Europe's Leading Satirists Respond to the 'Charlie Hebdo' Massacre
"The Paris tragedy just confirms the amount of evil and injustice in the world we live in, and it is our duty to continue fighting against them the best way we know how—with satire."
Earlier today, the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked by three gunmen who killed 12 people and left another five seriously injured. In the wake of the massacre, we asked our international offices to gather the thoughts of leading satirists from across Europe.
ITALY – linus magazine
A cover of Alterlinus, a supplement of linus, from 1974. On the contributors' list, you can see the name of cartoonist Georges Wolinski, who was killed in today's attack.
linus was founded in 1965. Today it is mainly focused on comics, but it still features the work of satirists. Its presentation and its contents inspired the French magazine Charlie Monthly, which in turn gave its name to Charlie Hebdo.
Stefania Rumor, director:
"Back in the 60s, we were close friends with Hara-Kiri's editors. When some of them founded Charlie Hebdo, we took the Charlie Brown quote in the name as an homage. We have been publishing [Georges] Wolinski for years, and I knew him personally. Their satire was really intense, and they weren't worried about anything or anyone, but in the end they also felt a strong journalistic responsibility. Maybe they knew that something could have happened, but no one could have imagined this. People think this is a risk you take when you choose to do satire, but really it's not. I'm shocked, and I'm also very concerned about the consequences, especially for young people. The idea that someone could die for a cartoon is something that can make even the bravest cartoonist change his mind. I find what happened today totally incomprehensible."
SPAIN – El Mundo Today
Xavi Puig, co-founder:
"To paraphrase Walter Benjamin: 'I don't understand the expression "It seems impossible, we are in the 20th century." History is not a straight line to a better future. Shit from the past returns from time to time to fuck our lives again.' Today, France seems like the Middle Ages. I hate that these morons justify Benjamin's quote because this guy is so boring... But this is the world we live in."
SPAIN – Orgullo y Satisfacción
Manuel Bartual, editor and cartoonist:
"I don't know what to say. It is just terrible. I am shocked and I don't really want to think about this right now. This is a huge tragedy."
NORTHERN IRELAND – The Vacuum
Richard West, co-founder:
"It's horrific. Completely senseless. In Northern Ireland, being physically threatened for religious comment is pretty difficult to imagine. I think people are liable to say there shouldn't be a chilling effect, but it's likely there will be. People are likely to think twice about what they publish. People also say we should publish things in solidarity, but every publication has its own motives and reasons for publishing the way they do.
"That also should be preserved. I think that we can stand and show our respect for these people who have been senselessly murdered without necessarily wanting to say we endorse everything they've ever published. But nothing can justify murdering someone in cold blood."
UNITED KINGDOM – Will Self
Will Self, writer:
"Well, when the issue came up of the Danish cartoons [of Muhammad] I observed that the test I apply to something to see whether it truly is satire derives from H. L. Mencken's definition of good journalism: It should 'afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.' The trouble with a lot of so-called 'satire' directed against religiously motivated extremists is that it's not clear who it's afflicting, or who it's comforting. This is in no way to condone the shooting of the journalists, which is evil, pure and simple, but our society makes a fetish of 'the right to free speech' without ever questioning what sort of responsibilities are implied by this right."
—As told to Oscar Rickett
SERBIA – Njuz.net
Marko Drazic, editor:
"This is the saddest day for all of us in this line of work, but also a warning to keep up with our work as we have done so far. The Paris tragedy just confirms the amount of evil and injustice in the world we live in, and it is our duty to continue fighting against them the best way we know how—with satire."
THE NETHERLANDS – De Speld
This morning, De Speld posted a response on Facebook that goes something like: "No one died or was injured during a satirical attack by* the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. This incident brings the total number of victims of satirical attacks since the beginning of time to zero."
We asked the editor-in-chief, Jochem van den Berg, about it and this is what he said: "Our Facebook post is a more powerful statement than anything we can seriously say about this, so we want to leave it at that."
GREECE – Andreas Petroulakis
Cartoon satirizing the Golden Dawn by Andreas Petroulakis.
Andreas Petroulakis, acclaimed cartoonist and satirist currently working for Greek newspaper Kathimerini:
"I am shocked by the attack—all the chaos has completely stunned me. I have no words. This is a real tragedy. While we in Europe struggle for freedom of speech, while we fight for democracy, while we attempt to bridge whatever cultural differences we may have, on the other side of the world, the leaders of Islam are preaching blind hatred and dogmatism. Satire will prevail in the end, and you know why? Because it cannot be coerced. Without satire a society wouldn't dare look at its reflection in the mirror—it would lose its way."
AUSTRIA – Die Tagespresse
Fritz Jergitsch, founder:
"If I made fun of Islam in one of my articles, I'm pretty sure that 99 percent of Austrian Muslims would just laugh about it. But there is no doubt that it's a problem, that there is a very small yet radical group of people who take such extreme measures. I think that 300 years ago I would have gone to prison for my articles about the Catholic Church. But times have changed and luckily society has changed, too, so it's no problem anymore. Sure, there are deficits in some Muslim countries, but even there it's more a problem of some individuals and not with Islam itself."
BELGIUM – Humo
Humo, October 2014. The main feature is an interview with Dyab Abou Jahjah—a Belgian political activist with Lebanese roots. The cover reads: "Humo talks with Dyab Abou Jahjah: If immigrants and locals can't find one another now, we'll all be in deep shit later"
Danny Ilegems, editor-in-chief:
"We are speechless. If you take a look on our website, you will see a big black square and nothing else. So you can take that speechlessness very literally."
GERMANY – Eulenspiegel
Dr. Mathias Wedel, editor-in-chief:
"We are horribly shocked, and this is very distressing for us. We are discussing it in our editorial office, but are trying to save the situation with humor. Of course it poses the question: How will we react as a publication? As bitter as it sounds, we will first have to make a joke. Because unfortunately—or fortunately—that is our job. Just as we have to confront terrorism in general or the war.
"I don't see any threat to our own editorial office, even if we deal with Islam humorously—only its political side of course; we're not interested in matters of faith. The question of whether we will continue to publish Mohammad caricatures doesn't present itself, because we generally don't do that. My colleagues and I would always defend the freedom to be able to say, draw, and write anything we want to. But we don't need to exhaust every freedom or demand to use it. Doing so would not be provoking our readers but only Islamists. And there are more effective ways of fighting Islamism than with a caricature in a satire magazine."
SWEDEN – Galago
Johannes Klenell, editor:
"When I heard, shivers went through my body. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Many of us working with satire have experienced threats. Satire and heckling of power and oppression stir up emotions, as it's a very effective tool. In Sweden, we mostly see the anonymous hatred of the extreme right. But you never think that anything will happen. Anonymous haters don't exist other than like some sort of ghosts. Now, they suddenly exist.
"I don't think this will have any effect on satire—I hope. Usually satirists are made of such wood that they bow to pressure; we will stand until we're broken. However, I worry about what forces will use what's happened for their own purposes. How will the extreme right shape the debate following this? I worry that they will try to steal our art and our expression for their own purposes."
POLAND – Janek Koza
Janek Koza, acclaimed cartoonist/satirist:
"It's hard for me to think of anything sensible in this terrible situation, except that I'm happy that our weapons are satirical drawings and texts, and I hope that thanks to them we will win."
*UPDATE 1/7: Due to a translation error, an earlier version of this article garbled the joke that De Speld made on Facebook—the joke was that satirists don't kill anybody, not that no satirists were killed.