For days I have been thinking about writing something on last week’s atrocities in Paris, starting at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and ending with seventeen dead. But I have already read many, many news reports and opinion pieces that have approached the issue from all sorts of directions.
I’m not sure I have a huge amount to add. Except to say that much of the commentary demonstrates the challenges inherent in cross-cultural interpretation. There are considerable risks in interpreting the sort of satire that Charlie Hebdo produced from outside of its milieu – risks of getting the interpretation hopelessly wrong because all the allusions, undertones and implications are missed. Paul’s analogy with the way we make sense of the Alf Garnett character makes the point effectively to a UK audience; at least to a UK audience of a certain age.
Horror and incomprehension at inexcusable acts of violence has been followed by the stirring sight of hundreds of thousands – indeed milliions – of people joining marches and vigils under the rallying cry “Je suis Charlie”.* For many that was no doubt primarily a statement of solidarity – no one should die for drawing a few lines on a page. For many it was no doubt an endorsement of core practices and rights – liberty and free expression – that has been imperilled by these violent attacks. [Read more…]