Joe Sacco, “On Satire,” 2015
**Trigger warning: Death, murder, torture, racism, Antisemitism**
This comic is a brilliant response to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. Rather than simply condemning the attacks (as most cartoonists did), Sacco acknowledges both sides; the cartoonists certainly did not deserve to die for expressing themselves, but their death does not mean that they were saints. They were still bigoted assholes for expressing themselves in such a callous, pointlessly disrespectful way.
Freedom of expression means that you can say anything, but it does not mean that you should. This incident, and Sacco’s response, reminds me of this XKCD comic, especially its mouseover text, “I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you’re saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it’s not literally illegal to express.”
It also reminds me of political humor columnist Molly Ivins’ quote, “Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When the satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel – it’s vulgar.”
Did the cartoonists deserve to die? Absolutely not. Were they bullies? Absolutely.