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Sunday, 11 January 2015

CHARLIE SURFS

The whole point of the Charlie massacre, when it was safe to be a pen-waving protester in the Paris squares a few days ago, SEEMED TO BE that a bunch of funny, rude and brave men (they were mainly men) drew and published cartoons making fun of religious figures; and some lunatics that couldn't take a joke and hated Voltaire and Liberty and the West had killed them in their offices.  It was like the scene in Total Recall when the  new-born saviour is brutally killed. It was gross and totally wrong. Totally.

And so a sort of childlike mania swept a lot of the world, and we all claimed to be Charlies.  Nevermind that 99% of us had never read Charlie Hebdo, didn't speak or read French, and didn't realise that a lot of the Charlie cartoons were probably illegal under hate laws in some Western nations, we all saw a moment of group love, a sort of Titanic of political engagement.  We are the world, and we don't like Muslim cartoon-killers, ok? Group hug time.

Then, suddenly, the lunatics started killing Jews, and it became muddier, more complex, and less clear-cut - were we all Juifs? If so, I didn't see those placards.  I didn't see a lot of Je Suis Un Juif signs, did you? A lot of us became Ahmed, the shot cop, and some of us the brave Muslim shop assistant - but, while the mass demonstration has gathered today in Paris, France - a storm is settling over the sunny uplands of our moral certainties. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but is kosher food mightier than the machine pistol? For the killers have revealed themselves to not just be humourless monsters, but anti-Semitic ones too.

And while most people in France can claim to love cartoons, a slim but real minority can't claim to love Jews, judging by the way they vote.  In fact, Europe's dirty open secret is, it is almost as racist as it was in the 1930s. And it has the extremist parties to show for it. All the victims of the killers are equal, and need to be mourned equally, but the innocent shoppers in the Kosher market who were not in the business of goading maniacs and thus did not require police protection, are actually somehow viewed as beside the point, when they are more viscerally and genuinely informative of the nature of their foes: these killers are not cranky loner gunmen - they are part of a large consensus of fanaticism sweeping large parts of the Middle East

When Saudi Arabia can flog a journalist during Charlie week, we know there is a disconnect somewhere. What is really getting lost is Charlie's mad subversion. Charlie Hebdo was like National Lampoon, Monty Python, Private Eye, Mad Magazine, cranked up to 11. None of the political speeches about CH has been rude or funny or madcap. Hopefully the next issue of the Hebdo will return to what it does best: offending all equally. At the moment, and after some brilliant and imaginative illustrations and cartoons, we are settling for the usual rhetoric, the usual sombre tones.  To truly change the channel, we need to surf like Charlie did - on dangerous rude disruptive waves, and continue to fling snot and bile in all directions at once with comic fervour and clear-eyed distrust of all authority. Oh, and Je Suis Un Juif.
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