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Cartoons Against Terrorism

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

The Nib has a special series of responses to the Charlie Hebdo massacre from other cartoonists. This includes a particularly powerful piece from a Muslim cartoonist. But all of them are short and well worth a read.


Late Night Political Humor – Charlie Hebdo

“This is really hard to do but I’d like to change the tone now and briefly mention today’s terrible tragedy in France. Twelve people were killed because a satirical newspaper made jokes that some group found offensive. All of us are accustomed to bad news from around the world. But this story hits home for anybody who mocks anyone.” – Conan O’Brien

“Our hearts are with the staff of Charlie Hebdo and their families tonight. I know very few people go into comedy as an act of courage, mainly because it shouldn’t have to be that, it shouldn’t be an act of courage, it should be taken as established law. But those guys at Hebdo had it, and they were killed for their cartoons. For however frustrated or outraged back and forth conversation can become, it’s still back and forth conversation amongst those on … let’s call it team civilization. And this type of violence only clarifies that reality. Of course, of course, our goal tonight … is to not make sense of this, because there is no sense to be made of this. Our goal, as it is always, is to keep going, keep calm and carry on, or whatever version of that saying is in your dorm room.” – Jon Stewart

“Today’s tragedy in Paris reminds us very viscerally that it’s a right that some people are inexplicably forced to die for. So it’s very important tonight that I express that everybody who works at our comedy show, all of us are terribly sad for the families and people of France and anybody in the world tonight who now has to think twice before making a joke. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” – Conan O’Brien


Satire Strikes Back!

How do you fight against powerful religion-based terrorist networks like ISIS? By using satire and humor! CBS News reports that “television networks across the Middle East have begun airing cartoons and comedy programs using satire to criticize the group and its claims of representing Islam.”

A producer and writer of a show that mocks ISIS says:

These people are not a true representation of Islam and so by mocking them, it is a way to show that we are against them. Of course it’s a sensitive issue, but this is one way to reject extremism and make it so the people are not afraid.

For example, in one episode of the show:

A taxi driver picks up a jihadi who rejects listening to radio because it didn’t exist in the earliest days of Islam, a knock on the ISIS’ literal take on the Quran. The driver offers to turn on the air conditioning, but that too is rejected. The jihadi finally criticizes him for answering a mobile phone.

Fed up, the driver asks: “Were there taxi cabs in the earliest days?”

“No, 1,000 times no!” the passenger answers. The driver responds by kicking out the jihadi and telling him to wait for a camel instead.

Even the videos of mass executions released by ISIS are fodder for comedy and satire:

Palestinian television channel al-Falastiniya aired a skit showing two militants shoot Muslim civilians for their lack of knowledge on the number of times to kneel during prayers, all the while reminiscing over the beautiful women and best party neighborhoods they’d visited in Beirut.

When a Jordanian Christian approaches, the two militants begin fighting each other over who gets to shoot him – each wanting the “blessing” for himself. Terrified, the man suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving the militants devastated.

Satire has long been used in Arab culture, all the way back to their ancient poetry. Laughter and mockery are a powerful weapon against terror.

Arabic TV is also using the format of reality shows to fight against terrorism. An Iraqi show “In the Grip of the Law” forces convicted terrorists to face their victims. From one recent show:

Haider Ali Motar was convicted of terrorism charges about a month ago for helping to carry out a string of Baghdad car bombings on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group. … On a chilly, overcast day last week, the crew arrived at the scene of one of the attacks for which Motar was convicted, with a heavily armed escort in eight military pick-up trucks and Humvees.

After being pulled from an armored vehicle, a shackled Motar found himself face-to-face with the seething relatives of the victims of the attack. … When Motar was confronted by one of the victims, a young man in a wheelchair who lost his father in one of the attacks, the convict began weeping, as the cameras rolled.

The show is very popular:

We are at war on terrorism, and this programme is one of our psychological tools to fight the terrorists. Most people have a curiosity to know how those [militants] are thinking, who are they, what are their scientific, cultural and social backgrounds, so we are focusing on these points to break their morale.

Many of these terrorists feel a lot of remorse when they see the victims. When people see that, it makes them think twice about crossing the law.


F off!

The mayor of Rotterdam (in the Netherlands) is Muslim (born in Morocco). Speaking on live TV just hours after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, Mayor Aboutaleb said to Islamists:

It is incomprehensible that you can turn against freedom… But if you don’t like freedom, for heaven’s sake pack your bags and leave. There may be a place in the world where you can be yourself, be honest with yourself and do not go and kill innocent journalists. And if you do not like it here because humorists you do not like make a newspaper, may I then say you can fuck off.

This is stupid, this so incomprehensible. Vanish from the Netherlands if you cannot find your place here. All those well-meaning Muslims here will now be stared at.

Aboutaleb became angry by the failure of some Muslims to adapt to their new homes, as he has done.

This isn’t the first time he has expressed such sentiments. In 2004, Aboutaleb said that if Muslims didn’t subscribe to Dutch values, they should “catch the first plane out”.

Good for him.

And yes, I really am quoting a story from Breitbart.


Late Night Political Humor

“The newly elected congressmen and women from the midterm elections were sworn in today. This Congress will be the most diverse ever, with 104 women, 46 blacks, 12 Asian-Americans, and two Native Americans. Even the dolls on the ‘It’s a Small World’ Disney ride said, ‘Not bad’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“That’s right, 104 female lawmakers. In other words, there’s going to be a lot of filibusters that go like this: ‘You know what you did.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“A total of 71 lawmakers in the new Congress are freshmen. Their parents helped them move in over the weekend.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“We have a new and now Republican-controlled Congress starting today. The 114th Congress convened today in our nation’s capital. I thought Congress got canceled after last season. Their ratings were terrible.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Congress has an approval rating that’s very, very low. Their approval rating is 15 percent. You know you’re in trouble when people like you less than they like Jennifer Lopez movies.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Today was opening day for the new Congress in Washington. And Vice President Joe Biden swore in the new batch of White House fence jumpers.” – David Letterman

“A Miami judge issued Florida’s first gay marriage license yesterday, which makes it the 36th state to legally perform gay marriages. Of course, most Florida residents are too old to understand what that means. They’ll say, ‘Well, I think all marriages should be gay, and merry.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“A new study has found that watching Fox News can make you more conservative and watching MSNBC can make you more liberal. And watching CNN can make you think that no plane has ever safely reached its destination.” – Conan O’Brien


Freedom of Speech?

The only reasonable response to the massacre of 12 people at the satirical French publication Charlie Hebdo is condemnation. It is never acceptable to respond to freedom of speech with violence and terror.

Having said that, however, there is quite a bit of irony around this event, and I would be remiss in my duties as Iron Knee if I did not mention it. But the fact that I bring it up should not be construed in any way that I have sympathy for the terrorists (or any terrorists).

The biggest irony is that the cover of Charlie Hebdo that was published just before the attack on their offices was not making fun of Islam. Instead, the cover was making fun of novelist Michel Houellebecq, whose negative attitude toward Islam is well known (he was once sued in court for calling Islam “stupid”). So how ironic is it that supposedly Islamic terrorists attacked the newspaper over a cover that was making fun of someone who doesn’t like Islam. Whatever happened to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?

In addition, AlJazeera published an article that makes a pretty good case that the attack on Charlie Hebdo was not about Islam at all. Two of the attackers were from Algeria, and another was from Senegal. These are both countries that suffered mightily under French colonialism (Algeria alone lost over a million lives in the ensuing brutal civil war, and Senegal was likely worse off).

It is also interesting that the reaction in Arab newspapers has been strongly against the attack.

Also ironically, there has been an outpouring of support for Charlie Hebdo, calling the massacre an attack on free speech. Really?

Back in 2009, Charlie Hebdo published a column by Maurice Sinet. Jean Sarkozy, the son of the French president, had just become engaged to the Jewish heiress of a successful electronics goods chain. The column commented on a rumor that Sarkozy was going to convert to Judaism by saying “He’ll go a long way in life, that little lad.” Relatively tame stuff, but the column was attacked as anti-Semitic (for linking prejudice about Jews and success). The editor of Charlie Hebdo asked Sinet to apologize and when he refused, he was fired. Sinet was then charged with the crime of “inciting racial hatred” and anti-Semitism. Where were the defenders of free speech then? Is it free speech when you make fun of Islam, but not when you make fun of Judaism?

Indeed, many of the people expressing support for Charlie Hebdo after the attack had condemned the newspaper in the past. Charlie Hebdo was an equal opportunity satirical publication, and it especially loved making fun of people with power and influence. In fact, a cartoonist for the newspaper who was not in the office at the time of the attack said in an interview “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends.” He says it makes him laugh to get support from the Pope, Queen Elizabeth, and Vladimir Putin, all people who have been satirized by the publication.

Finally, I am tired of people attacking all of Islam because of the actions of a few terrorist extremists. Last week, comedian Bill Maher went on the offensive against Muslims, claiming that many of them supported the attack:

I know most Muslim people would not have carried out an attack like this. But here’s the important point: Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this. They applaud an attack like this. What they say is, “We don’t approve of violence, but you know what? When you make fun of the Prophet, all bets are off.”

I could make a similar claim about Christians supporting the murder of people who worked in abortion clinics. Many Christians still claim that abortion is murder, which justifies the killing of abortion doctors and nurses. So should we (do we) condemn all of Christianity because of that?

Terrorism is wrong. But Muslims are not the only terrorists. Even including 9/11, only 6% of terrorist attacks between 1980 and 2005 in the US were carried out by Islamic extremists. You might think this is because the US is somewhat far away from Muslims. But in Europe (next door to Arab countries), Islamic extremists are responsible for only 0.4% of terrorist acts.

Charlie Hebdo


Late Night Political Humor

“Joe Biden went to Brazil in an effort to try and repair America’s relationship with their government. Biden said, ‘It’s great to be here in the Amazon. I’ve always wanted to see where all the books come from.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Kim Jong Un’s sister got married. That sounds like another Seth Rogen movie, doesn’t it?” – David Letterman

“Instead of reading vows at the wedding ceremony, they read hacked Sony emails.” – David Letterman

“Democratic Senator Harry Reid is expected to make a full recovery after he was exercising with a resistance band that snapped, causing him to fall. The good news is he’s fine. The bad news is there’s no video of it.” – Jimmy Fallon


The Enemy of Freedom…

Jen Sorensen
© Jen Sorensen

Absolute freedom is another name for anarchy and feudalism. The solution is to find a fair compromise based on facts. Too bad we seem to have forgotten how to do that.

In addition, this comic failed to mention religious freedom. Given the recent news, probably wisely.


First Orders of Business

So what did the new Republican-controlled Congress decide was their first order of business this week?

On their very first day, they decided that the most important thing to do was attack Social Security. But they did it in a sneaky and underhanded way. The House passed a new rule that, as the LA Times puts it, “will seriously undermine efforts to keep all of Social Security solvent.”

Or as Senator Elizabeth Warren points out, the Republicans are “inventing a Social Security crisis.” You see, the Republicans figured out that they can’t eliminate the social safety net directly – that would be too unpopular. So instead they pass rules that will make it insolvent, so they can step in and “save” it (by eliminating it and replacing it with some kind of voucher program).

But that wasn’t the only thing. They introduced a bill to restrict abortions. Also on the very first day they were in session.

That was just the House. Over in the Senate, Mitch McConnell tried to rewrite history in an almost comical manner. On the Senate floor, McConnell said:

After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope. The uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama administration’s long tenure in Washington: The expectation of a new Republican Congress.

That’s right. The Republican gains in Congress scared the economy into improving! And not only that, it happened retroactively! That is some powerful juju. And no wonder the economy is scared — the only thing the Republicans have done for the economy lately is cause a government shutdown (because Obama refused to dismantle Obamacare), which caused all kinds of job losses and cost us $24 billion.

And just where do you suppose the bad economy came from in the first place? Is the GOP going to find some way to blame that on Obama too?


More Exceptionalism

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

So the NYPD doesn’t want to have to be accountable for their actions. Sound familiar? Between this, torture, spying on our own citizens, preemptive wars, and murder by drone, it seems like we are just full of our own exceptionalism.


The 70% Solution

Florida became the 36th state to legalize gay marriage yesterday. That means that 70% of Americans live in a state where same-sex couples can marry, and marry they did.

While a story like this isn’t ironic anymore, that in itself is what is ironic about it. Yes, there are a few people in Florida who are upset about it (one Court Clerk shut down the courthouse chapel so that no marriage ceremonies – gay or straight – could be performed), but most people are either happy about the change, or more interestingly, don’t care.

Gay marriage is now overwhelmingly legal in the US, and the world didn’t end. In fact, in the end, it has become a non-story. As it should be. The government has no interest in regulating what has become a personal decision with no meaningful negative societal consequences.


Strike Three?

Matt Bors
© Matt Bors

Wouldn’t it be ironic if by staging a “work slowdown” the NYPD actually put things back to the way they were before we over-militarized our police departments? Could this possibly be a good thing? So far, the worst effect of the slowdown seems to be the loss of millions of dollars in traffic ticket fines, a major source of money for New York City. So far, the 55% drop in arrests has not led to any dramatic increase in crime.


Late Night Political Humor

“During a recent Q & A with children, first lady Michelle Obama said that what she wants for Christmas is to sleep in late. Which is why this year Biden promised not to jump on her bed when it’s time to open presents.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The White House hosted its annual Hanukkah party and everything was going great until Biden pulled on a rabbi’s beard and said, ‘You’re not Santa’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama and his family are spending the holidays in Hawaii, and while they’re gone, they got a fence jumper to house sit. Tomorrow, he will be in Hawaii playing golf with Raul Castro and the Pope.” – David Letterman

“The U.S. is re-establishing relations with Cuba. But before President Obama can lift the embargo, it will need approval from the Republican-controlled Congress – or as Republicans who called Obama said, ‘Close, but no cigar’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The Russian economy is tanking. It’s gotten so bad that today Vladimir Putin had to pawn his stolen Super Bowl ring. And Putin will finance his next invasion on Kickstarter.” – David Letterman

“Economists believe there are three reasons why the Russian economy is doing so poorly. One, economic sanctions are working. Number two, low-price oil. And number three, Lindsay Lohan has quit drinking vodka.” – David Letterman


Future Perfect?

Lee Judge
© Lee Judge

I’ve made my fair share of bad predictions, but at least I try to admit it when I’m wrong.

But some people seem to make a career out of being constantly wrong. Take Grover Norquist (please!), who has announced (without irony) that he “would like Republicans to shut up about how bad the economy is, and instead take credit for the recovery.” That’s right, the man who is most known for demanding fealty to his pledge to never, ever raise taxes wants the GOP to brag that the Bush tax cuts are responsible for the recovering economy. Never mind that it is largely the Bush tax cuts that we are recovering from. And never mind that 98 percent of economists believe that the recovery is due to the economic stimulus act passed in 2009.

Norquist isn’t the only one. Art Laffer (he of the “Laffer Curve” and trickle-down economics) went on Fox News last Friday and claimed that the only reason the economy is improving at all is because we ran out of stimulus money. Plus the standard GOP talking point that Obama’s recovery actually sucks compared to Reagan’s recovery (actually, it doesn’t).

(hat tip to Wonkette).


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–iron knee