Saturday, January 10, 2015

Have You Seen Joe Sacco's Cartoon About the Paris Terror Attacks and the Limits of Satire?

Comic books and graphic novels are much more than "pictures with words".

The universe sends us messages that we can listen to, and if we are lucky, understand and reflect upon in a positive and powerful way.

I am drinking a few beers, doing my best to stay warm here in Chicago Echo Base on Hoth, and watching the BBC documentary Great War Diaries.

Joe Sacco, the gifted and award-winning storyteller, journalist, and cultural critic who just happens to use visual arts as one of his mediums, penned the exceptional and ambitious graphic novel The Great War about the first Battle of the Somme.

His newest "cartoon" explores questions of taste, satire, and censorship in the aftermath of the attacks by Islamic terrorists on the people of France.

Sometimes you have to sit back and let the grown folks talk about a subject; Sacco is teaching in On Satire, holding court from the grown folks table in the proverbial kitchen and/or den of our global collective digital public sphere.

What do you "see" in Joe Sacco's work of pictures and words as literature? Do you agree? Any other great examples of graphic art and literature which you would like to share that are related to the Paris attacks, free speech, or society and politics more generally?


joe manning said...

There's a difference between satire and scapegoating. On the one hand supreme beings and obsolete sexual taboos invite the ridicule necessary for reality testing. On the other hand, racist stereotyping is an exercise in cognitive distortion and propaganda.

Char said...

Excellent find, Chauncey.

"What do you 'see' in Joe Sacco's work of pictures and words as literature?"

I see a summation of the points some of us have been arguing, over the last few days, powerfully delivered through true satire that distinguishes itself from the bigoted jokes of Charlie Hebdo.

Not all jokes are satire. Satire is a special form of joking that involves using wit to expose the negative characteristics of an object. Some of Charlie's cartoons did have a satirical point. Others did not. Lewd depictions of Muhammed with his genitals exposed fail to expose a flaw in anyone but the propagandists themselves.

grumpyrumblings said...

That is a really good comic. Thank you for finding it.

Char said...

I think we are overdue for an analysis of the curios relationship in which White-centric societies' universal condemnation of armed minority resistance to White oppression coexists with White-centric deafness to nonviolent resistance and the reality of White dominance derived from violence, along with White-centric romanticisation of past, and potential future, violent, White resistance movements.

Sadly, many of these morally lacking individuals (from the Charlie Hebdo's attackers to Ismaiiyl Brinsley and even the dog-eat-dog uber-capitalist perpetrators of "Black on Black crime") may be operating from a cold logic that follows a blueprint crafted by White-centric dominance.

Black Romulan said...

Joe Sacco's work came up for me as I was doing some research for a paper on certain graphic novel interpretations of real life political events, i.e. Maus, Persepolis, and (Sacco's) Palestine. The author's voice here is extremely important in our international discussion on free speech and cultural conflict. Thanks as always CDV!

j.ottopohl said...

Great cartoon by Sacco. This is kind of tangential, but I am wondering why the week long massacre killing 2000 people in Nigeria by Boko Haram had not gotten anywhere near the attention as those in Paris.

Char said...

Because more value is placed on White's rights to offend minorities, including Boko Haram victims, than on the minorities' rights to live.

Char said...

The irony of the jingoistic response disguised as supporting freedom of speech is that it is the biggest threat to free speech. Here is an article how free speech is being threatened in the name of free speech.

This is an article about French politicians proposing public funding for Charlie Hebdo.

If it's not apparent why that is problematic, just imagine Fox News with official government support and financial backing.

Axiom Ethicist said...

I don't think many people are going to say Charlie Hebdo was making the best possible use of their rights to speech. However protecting those rights isn't just about allowing only the best use of speech.

Our belief in freedom of speech is not based on an abstract principal alone. It flows from a faith that the truth and justice will inevitably win if speech is unrestricted.

Axiom Ethicist said...

I don't like your "knife in the wall outlet" analogy it seems to deny agency to the people involved.

Imagine flipping that argument around. What is it about French people that demands they draw blasphemous cartoons even through it puts their lives at disproportionate risk?

Char said...

"What is it about French people that demands they draw blasphemous cartoons even through it puts their lives at disproportionate risk?"

1) It's not so much about drawing blasphemous cartoons as it is about deliberately trying to be offensive, controversial, and provocative to a large group of people with legitimate preexisting grievances against your society, a number of whom are primed for violence and looking for a target in response to the war on Muslims.

2) As I wouldn't be comfortable making a generalization about all Muslims based on the handful of extremists that attacked Charlie Hebdo, I'm not comfortable making a generalization about "French people" based on the handful that draw such cartoons.

3) I'm not sure what argument you're trying to flip around. May you expound?

"I don't like your 'knife in the wall outlet' analogy it seems to deny agency to the people involved."

There is plenty of agency on the part of the person sticking the knife into the outlet. Perhaps you object to the lack of agency on the part of the electricity, the metaphorical stand-in for the extremists, but the extremists are not the focus of the analogy. The point of the analogy is to illustrate the absurdity of presenting the preexisting, though rarely realized, dangers of high-risk behavior as indicative of an increased or novel danger.

If you did not like that analogy, I did think of one more appropriate to a situation involving satire. Charlie Hebdo engaged in a "Let me show your something!" brand of point proving self-fulfilling prophesy:

Courtney H. said...

Here is an article about a Black Muslim who helped hide people in the kosher grocery that was attacked:

Axiom Ethicist said...

Well "what did they expect drawing those kinds of cartoons" strikes some people as disturbingly similar to "well look at what she was wearing".

joe manning said...

Charlie Hebdo appeals to right and left to increase its circulation as do all publications looking to their bottom line--which may be indicative of the intrinsic fascist core of capitalism.

Char said...

Of course it does, because those people are thoughtless reactionaries incapable of nuance, only able to find their position on an issue by first locating the conservative extreme, then placing themselves in opposition to it. They can never have their own identity so long as they preoccupy themselves with trying to be someone else. This is a major flaw of White-centric liberalism, which often fails in its primary goal of truly distinguishing itself from conservatism, it's polar position proving to be little more than the other side of a coin existing in an economy of flawed logic.

It is this brand of flawed logic that would stipulate that Black parents having "the talk" with their Black children about encounters with the police are justifying police brutality and promoting a fascist culture.

I invite "some people" to revisit my commentary, and that of the cartoon, to understand that at no point was a justification made for the murderous actions of the extremists.

Pool Party in Gurgaon said...

Hey keep posting such good and meaningful articles.

OldPolarBear said...

This is a really great cartoon -- thanks for posting it! I'm pretty sure I had heard Joe Sacco's name before but I'm not familiar with his other work. This goes a long way toward articulating how I feel about the "I am Charlie Hebdo" meme.

The other part of how I feel was captured by peace activist David Swanson. That essay is probably not as subtle and nuanced as Sacco's cartoon, but it sort of explained how I felt. When I first heard about the shootings, I had a strange sort of cold reaction to it, not indifference exactly, but ... something. It bothered me; I intellectually told myself how awful it was, but I was emotionally not too invested. There is just so much death being dealt out -- these people were murdered ostensibly for drawing cartoons, but hundreds or thousands of people are being murdered by our drones for doing absolutely nothing. Of course, any such comparison enrages just about everybody.

As for "I am Charlie ...," etc. A lot of people are saying that it's perfectly OK to deplore the violence without identifying with the newspaper, and I agree. When Larry Flynt was shot, most people condemned the violence, but I don't remember anybody saying, "I am Hustler Magazine" or people rushing out to the newsstands to buy millions of copies of the next issue.

Durandal said...

I tried to read your long-winded wank but it seemed like so much self-aggrandizing "Look how ****ing smart I am" BS and I quickly grew bored with it. Learn to summarize your points more quickly with less buzzwords.