By Ashee Pamma
My main interest undertaking this project concerns this absurdity that Charlie Hebdo became, shifting from their fundamental leftist, libertarian ideology, going after politicians, notably the far-right National Front to extremism, hate speech and hardcore racism. The terrorist attack and outpour of support, from across the world, empowered this newspaper, and most importantly, the notion of free speech. Simultaneously however, the content they produced also had to be validated, no matter how hateful, psychopathic and racist. Over years, they have produced caricatures, one more outrageous than the other, and every time they faced backlash for their horrid and depraved depictions of victims and tragedies. I was hence convinced that calling out Charlie Hebdo on its racism and poor humor or expressing sympathy for the prejudiced or impacted group is not productive or even insightful. I suggest perhaps they even thrive off that backlash, and expressing sympathy, on the other hand, turns into good, old virtue-signalling. Opposing the issue of racism against free speech is perennial and has been an easy win for them. Instead, I focused on one recurring element in many of their covers: body or body parts of victims. This was the symbol I found compelling enough to introduce psychopathology in dissecting racism. I discuss in the podcast Charlie Hebdo’s racism in terms of the lack of empathy, the mockery of death, disregard of other’s rights and the exploitation of the fear of death in Charlie Hebdo’s publications. Using the format of a podcast was the ideal medium to bring in my voice and sentiments, in communicating a perspective that can be deemed shocking and sensational, but which allows me to follow a structure, provide an informed analysis and not get too impassioned. I absolutely wanted to avoid getting eclipsed in the bandwagon of loud, ‘woke’ culture of denouncing racism and speaking for others.
The response to Charlie Hebdo’s shocking caricatures has been certainly one of outrage, flooded with angry tweets and shares on social media, every user behind their screens, out to start a campaign to ‘cancel’ Charlie Hebdo. My goal is not to provide another angry rant about Charlie Hebdo’s publications, about how I am offended on behalf of the actual impacted group, because I am not. I only cringe at the caricatures and I hence offered my voice and perspective in the discourses of racism and Eurocentrism at play and the podcast allows me to be as subjective and opinionated as possible without being subjected to the politics and assumptions of speaking on a specific platform. This is not a contribution to an online crusade that constantly restages traumas, appropriates experiences of others to express one’s own feelings or allows everyone on the internet to have some form of authority on truth-claims, which I think, does more disservice to affected groups than helping them, excluding them further from important conversations. The podcast is a solution for me to avoid staying silent or retreating but not subject anyone to my arguments.
Click to listen to “Charlie Hebdo” by Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma is an international student from Mauritius. She recently finished her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University. She has always had a passion for literature, storytelling, writing and aims to pursue a career in journalism. She is currently working as a sales representative for Vantage Marketing. She loves working out and cooking in my free time.