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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Attack on Charlie Hebdo and the hypocrisy of pencils

Corey Oakley
Red Flag
11 Jan 2015


 It was Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight who tipped me over the edge.

To be fair, he wasn't wholly responsible. If it wasn't for all the lunacy that preceded him, I probably would have dismissed his cartoon as just another Herald Sun atrocity, more a piece of Murdoch-madness to be mocked rather than trigger for outrage. But context is everything. And after days of sanctimonious blather about freedom of speech and the Enlightenment values of Western civilisation, his was one pencil-warfare cartoon too many.


The cartoon in question depicts two men - masked and armed Arab terrorists (is there any other kind of Arab?) - with a hail of bomb-like objects raining down on their heads. Only the bombs aren't bombs. They are pens, pencils and quills. Get it? In the face of a medieval ideology that only understands the language of the gun, the West - the heroic, Enlightenment-inspired West - responds by reaffirming its commitment to resist barbarism with the weapons of ideas and freedom of expression.

It is a stirring narrative repeated ad nauseam in newspapers across the globe.

They have been filled with depictions of broken pencils re-sharpened to fight another day, or editorials declaring that we will defeat terrorism by our refusal to stop mocking Islam. It is well past time to call bullshit. Knight's cartoon made the point exceptionally clear, but every image that invoked the idea that Western culture could and would defend itself from Islamist extremism by waging a battle of ideas demonstrated the same historical and political amnesia.

Reality could not be more at odds with this ludicrous narrative.

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