Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The SWP (Socialist Review) Instructs Charlie Hebdo on How to do Satire.

with 9 comments

Tim Sanders * in Socialist Review tells satirists how they should do satire….

“The savage killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists by terrorists in Paris is utterly contemptible, but not inexplicable.”


There’s been a vocal campaign extolling the “western values” of free speech and the right to offend, claiming that satire should be free from constraints and able to offend indiscriminately. This is where I part company with the satirists of Charlie Hebdo. The point of satire is to attack the powerful, to expose their hypocrisy and absurdity, and of course to be funny. If satire is directed downwards it is not satire, it’s bullying.

And, on Charlie (which he suddenly on expert on),

Sadly Charlie Hebdo had been drifting away from its roots in the revolutionary events of France 1968 for some time. In the aftermath of 9/11 its output became blatantly Islamophobic and increasingly Zionist. They carried cartoons which were vile racist caricatures of the sort I haven’t seen since the National Front and BNP published such stuff in the 1970s and 1980s. Worse, some of the anti-Arab cartoons are so stereotypical that the addition of a Star of David would immediately turn them into the sort of anti-Semitic filth produced by the Nazi Third Reich. These are images designed to offend and humiliate a marginalised and persecuted minority. Yet they went largely unchallenged.

Ach…Zionist – what would racism be like without ‘Zionism’?

Not that there is any evidence of this, or the rest – gleaned no doubt from Sander’s quick Google of the Front Pages of (16 page long) Charlie Hebdo.

But there are rules of satire – which is seems have to be followed.

Expliquez-nous les règles cher Maître de conférences…..

“Satire should spear the powerful.”

 But printing nasty and bad taste cartoons, attacking religious authority,  is beyond the pale.

They get a magic card, if they are ‘Muslims’ (as if all people from an Islamic background remain ‘Muslims’ for ever) showing that they are not “rich and powerful”.

Many might indicate that the Islamists and other religious bigots have both of these qualities.

The Mosque’, like ‘The Church’ (all exceptions counted), has wealth, whatever the believers’ money.

Back to the “rules”:

Satire: Do not do anything that might help ‘the state’.

Satire: do not laugh at Muslims,

This is worse than bullying; it is satire in the ideological service of the state (and Charlie Hebdo receives a hefty subsidy from the French government). Islamophobia is not satire. Laughing at Muslims is like sharing a joke with the Nazis of the Front National. And I don’t think any cartoonist worth their salt would relish the idea of their deaths being mourned by the likes of Netanyahu, Hollande, Merkel and the other world leaders who headed up the march in Paris after the killings.

There are some things – religious figures (Charlie only attached gods, prophets, religious dignitaries, and fanatical activists, from Catholic ‘ultras’ to  Islamist ‘barbus’ ) – which are too sacred for SWP supporters to satirise….

Any laughter is…bullying – from a small circulation weekly which nobody is obliged to read.

Charlie is apparently proved guilty by the character of those who (officially) mourned the deaths….

Oh, and Charlie received money from the French state after the atrocity.

But Tim Sanders can’t be bothered to mention this fact.

The sight of these champions of free speech (the same ones who have banned Muslim women from wearing the veil and outlawed pro-Palestine demonstrations) marching in the name of free expression seems almost beyond parody. Fortunately many cartoonists and satirists have already proved this fear wrong with merciless exposure of these hypocrites. I have a radical, non-satirical idea to prevent further atrocities like this: How about not invading other people’s countries?

No mention of the Jewish victims in the Kosher supermarket: Yoav Hattab, 21, the son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis, Philippe Braham, in his 40s, Yohan Cohen, 22 and Francois-Michel Saada, in his 60s.

Perhaps they were also “Zionists”.

One assumes that they should have stopped invading ‘other people’s countries’ as well.

In any case, Charlie was ridiculing a “a marginalised and persecuted minority” (what is the evidence for the persecution by the way – are Muslims as Muslims prevented from following their religion in France?).

The slaughter was not “inexplicable”.

For the SWP it is eminently explicable.

They had it coming to them.


No doubt following this, and in line with the policy of “unconditional support for Muslim communities”, the SWP will back the prosecution of Charlie Hebdo for blasphemy in Ireland,

The sale of the Charlie Hebdo magazine published after the Paris atrocity is threatening to become the first major test of the Irish Republic’s blasphemy law, Muslim representatives and secularists have warned.

Ireland’s Islamic Cultural Centre has said the presence of a depiction of the prophet Muhammad on the front page of the satirical publication, on sale now in Irish shops, is a clear breach of the country’s blasphemy legislation.

The Irish Republic is the only nation in Europe to have introduced a blasphemy law in the 21st century. Secular and atheist groups in Ireland have been campaigning for its abolition since it came into being in 2010 – the last year of the Fianna Fáil-Green government.

The advocacy group Atheist Ireland is to meet the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, in Dublin next Tuesday, to urge the taoiseach to hold a referendum on abolishing the law before the general election in 2016.

Ahmed Hasain, the executive secretary of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin, said: “In our view, the sale of this magazine is a breach in Irish law. It is blasphemous and it is illegal under the legislation. It’s against the law here in Ireland, that is quite clear.”

Hasain said that while the centre has not decided whether or not to lodge a complaint to the Irish authorities, individuals or groups have the right under Irish law to use the legislation to prosecute those distributing the magazine since last week.

He described the law introduced by the former Fianna Fáil justice minister, Dermot Ahern, as very helpful. “It’s good that the law is in place as it protects every faith,” he said.

Michael Nugent, writer and co-founder of Atheist Ireland, agreed with Hasain that technically speaking the sale of around 1,500 copies of the Charlie Hebdo edition in the state had breached the blasphemy law.

He said: “The Charlie Hebdo cartoons seem to meet the first test of the Irish law, that is that it is ‘grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion’. The next test in the law is ‘thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion’.

“So if anyone wants to try to have a prosecution brought, [cases must be brought by the state ] what they would have to do is demonstrate that outrage has been caused. But it would be irresponsible to encourage or show outrage at a time like this. People who are offended should respond more proportionately than by showing outrage. That is a major flaw in the Irish law – it encourages outrage.”

Ahead of its meeting with the taoiseach, Atheist Ireland announced a new international campaign against blasphemy laws. The organisation has joined forces with secular groups from Britain, Canada, Iceland, the US and New Zealand. They are organising an online global petition against laws which they say “legitimise mob violence, vigilantism, and persecution of minorities”.

Prof Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion, has advised Atheist Ireland to keep up the pressure in the republic to repeal the law.

“Of course you are right that the major damage done by this legislation is the international one,” he told the organisation. “I wouldn’t expect any harsh verdicts being handed down in Ireland, but those countries that continue to have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask western hypocrisy.”

Blasphemy in Ireland is a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£19,000).


* Background:

Tim Sanders was born on 8 October 1957 in Castle Donnington, Leicestershire. He attended the King Edward VI School in Lichfield from 1970 to 1976, and studied at the Harrow School of Art from 1976 to 1979, specialising in illustration and leaving with “a perfect ability to draw fire extinguishers”.

Sanders draws pocket cartoons and political cartoons, using the signature “Tim”. He was cartoonist for the Socialist Worker, and in 1995 a collection of his cartoons was published as “In the Heat of the Scribble.” In 1999 Sanders began working as pocket cartoonist for the Independent, replacing Chris Priestley.

As well as working for The Independent and Independent on Sunday, Sanders has drawn cartoons and illustrations for a range of publications, including The Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday You Magazine, Nursing Times, Broadcast, and Red Pepper. Sanders is also a Spanish speaker and a scholar of Hispanic art.

Sanders is not cited, I note, as a fluent French speaker.


9 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I am not a “left Socialist”. I do, none the less find myself in agreement with much of what you say. A well written piece. Kevin


    February 5, 2015 at 1:59 pm

  2. Funnily enough, here’s an anti-religious cartoon by Tim which featured in Socialist Worker comparing Press self regulation with the Catholic Church’ self regulation. Presumably, Tim wished to make the point that the Catholic Church didn’t do a very good job when it came to accusations of child abuse.

    Ironically, Tim’s searing indictment of the Church took place at the same time as the SWP was tearing itself apart over their “self regulation” of rape allegations made against Comrade Delta and other historic abuse accusations which were well publicised.

    (For reminders, if needed, go to Jim Jepp’s website where I got the cartoon).

    John R

    February 5, 2015 at 2:13 pm

  3. Nice one John!

    He is is part of a wider political stand with typical Swoppie hysteria.

    On ‘Islamophobia’ (sweeping in its scope) they SWP seem to agree with this view,

    “the only counter-currents have been principled and *unconditional* grassroots mobilisations in solidarity with Muslim communities.”


    Andrew Coates

    February 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm

  4. This is contemptible stuff from Mr Saunders. I acnnot imagine his predecessor as SW cartoonist, the late Phil Evans taking any position other than 100% support for CH. Mr Saunders’ ignorant and/or dishonest piece is further evidence of the degeneration of this foul organisation, which -uniquely – manges to combine petty borgeois identity politics with ultra-sectarianism.

    Jim Deham

    February 5, 2015 at 3:02 pm

  5. The basic problem is that SWerPers and their ilk never take it on the chin when their anlysis is factually wrong. The repetition of the allegation that the cartoons haare racisit has been widely refuted, but the mantra is just repeated in true SWerPer fashion.

    Secondly, all these protestations (islamaphobia) seem to be just special pleading for one religion. There have been no complaints by these individuals about the comedy of Dave Allen, Life of Brian and Father Ted, which can be construed under their logic as Catholophobia or Christianphobia more generally.

    Doesn’t this special pleading run into conflict with the notion of Privilege Theory? Why don’t these loons just introduce the blanket concept of theophobia with islamaphobia as a sub-set?

    Third point, why does satire have to only attack the powerful as defined as living individuals, thus debarring the satire of ideas, particularly religious ones. indeed if you watch the Simpsons it is arguable that it is satirical but arguably mocks overweight blue collar workers (not powerful) mid American stay at home moms (not powerful). South Park centres on children who have virtually no power whatsoever.

    Finally, it is just more vacuous ‘anti this and anti that’, because there are no SWerPer proposals to amend domestic legislation or ECHR jurisprudence in line with their desires. Or perhaps they are asking for self censorship by self regulation but that cannot be can it, as the cartoon drawn by Tim clearly shows disdain for such thinking.

    I remember Mary Whitehouse in the 1970’s never in my wildest thoughts did I think that the SWP would try and take over her mantle of championing censorship for the sake of religious privilege.


    February 5, 2015 at 3:47 pm

  6. “If satire is directed downwards it is not satire, it’s bullying.”

    As you indicate, this is a big if. Islam is plenty rich and powerful,. The fact that Muslims are poor and not powerful doesn’t alter that (in fact it’s partly a consequence of it, but that’s another matter). Most Catholics in the world are poor and not powerful, but the Catholic Church is rich and powerful.Its upper echelons are not as murderous as the upper echelons of Islamic theologians and preachers, however. Which is presumably part of why Tim is happy enough to ‘bravely’ speak truth to Catholic power but makes feeble and dishonest excuses for powerful and murderous Islamists.

    And as you note, nothing to say about the murdered Jews. Par for the course for most of the left in this matter (honourable exceptions being TC and Shiraz Socialist). It is depressing that Sanders and co can’t bring themselves to discuss this with any honesty.


    February 5, 2015 at 5:00 pm

  7. “Third point, why does satire have to only attack the powerful as defined as living individuals, thus debarring the satire of ideas, particularly religious ones. indeed if you watch the Simpsons it is arguable that it is satirical but arguably mocks overweight blue collar workers (not powerful) mid American stay at home moms (not powerful). South Park centres on children who have virtually no power whatsoever.”

    Quite. It is a piece of ‘received wisdom’ that has arisen overnight. Will Self has made a literary career out of mocking all sorts of people who would count as ‘losers’, His stuff is not my cup of tea but no one has suggested he should be shot for it. And now suddenly he is piously waffling about the satire he believes in being some vehicle of the (supposed) oppressed ‘punching upwards’. It’s Self-serving bollocks.


    February 5, 2015 at 5:05 pm

  8. Exactly Dave, there have been careful cartoon by cartoon analyses, there have been sensitive and deeply informed articles by people who really know Charlie, there have been countless political writings setting the context in which an anti-Establishment Charlie works in, I have translated their very words in the the post-atrocity Charlie….

    Lamina, true.

    But the SWP (and others, Galloway says the same) definition of satire is simply particularly stupid.

    Another classic apart from the Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, Peep Show, Fresh Meat, etc: think of Swift’s Yahoos – aimed at all human beings.


    Andrew Coates

    February 5, 2015 at 5:06 pm

  9. This is quite incredibly moving,

    (Background: In the month before she died Elsa Cayat received a pair of identical phone calls: “You dirty Jew. Stop working for Charlie Hebdo. If you don’t, we will kill you.” Concerned, this eminent Parisian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who contributed a fortnightly column to the satirical magazine, discussed these messages with her family. “We decided they were only verbal garbage,” said her younger brother, Frederick. “We didn’t think it could actually happen.”

    On the morning of Wednesday 7 January, however, Elsa Cayat was the only woman singled out to be murdered in the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. “It seems she was selected to be executed because she was Jewish,” said her cousin Sophie Bramly, a film producer and author. “They had a list of who they wanted to shoot and said they weren’t killing the women. But she was the only woman who wasn’t spared.”)


    A Eulogy for Elsa Cayat, Who Laughed at Her Killers.

    The following eulogy was given by Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur at the funeral of Elsa Cayat, in Paris, France, on Jan. 15, 2015. It is reproduced, in a translation from the French by Ralph Tarica for Tablet Magazine, with consent of the family.
    Read the original French version of this text / Lire la version française de ce texte.

    Elsa used to begin each of her therapy sessions by saying to her patients: “So, now, tell me!”

    So, I would like for us to listen to her invitation to hear other people’s words, and for us to speak, even if this cemetery is so far removed from her disarrayed office, even if the smoke from her cigarette no longer swirls in the air. Let us tell, at this place, who Elsa Cayat was, who she was for her parents, her brothers and sisters, her family, her partner, her nephews, her patients, her colleagues, for her Charlie Hebdo family, for her daughter.

    We must tell how exceptionally intelligent this woman was, how vivacious she was in her wit and humor that you all knew. We must tell of the life of a woman who was out of the ordinary, as though we were telling a story—and I think she loved stories. Just as she loved books.

    As a teenager she once told her sister: “You ought to read a book a day! Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud … It doesn’t matter!” That was her minimum diet for culture and for her love of knowledge and for words, as she conceived of them.

    Elsa was passionately in love with books, especially detective stories—because she adored plots and novels that you can’t put down and where the endings, she would say, let you “always discover who the killer was, and even his motive.”

    What killer, what motive bring us here today to accompany her? What would she have said about this plot? Maybe she could have laughed about it, even burst out in a contagious laugh.

    I know how much so many people here miss her presence: her friends, family, patients, colleagues, neighbors. She wove a web of connections with so many people, and no one could remain indifferent to her.

    She created her uniqueness, her way of being beyond the ordinary in so many ways. Including in her psychoanalytic practice about which others will speak better than I. She was neither Freudian nor Lacanian. She was “Cayatian,” a school apart, the school of someone who cherished freedom to the point of continually teaching it to others, the school of someone who can peer deeply into you and tell you exactly where it hurts, who can give you words and show you how to play with them so that language can become a healing device.

    Playing with words, this passion for language and debate, is, as you know, very precious to Judaism and its sages. I tell myself she could have made a very good rabbi—I hope she won’t hold it against me that I tell her this, she who was a secular Jew, a practicing atheist.

    She loved stories and plots so much that I also hope she won’t hold it against me if I recount to you, in honor of her memory, a teaching from the Talmud that seems to me to say something about her.

    The Talmud tells of a famous debate between the great sages in their study hall. They were debating in the way they know so well. Voices were raised and each one was passionately and fiercely defending his point of view. Imagine the atmosphere of an editors’ meeting at Charlie Hebdo, transposed to the world of the yeshiva.

    Then Rabbi Eliezer said: “I’m right, I have to be right. To prove it,” he said, “may this tree immediately be yanked out of the ground!” Within a second, the tree was uprooted and transplanted a hundred yards away. The reaction of the other rabbis: a shrug of the shoulders: “So? That doesn’t prove anything!”

    Then Rabbi Eliezer pursued his demonstration: “If I am right, may the walls of the study hall fall down upon us.” Immediately, the walls of the yeshiva began to crumble. The other sages turned toward the walls and said: “Why are you getting involved? This is a debate among sages; stop moving and stay where you are!” The walls stop moving. Running out of arguments, Rabbi Eliezer calls upon God himself and says: “If I am right may a celestial voice confirm it.” Immediately a celestial voice announces: “Rabbi Eliezer is right.” Silence in the study hall. Then a man, Rabbi Yehoshua, gets up and says to God: “This discussion does not concern You! You entrusted us with a law, a responsibility, now it is in our hands. Stay out of our discussions.”

    That is how the rabbis of the Talmud spoke to God, with a certain lack of respect, telling him: “Don’t intervene in the debates of men, because the responsibility you entrusted to us is in our hands.”

    This episode ends even more strangely, with the reaction of God. Hearing these words, states the Talmud, God began to laugh gently: “My children have beaten me!”

    Right now, God is perhaps already on Elsa’s couch. And she says to him: “So, now, tell me!”

    Why do I tell you this story? What does it have to do with Elsa? Learning how to discover her universe these last few days, it suddenly seemed to me that this story is very “Cayatian.”

    It is the story of a Divine who can laugh and rejoice in an impudent humanity, a humanity that tells God humorously: “Please do not disturb—we’re in charge.”

    It is the story of a God who can laugh and keep his distance, a God who rejoices when he is told: the world is “atheistic,” in the literal sense of the term, meaning that God has withdrawn so that men can act as responsible beings. This God is not the God of the Jews but the God of all those who, whether they believe in him or not, consider that responsibility is in the hands of mankind, and most particularly of those who interpret his texts. In short, a God of freedom.

    In her very last article, published posthumously yesterday morning in Charlie Hebdo, Elsa wrote: “Human suffering derives from abuse. This abuse derives from belief—that is, from everything we have had to swallow, everything we have had to believe.”

    Such is her final and powerful message: Be free enough to get beyond everything that has abused you—that is, everything that people have made you “drink” from their baby bottle, everything that people have made you swallow whole, without your having thought about it, re-thought about it and, above all, interpreted it. Such is the heritage of psychoanalysis, of critical thought, and (to my mind) of mature and live religious thinking.

    A heritage, belief systems and texts—especially texts—are there to be interpreted, to be digested, sometimes far afield from their literal sense. Without that, they can alienate us, lock us in suffering, soak us in their abuse. They sentence us.

    This very last article, this last message with its profound intelligence, is like her last therapy session, to try to help us get a little better, in the heart of tragedy.

    Right now, God is perhaps already on Elsa’s couch. And she says to him: “So, now, tell me!” while the spiraling rings of smoke rising from her cigarette form clouds over our heads.

    May you envelop us with your affection—friends, parents, family, and above all her daughter. May she continue to sing in the street, as she used to do with her mother. May she be nourished by the precious memory of a mother who was out of the ordinary, who loved life, and whose memory can never be killed by anyone.

    According to the words of our tradition, may her memory be woven into the fabric of the living. May her story be sewn into your lives—for after all, her family name “Cayat” means “tailor,” both in Hebrew and in Arabic—and may we all together treasure the memory of a free woman.”


    French original: http://tenoua.org/hommage-elsa-cayat/

    Andrew Coates

    February 5, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: