the right wing, though how anyone justifies an absurd leap of logic this huge is beyond me.

    Ever heard of a guy named Colbert? He routinely pretends to be a right-wing idiot, saying right-wing things to highlight the absurdity of what real right-wingers say — and sometimes getting a real right-winger to agree to a statement that his audience knows is pure stupid bullshit. Everyone laughs when the right-winger emphatically agrees, then does a double-take and realizes he’s been played. As a friend of mine often said, humor is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s really simple and easy for anyone to get; other times it isn’t.

    I am struggling to determine under which “context” this would not be considered racist, the lounge at Stormfront HQ?

    Well, they’re French cartoons, about French affairs, so maybe you should try the context of French policymaking and French political discourse. As Yemmi and other FTBers have already shown, it’s really not that hard a thing to “struggle” with.

    A satirical cartoon is a self-contained message…

    This statement proves you have no idea what you’re talking about. A satire can NEVER be “self-contained” — it’s a response to something else, and if you don’t have any idea of the nature of that something-else, then you won’t get the satire. That’s how satire works! Satire is NEVER “self-contained,” and it’s never meant to be.

    PS: I just had a quick look at some of the cartoons shown in that Patheos link you cited; and it’s pretty obvious to me that none of them are straightforwardly bigoted. They are satires of bigoted attitudes and the dead-wrong beliefs that have arisen from them.

  33. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    I haven’t seen the cartoon, and I have no idea what the Pope said in France

    Right. You haven’t seen the cartoon but you’re convinced it means exactly what you want it to mean. That you would defend a blatantly racist cartoon without even seeing it says all anyone needs to know about your integrity and alleged “concern” for racism.

    (And BTW, is “negres” really a French equivalent of the English epithet “nigger,” or does it just mean “black?” You don’t seem to have addressed that important translation question, which further implies you don’t know what you’re talking about.)

    If you were concerned the word was mistranslated you could have proven that rather than ignorantly asserting it.

    “Patrick Lozès, of France’s Representative Council of Black Associations, said the French word “nègre” used by Guerlain was an “extremely pejorative” and “racist” term equivalent to “nigger” in English.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/24/guerlain-racism-legal-action

    Ever heard of a guy named Colbert? He routinely pretends to be a right-wing idiot, saying right-wing things to highlight the absurdity of what real right-wingers say — and sometimes getting a real right-winger to agree to a statement that his audience knows is pure stupid bullshit.

    Bullshit. Colbert has never said anythig as racist as “The French are as dumb as niggers.” There is no comparion between CH and Colbert. The Colbert format provides multiple cues to create the impression (real or imagined) that Colbert is mocking conservatives rather than expressing his personal viewpoint, as anyone who has seen the show realizes. There is no laugh track or anything else with a CH cartoon that would cue you as to its author’s intent.

    Even so, studies have shown that Colbert’s presentation is ambiguous enough that both liberals and conservatives see what they want to see in his routines, and they could in fact be interpreted either way. Liberals see him as a liberal mocking conservatives. Conservatives recognize that he is satirizing conservative talk show hosts, but believe he is is a stealth conservative who has found a clever means of trashing liberals and saying controversial things he could never get away with if he were playing it straight. They believe it is liberals, not themselves, who are too stupid to see the deception. The studies also show that the Colbert Report tends to strenthen concervatives in their beliefs while cauing confusion among liberals, so the evidence tends to favor the conservative interpretation.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/137918/why_do_conservatives_like_stephen_colbert

    http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/12/colbert-made-conservatives-more-conservative.html

    Charlie Hebdo by contrast is stright up racist bullshit with no cues to suggest it is satirizing the right. Given how unsuccessful such satire is with Colbert, I suspect it is even worse with CH. An African immigrant will see a CH cover and conclude that it is a racist attack against his people. A racist will see that cover and cocnlude that even the left wing agrees that black people are stupid.

    Well, they’re French cartoons, about French affairs, so maybe you should try the context of French policymaking and French political discourse.

    That’s bullshit. That’s the equivalent of saying that only white people can determine whether a cartoon drawn by a white person is racist or not.

    A satirical cartoon is a self-contained message…

    This statement proves you have no idea what you’re talking about. A satire can NEVER be “self-contained” — it’s a response to something else,

    Thanks for that profound insight, Captain Obvious. A satirical cartoon is “self-contained” in that it cannot rely on external cues like a laugh track to convey that it is not meant to be taken at face value. The problem is similar in online communication where you do not have body language, facial expression, tone or other nuances to convey the meaning of something ambiguous that might be otherwise interpreted as offensive. Colbert has all those things, CH has none of them, thus is is more likely to be interpreted at face value for the racist bilge that it is rather than something that is allegedly more nuanced.

    PS: I just had a quick look at some of the cartoons shown in that Patheos link you cited; and it’s pretty obvious to me that none of them are straightforwardly bigoted. They are satires of bigoted attitudes and the dead-wrong beliefs that have arisen from them.

    Anyone who claims those cartoon aren’t racist is either so brainwashed by the media they are incapable of independent analysis or completely full of shit.

    I’ll leave you with the words of Richard Seymour. I’m done with this bullshit.

    “Don’t take this the wrong way. Look. If this is how you relax at the end of a hard day, if this sort of thing gives you relief from the stresses of the world, if it helps you sublimate the terror and anxiety that derives from events like the massacre in Paris, as well as your wider existential anxiety about your place in the world and the verities that seem to be in flux, then you’re a total fucking moron. How dare you call this horseshit ‘satire’?”

    http://www.leninology.co.uk/2015/01/satire.html

  34. brucegorton says

    Sean

    Four words -- ching chong ding dong.

    Also I looked up the cover you were talking about, and funny thing about that context…

    The cover in question was at a time when French racists were criticizing riots in Africa, while ignoring the public hysteria around the Pope’s visit to France. You see this is why French people say the magazine isn’t racist, they actually know what the magazine was talking about in a way that you, someone who is not French, do not.

  35. StevoR says

    I do not agree with you on this Yemisi.

    But.

    I do think you make a very good case here and I do feel conflicted ad torn on this issue. Well writ.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “This crowd eagerly post some of Charlie Hedbo’s cartoons with the aim of accusing the magazine of racism and sexism, without caring to dig into the context. The context of Charlie Hebdo’s Parodies/cartoons is easily understood by the French but not easily understood by outsiders, unless they are conversant with French politics. Some of these cartoons can be viewed and understood under the piece What are some of Charlie Hebdo’s most famous cartoons? At first glance, these cartoons might appear racist, sexist, and ill-thought-out, but after reading the contexts, this is usually not the case.” The Charlie Hebdo tragedy: The five crowds that are getting it wrong -- YEMMYnisting […]

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