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'I don't condone the murder of cartoonists but...'

By Tim Napper - posted Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The cliché for some time has been, when someone starts a sentence with "I'm not racist, but…" that they follow it immediately with a racist observation. Indeed, anyone who feels the need to regularly use the phrase, "I'm not racist, but…" is almost invariably racist.

Some sections of the politically-correct left have recently discovered their own version of this. They start a sentence with, "I don't condone the murder of cartoonists, but…" and then immediately follow it with a justification for the murder of cartoonists. It is an insidious and disingenuous form of victim-blaming about as morally sustainable as those who blame the victims of rape ("Rape is terrible – but she shouldn't have been drunk and wearing that short skirt.")

Take this example from a widely-shared article by an American blogger: "Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper. Its staff is white. Its cartoons often represent a certain, virulently racist brand of French xenophobia." The blogger proceeds at great length to discuss how racist Charlie Hebdo is, that they deliberately intended to insult all Muslims, and ends the article with a sentence that begins: "Free speech is an important thing in our society, but…"


The irony in calling Charlie Hebdo racist, immediately followed by a racist generalization about French people, was undoubtedly lost on the American who wrote the screed. That an Algerian member of staff - Mustapha Ourrad - was murdered in the attack is conveniently ignored. The fact that Charlie Hebdo is a vocally left-wing publication and many of its contributors were members of anti-racist organizations is an inconvenient one, as is the fact that a frequent target of Charlie Hebdo's satire was far-right politician Marine Le Pen.

As French journalist Mohamed Sifaoui, a friend of the victims, said: "Charlie Hebdo makes this nuanced distinction: one can be on the political left, fight against racism and mock religion without fear."

Sadly, no-one makes nuanced distinctions when they are trying to co-opt a tragedy to their own world view. In particular, no-one – on the left or the right – seems capable of making nuanced distinctions when it comes to discussing Islam.

In general, it is fair to observe that those who seek to rationalise the Charlie Hebdo attacks are intellectual nobodies with a debased ethical framework. It's also worth noting that the views such as those expressed in the blog mentioned above – based on a crass simplification of racial issues – represent a virulent brand of identity politics that have yet to manifest themselves in Australia.

However, we did have this strange contribution from someone who is usually one of Australia's best political cartoonists, First Dog on the Moon:


To be clear: the murdered cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were not racist. In a bitter irony, on the day they were murdered, the issue they were about to publish lampooned famous French writer Michele Houllbecq for his Islamophobia.

First Dog apparently won't draw a picture of Mohammed because it is 'racist', but thinks nothing of insulting freshly murdered cartoonists. Perhaps this should come as no surprise, as the publication he works for – The Guardian – was willing to post a snuff video of an unarmed police officer getting shot in the head by one of the terrorists, but refuses to publish pictures of a cartoon.

The argument that any criticism of Islam should be immediately conflated with racism or Islamophobia is nothing less than the censorship of free speech and thought. The very idea that drawing a picture of someone's deity is blasphemous and deserving of a death sentence is exactly the kind of thing that deserves to be ridiculed. As cartoonist Cathy Cox said of Charlie Hebdo: "I believe satire is where sanity is found."

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About the Author

Tim Napper is a freelance writer and stay-at-home father. He lives in Vietnam after working for a decade as an aid worker in South East Asia. He has had numerous articles published at The Guardian, Australian Broadcasting Corporation's The Drum, New Matilda, and others. He also writes regularly for a number of sporting and poker publications. Follow him on Twitter @DarklingEarth.

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