Intermission: Je suis Charlie

By Alyssa Rosenberg January 7, 2015

Internet release


It doesn’t quite feel right to pose a casual discussion question, given the events of today, so here are some important pieces on the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. More to come in subsequent days.

• “Drawing Blood,” by Art Spiegelman: This piece isn’t new, but today, Spiegelman’s 2006 piece on the Dutch Muhammad cartoon affair, complete with commentary on each of the 12 drawings and reflections on the art of caricature itself, is utterly essential reading.

“Cartoon language is mostly limited to deploying a handful of recognizable visual symbols and cliches,” this master of cartooning explained. “It makes use of the discredited pseudoscientific principles of physiognomy to portray character through a few physical attributes and facial expressions. It takes skill to use such cliches in ways that expand or subvert this impoverished vocabulary. Cartoonists like Honore Daumier, Art Young, and George Grosz were masters of insult and were rewarded for their transgressions: Daumier was imprisoned for ridiculing LouisPhilippe; Art Young, the Socialist editor of The Masses, was tried for treason as a result of his anti-World War I cartoons; and George Grosz was tried variously for slander, blasphemy, and obscenity before fleeing Germany as the Nazis rose to power.”

• “The Charlie Hebdo Attackers Were Attacking You Too,” by James Poniewozik: In Time, Poniewozik looks at what makes attacks such as the ones on Charlie Hebdo different from simple murder: the way such crimes cow everyone else in the vicinity, which in this case means the media.

“Terrorism, by definition, is never just aimed at its direct victims,” he writes. “The slaughter in Paris was aimed at every news organization that now has to decide whether to show the cartoons. It’s aimed at anyone who reports the next story like this. The Sony hack was aimed at aimed at anyone considering another movie that might offend radicals. (Already, one thriller about North Korea has been cancelled in advance.) It’s aimed at any media corporation that looks at the headlines of shootings and hacking, thinks of the danger, however remote—not to mention the potential legal liability—and decides, you know what, not worth the trouble. And it works.”

• “The Attack on Charlie Hebdo,” by Amy Davidson: And in the New Yorker, Davidson writes about what made Charlie Hebdo’s rude sensibility powerful and even optimistic.