In Praise of “Mixed Feelings”

Daily Kos has run a post that includes samples of the work of Cabu, a long-time cartoonist with Charlie Hebdo who was gunned down at age 75.

The title of the post is “The Charlie Hebdo Cartoons No One is Showing You,” and it is available at: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/11/1357057/-The-Charlie-Hebdo-cartoons-no-one-is-showing-you?.

I find two of the cartoons to be of special interest.

The first criticizes the racial profiling of North African immigrants and the ways in which identity cards reinforce racist antipathies:

Cabu--No to Racial Profiling thru IDs

The second cartoon criticizes the anti-immigrant agenda of the National Front political party, which was founded and brought to prominence by Jean La Pen and is now being led by his daughter, Marine La Pen:

Cabu--No to La Pen and National Front Party

The other cartoons published in this post target rampant militarism, police brutality, abuse of animals, and other environmental concerns.

One can argue that these cartoons, which reflect positions that many progressives would embrace, do not mitigate the ostensible offensiveness of the cartoons on Islamic topics.

But one can also turn that argument on its ear and argue, instead, that in targeting the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo for a select number of their cartoons, the extremists who murdered them were refusing to acknowledge any context for understanding those cartoons—were refusing, in other words, to actually think in any sort of reflective way.

Indeed, the point should not be that those who worked at Charlie Hebdo were “equal opportunity offenders” (even though I myself made just that point in a previous post on this topic). The point should be, instead, that almost anyone who has bothered to look at more than a selective sampling of the cartoons should find things that amuse them and things that might offend them.

And provoking such a mixed response in one’s audience should result, at worst, in very scattered or uneasy applause. It should not be an either-or choice between “killing it” and being killed for it.

Postscript: A slang expression used by comedians for a set that goes over well with the audience is “killing the room.” When I did a Google search for that phrase, this is what, ironically, came up:

Killing the Room

The Google search engine cannot separate literal and figurative meanings, unless perhaps it is specifically directed to do so.

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