The final impression I get of the Charlie Hebdo 68ers is one of ineffectuality.
The magazine has the same look as all those satirical papers in the Anglosphere that flowered in the 70s and ran out of gas soon after (Oz, Private Eye), whose only ideology was ‘freaking out the squares’. That this type of magazine lasted longer in France I would blame on the strange French skew on culture (Jerry Lewis, EdgarPo).
The idea of treading a fine line between the ideologies, satirising both and relying on the unicorn of free speech to defend them obviously seems futile today, but also did yesterday.
An old quote from Charb –
“My job is to provoke laughter or thinking with drawings — for the readers of our magazine.”
I imagine he prided himself on the ‘thinking’ rather than the ‘laughing’. These guys always say they are trying to ‘provoke though’t. But to what end ? To write for a purpose invites judgement and the 68ers hate to be judged. If you assert a principle, then at some point somebody may be able to accuse you of hypocrisy.
To us on the right the left seems very powerful and vindictive because of what it has done to the right and the old society it has swept away. Events like this remind us of actually how weak the left is. They stand for nothing, they believe in nothing, they have no inner resources whatever. They are merely oppositional. When the opposition is an old Anglican vicar, then the left has been very successful at victimising the poor old coot. However when they come up against a foe with a strong culture then it is a very different story.
The cartoonists did provoke, until the people that they provoked shot them. They didn’t really stand for anything except for nihilism and vulgar humor. There is some symbolism there — nihilism, followed by an explosion of violence, followed by a wave of sentimentality. Nothing is resolved.
We have always had nihilism and vulgarity with us, and we always will, but to place it at the pinnacle of our modern values seems appropriate to a vacuous age.