Words: Chelsea Haith
In the past week the world has been shocked by the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists and editors, sparking international condemnation of extremist religious groups as well as the so-called ‘war on terror’.
While the world waits with bated breath wondering what will be done about French security and keeping a sharp eye on the doings of Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s pro-death penalty, anti-immigration far-right, cartoonists all over the world have taken up their pencils in protest of the attack and solidarity with those executed.
The conversation is of course a much larger one that encompasses more than what white Western media and governments have to say but the overwhelming majority of cartoonists seem to have taken the same line as Winston Churchill: we will never surrender. Attack has been adopted as the best defence, and while there is never a justification for violence like this, the history of media coverage of ‘terror’ presents a very specific binary: Islamic terrorists and the ‘free world’. Cue islamophobic attacks and the necessity of campaigns like the Australian #Illridewithyou. French social media has begun it’s own hashtag to keep Muslim people safe while using public transport, #voyageavecmoi (travel with me), as attacks on Muslim people have increased since the shootings.
This violence is not unexpected given religious extremism, retaliation and xenophobia against immigrants. French journalist David Ponchelet has applauded the The New Yorker for their upcoming cover which suggests the escalating violence we can probably expect to see in Paris in coming weeks. The magazine will be released in the week beginning 12 January and the cover is particularly vivid in its prediction of forthcoming violence as a result of the attacks. The Eiffel Tower is drawn as a pencil awash in blood.
British paper The Daily Record has collected a series of interesting cartoons by international cartoonists one of which shows the first tenet of French society, Liberté, peppered with bullet holes. Another features a masked man holding a smoking gun and what the viewer infers is a dead cartoonist or editor. The masked man’s speech bubble contains the words, “He drew first.” For more images of cartoons protesting both the killings, religious fundamentalism and the ensuing islamophobia of attacks of this kind see this collection of cartoons gathered by French website LesEchoes.fr.
While for cartoonists morbid, macabre humour is usually the order of the day, some are opting not to use humour and are instead simply saying their goodbyes. Albert Uderzo, the co-creator of French comic Asterix and Obelix has the pair paying their respects and Iranian cartoonist Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour depicts several of the slain in his send off.
Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro South Africa’s most noted cartoonist, has weighed in on the conversation about the attack as well. He told the Mail & Guardian that he condemned the fundamentalism that resulted in this attack on secular society. See his response to the killings here.
If the Western media campaign in support of a ‘war on terror’ after 9/11was the first offensive, the ensuing media furore around the JeSuisCharlie attack will be the second in what some might term a war on our minds. It would seem that when attacked, not even the media remains neutral, if indeed it ever were. The media coverage of the event as well the reactions to the coverage on social media suggest that the Fourth Estate is no longer independent of the first three.
We should have been thinking for ourselves a long time ago.