Thursday, January 8, 2015

Charlie Hebdo attack hits home in Charlotte

To many Americans, the terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris Wednesday was a horrific event but ultimately just another faraway chapter in an ongoing war with Muslim extremists, involving an organization they'd never heard of. For journalists, and especially editorial cartoonists like the Charlotte Observer's Kevin Siers, the murder of four cartoonists and six other journalists (and two police officers) was a breathtaking, almost personal, assault.

Siers has been the Observer's cartoonist since 1987. His work is so powerful, so funny, so poignant that last year he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, journalism's highest honor. With just a pen, he almost daily calls out the foibles of public figures to hundreds of thousands of people. Because it is a cartoon, and because Siers is so good, his message often feels more like a smack to the head than the back-and-forth debate a 500-word editorial often prompts.

There are no sacred cows to Siers, or any cartoonist worth his pay. He calls out Democrats and Republicans, government officials and tea partiers -- anyone whose actions or words deserve derision. For that, he receives angry e-mails and phone calls every week.

But he doesn't receive death threats, and that speaks to a difference between how editorial cartoonists are regarded in the United States compared with much of the world. Here, they are entertainers or irritants, the provocateurs that readers love or love to hate. In Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, their work is taken more seriously, and extremists regard them as an existential threat. Both here and there, cartoonists embody the power of freedom of expression and the power of ideas. Those are values that most Americans cherish, but terrorists, of course, do not.

The hope is that, just as a violent attack could not stop the ideas of then 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, this one can not intimidate journalists anywhere into silence. Siers and other cartoonists around the world showed their support for free expression and solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo artists the best way they can: with their pens.

Here are some of their responses. Others are available here and here.

-- Taylor Batten


Unknown said...

Expecting anytime a cartoon denouncing the current administrations attack on a film maker's Youtube video for causing the uprest in the Libya, causing the death of a US lives.
Or one on Obama's speech at UN denouncing those who satire Allah.
Can't have it both ways.

Frank Burns said...

Good for you showing solidarity with the cartoonists. We should never fear Islamist thugs.

Frank Burns said...

Good for you showing solidarity with the cartoonists. We should never fear Islamist thugs.

Mark Ranier said...

Does anyone understand "Unknown" and his cryptic comment? Take the year off, dude! Or just learn the English language!