Off Topic Messages

Je suis Charlie, but not really

Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:00 am

Award-winning columnist Jon Carroll takes a measured, knowing look at the tragic events in Paris last week, and points out some very valid facts.

Worth a look, if you have a few minutes.


Je suis Charlie, but not really
Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle
Monday, January 12, 2015


A thousand years ago, when I was editing a magazine that was supposed to bring news of the continent to eager young men, I looked into Charlie Hebdo as a story. It was fresh and new then, a product of the upheaval in Paris in 1968 that matched other upheaval around the world, including this country.

It’s still very much of that era. Its politics (such as they were) were uncompromising; it did not see the good in any human institution. It held everyone to an impossible standard. It was also unfair to a lot of its targets; it wasn’t in the business of being fair.

It was satire, pure satire, the kind we don’t really get in this country. A lot of our best satirists are lovable. Mark Twain had wonderfully outrageous ideas, but he was still foxy Grandpa — and a celebrator of American frontier life. Will Rogers was a professional vaudeville performer. Though Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can be harsh, there’s a wink back there, a soothing humanity.

When Colbert left his “Report,” hundreds of powerful people gathered around to wish him well. That would have been a mark of failure at Charlie Hebdo. The writers and artists there didn’t — and don’t; it’s still publishing — want to be friends with celebrities.

In any event, I decided not to do a big piece on Charlie Hebdo. It was not light entertainment for our readers. None of the cartoons were funny. The jokes were astonishingly crude, particularly for a magazine that was the darling of the intellectual left. It was a very French institution, a descendant of great European magazines and broadsheets and sketchbooks, caricatures and slashing depictions of society, mercilessly pinned to a wall like a particularly vile insect.

And of course religion: There is a great anti-clerical feeling in France. Prurient priests and wanton nuns are familiar running characters. Stealing from the poor in order to buy gold tableware, that sort of thing. And the French find real humor in that.

But I didn’t. I give you a hypothetical example: Suppose an American cartoonist were to draw, in crudely exaggerated outlines, a drawing of President Obama defecating on the Bill of Rights. Tasteless, of course, but also dopey. We get the point; is that all there is? Can’t you tell me more? And often, Charlie Hebdo didn’t. They were content with their outrage.

Have you seen the cartoons of Muhammad that specifically enraged the Muslims? Almost all American news outlets refused to print them, even while assuring us that Je suis Charlie and all that. The reason they weren’t printed is that they are offensive. If some of them appeared in a right-wing publication printed in Mississippi, then the tut-tutting would have begun in earnest.

But we defend the right to be bigoted; we defend the right to say whatever we want. Not that it’s not under fire over here, too — our threat comes from the corporations that control the media, not from Islamic fundamentalists. As newspapers die, so do points of view. Everything gets transferred to the Web, and lots of stuff gets lost on the Web. And it’s hard to make money online — at least for a content provider.

The number of full-time paid editorial cartoonists in this country has declined to under 50. Syndicated political cartoonists are a dead breed. Remember Tom Tomorrow? He’s now supporting himself with reader donations. He still draws, thankfully; others have just given up.

And satire continues to dry up. Satire is meant to make you ponder. New media seems more interested in pander than ponder. People talk about these issues online, and some are very cogent, but so far that abundance of intelligence has not resulted in any great artifacts of social criticism.

And social criticism is what we need to keep alive; we gotta be as fearless as we can get. Maybe the drawing of the prophet Muhammad in a sexual position is not our cup of tea, humor-wise, but we should still be calling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a thug and a murderer. The al Qaeda members in Yemen who trained the terrorists who killed the Charlie Hebdo staff members are cowardly gangsters.

They may spring from a region with genuine grievances against Western society, but they are not in any sense working to end their supporters’ misery. Rather, they are raining war down into the Muslim countries of the Middle East, allowing and encouraging the ongoing slaughter of innocents.

It is important that, using all the art and craft at our disposal, we in the media keep allowing free ideas to circulate, that we not shut down the dialogue because it’s not good for the bottom line. The duty of the media now is clearer than it ever was; we stand for freedom. That’s a sacred trust.

http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/carroll/article/Je-suis-Charlie-but-not-really-6009910.php

Re: Je suis Charlie, but not really

Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:42 am

Thought-provoking, but I'm not sure where he's going with this, exactly. I think he wants more pointed satire, more satire without a friendly wink, which he found in Charlie Hebdo. They weren't "funny" and weren't meant to be; they were intended to outrage: that was the goal. And outrage often has certain social benefits in and of itself. "We" are not really "Charlie," because "we" don't have the guts to not care if we are liked. Or even physically attacked. Or even killed, which was a possibility that was very present to them.

I do take issue with his view of both Twain and Colbert. Since I have read/seen quite a bit of the work of both men, I think to judge them at the twilight of their satire careers ("foxy Grandpa" meaning when Twain was older) and Colbert's last day as "The Character," as he makes the transition from "Colberrrre" to Stephen Colbert, mainstream late-night host, is unfair to their work. There were unforgettable incendiary moments. I suggest he review the Report's episodes more thoroughly, and at least read the Twain collection, A Pen Warmed Up in Hell: Mark Twain In Protest. (As for Stephen, I will never forget the night, shortly after the Newtown Massacre, when he completely broke character and said BLUNTLY what he thought of Wayne LaPierre's sanity. I can't repeat it on this family site; I really can't. {And as I recall, Comedy Central did not censor the word, as they would normally do.} But there was no wink and no friendly nod. Put it that way. It took courage to say that directly to the head honcho of the National Rifle Association.)

Otherwise, it was interesting; thank you, John. I would like to see their back numbers from 1968. That would be most edifying!

rjm
P.S. -- http://smile.amazon.com/Pen-Warmed-Up-Hell-Twain-Protest/dp/0060906782/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421210367&sr=8-1&keywords=Twain+A+Pen+Warmed+Up+In+Hell&pebp=1421210395349&peasin=60906782

Re: Je suis Charlie, but not really

Wed Jan 14, 2015 8:09 am

rjm wrote:Thought-provoking, but I'm not sure where he's going with this, exactly.


Carroll's summation is pretty clear:

It is important that, using all the art and craft at our disposal, we in the media keep allowing free ideas to circulate, that we not shut down the dialogue because it’s not good for the bottom line. The duty of the media now is clearer than it ever was; we stand for freedom. That’s a sacred trust.


Surprised you were not bothered by his reference to the cable channel whose demographic is apparently 16 year-olds. ;-)

Re: Je suis Charlie, but not really

Wed Jan 14, 2015 8:28 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
rjm wrote:Thought-provoking, but I'm not sure where he's going with this, exactly.


Carroll's summation is pretty clear:

It is important that, using all the art and craft at our disposal, we in the media keep allowing free ideas to circulate, that we not shut down the dialogue because it’s not good for the bottom line. The duty of the media now is clearer than it ever was; we stand for freedom. That’s a sacred trust.


I agree; he summed up his position quite well. I just thought he meandered a bit before he got there. I was just nitpicking. It was a good piece.

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Surprised you were not bothered by his reference to the cable channel whose demographic is apparently 16 year-olds. ;-)


Ah! You saw that! Not much gets by you, my friend. (I WAS referring specifically to Daniel Tosh. :lol: ) I wasn't referring to the other programming, generally. And if the kids love Drunk History, it's more genuine history than they'll ever get in school! For the most part. I can't LIVE without Comedy Central! And I am no longer 16. ;)

(But when I was, we in Atlanta had the 3 AM news program with a young Bill Tush. TUsh, not TOsh. He later went on to CNN's Showbiz Today, and lost his {French phrase I can't spell or pronounce: 'Jens a se quois.' :oops: }. ) I don't know if what he did was "satire," but it was brilliant. "Brother Gold" WAS satire! He did the nightly sign-off with the obligatory benediction. God, it was GOOD!

phpBB [video]



rjm
P.S. -- I specifically defended Colbert, because he did satire, not comedy. Stephen spoke of the difference just recently: "Jon deconstructs the bulls**t; I EMBODY the bulls**t."

Re: Je suis Charlie, but not really

Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:27 pm

rjm wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:
rjm wrote:Thought-provoking, but I'm not sure where he's going with this, exactly.


Carroll's summation is pretty clear:

It is important that, using all the art and craft at our disposal, we in the media keep allowing free ideas to circulate, that we not shut down the dialogue because it’s not good for the bottom line. The duty of the media now is clearer than it ever was; we stand for freedom. That’s a sacred trust.


I agree; he summed up his position quite well. I just thought he meandered a bit before he got there. I was just nitpicking. It was a good piece.

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Surprised you were not bothered by his reference to the cable channel whose demographic is apparently 16 year-olds. ;-)


Ah! You saw that! Not much gets by you, my friend. (I WAS referring specifically to Daniel Tosh. :lol: ) I wasn't referring to the other programming, generally. And if the kids love Drunk History, it's more genuine history than they'll ever get in school! For the most part. I can't LIVE without Comedy Central! And I am no longer 16. ;)

(But when I was, we in Atlanta had the 3 AM news program with a young Bill Tush. TUsh, not TOsh. He later went on to CNN's Showbiz Today, and lost his {French phrase I can't spell or pronounce: 'Jens a se quois.' :oops: }. ) I don't know if what he did was "satire," but it was brilliant. "Brother Gold" WAS satire! He did the nightly sign-off with the obligatory benediction. God, it was GOOD!

phpBB [video]



rjm
P.S. -- I specifically defended Colbert, because he did satire, not comedy. Stephen spoke of the difference just recently: "Jon deconstructs the bulls**t; I EMBODY the bulls**t."


Yes, just revisit the other topic.