No Charlie Hebdo Did Not Publish That Mediterranean Drowning Cartoon

[NB if you were after Charlie Hebdo cartoons regarding Aylan Kurdi click here]

The cartoon of drowning immigrants (above) is by Ali Dilem, published by Liberte in Algeria. He has recently joined the staff of Charlie Hebdo – but they have not published this particular cartoon. That has not stopped many people on Twitter sharing the image as if they did.

[Edit: to explain: “regroupement familial” is the title of the French immigration policy for non-EU residents in France being joined by other family members from abroad. This requires 18 month initial stay (12 if Algerian) before they can come, income status etc. You can read about the policy in a English google translation here. The cartoon above is saying that the policy is contributing to deaths in the mediterranean by families desperate to be reunited.]

Charlie Hebdo did however have this front cover (below):

“A Titanic each week” is the headline – about 1,500 died following the collision with an iceberg in April 1912. The warning is without action many more will die each week trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, equivalent to one of the most shocking of maritime disasters.

The National Front’s response to refugees from a war zone seeking safety at huge risk – is to have a deterrent policy (see their “Drama in the Mediterranean: a deterrent to immigration policy“) to prevent fleeing across a treacherous sea in overcrowded unseaworthy vessels. The joke here is the deterrent policy may as well be Celine Dion singing ([“Shut up!”]) for all the good it will do, let alone patrol boats to send them back. The satire is on her and also the National Front policy on immigration. She is singing the title song to the blockbuster film “Titanic”, which ties in with the headline.

Fleeing a war zone like Libya or Syria, we are not dealing with immigrants, but refugees. Maybe it makes it easier for people like Le Pen and Katie Hopkins to imagine them as illegal immigrants or like “cockroaches” or “norivirus.” Maybe cartoons for some are not the best way to point out that families are being united over time in the cemetery that is the ocean floor, or to poke fun at anti-immigration parties with scorn and derision.

Rather than the outrage directed at Charlie Hebdo for a cartoon they did not publish, or misunderstanding the one they did,  how much better to use our anger at such deaths at the EU that has not done enough to prevent the humanitarian disaster that has befallen Libya and Syria. Let alone the cutback in rescue operations in the Mediterranean, as a “deterrent” for people facing far worse than a perilous journey on the cruel and deep blue sea. It was predictable the deaths at sea would increase.

Let us talk about the racism which is killing people – our EU government’s response to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and the people killing one another in the actual conflicts causing the refugee crisis. Oh wait, someone drew cartoons which offended you. How dreadful – but at the last count the people killed by them were the cartoonists.

Please consider signing this petition to the EU Commission President. But do lobby your government too, which in the UK you can via this petition.

[Read my Huffington Post article Charlie Hebdo and PEN: When Free Speech Is Cheaper Than A Gala Dinner For Some]

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

Facebook: John Sargeant

My Huffington Post Blog

*Conversation I had with a french follower on twitter did not contradict my assertion in French it was Le Pen. Happy to correct if I am wrong. [Edit: Originally post said “The woman in front is Le Pen*, leader of The National Front (FN).” It seems it is Celine Dion and so have removed that line. Also changed singing Le pen to Celine Dion.]


Filed under British Politics, British Society, World

60 responses to “No Charlie Hebdo Did Not Publish That Mediterranean Drowning Cartoon

  1. Rayblad

    The woman is Celine Dion. Look at other works by Luz, his Le Pen is very distinct.

  2. baddancerscollide

    Nice post. Just a note on translation- ‘ta guelle’ means ‘shut your gob’. (Which is the least many of us would like to say to Marine Le Pen!) 🙂

  3. baddancerscollide

    Nice post. Just a note on translation: ‘ta guelle’ means ‘shut your gob’/ ‘shut up’. (Which is the least many of us would like to say to Marine Le Pen.) 🙂

  4. John Moore

    Apparently Charlie Hebdo republished it (from liberte)

    • It’s not in the latest edition (the one with front cover). However, as they do republish his cartoons they well might do. Seen his others in it which make fun of anti-immigration/religion as you would expect of Charlie Hebdo.

      I appreciate cartoons can be in bad taste, and beyond the pale for some. It helps though not to misrepresent the meaning and understand the context.

      So if they do republish – making my headline out of date – hope explanation helps.

  5. Benjamin

    I don t think this is Le Pen, this is more Céline Dion. They do not use to caricature her like this but I can be wrong.

    • I was taking a punt – Le Pen is usually not that glamorously depicted – but then previous cover editions I saw it wasn’t Luz drawing her. So it could just be a dig at Dion singing tied up with “a Titanic per week.” Hence my * – though the Le Pen bit gives background to National Front policy attitudes.

  6. Benjamin

    I am french so I am just trying to help 🙂 some sources say this is Céline but they are very reliable so maybe your guess is good.

  7. Fogg

    Not sure if it’s meant to be Le Pen or Celine Dion – isn’t it just meant to be Kate Winslett? The cartoon figure adopts the same pose as her in the film.

    • So does Dion in the musical video – and Winslet does not sing so safe to assume Dion. But I cannot say anything as I thought it was Le Pen – having tried to block out that bloody song.

  8. Pingback: Charlie Hebdo didn’t publish that Mediterranean drowning cartoon — and it isn’t racist

  9. John

    Personally I think it is racist ie the stereotypical imagery of Africans with bulbous eyes and the figures being non-entities like the lives they represent. Equally it is possible to take a literal spin on the title whereby it is a family reunion in the Mediterranean. There are plently of Charlie Hebo editions that plays on the historical African – and not Arab here – racist stereotypes. Admittedly recognising racism would bring about cognitive disonance especially in the lightof what happened in France. However, this is the contradiction called Charlie Hebdo

  10. Reblogged this on voiceoftreasonandthat and commented:
    Good old Charlie Hebdo….NOT.

  11. jamal

    It is racist to depict blacks in such an ignorant and abhorrent way. Those who argue that this is not a racist article are being dangerously dismissive and insensitive. No wonder there is so much discord in French society. I feel sick looking at this cartoon. It is worrying to observe the acceptance of this kind of mocking journalism. It says a lot about its target audience.

    • The cartoon is by an African from Algeria – one who the military have persecuted I might add for tackling their oppression via cartoons. It is possible you know nothing about the artists’ caricatures let alone his background. Follow the link and get a context for how they draw. Then you might want to google his name.

      Otherwise you are imposing your own cultural values on an African artist – you said something about racism?

      • Gabe

        Notwithstanding him being African and the idea being to shock via satire, the depictions could have been less stereotyped. I don’t know how people here in Ireland would react if an irish satirist drew a sinking boat like the titanic with all the drowning irish victims depicted as leprechauns (no doubt would not have been the first time)…

      • It’s how they caricature (see how they do white people for example via link in first paragraph) which is the context to understanding the artist. But I totally get – especially for non french speakers unfamiliar with cartoonist – the initial response.

    • vintermann

      In the US, racial caricatures are absolutely taboo, and only openly racist people make them. Thus, you have come to see such caricatures as inherently evil.

      In France, there’s much more tolerance for using racial characteristics in caricature, and so even people who are strong anti-racists may do it. Many don’t see it as inherently wrong to draw a black person with big lips, any more than it is to draw De Mesmaeker with a spike of a nose half as long as his head.

      You may disagree, but you ought to be familiar with the drawing style and the different cultural norms of what’s considered offensive (and intended to be offensive) before you judge, and you should certainly be careful about assuming things about the cartoonist or the target audience.

  12. No, “The cartoon above is” NOT “saying that the policy is contributing to deaths in the mediterranean by families desperate to be reunited”, it says sarcastically that the “regroupemement” happens here at the bottom of the sea.

    • Er no – the Algerian cartoonist is blaming French immigration policy for killing Algerians and others. You can see his other cartoons which may be easier for you to understand that, via the link first paragraph.

  13. Lima

    Don’t try to justify this. This is just disgusting.. From the public eye. By the way… Algerian? Don’t think than the cartoon here represents an Algerian trying to reunite with is family. Bunch of sick idiots… Making fun of other’s disgrace.

  14. HughWoatmeight

    So what if they are drowning? No programm we establish to rescue people on sea will be enough for the bleeding hearts. What do you expect the EU to do exactly? Increase these programs budget every time another conflict erupts and more refugees seek passage over the mediteranian? That sounds suspiciously like what the US military did with their defense spending for the past decade. No thank you very much.

    There is a whole world they could flee to, but europe and the crossing the mediteranian see it is. Why not go to other rich countries like Saudi Arabia? You know countries with muslim leaders and muslim culture. Enjoy that famous muslim hospitality.
    I’m sure our partners over the world could be given diplomatic and / or financial incentive to work with us in that matter.

  15. brian

    I just got into a Twitter argument with someone who said that the Titanic cover is racist. I said “but you’re ignoring the message of the cartoon, which is anything but racist”. He then said to me “They draw black people & Arabs the exact same way as people who hate them do.I don’t care what their message is” and “if you can draw people like that and not think “actually this is a bit shit” clearly your motives are trash.”

    He is a type of person (of which there are a great many) who simply cannot get past the type drawings that Charlie Hebdo employ. For them it is simply awful racism before they even get to the message.

    Thing is, at the back of my head, even though I argued against him, I kind of think he is a bit right. Have us English speaking people got to a point where we simply cannot caricature people of African origin without it being racist?

    • In a nutshell you have it. Are we at a point where caricatures by an African cartoonist are racist? One French follower said to me in French roughly “cartoons are not racist because they happen to be a caricature.” Problem is you need to know context, artist, and what they are trying to say. Most people will go with their gut, and if you are not used to caricatures by African artists you might get the wrong end of the stick.

      • vintermann

        Ali Dilem isn’t a typical African cartoonist, if there is such a thing. He’s drawing in bog-standard Marcinelle school style, the style of Jije, Franquin, Jideheim, and many other Franco-Belgian comic artists.

        But apart from that, you make excellent points.

        In the US, only a racist writing for a racist audience would draw a black person with exaggerated lips. In France, that just isn’t the case, everyone is fair game for caricature, and caricature doesn’t imply ridicule. Maybe that is why Franco-Belgian comics never made much of an inroad in the US (they’re extremely popular elsewhere, not least in the third world), and why US comics became almost entirely realistic in style.

  16. Pingback: Charlie Hebdo gets PEN award but did not pen Mediterranean migrants cartoon | KJ (Katy Jon Went)

  17. John

    …The problem however, when the caricatures are based on racist stereotypes and imagery and rooted in history then it becomes difficult to negate the impact of racism.

    I would like to point out that there are many different ethnic groups in Africa. and other forms of ‘race discrimination’ are present there -. So just because the author is an Algerian is not a reasonable defence in this instance.

    To determine whether the piece is truly racist or not. I do agree one has to know about the context.

    Thus we need to know the following:

    1. What is the author’s politics and how it ties to race?
    2. What is Libertie’s politics and again how it ties to race?

    and separate from that

    3. What was Hebdo’s reason for reporting the exact same story? – Something we probably will never know?

    4. And how was the story re-published? Was there any analysis explanation, so there could be no ‘misunderstanding’ etc? This we can ‘know’ by looking at the magazine

    5. What is/has been Hebdo’s track record with regard to depicting Black Africans especially in extreme situations like Boko Haram etc?

    Personally I think it would be in keeping with Hebdo to mock the dead. Most would find such a sentiment repulsive. However, I am not analysing the ‘most’ in this instance.

    • The biggest problem here is not the context once given of a cartoon from another political culture, but not appreciating the politics of Charlie Hebdo – ultra secularist, anti-imperial, anti-colonial, left-wing, progressive. Also they will be offensive and push the boundaries on taste to make their point.

      No one has to like the style or way they go about it. Free speech is deciding you do not approve of a satirical magazine’s way of doing things so you do not buy.

      The problem is so many non readers, outside France, ignorant of French politics, and language, thinking they can understand cartoons without the context.

      Imposing ones ignorance, and plenty of commentators have done so, without reference to meaning of the artist, helps no one.

      If anyone finds it offensive or crude, do not buy it. They usually are about everything they cover – but that is how they make the point regarding challenging the far right in France.

  18. John

    Sorry, I do not view Charlie Hebdo as “anti-imperial, anti-colonial, left-wing, progressive” – Far from it!!

    Forgive me but it appears to me as if your are side-stepping rather than addressing the specific points I made why I personally believe it to be rooted in racism.

    If you can give an analysis that refutes my contention. Then I will be more than prepared to read, hopefully critically think, and re-evaluate my position and if need be, to admit I was wrong in my assessment.

    • Use the search box on blog to read my pieces on Charlie Hebdo. Google “Why Charlie Hebdo is not racist.”

    • Also check out Richard’s comment I just approved.

    • Madge Hirsch

      Have you actually read the paper from cover to cover (ie the text articles) every week over a period of several weeks/ months /years? Unless you have done this you are not in a position to make judgements on their political positions. Just looking at a few cartoons that other people have fingered as racist will not do.

  19. Richard

    A cover of Charlie Hebdo from a couple of years ago : “The mediterranean sea is applying Front National’s program” :

    For the record, the journal is pro-immigration and in favor of the right of foreigners to vote.
    I think the trouble is that the process by which caricaturing racial traits became a synonym of racism in english speaking countries simply did not occur in french speaking countries. Cartoonists keep using those stereotypes because it has always been so, independantly of their political orientation.

  20. This drawing style with the huge red lips is classic french caricature. Which makes sense. French artists like other European artists have a long tradition of dehumanising Blacks, using references to cannibalism (bones in the nose), and animalistic features. Charlie Hebdo follows in this artistic tradition, which uses racist stereotypes. Except that now, its 2015 and our society has changed. Blacks now have a voice (in France too) and do not find this tradition in French art, uniformly positive. European attitudes of the time this style was developed were uniformly and viciously racist, as was to be expected in slave holding societies. They drew Blacks who “look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles”. Are we supposed to preserve this tradition unchanged? This drawing is crude and racist. The fact that the artists intentions are purportedly anti-colonial is at best irrelevant and at worst insincere and meaningless. For those whose relatives lie at the bottom of the ocean it is very painful to see. To be told (patronisingly) that if only we were well sophisticated enough to see the satiric intent, or french enough to appreciate the artistic brilliance is just self-indulgent. It is also very very disingenuous to call al Dilem an African, eliding the difference between slave holding North Africans and sub-saharan Africans who were the target of raids from across the Sahara. North Africans do not identify as African. Not if that puts them in the same category as Black Africans.

  21. John

    Thanks John Sargeant!!

    I will have a read of your article when I have more time on my hand, so as to do it and myself justice.

    As for Richard comments that is only half of the equation. Libertie may be sincere in the original article but this does not necessarily negate my contention that Hebdo is mocking the dead in the Mediterannean in the form of a double entendre IMHO.

    Perhaps in the mean time you and other observer here may want to read:

    What everyone gets wrong about Charlie Hebdo and racism

  22. John

    Hi John Sargeant!

    Sorry, I have done a google search and cannot find your piece. Perhaps you can kindly send me a direct link?


  23. Sarah

    Clementine has it right. It’s embarrassing watching atheists and liberals falling over themselves to excuse the blatant racism of these satirists because we like the rest of their beliefs. Just because they should be free to publish is and killing them was a far greater crime by far worse people doesn’t excuse their racist punching down. We can revile them while reviling their opponents more.

    • vintermann

      It’s sad, but not surprising, to see anglosphere liberals let aesthetics trump substance when it comes to racism, and thinks racism is about what is “offensive” or not.

      Read Seron’s “La Porte du Neant” from 1982. You’ll notice that the black Americans portrayed in that album are caricatures with exaggerated racial features. They are also the heroes, and the bad guys are all white racists.

      In the US such an album would be an absurd contradiction. You see the caricatured style, and mentally fit it in with KKK attitudes. Probably black Americans would do it too and be horribly offended – and that sucks. But in France, this drawing style is 60 years old, caricatures everyone, and probably reflects far left attitudes more than anything.

      (And in 1982 when that album was written, a solid majority in the US disapproved of interracial marriage. Just saying.)

  24. Thank you for the link. Well written, familiar point of view. But I am puzzled. Is it possible that we have different opinions due to our experiences and social positions? This kind of depiction of Blacks is quite normal for white people. There are usually no Blacks in their social circles and so its very much an “in” joke. The target of the fear/anger in humor is always directed at the social “other”. It has no effect on white people at all, because they are “normal”. their lips are fine, a little thin, but botox will fix that. Not the red, bulging orifice similar to a baboons backside. As a child I was always so ashamed when we read Tintin in Congo and I thought the Blacks were supposed to be like me. While all the white kids laughed and saw no problem, I was dying inside. What I learned was that they way I feel does not matter. I am not at all concerned by whether Charlie Hebdo, or this particular artist, continue to draw in this style. I know that they will. It remains, a form which employs racist and demeaning tropes. They will continue to use it, and wrap themselves in the “french culture and free speech flag”, simply because they can. Or perhaps they are too hide-bound to innovate themselves out of the ditch they are currently in. In a sense, there is no need to innovate because such art addresses people who feel it does not matter what anyone outside their immediate, mainly white milieu, thinks. These cartoons were unremarkable in a racially homogenous world. It simply did not matter what social inferiors felt. The fact that Charlie Hebdo claims to be anti-colonialist and critical is arrogance belonging to an era which is hopefully receding into the rear view mirror. But perhaps I am too optimistic. This certainly is not an equal exchange. Any objections are drowned in screams of “censorship” and so many people like myself have simply retreated from the mainstream media as irrelevant, unrepresentative and elitist.

    • When some PoC have thanked me for explaining the context of cartoons and withdrawn what they said, but some white people say it’s still racist – have to agree something is going on regarding opinions, which are worth exploring.

      Is there a difference between “you can’t make that joke!” and “you can’t draw that way!” or does context make all the difference in the world to our initial responses that reflect our backgrounds, identities and culture?

      I would argue that context makes a difference compared to the racism of the past, as the politics of the artists and intent breaks from it.

  25. I would argue that short of incitement to crime, everything should be published uncensored. My point is not to stop people from saying and drawing what they want. No one is dying from looking at these drawings. I would just like to have objections considered in discussion that take place on eye level. If a position like mine is dismissed for all time, because of the specific historical context in which art in Europe developed, I don’t know what to say after that. You know John, I would happily agree with you if it was possible to separate the style which was specifically developed in order to illustrate the bestiality of Africans in colonial times, from the modern anti-colonial intent of Ali Dilem. Its quite a stretch because I don’t actually think the intent is anti-colonial, as in supporting both the dismantling of the entire colonial mythos and signalling the continuity of the colonial enterprise in modern neoliberalism. I just do not believe it is possible to use this style in a way which rescues it from the intent to demean. I run a social media group for young Aricans which has 70,000 members now and we are unable to get this past our young people. They are outraged and revulsed. They take these drawings as expressions of racial hierarchy and contempt. There is intent, and there is impact. Anyway. Some feedback from the other side, in case anyone is interested in that. Good luck with the blog.

    • How do any of us free ourselves from ideology? I am concerned that people politically identifying exclusively on basis of ethnicity or religion does not help to foster the common humanity that might break down those barriers of the past that haunt us today. We end up with the very “us”, “them” attitude that allows racist immigration policy to exist, not helped by the lack of equality in the French Republic in terms of social or economic power. Social problems will only be fixed by society coming together as one, as well as people affected demanding change.

      Appreciate you taking the time to comment and disagreeing so civilly. All the best with the social media group.

  26. Pingback: More Smears Against Charlie Hebdo. | Tendance Coatesy

  27. Ane Onyme

    It’s weird to people having no clue about a culture and tradition to allows themselves to judge if a cartoon from a specific culture and a specific context they know nothing about is racist or not. And whatever the source of the cartoons, whatever the explanations people knowing much more than them give, they never aknowlegde their errors and lack of understanding.

    It’s pure cultural imperalism.

  28. Ane Onyme

    Another point: Charlie Hebdo is racist, but can you cite any other group who after most of them have been killed by extremists publish a cover titled “all is forgiven” ? And being spat on because of this cover ?

    I bet most of the “nice” judgemental people saying Charlie Hebdo is racist would have called for a merciless revenge.

  29. John

    Charlie Hebdo row leads to Facebook fallout between Salman Rushdie and Francine Prose

    Satanic Verses author refuses to back down after being accused of using ‘McCarthy era’ language in attack on six writers who withdrew from PEN gala over award to satirical magazine

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  34. John

    French magazine Charlie Hebdo facing legal action after publishing cartoons mocking the death of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi

    Read more:
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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