These events have challenged me once again to live up to the quote Voltaire is credited for: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." It's tempting to say that the Charlie Hebdo artists and editors were "asking for it". But if they were censored, then where would it stop? I learned the hard way what happens when you don't stand up to bullies, and failing to do so means living in fear and self-censorship. Life with religious extremists has always been par for the course. Unfortunately, so many extremists have easy access to war materiel these days.
From what little I have seen of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, personally I don't think their work was really any good. Their cartoons are cheap, hostile, vulgar, and promote the same old stereotypes. But again, this does not sanctify murder. Works like Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" turned me off, but it wasn't enough to drive me to violence.
I don't have time to play into someone else's game. We need to grow up, and laugh off the drunks at the party, and walk past the garbage lying in the gutter. IMHO. And have the confidence in the things we believe to be sacred, and not freak out, no matter what others say.
Personally, if work in comics, or any other medium is going to be provocative, (hey, what work isn't?) then the creators should be able to take legitimate criticism, but not a hail of bullets. And in my opinion, artwork should have some educational, or at least uplifting undertone. Right wing groups in the U.S. publish and broadcast very hostile and denigrating material, and claim that it's their 1st Amendment right. To me, this still borders on yelling "FIRE" in a crowded movie house, but that's a discussion for another day.
I don't know which Muslim or Arabic publications make some sort of editorial response to magazines like Charlie Hebdo. They also have a right to heard, and be the voices of reason in those cultures. Spiegelman on Democracy Now! stated that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons afflict the already afflicted.
But in the case of today's assaults, this shouldn't mean you have to turn your studio into an armed bunker. The worst thing to happen is someone getting sued if the courts decide that their statements are slanderous. (or, down on the street level, when you dare someone to take a swing at your chin, you had better be ready to defend yourself. But men of honor will fight only with their fists, right?)
We live in an age where violent action and deadly force is becoming more and more the first course of action. Someone will always lash out in the name of ___. It's safe to say this will never be settled.
Thanks for reading my thoughts. Check out Art Spiegelman on Democracy Now! on KPFK.
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