Charlie Hebdo shocks once again, this time about Hurricane Harvey victims, but it might not be what you think…….

I’m not in any way excusing it, but I think it’s prudent to fully understand the arguments surrounding it.


What Charlie Hebdo Can Teach Us About the Nature of Satire

Many people have been reading the cover caption as a simple statement of editorial opinion. It’s not. That’s not how satire works. The caption is, in fact, deeply sarcastic, i.e. what it states at face value is the opposite of what its authors really believe. Most of us can detect this type of sarcasm easily in everyday situations. When someone rolls their eyes and says “yeah, right” in response to a remark we don’t take this to mean they wholeheartedly endorse what was said. Satire begins there. But it’s a little more complicated than that.
Here’s some important background to this particular case. As reports of the Houston floodings came in, some commentators on social media expressed the opinion, politely, that there was a “dramatic irony” in Texas being struck by a natural disaster, given that the state voted for Trump, that it is a “red” state or that the Texan legislature refused to vote for additional relief funds after Hurricane Sandy. Some even hinted that perhaps the Houstonians “deserved” it. These opinions, expressed in mealy-mouthed ways, cautiously hedged about with disclaimers, might have sounded speciously correct to an incautious ear. But, in fact, the idea that innocent people “deserve” to suffer a natural disaster is no different, fundamentally, from the rantings of religious maniacs who claim that hurricanes or floods are caused by the legalization of gay marriage or by our “ungodly” liberal lifestyles. This kind of sickening victim-blaming usually comes from the loony religious fringe of the right. It was all the more dismaying to hear it from the mouths of liberals. But it’s the same faeces, lightly perfumed with a different scent. The Charlie Hebdo editors merely lifted the lid of the latrine and showed us how much it stank.

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Charlie Hebdo shocks (once again) with cover portraying Hurricane Harvey victims as neo-Nazis


French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is in hot water yet again after publishing a cartoon showing Hurricane Harvey victims as neo-Nazis.
Charlie Hebdo is making headlines once again. This time for its portrayal of the victims of Hurricane Harvey which has devastated parts of Texas over the past week, leaving at least 44 dead.
“God exists! He’s drowned all the neo-Nazis of Texas!” reads the text, which accompanies a cartoon by Charlie Hebdo editor Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau showing drowning bodies doing the Nazi salute while flags adorned with swastikas provide the backdrop.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for your helpful commentary. Viewed in that context, I do see that the Charlie cartoon could have that meaning. Satire is prone to misinterpretation. As an American, so soon after the disaster, the cartoon seemed vilely insulting. We don’t have enough distance from the event yet.
    Timing can be a crucial element in humor. The comedian Gilbert Gottfried went right into the tank after an ill-timed joke about the Fukushima horror. The joke may not have been the only reason for his career nose-dive, but the after-effect has lasted a long time.
    At least Charlie Hebdo probably won’t suffer the same fate as the previous team. In any case, thanks for helping to balance perspective on this issue

    1. More than welcome. Like I said, I wouldn’t support it, but I now do understand it better…

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