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Thursday, January 15, 2015 

Tout est pardonné.

One wonders if prior to the last week quite so many people have previously tried to make their minds up over political cartoons where the punchlines are delivered in a language they don't speak and the topics are often directly related to events in that foreign country.  I don't speak French, my only real knowledge about Charlie Hebdo prior to last Wednesday was it's a satirical weekly that had published caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, and so I laid off reaching a definite conclusion on that basis.

Thankfully, some helpful people have translated the most widely circulated examples of Charlie Hebdo's content, and put them in their proper context.  Accordingly, the cartoon of Boko Haram's pregnant sex slaves demanding welfare, much pointed towards as an example of just how shockingly racist the paper was, is in fact mocking the standard right-wing obsession with immigrants/refugees claiming benefits.  We see alleged comedian Dieudonné, arrested this week over his comments about being "Charlie Coulibably", to understandable consternation over his right to offend not being protected, told where he can stick his quenelle gesture.  And for anyone repeating the claim the paper targeted Islam and Muslims above and beyond other faiths, a front page from 2011 is shown, which advocates flushing the Bible, Qu'ran and Talmud down the toilet, itself a response to a print of the Piss Christ artwork being vandalised in Avignon.

Instead of accept he might have got it wrong this time, lenin/Richard Seymour has instead doubled down.  It doesn't matter that you can detest the way the French state has appropriated the murders, be disgusted at how foreign leaders who care nothing for freedom of speech and have much blood on their hands were at the front of Sunday's march, and be concerned about whether the attacks will see a further ratcheting up of tension and discrimination against Muslims, and still also defend freedom of expression and pledge solidarity with those targeted.  But no, apparently Charlie Hebdo's scrawls were not satire but childish scribblings, and if you find them funny, witty or apposite you too are a child, or a moron.  How could anyone find a cartoon which draws on the "Muhammad was a paedo" school of Muslim-baiting satisfying?

Unless of course that self-same cartoon is again ripping the piss out of those idiots, which is the only conclusion that can be reached by seeing just the translation, let alone any further context.  Yes, you could say "pot kettle black" on that front and criticise the cartoonist for daring to think his work is above that of the "anti-jihadists" who really do just hate Muslims, but aren't we getting just a little bit haughty ourselves here?  Is "high-brow" satire the only satire it's OK to like, which itself is often based around imagery just as much as showing politicians and celebrities up as thoughtless idiots who believed what they wanted to?  Does it really need the Pope to step in and say please don't be beastly about religion as it hurts people's feelers for it become apparent that if freedom of speech means anything it's to say and depict things others don't want to hear or see, regardless of their position in society?

Tout est pardonné regardless.

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