Charlie Hebdo Massacre

Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel, Other Authors Step Up to Co-Host Free Speech Gala After Anti-Charlie Hebdo Walk Out

But do they call themselves intellectuals?

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Charlie Hebdo

Last weekend six co-hosts of PEN America's  annual gala over its honoring of the slain editors of the satirical Charlie Hebdo—killed by Islamist fundamentalists who didn't like the magazine's attacks on Islamist fundamentalism—pulled out, citing, for example, the French nation's "cultural arrogance," the magazine's "cultural intolerance" and the popular argument that Charlie Hebdo, which attacked all kinds of religious and secular fundamentalists and zealots as well as the French state and French culture, was "punching down."  By last week, 145 "intellectuals" who belong to PEN, an association of writers, mind you, dedicated to "free expression," had announced their opposition to the gala. You have to read Matt Welch on the issue.

Fortunately, there's still joy in Mudville. PEN America announced cartoonists Art Spiegelman and Alison Bechdel, as well as author Neil Gaiman, who does a lot of cartoon work and helped force the literary establishment to respect the graphic novel form , will be among six new co-hosts for the gala. The New York Times reports:

The newly named hosts also include George Packer, Azar Nafisi and Alain Mabanckou, a French­Congolese novelist who will officially present the award.

"The Charlie Hebdo PEN award is for courage. The courage to work after the 2011 firebombing of the offices, the courage to put out their magazine in the face of murder," said Mr. Gaiman in an email to The Times. "If we cannot applaud that, then we might as well go home… I'll be proud to host a table on Tuesday night."

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Spiegelman explained why he felt the need to join pro-Charlie protests. Via Democracy Now:

The cartoonist's job is that—it's why I was at a demonstration last night at Union Square in support of what happened—ofCharlie Hebdo, with mostly French Americans, a few hundred of them, shouting. I felt really like in a minority, not because I'm a secular Jew, but because I'm an American in this demonstration that was mostly the French, feeling this very viscerally. And so, among all of the shouts of "Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo! Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo!" I'm there going, "Cartoonists' lives matter! Cartoonists' lives matter!" And this had to do specifically with that mandate to say the unsayable. It's an important thing in order to be able to focus you on what needs to be said, if you want to be talking about the primacy of language, of verbal language.

Read that whole interview, where Spiegelman also explains why political cartooning is so awful, here.

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  1. “Azar Nafisi”

    What we really need is an upper-middle class white professor to explain to Azar Nafisi that she’s been infected with false consciousness and should stop defending those who would mock and demean her people.

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  2. You know what would make me totally respect these people? If they gave awards to Geller and Wilders for doing exactly what they praise on the part of the Charlie Hebdo people – “the courage to put out their [controversial views] in the face of murder”

    It’s true that Geller and Wilders don’t follow the fashionable moral-equivalence crap of that Charlie Hebdo cover which illustrates this post, but free speech is free speech, and courage is courage, right?

    1. So this is Geller/Wilders Award Watch, Day 1 – will PEN and the other right-thinkers give Geller and Wilders a Free Speech Courage Award, even though they take the politically-incorrect position of singling out one form of religious extremism (Muslim) as more dangerous than others (Christian and Jewish)?

      1. George Wallace probably got death threats, are you gonna start stumping for a free speech award for him?

        1. Didn’t George Wallace get actually shot?

          1. Yes he did.

        2. I personally wouldn’t even consider giving Geller or Wilders free speech awards given that Wilders wants to ban the Koran in the Netherlands and Geller would have absolutely no problem with innocent Muslims being stripped of their rights as a form of collective punishment. Geller actually argued that Arabic language classes are an attempt to subvert America (which strikes me as particularly funny given that Geller apparently doesn’t know that not all Arabs are Muslims).

          They’re not free speech heroes.

          1. Right, and to me, Charlie Hebdo is as offensive as George Wallace, having printed a cartoon portraying a condom as a consecrated Host.

            So there’s *no way* I will celebrate the Charlie people as Heroes of Free speech while turning up my nose at Geller and Wilders, who at least avoided endorsing actual sacrilege.

            1. “Geller would have absolutely no problem with innocent Muslims being stripped of their rights as a form of collective punishment.”

              Can you find a link confirming this?

              1. To me, Geller and Wilders are targeted by murderers for daring to point out that Islamist extremists are…wait for it…murderers.

                And they don’t insist on making Muslim extremists equivalent to Jews and Christians, and they don’t do cartoons portraying stereotypical bearded Jews marching side-by-side with Islamist murderers.

          2. Geller would have absolutely no problem with innocent Muslims being stripped of their rights as a form of collective punishment.

            Do you have any evidence for that assertion? My reading of Geller has always been that she, as an Objectivist, is pretty much in line with the ARI’s statements on political Islam and foreign policy in the Middle East. Perhaps her views have changed since her PBS interview where she stated:

            No. I believe most Muslims are secular. I don’t believe that most Muslims subscribe to devout fundamentalist Islam by any stretch of the imagination. And we need the secular Muslims to win the battle for the reformation of Islam.

            Do I believe that Islam needs a Vatican II, for lack of a better metaphor? Yeah, I do.

            But I haven’t come across it.

            1. But…but…FEELZ! Moral Equivalence! All Sky-Daddy bleevers are equally evil, and anyone who denies this is wicked and doesn’t deserve a free speech award even if they’re targeted by murderers on account of their speech!

              1. Are you having a stroke, Eddie?

                1. Oh, Warty, don’t get your tentacles in a tangle, I’m just joking.

    1. At least he didn’t confess to murder while doing it, like Robert Blake.

    2. His career may be in the crapper now.

    3. The Sound of Relief – The Naked Gun: From the Fil?: http://youtu.be/pdE83FX-Mto

      1. There we go.

  3. I’m there going, “Cartoonists’ lives matter! Cartoonists’ lives matter!”

    Is that what matters? Or is it free speech that matters?

  4. ?@iowahawkblog
    Apparently, the only people in the US who don’t understand “freedom of speech” are academics, media, and government.

  5. So a number of artists I’ve never heard of pull out and are replaced by actual relevant individuals with some understanding of free speech?

    Sounds like a total win for PEN and the whole idea of free expression.

    1. Come on. They lost Deborah Eisenberg and all they got in return are Neil Gaiman and Art Spiegelman. PEN must be really upset by this development.

      1. That feeling of shock and surprise you get when an artist you’re a huge fan of turns out to be an intellectually courageous clear thinker and decent human being.

  6. Gaiman just went up a notch in my book.

    1. Gaiman’s always been great on free speech, including very unpopular speech. He had several great posts on his website when the Australians were putting a man on trial for drawing pictures of adult cartoon characters having sex with child cartoon characters.

      That’s right! He drew pictures of the act and got charged as if he were actually producing child porn. There aren’t many people who would go out of their way to stick up for that guy because what he was doing was still gross, but Gaiman was all over it.

    2. He’s always been top notch in mine. I am waiting to read his latest collection: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

      1. I know what’s next on my ‘to read’ list.

        1. I’ve been waiting for another adult novel like American Gods but the short stories will have to do.

          If you’ve got kids his children’s books are awesomely weird, and he usually reads them himself for the audio versions. My sons listened to one of his collections for kids in the car on a continuous loop until they’d memorized each story.

  7. Goatfuckers’ feelings matter tooooo…

    So much so, that they just HAVE to kill cartoonists, they HAVE to do it!!!!

    Allah made me do it…

  8. Fortunately, there’s still joy in Mudville. PEN America announced cartoonists Art Spiegelman and Alison Bechdel, as well as author Neil Gaiman, who does a lot of cartoon work and helped force the literary establishment to respect the graphic novel form , will be among six new co-hosts for the gala.

    It should be noted that Bechdel is only giving a key note speech about her relationship with the two male co-hosts.

    1. It should be noted that Bechdel is only giving a key note speech about her relationship with the two male co-hosts.

      I see what you did there…

    2. I didn’t immediately get this, so I feel I was tested and was found wanting.

  9. Glad to hear Gaiman is hosting.

  10. Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman and Alison Bechdel

    While lesbians would have little reason to have much sympathy with most organized religion, and Islam would certainly be among the most offensive to womyn; still it is great to see that she has joined these other illustrative artists in supporting free speech.

    1. If only Hollywood could show two Muslims talking about something other than Jihad, hijabs or killing infidels…

  11. I’m trying to figure out how we got to a place where supposed “intellectuals” smugly, and with pride, take the most anti-intellectual, anti-integrity positions imaginable. And then pat themselves on the back for it.

    1. We didn’t get to that place Episiarch, we have always been there. Intellectuals have always been smug, authoritarian and the first to defend everything that is anti-intellectual and anti-integrity, judged by the ordinary meanings of the terms. Intellectuals just are the ones to write the history and thus are forever able to whitewash their involvement and such things and pretend to be the exact opposite of what they are.

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