EDITOONERY’s response to the heinous outrage against humanity committed in Paris seemed slow in coming. But that was simply an unfortunate accident of timing. Or maybe it was just me, scouring the Web on Saturday for some reaction from the nation’s editorial community and finding nothing. But I was looking too early. The killing began at 9:20 pm in Paris, late Friday afternoon in the U.S., and by the time the news from France arrived in this country, most editoonists had drawn their weekend cartoon (usually published on Sunday) and gone home, so it wasn’t until Monday that many editorial cartoonists were back at work, and their first reactions to the carnage in Paris didn’t appear until Tuesday, November 17. The delayed reaction probably reduced the number of pictures of the Statue of Liberty (a gift from France in 1886) with a tear running down her cheek. With a weekend to ponder the tragedy and concoct a visual reaction, editoonists produced cartoons that were less maudlin sentiment and more provocative commentary.
Our review of some of the earliest reactions begins with Rick McKee, who, at the upper left, depicts the Cutthroat CalipHATE, perpetrator of the massacres of 129 people and the wounding of another 300 or so, as a hand puppet being operated by the devil himself. The picture drips with irony: the hand puppet shouts praise to Allah but is acting at the behest of Hell’s leading fiend, a telling metaphor. (You may have noticed that I refuse to use the current I’s and S’s appellation for the Cutthroats in Syria and northern Iraq: I don’t want to dignify their barbarity by using a term that confers nationhood on them.)
Next around the clock is a cartoon by an editoonist whose name I can’t read in the signature. This cartoon, like many eventually produced about the murders, rings a note of raw defiance. The black-masked Islamic hooligan, echoing the image of the cowardly beheading rituals, holds a knife to the throat of Paris (in the form of the Eiffel Tower); but the knife breaks against the strength of the Tower. It takes two panels to properly depict the telling sequence. Below that image is Mike Luckovich’s —a picture of the City of Lights still lit and sparkling even though the terrorist at the right has turned off the electricity.
Finally, at the lower left, Arend van Dam in the Netherlands provides an image of another of the results of the attack in Paris—an attack in the Mideast terrorist havens by airplanes in the shape of the iconic Eiffel Tower, signalling France’s reaction to the slaughter in its capital city.
Perhaps the most searing of the images produced in the wake of the attacks is the cover of the first post-massacre issue of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which we see on our next visual aid. The caption accompanying the image reads: “They have the weapons. Fuck them. We have the champagne!”
Together, words and picture sound a resounding note of daring disdain: Parisians will insist on continuing the legendary carefree partying that often characterizes their lifestyle in the popular mind—even though the champagne is draining out of the bullet holes left by the murderers in the Parisian’s body. Defiance subdued by tragedy.
The issue of the magazine that this cartoon covers was published on Wednesday, November 18. But early release of the image prompted the usual reaction among some observers: it was a tasteless affront to survivors of the attack. In London, the Daily Mail issued the correct response—:
Calling the cover “a direct and self-consciously defiant response,” the article continued: “Yet while the relatives of those slaughtered may find it hard to raise a smile, there is no disputing that the cartoonist who created the image knows what it is like to stare terror in the face. For she is Charlie Hebdo regular Corinne Rey, who works under the pen name Coco. In January’s CalipHATE assault on the magazine’s Paris office, she [accompanied by her young daughter] was threatened by gunpoint to let terrorists into the building”— and then she and her daughter, who was with her, crouched under a desk and heard the gunfire that killed 11 of her colleagues in the conference room upstairs.
The attacks in Paris immediately provoked other issues. Did the Cutthroat hooligans come into France among mobs of refugees fleeing Syria? If so, cowardly American politicians cringed right away in protest at Bronco Bama’s intention of letting 10,000 Syrian refugees enter the U.S. And that act of sniveling non-leadership resulted in a host of cartoons of which Tom Toles’ astutely timed picture is one: evoking the approaching season with the Christmas story as a way of shaming the protestors, Toles reminds us of the Christian tradition in which we’ve always disdained the innkeeper who turned away a man and his pregnant wife, forcing the Savior of All Mankind to be born in a dingy stable. We’ll have other cartoons on this subject in our next opus.
Below Toles, Rob Rogers ridicules the world’s reaction to the barbarity in Paris. Eager as we are to sympathize with the survivors, we’ve done it before—often, too often. And our sympathetic response has, as yet, done nothing to eliminate the kinds of actions that call it forth, actions that seem to be coming at us more and more frequently. And Rogers’ poster-maker is already at work on the next poster—for an event that has yet to happen but we know is coming.
At the lower left, Nate Beeler supplies an indicting image: Obama, while alleging that the Cutthroat CalipHATE is “contained,” is himself “contained,” sealed in a bubble that prevents his acknowledging the bloodshed that is occurring all around him even as he maintains it isn’t very widespread at all.
THE FROTH ESTATE
The Alleged News Institution
Written Saturday morning, November 14: The report from the Washington Post on the massacres in Paris included this sentence: “The scale and sophistication of the attacks will probably prompt questions about how the planning for such an operation evaded the scrutiny of French intelligence services.”
I beg to differ.
In the first place, what sophistication is displayed? How much sophistication does it take in these troubled times to muster a group of angry disaffected hooligans, strap bombs on them and otherwise arm them, and then send them off to murder innocent and defenseless civilians at several locations at the same time? The closest to sophistication that this enterprise comes to is determining for the attack a time that will result in the most horrific death tolls.
Okay, it’s more sophisticated that picking up your AK-47 on the way out the door and then killing the first person you see on the street. But still, it ain’t rocket surgery, kimo sabe.
So let’s stop attributing high octane intellectual accomplishment to what is a simple act of brute force. It doesn’t even take animal cunning to kill unarmed people in an open society which, by its nature, erects no barriers for murderers to overcome on their way to murder.
Moreover, to suggest that some fancy-footwork thinking went into planning this horror distracts us from the essential message that the attacks are sending: we are essentially defenseless against people who plan to die in their assault on common humanity.
And how, pray tell, do the French intelligence services detect a murderous operation in advance when so little planning and preparation is necessary? To suggest that security forces of any nation are capable of insuring the safety of its citizens against the attacks of fanatics who aren’t afraid of dying in their assault is to pander to a notion that we are better off discarding—i.e., the notion that anything can guarantee safety from attacks by people who are willing—even eager—to die for their cause.
We are, in fact, at war with a new breed of warrior. And we are all, citizen and soldier alike, on the battlefield. On the battlefield, we risk being killed. And the sooner we come to this conviction, the better equipped we will be to survive a war that threatens freedom everywhere. On the battlefield, we will not be looking to “authorities” to keep us safe, and the authorities will therefore not deprive us of our liberties in the name of assuring our safety. Like soldiers everywhere, we may die in the battle, but the thing we are fighting for will likely survive.
The other message of the Paris massacres, an admittedly subliminal one, is that Western Civilization (which includes at least all of Europe as well as the United States and the Western Hemisphere) cannot survive long under the continuous threat of unanticipated murderous attacks. Human nature being what it is, we’ll give up freedom for safety—and, as Ben Franklin said long ago, lose both in the process. And we’re already doing it: the Washington Post’s report, in faulting the French Intelligence apparatus, is preparing us for more of the same, more giving up of liberties for the sake of safety.
And so we must—all of us, Europeans as well as Americans, Muslims as well as Christians and Jews and...—join in a retaliatory assault on the Cutthroat CalipHATE. A more robust action than we are presently taking. Boots on the ground? Maybe. Much as I hate to think of more blood and treasure being lost in the deserts and jungles of the Mideast, we will not be safely rid of the Cutthroats until we have killed most of them and imprisoned the rest. By the way, when I say “the Cutthroat CalipHATE,” I most emphatically do not mean all Muslims—nor, in the case of the Paris massacres—Muslim citizens of France. It is important to make this distinction now that the hooligans of the Friday the 13th savagery have been identified as Europeans, not Syrians or Iraquis. They are native to France, but their allegiance is to the Cutthroat CalipHATE, and to destroy them, we must destroy the CalipHATE which has given them their identity.
Possibly the only dubious benefit of this round of Paris killings is that it will likely recruit to the eradication cause the government of France and perhaps other European countries, all of whom are now demonstrably at risk from Islamic hooliganism and from the invasion of refugees by the thousand due to the Cutthroat destruction of social order in the Mideast. It is likely therefore that the U.S. —and France, already a partner in the endeavor— will be joined in the crusade by more nations more enthusiastically than at present. So it won’t be only our blood and treasure that is sacrificed.
In the process of ridding ourselves of the menace, we should also undertake to help construct in that region societies that are capable of delivering to their citizens a better life than bare subsistence, societies that deliver on implicit promises of well being and thereby remove the grinding discontent that nurtures the anger in hooligans who have nothing to lose in giving up their lives for a misbegotten cause.
This is, admittedly, nation-building, and we’ve not demonstrated any particularly notable skill at this sort of endeavor—particularly in the tribal culture of the Mideast. We are habitually so culturally myopic that we can’t see how anyone would want to build a nation that is any different than ours. I am persuaded, however, that we might be able to learn from our mistakes and somehow do better next time. We must somehow recruit the indigenous population in a joint effort that moves in a direction its culture would foster while at the same time eliminating the oppression and poverty that characterizes the region at present.
In any case, we don’t have much choice: if we don’t eradicate the evil in the Mideast, it is obvious that it will seep out and away and plague us in our own neighborhoods. The evil we must eradicate is the dictatorial style of government that infects most of the Mideast. In its place, we must plant the seeds of some sort of self-governing society—and then stick around long enough to make sure the seeds take root and grow to maturity.
Ironically, such an enterprise requires the temporary institution of a dictatorial regime. But if we do it right, it will wither and die once its purpose has been achieved.
Or so it sez here, in the fine print.
ON THE MONDAY after the Paris bloodshed, Jimmy Fallon began his late night show with an expression of grief and gratitude. If the Cutthroats intended to frighten and cow the French, well, Fallon said, it backfired. The French were defiant. He went on, addressing the French people: “We believe in you. You’re doing the right thing by going outside and eating in restaurants and taking kids to the park and going to the movies,” he continued, addressing all of us this time: “They’re living their lives without fear. The best way to mourn the dead is to live through it. And the French are a great example about how to do it.”
If we must cower behind more restrictions that purport to guarantee our safety, the terrorists have won.
To find out about Harv's books, click here.
send e-mail to R.C. Harvey
Art of the Comic Book - Art of the Funnies - Accidental Ambassador Gordo - reviews - order form - Harv's Hindsights - main page