October 19, 2020

The Editor Speaks: Our own Charlie Hebdo?


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Colin Wilson2webOf course we don’t have any media house comparable to the French satirical paper that was attacked by three masked gunmen, armed with kalashnikovs, who stormed the building and killed ten of its staff and two police officers.

However, the storm of protest that is mounting against the Cayman Compass for publishing what quite frankly is to my mind not a very funny cartoon anyway even if you take away its suggested discriminatory overtones, may suggest otherwise.

Please see today’s iNews Cayman story under iNews Briefs “Cayman Islands cartoon causes backlash”.

I didn’t see the cartoon until I learnt of the backlash against it and I expect the Cayman Compass have reaped the benefit of increased sales from the publicity. Hence the slogan: “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. I don’t agree all the time with that either seeing the number of lives and careers that have been ruined from it.

I must say I have a hard time trying to discover what in fact the cartoonist, George Novak, was trying to say. I don’t think he was actually intending to be “discriminatory and anti-Cayman” and perpetrating “a stereotype” as the petition that has been started up online suggests.

I can, however, understand how it can be interpreted when you are Caymanian (the real McCoy not the artificial paper ones like me), are unemployed, trying desperately to find a job, and seeing hundreds of ex-pats doing the job you feel you could easily do. To have a white paper Caymanian illustrate you as a gormless twerp smoking a spliff in a media publication run by another white paper Caymanian is also stereotyping in itself and enraging an already angry local cross section of the Country’s population.

Novak’s comment as recorded by CNS to the backlash was:

“Why are some people so stupid? If you can’t take a joke … don’t read the cartoons. People who can’t take a joke have no idea how hilarious they are to those of us who can.”

Not exactly diplomatic and hardly going to put any flames out.

He even thought his cartoon was “harrrrraarrrious…”. What is it one says about self praise?

But does he have a point?

Are the people who are making such a fuss actually attacking one’s right to “free speech”?

Jacob Canfield writing on the website “The Hooded Utilitarian” after the wake of the killing of the Charle Hebdo staff said, “When faced with a terrorist attack against a satirical newspaper, the appropriate response seems obvious. Don’t let the victims be silenced. Spread their work as far as it can possibly go. Laugh in the face of those savage murderers who don’t understand satire.”

Then he adds: “Here’s what’s difficult to parse in the face of tragedy: yes, Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper. Its staff is white. Its cartoons often represent a certain, virulently racist brand of French xenophobia. While they generously claim to ‘attack everyone equally,’ the cartoons they publish are intentionally anti-Islam, and frequently sexist and homophobic.”

And, unfortunately, the perpetrators of the Compass cartoon are similarly ‘tarnished’.

I hope it blows over and I hope Novak sees the error in his remarks.

David Legge, the Compass owner, wisely said in reply to questions from CNS:

“The editorial cartoon to which you refer appeared on the Editorial Page of The Cayman Compass which is, as you know, the ‘opinion page’ of the newspaper. We give all contributors to this page – from letter writers to columnists to cartoonists – wide latitude in expressing their views. We invite anyone who would like to express an opinion on this issue to write a signed letter to the Compass.”

He did not answer the question whether he thought the cartoon was funny.

I answered it for him. I did not think it was funny at all.

I don’t think Charlie Hebdo would either.

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