Today on the site, Sara Lautman returns with another week’s tenure creating our Cartoonist’s Diary. In Day 1, she confronts a dilemma at a karaoke bar.
—News. The well-known historian (Men of Tomorrow) and comics writer Gerard Jones has been arrested on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography.
Gerard Jones, 59, was arrested after a police investigation and ensuing search warrant at his residence in the 600 block of Long Bridge Street in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood turned up a host of electronic devices storing more than 600 images and videos depicting child pornography, police said.
He was arraigned Thursday and entered a not guilty plea on charges of possession of child pornography and distributing child pornography, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said.
—Reviews & Commentary. For Le Monde Diplomatique, Jonathan Guyer writes about the connections between Arab comics and fine art.
Arab comics began in Cairo in the 1880s with karikatur (political cartoons) and with Yaacub Sanua, whose periodical Abu Naddara (The Man with the Glasses) and later spin-offs lambasted Egypt’s khedive, Ismail Pasha, in drawings and texts. Sanua’s anti-establishment, anti-imperial view led to his publications being banned (1). At the same time, Ottoman publications, influenced by French and British caricatures, took off in Istanbul and travelled across the Ottoman empire, aiming at those in power. Sanua’s caricatures and Ottoman works, among them Hayal (daydream) and Istikbal (the future), both founded in 1875, were strikingly similar to contemporaneous drawings in Europe such as those by James Gillray and André Gill (2).
We just passed the second anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and the thinkpieces still show no signs of ending, though long ago we stopped linking to very many of them. With that anniversary in mind, here are two more intelligent essays, taking opposite sides on whether Charlie‘s artists use of satire is effective and whether it should be defended or condemned.
First, Magnus McGrogan makes a harsh political critique of the weekly for Jacobin:
The Paris massacre was a trigger for the intensification of French bombing of ISIS positions in Syria. At home it involved the imposition and extension of a state of emergency, with a nationwide crackdown on “radicalized” elements in the Muslim community and beyond. One might expect critical left journalism to focus on the social causes of Islamist radicalization in France, or to situate the phenomenon of jihadism relative to the West’s geostrategic goals in the Middle East. Instead, Charlie tends to react against extremism within the discursive framework of the “war on terror” in an echo of Val’s earlier polemics against “Islamic totalitarianism.”
Islamophobia has continued unabated in France. The summer of 2016 witnessed yet another assault on female Muslim dress codes, this time a burkini ban imposed by thirty Mediterranean municipalities, and endorsed by Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls. Shocking images of armed police ordering a Muslim woman to strip on a public beach did not appear to register with Charlie, whose front page response appeared to add insult to injury: Muslims were jokingly urged to “loosen up” and take to the beaches naked.
Then for the Los Angeles Review of Books, the initially Charlie-skeptical Jacob Hamburger explains why he changed his mind:
So when I was offered the chance to do some translation work for Charlie Hebdo last year, I had my reservations. But I was curious, and as a graduate student, happy to have another gig. As I learned more about Charlie Hebdo’s history and came into contact with their surviving staff, I discovered how far off the mark my reservations had been. France’s historical and legal traditions of free speech create an important niche for satirists that Charlie Hebdo has long filled. Despite the rebellious attitude of a paper that has called itself a journal irresponsible, its staff has been constantly attuned to the responsibilities that their role demands. Its confrontations with Islam, as well as with Catholicism and the Front National, were an attempt to fulfill these responsibilities. And in a time when the ideal of free speech is in danger of losing its meaning, Charlie Hebdo sets an increasingly rare example of a commitment to defining and defending its bounds.
The paper is an example of what an authentic commitment to free speech looks like in practice. Recognizing this can help us distinguish responsible and intelligent satire from its many sorry imitations today — the internet trolls and the self-proclaimed “provocateurs” like Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos who glorify nastiness for its own sake. Of course, my discomfort with some of what I had seen them print has not gone away. As with all good satire, it isn’t supposed to. Understanding Charlie Hebdo in context does not mean always liking it, but for those struggling to affirm their commitment to free speech in today’s climate, the paper’s example is worth exploring and, yes, celebrating.
Finally, Abhay Khosla is not impressed by DC’s response to last year’s Orlando Pulse massacre.