Thursday, January 08, 2015

Another Tragedy...

Another year, another tragedy - and within a week! The shocking murders of twelve people, including four well-known cartoonists, at the offices of satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday was horrific and saddening.

From Huffington Post yesterday:
The attackers stormed Charlie Hebdo's Paris newsroom during an editorial meeting and began firing indiscriminately, police and prosecutors said. Witnesses told police that the gunmen shouted "we have avenged the prophet," according to Agence France-Presse. Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Corinne Rey said the gunmen spoke to her in fluent French and claimed to represent Al Qaeda, she told French newspaper l'Humanite.

I'm no great fan of satire when taken to extremes. To my taste satire works best when directed at one's own fads and foibles, or at the fads and foibles of one's own country and culture. When satire reaches beyond that it can rapidly flounder into the realms of questionable or downright bad taste. That was the problem I had with the recent media furor about the movie The Interview. The satirical cartoons featuring Mohammed carried by Charlie Hebdo didn't as much flounder into a similar bad taste realm as march directly into it, with provocation.

I guess I'm in a tiny minority (again) in my opinion on this. I surprise even myself - but I feel as I feel and cannot change it. I found just three comments, out of many hundreds I read yesterday, which aligned with my own feelings:
We live in treacherous times. Even though we have freedoms, it is imperative that we learn to exercise those freedoms with wisdom.
(Minnie Taylor)


You can have freedom of speech but, with that freedom comes responsibility. As the saying goes, if you keep poking the bear.... Condemning all Muslims because of radical extremists is ridiculous. While there is no excuse for such violence, we all know that there are extremists out there, and this type a "humor" provokes. Was the satire worth human lives?
(Isabella Kirchner)


Not at all condoning this violence or these crackpots, but this newspaper has had death threats from them before, because they re-published the inflammatory Danish cartoons and also other comments about Mohammed. Then they hide behind the free speech argument, so surely they have to take at least some responsibility. Its like antagonising fundamentalist Christians by insulting Jesus.
(Robert Forton).

Freedoms - all freedoms - carry with them responsibilities, especially for those with the power to incite and inflame. So what has been gained, at the expense of those 12 lives, and the agony of their families and loved ones? What - exactly? Have extremists been taught any lesson? Would they ever "see the funny side", get the message ? Don't we all know the negatives of fundamentalist religions already without benefit of satire? Maybe some of us don't, but was it worth the cost of human lives to highlight it yet again? Really? I feel very sad for the bereaved. I feel angry at the sheer waste that could have been avoided by the realisation of what can be seen from this event as the extremely serious levels of responsibility that come with free expression.

22 comments:

Sonny G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sonny G said...

the comments you posted as well as your own, are so very close to exactly what my daughter and I were saying last night.
We thought maybe we might be the only ones to feel this way, apparently not..

like you, I don't think what they did was right but it surely makes it clear how totally they are committed to what they believe in.

I wonder why there isn't the same worldwide outrage when fundamentalist groups blow up abortion clinics and kill/ terrorize the doctors , nurses and their families that work in them.
Talk about a double standard.~!

mike said...

Poking sticks at bears works two ways. The satirical cartoons were in mocking response to horrific aberration and intimidation. As you indicate with "The Interview", many of these provocations are in poor taste, but the subject matter is typically well-earned by the person or group crying foul or lobbing a murderous retort, yet again providing a basis for the original criticism. Truth and satire is usually not perceived by the guilty, boosted by their own denial, contempt, and retaliation. The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is succinct in this case, as I've read written essays that essentially say the same as these single-frame cartoons.

The past several years has brought wrath to journalists (and I would place political cartoonists in this category now, too):

"At least 66 journalists were killed across the globe this year while another 178 media workers were imprisoned, according to industry monitoring outlet Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

While the number of journalists’ deaths fell slightly when compared to 2013 figures, the high-profile beheadings of Western and Arab reporters by militant Jihadists in the Middle East marked a gruesome escalation in the types of violence employed against the Fourth Estate.

'Rarely have reporters been murdered with such a barbaric sense of propaganda, shocking the entire world,' said the watchdog organization in their annual report published on Tuesday.

RSF also noted that the number of kidnapping cases skyrocketed dramatically in 2014 with 119 journalists reportedly being abducted, a 37% increase year-on-year."
http://time.com/3635440/journalism-reporters-without-border-murder-kidnapping/

Additionally, we had and have individuals and groups right here in the USA that have met their maker by the hands of our own governmental officials that didn't enjoy the criticisms or revelations of criminal activity. It could be construed that Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning performed their deeds in a satirical fashion.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ I'm relieved to know that you feel much the same as I do on this.
The more commentary I read on the topic the more amazed and disenchanted I become! I haven't watched any TV news or heard radio news (and should probably be glad of it), so my information is via the net. Everybody seems to be missing the point (or the point as I/we see it.)



Twilight said...

mike ~ Whether the subject matter of the cartoons was "well-earned" isn't the point. The point is this: was publication of more cartoons of much the same slant as had caused trouble previously, going to change anything?
Satire works best when it's fresh - these cartoons aren't fresh at all - they simply parrot the same mockery again and again. we've seen 'em before - or their close cousins.
To my mind their continued publication was like schoolyard bullies taunting others.

As you point out, written essays have covered the same ground, but there's a vast difference between sitting down and reading a thoughtful essay and seeing a garish image thrust into public view.

And shouldn't we be thinking about WHY this event, and others, such as the beheadings you mention, have come about. Isn't it retaliation for what Western powers are doing (and have done for many many years) to the lands and people of the East?

In no way were these latest killings justified, but to my mind the deliberate provocation of the French magazine was irresponsible, and the cost of 12 lives, some of whom had no say in the matter, was way too high for the insistence on "free speech"- in this instance anyway.

mike (again) said...

Whether you and I agree or disagree on this subject is irrelevant. In most aspects, I DO agree with your viewpoint, but that is irrelevant. Political, satirical cartoonists made a choice to draw their work that was important to them and the editors reviewed and published those cartoons.

You, through your blog, have chosen to write multiple, same-topic essays about vagaries important to you. I doubt that those needing to read your essays actually did, as most blog readers tend to read blogs in alliance to their particular opinions...like attracts like. However, I can imagine a scenario where one of your posts (and-or my comments) could bring some portentous patrons your way (think the 1%, NSA, FBI, or CIA...LOL). Should I decide that you asked for it, exhibited risky and inappropriate behavior, or should have known better? I suspect there are many out here in internet land that would say you went way too far. You write your posts for a purpose, regardless of solicitations or opinions of your readers. That's how it should be.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Indeed - the cartoonists, editors and publisher made a choice.
What I'm asking is was that choice wise in view of what was known from previous, similar, choices, and was it worth the risk of what turned out to be 12 lives, some of whom had no choice in the matter?

I write an insignificant blog journal in an out-of-the-way, somewhat specialised arm of an insignificant part of the blog galaxy...a galalxy declining by the week. When, if ever, I see a risk, such as being hauled over the coals or banished due to copyright infringement, I do my best to avoid risks in that area in future, as far as is reasonable.

I write my posts to record my thoughts, to record what I've learned (if anything) and to ask questions of myself and anyone passing by who feels inclined to comment (like your goodself, mike). I do not ever write to deliberately inflame or incite. I try not to mock those with whom I disagree politically or in religious matters.
Mockery isn't helpful and simply causes more bad feeling.

If my opinion offends, then I'll apologise and maybe try to explain in fuller fashion.

I understand the point you are making, and appreciate it, I do - but the scale is way off to make a reasonable comparison between a blog containing personal opinions and a nationally published magazine dealing with internationally sensitive matters.

Sonny G said...

As for anything of world wide significance here- well,, move along CIA , nothing to see:) as we are not condoning- applauding-agreeing or even brushing aside the horrific actions taken concerning these events or those before them.
I hurt for the folks who were murdered and their families and friends who's lives are also forever changed by the decisions and thus the consequenes:: yes, thats right my spelling sucks lol:::: those decisions incurred.
maybe I'm old fashioned or getting to be a cranky gal in my later years but when I was in preschool I learned the decisions I made had a price.. That truly is a fact of life.
These journalist had learned well the price those before them had paid for their Choice to say whatever they pleased and made the decision to do it anyway..
Mike, if you got on a plane and went to iraq and decided to run around in a place with clearly visable signs that said MINE FIELD, I would sorely grieve for the loss of my friend- but also rage against the fact that, that was the decision you made.. tell in ya know- dont do it~!
please..

mike (again) said...

Well, sometimes trouble just finds an outlet. Our own country is becoming more questionable as our rights have been replaced with the PATRIOT ACT and just about anything goes, and most Americans don't complain, because they feel safer.

Be glad you don't live in Dubai, Twilight, your apologies won't be accepted there, but that could be the new normal here soon enough:

"Saudi Blogger To Be Publicly Flogged For Insulting Islam

..."'It is horrifying to think that such a vicious and cruel punishment should be imposed on someone who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression,' said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/08/saudi-blogger-flogged_n_6436778.html

It's imperative to note that the FBI can search your home with a warrant or without a warrant via a National Security Letter. They do not have to tell you that they have performed the search. If you should discover that your home or business has been searched, it is illegal for you to disclose that information (this aspect is currently under appeal).

"... The media reported in 2007 that a government audit found the FBI had violated the rules more than 1,000 times in an audit of 10% of its national investigations between 2002 and 2007. Twenty such incidents involved requests by agents for information that U.S. law did not permit them to obtain. A subsequent report issued by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General concluded that the FBI had since corrected its practices so that NSLs complied with the federal statutes.

According to 2,500 pages of documents the FBI provided to the Electronic Frontier Foundation in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the FBI had used NSLs to obtain information about individuals who are the subject of an FBI terrorism or counterintelligence investigation and information from telecommunications companies about individuals with whom the subject of the investigation has communicated. According to a September 9, 2007, New York Times report, '[i]n many cases, the target of a[n FBI] national security letter whose records are being sought is not necessarily the actual subject of a terrorism investigation. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the FBI must assert only that the records gathered through the letter are considered relevant to a terrorism investigation.'"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_security_letter


Sonny, I (we) don't have to travel to Iraqi and walk through a mine field...it can and has happened to citizens of the USA on their own soil. The definition of terrorist and terrorism is very subjective.

LB said...

I have to begin by making clear my comment is in no way meant to excuse wrong-doing or justify the pointless taking of lives. I'm VERY sorry for what happened and what continues to happen throughout the world every day in a variety of forms. I can only imagine how terrible it must feel to lose someone in this way.

Having said that, it's a fine line we all walk. Whenever we dehumanize others, it makes it that much easier for them to dehumanize us. Not that most of us need a reason.

I support and respect the thought-provoking work of informed, thoughtful journalists, writers, movie-makers, artists, advocates and anyone else courageous enough to speak the TRUTH without malice, hypocrisy or prejudice.

I also respect the 'right', if not the ideas themselves, of others to express ideas and thoughts contrary to my own.

Just because we have the 'right' to say or do something doesn't necessarily mean it's worth saying or doing. It also doesn't mean we should be attacked or killed for it. Both things can be equally true, without contradiction.

I wouldn't have gone to see the movie "The Interview" before the threat and won't see it now because of it.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ LOL - any wandering off-course CIA officers might profit from a bit of the old astrological ! ;-)

LB said...

Twilight ~ In case you haven't already seen it, Jude Cowell at Stars Over Washington included an interesting Real News interview related to recent events.

For some reason, I can't copy the link. Sorry.:(

Twilight said...

mike ~ If I lived in Dubai I hope I'd be sensitive (and sensible) enough to respect beliefs and customs I could not share, and write my blog accordingly.

I agree that there's lots that is wrong in the USA - as you comment now and as we've agreed in the past, many times. Loss of certain privacies is worrying, especially if the losses continue and surveillance encroaches ever further upon our doings. Yet supporting the rights of French cartoon magazines to publish dangerous material will not improve anything there or here. Putting lives at risk for so little, or for any, return isn't acceptable in my view (and, as I keep repeating, some of those lives were not given any choice in whether to publish or not - and are collateral damage).

Twilight said...

LB ~ This is a very difficult topic on which to make a clear decision one way or the other. I agree with your views, nicely stated.

If I hadn't read such unpleasant comments on this issue, all over the internet yesterday and today, I might have felt less adamant about it all. I always try to be "on the side of ordinary people", but in this case I can't be. The more I read their words, and words of some who I'd expect to think differently, the more angry I become.

I guess professional journalists and artists are naturally going to feel the way they do and are being so vocal about it -it is all about their own way of life and way of making a living, and the freedoms they see as theirs. They do have freedoms, and I'm glad they do, but I wish some of them would acknowledge their responsibility as well.

LB said...

Twilight ~ I think you'll appreciate the Real News interview I mentioned in my last comment.

Twilight said...

LB ~ I've just watched the Real News video - yes thank you! The guy there expresses an excellent and nicely balanced view of the situation. Best I've seen - by miles!

I tried to leave a comment for Jude but got entangled in the Google commenting system so gave up.

Twilight said...

NOTE for readers ~ There's a link to Stars Over Washington blog in my sidebar Astrology Blog links - it'll lead to the Real News video there.

Twilight said...

Another piece well worth a look:

https://medium.com/@asgharbukhari/charlie-hebdo-this-attack-was-nothing-to-do-with-free-speech-it-was-about-war-26aff1c3e998

Sonny G said...


Two thought provoking articles Annie and LB..

It was great reading all the comments here and getting a view of how folks see and feel things differently.

mike (again) said...

http://www.juancole.com/2015/01/sharpening-contradictions-satirists.html

"... Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination."

Twilight said...

mike ~ Isn't it amazing from how many perspectives this event can be seen and "parsed"? We'll never be certain what and who was behind it, or with what proposed purpose.

All really we can honestly do is continue to feel the deepest sympathy for those now grieving loss of family or loved ones.

Twilight said...

From Huffington Post on 15 January 2015:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/15/charlie-hebdo-founder-french-newspaper-editor-drag-death_n_6480034.html

Yes!