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Thought for today, January 15th 2015

by on 2015/01/15

Today’s thought. January 15, 2015

The tragic and senseless, and essentially counterproductive, murders of the Charlie Hebdo journalists last week should not suspend our critical faculties concerning the racialist nature of this magazines message, and the impact of cartoons like this.

Studies of Racial and Sex-Role Stereotyping in Cartoons clearly show the effects of this on people’s behaviour. We must be very careful that, in condemning the senseless murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris on January 7th 2015, we do not condone the kind of racial, religious and racialist stereotyping that their cartoons represent, which helps to foment enmity and mistrust rather than reconcile differences.

Robert Fisk, a reliable commentator on Middle East affairs, also made a very important (if different) point in his article in the Independent on January 9th:
“Algeria. Long before the identity of the murder suspects was revealed by the French police – even before I heard the names of Cherif and Said Kouachi – I muttered the word “Algeria” to myself. As soon as I heard the names and saw the faces, I said the word “Algeria” again. And then the French police said the two men were of “Algerian origin”.
“For Algeria remains the most painful wound within the body politic of the Republic – save, perhaps, for its continuing self-examination of Nazi occupation – and provides a fearful context for every act of Arab violence against France. The six-year Algerian war for independence, in which perhaps a million and a half Arab Muslims and many thousands of French men and women died, remains an unending and unresolved agony for both peoples. Just over half a century ago, it almost started a French civil war.
“Maybe all newspaper and television reports should carry a “history corner”, a little reminder that nothing – absolutely zilch – happens without a past. Massacres, bloodletting, fury, sorrow, police hunts (“widening” or “narrowing” as sub-editors wish) take the headlines. Always it’s the “who” and the “how” – but rarely the “why”. Take the crime against humanity in Paris this week – the words “atrocity” and “barbarity” somehow diminish the savagery of this act – and its immediate aftermath.
“We know the victims: journalists, cartoonists, cops. And how they were killed. Masked gunmen, Kalashnikov automatic rifles, ruthless, almost professional nonchalance. And the answer to “why” was helpfully supplied by the murderers. They wanted to avenge “the Prophet” for Charlie Hebdo’s irreverent and (for Muslims) highly offensive cartoons. And of course, we must all repeat the rubric: nothing – nothing ever – could justify these cruel acts of mass murder. And no, the killers cannot call on history to justify their crimes.”

Here is what the ‘Hooded Utilitarian’ said…

When faced with a terrorist attack against a satirical newspaper, the appropriate response seems obvious. Don’t let the victims be silenced. Spread their work as far as it can possibly go. Laugh in the face of those savage murderers who don’t understand satire.
In this case, it is the wrong response.
Here’s what’s difficult to parse in the face of tragedy: yes, Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper. Its staff is white. Its cartoons often represent a certain, virulently racist brand of French xenophobia. While they generously claim to ‘attack everyone equally,’ the cartoons they publish are intentionally anti-Islam, and frequently sexist and homophobic.
– See more at: http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2015/01/in-the-wake-of-charlie-hebdo-free-speech-does-not-mean-freedom-from-criticism/#sthash.aiUioHXm.dpuf

Being critical does not mean that we condemn acts of violence against journalists, however prejudiced they are, far less murder. But we must remember that journalists also have responsibilities, and so must they.

Notes: See also, for example…
1. Historian James Boskin who argued that cartoons helped to perpetuate American racism. (in Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American jester (New York: Oxford University press: 124)

2. Numerous articles on racial stereotyping in Disney cartoons.
“the lazy, African American crows and illiterate, dark-skinned labourers in Dumbo;Sebastian, the workshy Jamaican crab in The Little Mermaid; the darker-skinned “evil” Arabs in Aladdin; the hyenas in The Lion King; the Native Americans inPeter Pan; the list goes on. Not forgetting the notorious Song of The South, Disney’s 1946 musical depicting happy black slaves singing with cartoon birds on a southern plantation. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) called for a boycott of Song Of The South and issued a statement condemning the film’s “dangerously glorified picture of slavery”. It would be another half-century before Disney atoned with a black heroine, in 2009’s The Princess And The Frog.” (Article in The Guardian, 2014)

3. Wiggins, W H Jr(1988) Boxing’s Sambo Twins: Racial Stereotypes in Jack Johnson and Joe Louis Newspaper Cartoons 1908 to 1938. Journal of Sports History Vol 15 No 3: 242)

4. Solorzano, DG. (1997) Images and Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Racial Stereotyping, and Teacher Education. Teacher Education Quarterly, Summer.

5. Tierney, W (1993) Building Communities of Difference: Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

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