Jan 8, 2015

Rundle: Charlie Hebdo, terrorism and the distortion of popular memory

The violence against French journalists and cartoonists has shaken the world -- but the reaction is something Charlie Hebdo itself would've mocked.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


The news hit London around morning teatime, a grainy image popping up in the Twitter feed. Pretty soon, the news made clear what it was part of — a violent attack on the offices of Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly, or, Your Average Weekly), with at least 11 dead, and more injured. Barring bizarre events, there wasn’t going to be any doubt who had done it. Charlie Hebdo is more free-wheeling in its satire than Private Eye, its UK counterpart, and has been especially willing to go the tonk on religion, in old-fashioned, gauchiste anti-clerical style. From the ’60s until Charlie Hebdo closed in 1981, that target was usually the church. When it came back in 1992, and in the wake of the Rushdie affair, and the rise of Islamism as a political movement, Islam began to get the same treatment. But it wasn’t a huge focus for them, with their attention turned more towards embedded French political power, showbiz and literary gossip (never really separated in French life) and cartoons more or less incomprehensible to anyone not up with Parisian idiom.


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115 thoughts on “Rundle: Charlie Hebdo, terrorism and the distortion of popular memory

  1. Colleen Murrell

    Why be so sneering, viz “a ceaseless performance of public emotionality”. People in France have gathered together in crowds quite spontaneously (as well as online, about which you are so dismissive). Harking back to the Blitz and the stiff upper lip is just plain odd – different times. Let people who want to speak up in support of free speech do so. Charlie Hebdo is more outrageous than Private Eye, but it represents a whole different culture and history of satire. Private Eye has no sacred cows either, and I would argue neither should we. But you’ll probably mock in answer as per usual…

  2. Norman Hanscombe

    Once again Crikey seems to show more interest in the reactions of the denizens of Twitter-world than it does in supporting the efforts of Australian and other Democratic Western Governments to deal with Fundamentalist Terrorist.
    Not a surprise of course.

  3. Ken Lambert

    Guy has produced an extraordinary array of ideas – many well expressed in what must have been a short few hours.

    Needs a re-read Guy, but Colleen’s objection to the ‘stiff upper lip’ blitz bit was interesting.

    I agree with you: “a ceaseless performance of public emotionality” is what I find most disturbing about our ‘culture’ – as if orgy of mourning of recent tragedies from a safe distance somehow makes us vicarious players in the real events. This plays out with the mawkish excesses of the tabloid media and the indignity of our politicians.

    The French pen has been smitten by the sword…at times a pretty unappealing pen, but for sure an ominously well targeted sword. What we have here are the certainties of the Nazi SS ‘death’s head’ killers. They swore a personal oath to Adolph Hitler as their secular deity. He was their conscience.

    What we have here are their god’s deaths head boys.

    So Guy are you going to defend to the death the right of
    the next Charlie Hebdos?

  4. HB

    “the black-clad, right-wing OAS of the ’60s, brazenly gunning down opponents of Algerian independence” – my recollection is that the OAS were opposed to Algerian independence

  5. Jill Baird

    People often want to publicly acknowledge their reaction to major public events. We haven’t all got a megaphone like you, Guy.

  6. Barry Levy

    I have never read such (left wing) apologist crap about a very serious issue in my life (I think even most lefties (not already crying) would be embarrassed). I see now that Guy Rundle and Crikey when it comes to issues of Islamic fundamentalism are irredeemable. As a result – and this editorial is actually making me shake it is so horrid and appalling, I am cancelling my subscription forthwith. There is obviously no rationality or sense of reality and truth left at Crikey on this issue of Islam (the biggest issue in the world). I will be advising my friends to do the same, and advise others to follow suit. Fortunately, very fortunately, although it is very inflated with self-importance, Guy Rundle and ‘the team’ at Crikey only have a very meager reader base.

  7. aswann

    This is great form for Rundle – only the last couple of paras seem like something written a couple of weeks ago and pasted on. Ended weak on “They must simply be treated as crimes…” Otherwise strong and more interesting analysis than i’ve read elsewhere.

  8. David Camfield

    it’s a highly polarized and reactionary world at the moment.. I agree with Guy – best not to try to concoct ludicrous narratives

  9. Norman Hanscombe

    Sadly, as a lifetime member of the Left who remembers when its membership was less emotively-blinkered and bereft of intellectually-demanding analytical skills, I can empathise with your plight, Barry.
    Why not encourage those you know who have the backgrounds needed to deal with Crikey’s egregious support for nonsense causes to take out the short-term free subscription deals used by Crikey in the hope they’ll result in potential Crikey Acolytes becoming paid up devotees?

  10. RoseL

    Bravo Guy. Worth the subscription, as always.

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