Archive for the ‘charlie hebdo’ Category

Charlie Hebdo: will you buy it?

January 13, 2015
Defiant pencil from the Charlie Hebdo homepage

Defiant pencil from the Charlie Hebdo homepage

Charlie Hebdo has raised its print run tomorrow to a massive 3 million copies – probably 60 times its normal run – with copies being distributed far beyond their normal scope. And it has a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover.

Will you buy a copy?

I will, because the past week has been a historic one in the history of journalism and magazines. However, without such a professional impetus, the answer is not straightforward. While I have bought copies of Charlie Hebdo in the past, it has always seemed to me that it is an extreme magazine with editorial values that I could not share. It has been censored by the likes of Apple iTunes. And last week it came up against an even more extreme entity, in the form of extremist Islamists.

Do you agree with the statement today from the cartoonist who drew tomorrow’s cover: ‘There is no “but” when it comes to freedom of speech’? Even though another staff member has pointed out that: ‘We are not obsessed by Mohammed more than the Pope or [former French president] Nicolas Sarkozy.’

Charlie Hebdo exists to bait its targets by word and image, and to push the boundaries of what is allowed in print. But most newspapers and magazines would not go there. This can become an unequal battle being waged by highly literate – and after the revenue comes in tomorrow, well-resourced – journalists. What form of response is there for many of their targets? Muslim groups have tried to stop the magazine’s attacks by using the law, but from what I have read, have failed. However, the magazine was banned when it attacked Charles de Gaulle after his death. This does raise the issue of whether all people are equal before the law.

If you hold up a sign saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’, what are you supporting? Free speech? The right of Charlie Hebdo to carry on baiting Muslimists and its other targets? The 17 victims of the gunmen last week? If you buy a copy tomorrow, what will you be supporting then?

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Charlie Hebdo highlights US ‘moral fundamentalism’

January 12, 2015
the flag flown on US warships for the duration of the US 'war on terror'

This is no cartoon – it’s the flag flown on US warships for the duration of the US ‘war on terror’. Shame about the missing apostrophe

This image may look like a cartoon, but it is in fact the flag currently being flown on US warships. As Graham Bartram at Flags.net explains:

This historical naval jack has been re-introduced for the duration of the war against terrorism. It replaces the traditional US naval jack which is dark blue with 50 white stars, arranged as in the national flag.

The flag was adopted in 2002 on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York. The secretary of the US navy ordered all warships to raise the Revolutionary War jack with its rattlesnake – a symbol of resistance to the British dating back to the late 1700s – and the motto ‘Don’t tread on me’ to mark the ‘war on terror’. September 2014 marked the 12th year the historic jack has been flown.

I was reminded of the image with all the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, many showing illustrations of ‘weaponised’ pens and pencils. And much of the commentary has been about war – or avoiding one – as so many people take sides after last week’s brutal killings. In all, 17 people lost their lives. Today, France has put 10,000 troops on to the streets to guard potential targets as well as an extra 5,000 police. Yesterday, 3.7m people across France took to the streets to show solidarity with the victims.

This week’s print run of Charlie Hebdo has been raised from its usual 50,000 or less by a factor of 20 – to a million. Truly an example of war-like mobilisation. French newspapers have chipped in with office space and computers and the cash comes from a €60m fund for digital publishing innovation set up by Google at the behest of the French government after demands from publishers that the US search engine company pay for displaying their news in its results.

There’s a certain irony here in a US company being dragged in to fund a French satirical graphic magazine because one of the biggest US companies has spent years censoring such titles to such an extent that the director of the Comics Art Museum in Brussels dubbed Apple ‘fundamentalists of globalised morality’. A blog at the gallery explains:

In the summer of 2013, Apple, one of the most modern companies in the western world, imposed a ban on the online sale of some 1,500 Franco-Belgian comic strip albums for reasons of ‘pornography’. Needless to say, the pornographic nature of these albums is entirely questionable and exists mainly in the eyes of the fundamentalists of globalised morality.

Roman graphic novel Murena by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby

Roman graphic novel Murena by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby

The publisher, Dargaud, was forced to censor its own artwork and produce an edition of Les épines by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby for sale on Apple’s iTunes, alongside the usual edition for sale in Franco-Belgian bookshops.

J.C. de la Royère, the museum’s curator, said that as ‘a great defender of freedom of expression’, he was ‘more than happy to join the fray by exhibiting the complete version of Les épines by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby’.

Such ‘bandes dessinées’ (drawn strips) have been popular since the 1960s in France and Belgium. I first came across them when I dodged into a bookshop on the Left Bank in Paris to avoid a riot in the street! My eyes were popping as I rifled through titles such as Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal, editions of which have been published in English in the US for many years now). The strips portrayed sex and violence – beyond anything in underground magazines in Britain that I had seen – and it was in one of these that I first saw the work of Swiss illustrator HR Giger, who a few years later would burst on to the world stage with his designs for the creatures and spaceships in Ridley Scott’s Alien.

The irony has also not been lost on the web newspaper  The Daily Dot, which has commented on ‘The hypocrisy of Facebook and Apple supporting Charlie Hebdo.‘It points out:

Apple — the king of US technology giants — has a #JeSuisCharlie banner on its iTunes store. Not only does Apple regularly engage in censorship on its various platforms and stores — it used to be against the rules to even ridicule public figures on the iTunes store — it has actually specifically censored Charlie Hebdo in the past.

It seems that, although the US tech giants are flying the flag for Charlie Hebdo, in reality their attitude to censorship means: ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’.

Back to the drawing board at Charlie Hebdo

January 8, 2015

If the gunmen thought they would shut Charlie Hebdo up, here is the response from the French satirical magazine’s lawyer:

The next edition of Charlie Hebdo will come out next week and a million copies will be printed.

Charlie Hebdo’s typical sale for an issue is about 45,000 copies. The Guardian assesses the magazine’s likely reaction under the headline ‘Fight intimidation with controversy‘.

The Telegraph has updated its slideshow of cartoonists’ reactions, led by this one from pocket cartoonist Matt:

Telegraph cartoonist Matt's reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

Telegraph cartoonist Matt’s reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

The Financial Times also put up a page of cartoons this morning. Magazine reactions have continued at their websites. At the New Yorker:

The attack on Charlie Hebdo is only the latest blow delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decade

The Spectator magazine ran a photograph of the vigil at Trafalgar Square with a comment article sparked by the Financial Times that – like many of the paper’s own readers, and commentators around the world – took aim at an opinion piece by one of the paper’s writers:

I am just back from a ‘Je suis Charlie’ vigil in Trafalgar Square, and the solidarity was good to see. I fear it won’t last. I may be wrong. Perhaps tomorrow’s papers and news programmes will prove their commitment to freedom by republishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

But I doubt they will even have the courage to admit that they are too scared to show them. Instead we will have insidious articles, which condemn freedom of speech as a provocation and make weasel excuses for murder without having the guts to admit it.

Tony Barber, Europe editor of the Financial Times was first out of the blocks:

‘Charlie Hebdo is a bastion of the French tradition of hard-hitting satire. It has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling Muslims.’

The writer forgot to add that Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling everyone. It is a satirical magazine in a free country: that is what it does.

The websites were still quiet at Private Eye and Le Canard Enchainé, but perhaps taking time to think is a good thing.