The week in review.
Sorry, I can’t let it go. Yesterday I filed an article on the media shit storm over Charlie Hebdo‘s provocation, Riss cartoon speculating that poor, dead Aylan Kurdi might have become an ‘ass-groper in Germany’, had he been given the chance to grow up in Europe. I guess this small cartoon, buried deep within an issue with David Bowie on the cover and with many other, very different cartoons (one of which is at least as offensive…) is newsworthy, in the sense that anything Charlie does these days is potentially so. But: this is a still rather marginal left-wing magazine we’re talking about and casting it as the reincarnation of Der Stürmer or whatever in the manner of many, mostly uninformed left-wing critics is not only hugely overblown, but ignorant of context. Not to mention insensitive to the multivalent qualities of even heavy-handed cartoons. Look, it’s perfectly legitimate to criticise this cartoon for bluntly furthering an anti-refugee agenda — it clearly does, whether intentionally or, more likely, not –but this is mostly because of the media treatment of it.
People actually reading Charlie would be less inclined to jump straight to that conclusion, and perhaps also take it as commentary on our remarkably schizoid and certainly (and understandably) confused perception and representation of the refugees arriving in Europe: one day innocent children in need of help, the next ass-gropers and rapists in Cologne and elsewhere. I suspect that Riss is disgusted with the increasing sacralisation of the devastating image of little Aylan, especially on the left, and the concurrent demonisation of refugess based on the actions of some. Neither is helpful in handling what is clearly a real problem, leading as they do to dangerous complacency. This, as much as anything, is expressed by that cartoon.
For what it’s worth, above is Dominique Sopo, president of France’s biggest anti-racism grassroots organisation, SOS Racisme, fiercely contesting the accusation that Charlie is racist.