By Lara Palmisano

New Yorker Cartoon by Michael Shaw

New Yorker Cartoon by Michael Shaw

Michele Santoro, a memorable journalist censured and banned from the public Italian television, commented the rifles storm at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical magazine on January 7, 2015. He expressed, “It was a war act. A massacre of bodies, and a massacre of thinking. A cartoon is not a trifle, it is a story. The cartoonist’s job is difficult and dangerous: in only one image he has to build a story, which can be violent, fittingly or unjustly brutal. He can speak about God, about what is hidden in the deep soul wrinkles, but any story can really offend God. To be hurt are our prejudices.”

I am worried. I am worried about our politics who flank on the sly censorship and now they pretend to be supporters of the freedom of expression because now it is politically correct to do it.

I am worried about racist and radical parties that are taking advantage of this tragedy, adulterating it, subverting its meaning and instigating hate.

And I am worried about the seemingly harmless, but potentially dangerous #JeNeSuisPasCharlie…

Charlie Hebdo is not and never will be a racist and neither a partisan magazine (Regarding this matter, please see Canal+ video). But after all, #JeSuisCharlie doesn’t necessary mean to approve on its content.

#JeSuisCharlie means to be in favor of the freedom of speech and expression, of the right to the irreverence, even if one does not agree with what has been published.

#JeSuisCharlie means: I am in favor of the right to criticize all systems of thinking and believing, and even to put them in public derision, without being afraid of be killed.

#JeNeSuisPasCharlie does not take on the role of clarifying to the world that Islam does not mean terrorism, either.

How could you explain that nobody should put everyone into the same basket when declaring #JeNeSuisPasCharlie? The message could be transmitted that a disturbing cartoon is as bad as a massacre.

The French sociologist François Dubet gives some explanations to the phenomenon of #JeNeSuisPasCharlie:

  • Will to be nonconformist and to feel ‘against’
  • Terrible and ambiguous feelings («they asked for it »), which hide a deeper and complex unease
  • General disinformation, or an « out of control » and uncritical information, where there is not enough attention to news sources and story contexts

I would add a misunderstanding of the concept of satire, too. Satire doesn’t mean parody.

Here is the definition of satire by the Oxford dictionary: « The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. »

To whom appeal to the tastefulness, I answer with the Nobel Prize Dario Fo’s words: “First rule: in satire there are no rules … it is an expression born consequently to pressures, pains, and abuses of power. Satire is a moment of refusing some kind of rules and manners, liberating because it destroys some standards that band people together … it is at the edge of coarseness, dirty. »

To whom would avoid religious satire not to instigate hate, I remind them that the satirical irreverence is not hate: it is just irreverence. If one forgets it, we enter in a loop conversation.

Charlie Hebdo was and is a courageous satirical and counter information magazine. Its authors have always done what they thought was right, never pulling back from threats and lawsuits, proud to be against censorship and authoritarianism.

I was shocked by this massacre. I am upset also by the reactions against  #JeSuisCharlie, that remind me of recent sad episodes of censorshi in Italy  that people supported more or less with the same reasons of the various  #JeNeSuisPasCharlie (“lack of tastefulness”, or «they are not funny », « they offend people », etc.).

What happened in Italy? Among many episodes, famous is the “Bulgarian Diktat” (April 18, 2002), one of saddest moments for freedom of expression in Italy.

During a press conference in Sofia, Silvio Berlusconi, at the time Prime Minister of Italy, asked – and worst, he obtained – the dismissal from the Italian public television one of the biggest Italian journalists, Enzo Biagi, Michele Santoro and the satirical author Daniele Luttazzi.

Why? Because they were troublesome, and the only way to stop them was to censure them, limiting the freedom of expression and press. There were protests for months, until when this storm ended and he succeeded.

Since then, hundreds of episodes of censure happened in Italy. I am talking about satirical authors (i.e. Sabina e Corrado Guzzanti), television authors (i.e. Serena Dandini), as well as journalists and several newspapers that were completely benumbed.

Since then, the freedom of expression and press is getting worse day after day in Italy.

In Italy Charlie Hebdo could have never existed. It would have been muffled, hushed, censured from birth, and a lot of people would have cried scandal because of its cartoons.

Daniele Luttazzi, a satirical author banned on Italian television, asserted, « The coward murder of the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, made us remember that the freedom of expression of a country coincides with its democracy gradient. » He continued, « The freedom of speech is useless if your freedom to listen to it is not granted. Censorship deleted both of them. »

This is not just a problem with satire, it is even worst for the news

As said by the brilliant Sabina Guzzanti, another satirical author banned by the public television and boycotted by most of the Italian show system: «Live for the freedom of expression. Live those who preserve this right in this world defeated by fear and prejudices. It’s thanks to them that we know that democracy is doable. »

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