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Charlie Hebdo

I woke up to the news of the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and still can’t quite wrap my mind around it. Among the (as reported at this time) dozen people killed were four cartoonists: Georges Wolinski, Tignous, Charb, and Cabu. Although we are in the very early hours after the event, and all the rules for breaking news apply, Charlie Hebdo‘s previous offices were firebombed in 2011 after one of their somewhat frequent skewerings (in words and cartoons) of Islam. It is likely that today’s atrocity was for the same reason.

Charlie Hebdo has a reputation that can be described — depending on your views — as anywhere from provocative to being a dick to everybody they dislike, a fairly lengthy list. They were known for reprinting the Killer Danish Muhammed Cartoons and creating plenty of their own (as well as vicious cartoons about pretty much every other religion, given the antireligious bent of the magazine).

But being a dick is not a capital crime.

I don’t understand the tendency of zealous believers — almost always of the privileged variety¹ — to defend their beliefs with coercion, force, and violence. If your belief, your argument, your self-identified in-group is built upon such a weak foundation that being criticized or made fun of undermines it, then whatever you believe, argue, or identify with is exactly as weak and pointless as you fear. If the mere fact that different people have different beliefs, different experiences, different priorities in life, different people that they love is a threat to you, you’re the one with the losing proposition.

There’s plenty of people today re-running various anti-Islamic cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, choosing that means of supporting freedom of speech. I’ve decided instead to run photos of the four cartoonists²; I’d rather remember those who made the cartoons than the cartoons themselves. So then:

Georges Wolinksi

Photo by Wikimedia user Alvaro, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0).


Photo by Wikimedia user Okki, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0).


Photo by Wikimedia user Coyau, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0).


Photo by Wikimedia user Eriotac, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0).

If you have fought to forbid speech you dislike, you killed them. If you’ve abused the authority given to you and tolerate no criticism of your behavior, you killed them. If your reaction to a cartoon you don’t like is to take down the website, you killed them. If somebody you dislike exists in public and you react with violence, you killed them.

Back to lighthearted tomorrow.

¹ This includes everybody that’s part of a historically privileged group (and likely a majority) within a society vehemently opposed to sharing wealth and power, those who believe that they are privileged by a god or gods, and those to whom great authority is given. The truer and purer the belief that the current situation represents all that is Right and Proper, the greater the tendency to regard any insult, relative loss of advantage, or failure to completely subordinate oneself to the privileged class as an existential threat.

But most especially this refers to the most fundamentalist believers of supreme beings that are at once omnipotent but also so susceptible to critique than all who don’t believe in exactly the same way must be punished, here and now. I always figured endless, omnipotent beings could take their time and spend eternity punishing me for my manifold heresies, so why the urge of their most fanatical followers to have to “protect” the all-powerful?

² I would note that current reports are that eight other people died, reportedly Charlie Hebdo staffers and police. Others that are wounded may yet die. They are no less worthy of being remembered, but have not been identified yet. Please spare a moment to reflect on all the victims and their families.

Since you decided to focus on the cartoonists who died today, let me expand on them a bit.

Cabu! Oh my God Cabu. Where to start? By the fact he coined a word (“beauf”, meaning a narrow-minded average French) which is now in all French language dictionaries? By his extensive career stretching back at least 50 years? By his prowess at both caricature and comics (Le Grand Duduche, in particular)? He is, basically, a fundamental French cultural reference. Period.

Wolinski was the reference for political cartooning in the French communist movement, long officiating at l’Humanité, the official paper of the French communist party. Among his many accomplishments, he once received the Grand Prix in Angoulème. One of his most famous cartoons read:

Well-off Father (crying): Our daughter engaged to a one-eyed, lame negro jew!
Well-off Mother (crying): Jesus Mary Joseph!
Daughter: Be kind, dear, don’t tell them right away you are communist.

Charb was pretty much the soul of Charlie Hebdo, illustrating the covers most of the time, to the best of my knowledge, as well as contributing many of the interior cartoons (as far as I know, I did not buy Charlie Hebdo) and serving as the magazine’s editor. He did work for other publications, but his recent career is pretty much synonymous with Charlie Hebdo itself.

I am not familiar with Tignous and his work, most unfortunately.

Lastly, among the names released as being among the dead is economist, contributing the Charlie Hebdo as such, Bernard Maris, who also officiated in various other media, such as France Inter (France generalist public radio channel).

For Fleen, this was French correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin reporting from Paris; to you Gary.

Hear, hear.

The fact that these cowards targeted cartoonists makes this even more shocking to me than it would otherwise have been. :-(

[…] number of things would have been covered yesterday, but were delayed because of a god-damned disgrace¹. Let’s point out some things have come to light regarding the Charlie Hebdo incident, […]

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