Yesterday, three Alluah-Akhbar shouting gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during an editorial meeting and, armed with Kalashnikovs, brutally murdered twelve people – ten journalists and, moments later, two police officers.
The terrorists were undoubtably taking ‘revenge’ for the cartoonists’ previous depictions of Muhammed, as the staff at Charlie Hebdo received numerous death threats by Islamists over the years due to their refusal to submit to demands they cease in their criticisms of Islam.
In 2011, the offices of Charlie Hebdo – which has also mocked Christianity and Judaism – was firebombed on the very day it was set to publish a cartoon derisive of Islamic law.
Whilst most of the Guardian’s coverage of the terror attack has been cautious but unproblematic (framing it as an assault on free speech), today they published the following cartoon (by Guardian Australia cartoonist Andrew Marlton, known as First Dog on the Moon) which arguably represents an implicit criticism of the victims.
Following the first few unremarkable frames, the cartoon takes a decisive turn, with the cartoonist speaking in the first person about why he personally doesn’t depict Muhammad.
First Dog on the Moon doesn’t depict the Muslim prophet because “it’s probably racist” and he chooses not to put his family and co-workers at risk of being firebombed. How have “racist cartoons”, he asks, become a “beacon for free speech”?
Remarkably, there is nothing in his graphic commentary on the attack which dares criticize the extremists who gunned down artists for exercising their fundamental right to free speech. Indeed, the cartoon takes a swipe at the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists for engaging in “racism” and ‘putting their families and co-workers at risk’ by resisting demands they censor themselves on issues relating to Islam.
Is First Dog on the Moon actually, as it seems to us, blaming the victims for “inciting” their attackers?
Perhaps Guardian editors who fancy the notion that their media group represents truly liberal values should ponder how a political cartoonist associated with their brand could throw the victims at Charlie Hebdo under the bus and, more broadly, fail to passionately defend fellow journalists’ absolute right to offend.