Friday, 16 January 2015

Joe Sacco on Charlie Hebdo

Why so many plaudits for the piss-weak hand-wringing of Joe Sacco's response to the Charlie Hebdo murders?

We certainly should 'try to think about why the world is the way it is' — in our politics, our science, our moral reasoning, and elsewhere. But not in satire, which is our set-aside space for anarchic mockery and subversion — isn't it? A mutually agreed breather from the obligation to reason seriously about why the world is as it is, how it could be changed, etc.?

Sacco's answer to the Charlie Hebdo debate is to propose a duty to be morally and politically serious that limits the freedom to be satirical and anarchic. Maybe Mr Sacco doesn't follow the news much — isn't that essentially the very proposition, violently expressed by Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers, that kicked off this whole debate?

We should accommodate satire, he says, by leaving no room for it, by erasing it. This question-begging doesn't even resemble a useful solution to the problem. It should be disregarded.


  1. "We should accommodate satire, he says, by leaving no room for it, by erasing it."

    Indeed. Sacco's response is a disgrace, as are various other responses I have seen along the lines of "Of course the murders were terrible, BUT..."

    To list the various responses along these lines that I have seen would take too long, and be too depressing.

    1. Do you ever get that part-elegiac, part-urgently terrified feeling when you read someone eminently reasonable and thoughtful (I'm thinking of Howard Jacobson particularly), and think 'these reasonable types won't live forever, and when they're gone, surely the lunatics will conquer all'?

      I read an article about Orwell writing 1984 this morning, and nearly wept at the thought of all that has been and stands to be lost (but maybe I was just tired and under-caffeinated). Anyway, it was an an excellent article:

    2. I certainly agree with you about Howard Jacobson, although I am not sure I am entirely in agreement with his eagerness for ever more intrusive surveillance. But there’s no-one currently around who is better at putting sentences together, and that does count for a lot.

      Yes, it is easy to despair, or to wax nostalgic. But, as Orwell’s own journalism reminds us, there was no shortage of people spouting pish back in his days either. There are still writers are commentators around whom I admire - Kenan Malik, for instance, or Nick Cohen, and various other individual bloggers. I am also happy to read people with whom I disagree, as long as they put forward intelligent arguments: there’s no point, after all, reading only those one agrees with. But yes, there are indeed a great many people whose writing is simply foolish, or objectionable, or both. When, even at a time such as this, so many of the supposed intelligentsia fail fully to support something so basic as freedom of expression, alarm bells do start ringing very loudly.

      And it is depressing the frequency with which certain arguments keep re-appearing even though they have been refuted. Now, if X says something, and Y attempts a refutation, then, depending on the quality of Y’s attempted refutation and on X’s debating skills, X has three choices: (i) to refute the refutation, and stand by the original point; (ii) to accept the refutation, and concede the argument; or (iii) to take a middle path, and modify what had initially been said in view of Y’s input. But in internet arguments, none of this happens. X merely repeats what he had said earlier, without even acknowledging what Y has said; Y gets then mad; and soon, the name-calling starts. It’s all very frustrating. (This happens in discussions on all sorts of things, and not just politics.)

      I was considering changing the focus of my blog to political matters: there is certainly much of a political nature that I would like to comment upon. But the truth is that there is much that I would like to say that I would prefer not to say publicly under my own name: yes, I know, I am a coward, but there really are some very inflamed passions out there whom I would prefer not to inflame further. It’s far safer to keep commenting on Dickens novels, or whatever.

      Cheers for now, Himadri