I received a text around 3am last night, from LA where it was just past midnight. The buzz on the table beside me thankfully woke me from an anxiety nightmare. But for two hours I couldn't find my sleep again. To bide my time, I read articles about the latest French bombing incident. The Hebdo attack. Trying my best to separate fanfare from fact. You know, the usual.
It's as though we need special glasses these days to see through the click bait sensationalism of an impulsive media stream which directly injects our curated news feeds into our minds.
I'm friends with a few cartoonists who make a living in the comics industry. Considering this, the Hebdo situation feels almost personal, pertaining to the issue of free speech. But I'm also brought to mind one of my greatest fears in all of this--instantaneous groupthink and how it tends to whitewash details.
Murder of free speech is something easy to decry, but xenophobic nationalism in France is frightening.
Nationalism has a way of dictating who is and isn't part of the dominant structure...what that criterion is in terms of language, religion, culture. It creates an out group. Real satire is a mirror which reflects the flaws of a power structure.
I can honestly see how the humor in the Hebdo comics would be perceived as bullying. Racism towards certain groups is often justified claiming it was just mocking Islam, etc - even though the mockery is partially based on ethnic stereotypes.
The cartoonists in Franch should not have been murdered but it is very important to understand why this happened...what the situation is like in France, and the impact privilaged hostility has on the communities that are ostracized.
Many of the cartoons that have come out in support of Charlie are virulently Islamaphobic rather than strictly in support of free speech and that speaks volumes about how this situation is being repurposed.
Consider also that violence is an expression of powerlessness--and trying to understand the causes of these murders is very complex. The situation is undoubtedly horrific, but it speaks to a larger issue of a group of people who have had their already marginalized identity stamped out in France.
There have been a number of riots and regional violence due to white French communists ostracizing and ghettoing the Islamic community there in particular. Hebdo may have attacked a number of religious and ethnic groups, but they were particularly vicious towards the Islamic community and were especially unsympathetic towards the human rights concerns within that population which calls into question the "equal rights satirist" line of thinking getting circulated for sensationalist attention.
Again, this by no means whatsoever excuses what happened, but I urge people who want to be informed on this to read up more on France's massive xenophobia problem.