I really do not want to become the “what were Charlie Hebdo thinking?” blogger when outrage emerges on social media about one of their cartoons. I will always be Je Suis Charlie because no one should be murdered for drawing a cartoon. This general convention of how civil society in a free country should work, bears no reflection on how you may view the said cartoon. It is a nonsense asking if you are still against the killing of cartoonists for drawing a cartoon, when asked “are you still Je Suis Charlie?” Yet nonsense, like misunderstanding, is everywhere.
It helps though to appreciate the style of satire being portrayed. Outrage is best informed, rather than a demonstration you do not understand something. So let me set the scene for the first of two cartoons by Charlie Hebdo that have everyone racing to condemn them.
Too many in Europe say we are full. This is increasingly including mainstream politicians. The refugees rather than fleeing ISIS, and the squalor where they may have first taken refuge, are after the good life in the west. That is the perceived goal as seen by the anti-immigration brigade against refugees fleeing war and oppression.
It is that attitude which Charlie Hebdo are lampooning here:
When Aylan’s dead body washed up on the Turkish shore, the photograph shook the world. The caption reads “so close to his goal” with the advert for fast food aimed at children offering a 2 for 1 offer. The cartoon is ridiculing both the idea a child is selfishly trying to achieve a “goal”, as it is the commercialisation of childhood which cheapens life, like smugglers on an unseaworthy vessel do. Children all over the world are human beings first, second, and third. There is also quite possibly a back story too regarding McDonald’s, as in France recently their staff were told not to give food to “tramps.”
The other cartoon shows a Christian boasting he can walk on water (as Christ “did”) but look Muslim children cannot. It is mocking the supposed superiority Christian racists use in their self-proclaimed righteousness over Muslims. Let us be clear – Charlie Hebdo is against all religious hatred on this score. Let alone the racism of the far right.
By all means decide using Aylan to make these points is distasteful. As I am sure you did the photograph of him which caused political leaders to do PR face saving exercises across Europe. Maybe we can all forget that our elected representatives were not doing enough to help alleviate the refugee crisis. That we, the electorate they answer to, were sending the message that we rather they did not do too much.
A photograph can change views. Cartoons can also provoke a reaction. Your response should be anger at the attitudes that Charlie Hebdo is mocking here. Instead though, cartoons challenging the vile reasoning of too many xenophobic morons have caused outrage.
That outrage is better served at our failure to fight fascism and tyranny, and failing to welcome refugees before a photograph of a dead child washed up on a beach. We cannot bring him back, and I can appreciate many seeing the cartoons with misleading captions, as a betrayal of his memory.
You can still find the cartoons distasteful. But at least understand what they are critiquing.
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Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
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