CHARLIE HEBDO AND THE COMIC TRADITION
I’ve read and watched an awful lot of news analysis of Charlie Hebdo, but rarely do pundits mention some of the salient facts about what Charlie Hebdo actually does and about the tradition of satire:
1) Charlie Hebdo mocks all three Abrahamic religions, not just Islam, and it does so offensively with no special favorites, but Jews and Christians do not attack and demonize Charlie Hebdo;
2) The tradition of satire and caricatures or religion in France is very old going, back to at least the French Revolution, and is tied to the deep distrust of religious institutions (the Catholic Church primarily) that was closely linked to the royal dictatorship that crushed economic, social, and political freedoms in France;
3) Charlie Hebdo does not only mock religion; it mocks other institutions and prominent public figures;
4) Charlie Hebdo is a part of a tradition of offensive satire that goes back to ancient Greek comedy. It includes writers such as Aristophanes whom many profess to love (mainly because they don’t understand, or care about, the ancient references). However, if Aristophanes were alive today, he would probably engender hatred among the people he would gleefully pillory and mock.
5) Commentators are shocked by all the sexual references in Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. However, ancient comedy (and drama), which is the literary predecessor of Charlie Hebdo, was associated with phallus processions, accompanied by obscenities and verbal abuse.
So what some consider juvenile, stupid, and offensive in Charlie Hebdo has roots in literature and dramatic traditions that we profess to admire and call “classic.” We in the U.S. live in a culture that is still relatively Puritanical in its approach to public sexuality, and that is coming out in the U.S. media coverage.
Rape culture is pervasive in U.S. colleges and universities, but even more so at the University of Virginia. The extent of violence surprised even me.
Interesting that it took Rolling Stone to produce this story rather than one of the mainstream news outlets. So many local newspapers and news stations have essentially enabled this kind of revolting power dynamic at some of our most prestigious higher educational institutions. Many of them are simply advertisers and marketers for their local university and have few real journalists, if any. And most national outlets aren’t any better, as they’re committed to establishment institutions as they currently exist.
This is a story as much about what we allow to happen as it is about what’s happening. If the media and higher educational administrations did their jobs and if we put these students in prison as criminals for the rape crimes that they have committed, then this behavior would diminish. The students who engage in these abusive crimes are criminals, thugs, and our society should treat them as such.
We let thieving bankers, rapists, and police shooters live their lives as respected citizens, but put in prison drug users and the poor who can’t pay debts. There’s something wrong with this picture. If society does nothing to address this, there will be a massive, popular reaction against all the imbalance. Nature abhors a vacuum.
More on the bias of Western media coverage of Israel by a former AP reporter, Matti Friedman: hostile fixation on Jews and Israel; censorship of Gaza coverage under pressure from Hamas and failure to report Hamas using civilians as human shields; and failure to report on an Israeli peace proposal. The original story discussed the failure of Western media to report on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority; the all-consuming media criticism of Israeli society and politics, with virtually no criticism of Palestinian society and politics; intense documenting of Israeli violence against Palestinians, with no corresponding, remotely equivalent documenting of Hamas’ brutality and vast military infrastructure; failure to report on Hamas intimidation of reporters; failure to describe the Hamas charter, which call for the genocide of Jews and uses the notorious Jew-hating Protocols of Zion to call for the murder of Jews; failure to report on Israeli peace proposals prior to the Netanyahu government; failure to report on the tiny size (both geographically and demographically) of Israel in contrast to the Arab/Muslim world; failure to connect Hamas to other extreme, exclusivist, violent Muslim religious movements (e.g. al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, Taliban); and the overall equivalence of Israel as bad oppressors and Palestinians as sympathetic victims.
I am a strong critic of many Israeli policies (settlements, racism against Arabs, too much religion in government, the Netanyahu’s goverment failure to engage the Palestinian Authority), but it’s appalling how media coverage is so one-sided and tilted against Israel (and Jews as well) and so relatively non-critical of Hamas (which advocates genocide of Jews, believes in forced conversion to Islam, supports brutality and violence, and opposes democratic and secular values) and the Palestinian Authority (which is notoriously corrupt, inept, suspicious of democratic values, and refuses to accept Israel as Jewish): http://tabletmag.com/scroll/184707/ongoing-controversy-around-the-most-important-story-on-earth
Here’s the original article by Friedman: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/183033/israel-insider-guide?all=1
“Learn more about the boycott and its aftermath: http://bit.ly/1iWq2xi”
“Photo: Members of the Storm Troopers (SA), with boycott signs, block the entrance to a Jewish-owned shop. One of the signs exhorts: “Germans! Defend yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews!” Berlin, Germany, April 1, 1933. National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD.”
Would people view President Johnson more favorably if they knew this story?
In spite of the Vietnam mess of which Johnson was obviously a major player, I think he was a great president and am disappointed in the low esteem in which many hold him. I despised Vietnam as a kid and still do, but there is more to a man than that disaster. How about civil rights, voting rights, fair housing, Medicare, anti-poverty legislation like Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, and work study, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, the Public Broadcasting Service, promotion of science including our first trip to the moon (started by Kennedy, finished by Johnson), immigration reform/liberalization, massive aid for education, among others?
That’s quite a list. However, this sordid tale of Nixon’s misdeeds makes Johnson even more appealing.
When will we learn? Make sure to see the video.
I am certainly not a pacifist and would not agree with the protesters on several matters. This includes the notion that we can just unilaterally stop having nuclear weapons or that we should stop using drones.
Further, I expect protesters engaging in civil disobedience to be willing to accept reasonable punishment (which apparently these ones are). These sentences, however, seem retributive and excessive. How do we put individuals like this away for so long when we allow CEO bankers who have engaged in presumably criminal activity and thereby done infinitely more damage to millions of people and to the well-being of our nation and world to go scott-free? Not only do they have their freedom, but they even get to dine and schmooze with leading politicians, including the president, and other glitterati. There’s something wrong here.
Perhaps the government was simply embarrassed by their incompetent and ineffective security around the most powerful weapons in the world.
In any case, we apparently have a two-tiered society: one for the privileged, and one for the rest of us. This will have to change for us to meet our ideals.
This story speaks for itself. Guns can lead us down dark alleys from which we might not emerge, especially when we’re young and immature. James Luria describes in excruciatingly poignant detail a flash of maturity that saved his life.
I hope Chris Hedges is wrong, but he might not be. One thing I would say: the Egyptian military has its code and laws and would not probably not accept a radical Islamic government. Morsi had better be careful with them. How this plays out will determine the future of the Arab Spring.
Wow. Pregnant Barbie does sound worse than an assault weapon. The same with Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. Man, that’s some bad stuff.
The linking of banks with off-duty police in full uniform is a perilous development for our freedom. Corporations and public security join forces to potentially oppose the will of the people. What’s happening to our freedom and democracy?
Both Israel and Switzerland are extremely careful about letting civilians own guns in their homes. When you travel in Israel, you see lots of soldiers with potent guns. However, in Israel, outside of the settlements, there is a very low gun ownership rate. In fact, with the exception of those who live in settlements, you are not allowed to own guns unless you held the rank of at least captain in the IDF and have a good reason to own a gun. Those who do own are required to go through a rigorous series of physical and psychological tests. Further, Israel rejects 40% of applications for gun purchase and requires that every gun sold have a government trace mark in case of investigation. Even off-duty soldiers are required to leave their guns on base when they return home.
A very moving piece about mental illness and how we don’t deal with it as a a society.
Israeli negotiators have long acknowledged that the 1967 lines have been and will be the basis for future negotiations of a Palestinian state. Virtually every discussion of security and settlements has assumed this. The info from WikiLeaks confirms this as the Israeli position. Even Netanyahu has more or less admitted this in a recent speech to the Knesset. He sounds tough, but his positions are in line with previous Israeli negotiating positions. He just doesn’t want to use the word, “1967.”
The reaction to Obama’s statement in the Arab world says it all. Arabs don’t like it because in part everyone (including the Israelis) already knew about 1967. It’s old news. Actually Obama’s statement was one of the most forceful defenses of Israel by any administration: his condemnation of Hamas’ call for Israel’s annihilation and his demand that any negotiations for a Palestinian state require groups to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state; and his frank criticisms of the UN. Many in the Arab world are very upset by this. In my view, Obama’s position is an attempt to protect Israel from the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state by the U.N. General Assembly. It gives (we hope) him, the US, and other nations cover to oppose this by simply stating what everyone already knows to be the case. In the end, the only parties that can determine boundaries and arrangements are the Israelis and the Palestinians, not some third-party bureaucracy.
Obama merely stated what negotiators on both sides have long admitted: Israel will keep the larger settlements, but the “1967” border will remain more or less. Of course, the “more or less” is key, and there will be territorial, financial, and other arrangements. This is just boiler-plate stuff. It’s only the politicians and rhetoricians who pander to their true-believing bases that naively think there is some kind of alternative or new deal or conquest or God that will solve the problem. My guess is that Netanyahu understands this as well-privately, but will never admit to it publicly (even though his actual public words may be read as confirming my point).
As for Jerusalem, Israelis have already offered some kind of arrangement of East Jerusalem under both Barak and Olmert: Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli control, Palestinian ones under Palestinian control. Israeli negotiators confirm this time and time again. Many of us make not like it or think it unworkable (frankly I wonder), but it’s what the Israelis themselves have offered–not Obama or the far-left.
In other words, what I am saying is what is in fact what Israelis themselves have already stated or offered in private talks. It’s not new. What we’re all are arguing about is rhetoric that the negotiators and diplomats in Israel only pay attention to for political and PR reasons, not substantive ones. In other words, those of us who argue about Israel are just talking, but the negotiation facts are way ahead of us.
The real issue is not territory any more. Its culture and politics. Until the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state, nothing will happen. And they don’t accept Israel. That’s one enormous problem. The other is the state of Palestinian governance and society. The Palestinian government is still (compared to Israel and the West) unstable, corrupt, ineffective, and repressive. There’s no authentic democracy or freedom. The culture and economy are still backward, primitive, and unmanageable. Of course, Gaza is much worse than the West Bank.
And we Jews have to admit that we have some problems with extremists on our side as well, particularly among the settlers. And there are discrimination and prejudice issues in Israel itself. They are not as serious or as significant as among the Palestinians, but we who are Jewish have to face this honestly and deal with it.
Until Palestinians deal with their deep problems, there will be no meaningful agreement. And I don’t feel very positive about that–unfortunately. Still, as Obama says, we have to try. You never know, and events can unfold in unpredictable ways that are turn out better than expected from time to time. This is the moment when we have to push forward, not sit back and watch events on the ground deteriorate.
I say this as a thank-you to President Obama from a Jew and a strong Zionist.
For Part II, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/24/obama-and-1967-2/
See also the article by Rabbi H.D. Uriel Smith: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/06/06/critique-of-obama-and-1967/
Former General William “Jerry” Boykin is busy promoting Christian dominionism, targeting Islam, and promoting “Christian warriors.” This is one wierd world. George Bernard Shaw was right when he said that “earth is the insane asylum of the universe.” I guess General Boykin and his allies are not very familiar with cultures and traditions other than his own. Just living in his own little isolation chamber, I guess
Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater (now XE) is now working on building a mercenary force of mostly Latin American soldiers that will work on behalf of the UAE in order to put down internal revolts, defend pipelines, and combat terrorism. No Muslims need apply, because the leadership and Prince is convinced that Muslim soldiers will not shoot other Muslims. Prince is also associated with Christian dominionism. Meanwhile, is this legal? Can an American citizen hire out a mercenary force on behalf of a foreign nation without permission of the U.S. government? At the least, this will not make the United States look very good to the Arab/Muslim world.
Here is the harrowing, deeply moving story of Melissa Fung’s kidnapping in Afghanistan:
Whoopee! This should be fun for faculty and students, as they deal with anger management issues in classrooms.
Torture destroys the torturer:
A moving description of military trauma medicine in the setting of the Naval Medical Center of San Diego.
A sad story about the trauma of war and the power of photographs: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/world/middleeast/07photo.html?hp=&pagewanted=all
Hmm…It’s possible, but unlikely given the deal between the two countries. Still one has to plan for every contingency:
Even Donald Rumsfeld agrees that water-boarding was not important in the intelligence that identified the location of Osama Bin Laden:
I agree with Obama’s decision not to release the gruesome photos.
This an indication of at least some tension between the U.S. and Pakistan. Then there is “On the other hand”: Maybe this was part of the agreement concluded ten years ago. You know, it’s the Kabuki thing.
The U.S. and Pakistan agreed ten years ago that Pakistan would allow a U.S. attack on Bin Laden on its territory and that Pakistan would respond by lambasting the U.S. Ah, the ways of diplomacy.
Clashes leave twelve dead and two churches in flames in Cairo: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/09/world/middleeast/09egypt.html
A sad and revealing story about a Jewish director who in 1944 made a propaganda film under Nazi supervision at the Theresienstadt camp in order to fool the International Red Cross. This film was just re-released to remind us not only of the holocaust, but to show us the use of propaganda to propagate a lie:
A disturbing audio report from Cal Perry of a massacre in Syria:
Illinois bans capital punishment:
Given the inherently dehumanizing character of war, especially in the long-term and without a clear sense of impending victory, this is not surprising. Because we are in this war in part to promote freedom, however, the US needs to constantly monitor the behavior of its soldiers. We failed here, and that is a deep disappointment. Even worse the military tried to suppress the story, which only made the resultant perceptions even more negative. We need to redouble our efforts and focus on ethics and morality as a fundamental part of military training and leadership.
A NEW DAY
© 2010, Dr. Laurence H. Kant
Essay for the Evolutionary Envisioning Circle of the Annual Great Mother Celebration, September, 2010
A new day emerges, as so many have in millennia past. Once, after we foraged and gathered, we became hunters. Once, after we hunted, we became farmers and shepherds. Once, after we lived in villages and small enclaves, we became city dwellers. Once, after priests and kings ruled, leaders came from the people. Once we did not know what was on the other side of the ocean; now we can not only travel there by boat or jet, but we can be virtually present on other continents when we’re secure at home half a world away. Once we thought that mass violence and genocide were normal; now we don’t. Once we did not even have a word for genocide; now we do.
Each time we move a few steps closer to the land of Eden, where, amidst friendship, dance, love-making, study, and work, we will dine again with God, the Source of All That Is. The sparks of fire that scattered at creation slowly come together to create a flame that lights our world in times of dissolution and chaos. We move from confusion toward knowledge, from fear toward courage, from despair toward hope, from separation toward unity, from pieces toward wholes.
What is wholeness? In Hebrew and Arabic, shalom/salaam connects to a Semitic root that means “whole” and “complete.” Some say “peace,” but that’s only part of the story. In its mystical sense, shalom/salaam really means interconnected oneness. It is that place where difference and oneness coexist, where each being finds its own unique purpose and self-expression as part of one planetary tableau, one eternal poem, one cosmic body, one collective consciousness, one Source.
During the shift, the ego (the I) recedes, and the authentic person emerges from its mother’s womb. The true self, the person You truly are, takes its place in the chariot palace, near the blazing wings of the multi-headed cherubim and the flashing heat of the serpentine seraphim. There it dines with other new-born true selves to seek wisdom in the new Temple of Knowledge and Love. Feminine and masculine energies, whose significance we assumed we understood, reveal unexpected meanings to thinking bodies and heart-filled minds. Days of pleasure and collective communing finally allow a slumbering species to shed its ego hide and put on a healing garment of shared awareness.
What will wholeness mean for evolving human culture? “Conformity” means a mass of individuals forming a collective mega ego (an I). Genuine “community” means a critical mass of individuals building a whole that transcends the individual egos and creates a collective Higher Self.
The events we see on our television sets and computer monitors—boiling, jittery delirium and tumult accompanied by earth’s eruptions, swirling storms, and disappearing ice—signal a shift from one age to the next. There will be many more such shifts in the future. But, for now, at this moment, our twenty-five-hundred-year sojourn at the inn of familiar habits, nations, and institutions has ended. Dying structures make way for new. Another day of travelling begins toward another inn on the road circling back and forward from and toward Eden. Here, in another time long, long ahead, we will be able to eat of both trees—of life and knowledge—but with experience enough to do so as humble partners of the Source, adult co-creators, sharing in the miraculous birthing of new worlds.
Old conflicts over coca morph into new ones over gold.
Relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are close, as this article indicates. And now Hamas has invited one of the charismatic leaders of the Brotherhood to Gaza, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Egyptian Qaradawi has frequently called for jihad against Israel and Jews, the destruction of Israel, and has said that he himself looks forward to coming to Israel to personally shoot Jews.
For more on Qaradawi and his hatred of Jews, see the following:
http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=35&x_article=2000 (this discusses not only Qaradawi’s anti-semitism, his love for Hitler and his hopes for another even more successful Jewish holocaust, but also his support for female genital mutilation and wife beating, suicide killers, the fatwa ordering the murder of Salman Rushdie, the execution of apostates, and laws treating religious minorities differently. The author emphasizes the whitewashing of Muslim Brotherhood hatred and violence in the New York Times.
More evidence has emerged of Syria’s nuclear facilities, which Israel destroyed. What Israel did here prevented a catastrophe.
At the same time, Syria seems to have more nuclear plans:
Apparently drones bring forth a lot of emotion and strong opinion. Here is my response to some of those who have questioned the drone example in the Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed.
Many drones are used for surveillance purposes, but drones are also used for attacks: e.g. General Atomics MQ-1 Predators with Hellfire missiles (which have successfully killed a number of al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, among others); and now the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. I think that these weapons are just the beginning, and war will be fought increasingly virtually. No question that this presents moral problems, but we cannot avoid questions by just saying “No.” That’s not going to happen, nor should it. In my view, drones save lives. Strategic, tactical, and fighter bombers have a much greater likelihood of dropping their loads in the wrong places (in spite of major improvements in accuracy). Ballistic missiles and artillery are not better. Infantry operations can be even more dangerous for civilians.
The larger question is: When military action is necessary, how do we have successful operations and minimize the killing of civilians? The emotions that drones induce have more do with symbolism and PR than with actual facts on the ground.
I believe that drone technology is helpful overall, because it saves US and Coalition lives and because killing of civilians is less likely (even though it still tragically occurs). War has always been characterized by awful, hideous events. Drones are not the reason they happen. Nor do drones fuel insurgencies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. Problems existed in those countries long before drones. Americans seem to think that we have this great influence on the world and that we are the main drivers of events–it’s a kind of imperialism that exists on both the right and the left. But people all over the world have their own motivations and reasons for doing what they do that have nothing to do with the US or with Israel. There are independent actors, and we don’t pull everybody’s strings.
Drone technology is simply one concrete illustration of military cooperation and research. However, one could also pint to other military items that the Israelis have developed (or helped to develop) that the US employs: Python missiles, Gabriel missiles, SMAW anti-tank guided missiles, Simon breach grenades, Samson Remote Control Weapons Stations, etc. Of course, Israel also uses US weapons: F15s and F16s, transport planes, Apache attack helicopters, transport helicopters, howitzers, missiles (including Hellfire, Maverick, Sidewinder, and Stinger) and now the Arrow Missile Defense System, among others. The US military clearly understands Israeli weapons research as a major strategic advantage for the US, and the Israelis naturally know the importance of US weapons for them. The relationship is symbiotic and a part of our economy–even though I would love to see a time when the need for this is greatly reduced.
The question is not drones. The question is military action in general. I agree that not every time is a military option the best option. In my view, both the US and Israel have sometimes forgotten this. Still military elements are a crucial part of self-defense. Without them, Israel would be annihilated and Jews slaughtered. In other locations, projecting military strength is required (even though the US might sometimes overplay its hand). Having weapons is often more powerful than using them, but that is only the case when at least occasionally we do use them.
UPDATE: On March 1, 2011, the IDF employed a new, defensive weapon, called the Trophy active protection system, designed to protect tanks from missiles. This is a significant upgrade for tank and armored car protection. During the Lebanon war, Israeli tanks suffered damage from hand-held, rocket-propelled grenades. The Israelis designed this system, and it will undoubtedly become important for the U.S. military as well. There is further similar technology in the pipeline as well.
Qaddafi is a ruler who has never shied away from violence–internally or externally.
A personal account of how Egyptians used non-violent protest to overcome their fear and bring down a dictator (via Nelson French):
While I supported the Iraq invasion (and still do in spite of the massive flaws), I also have no doubt that Bush and his supporters were motivated by poll ratings, as this short piece shows. This is politics, and it’s the way things works here and everywhere, whatever the issue or cause, liberal or conservative. I am under no illusions in this regard: almost any policy (good or bad, even war) is partly motivated by political self-interest.
A window into horror:
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