"The whole point of Charlie’s satire was to be tasteless and obscene."

#Opinion

Thu, Jan 8th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

While the importance of free speech has been noted, and some suspects have already been arrested, AlJazeera's Arthur Goldhammer warns us about "sacralizing" Charlie Hebdo. Arthur reminds us that the magazine "was in the business of giving offense, and it tried hard to offend everyone."

There is an old Parisian tradition of cheeky humor that respects nothing and no one. The French even have a word for it: “gouaille.” Think of obscene images of Marie-Antoinette and other royals, of priests in flagrante delicto with nuns, of devils farting in the pope's face and Daumier’s caricatures of King Louis-Philippe, whom he portrayed in the shape of a pear. It's an anarchic populist form of obscenity that aims to cut down anything that would erect itself as venerable, sacred or powerful. Such satirical humor has little in common with the kind of witty political satire with which Americans are familiar today through watching Jon Stewart or John Oliver. While not apolitical (attacks on Marie-Antoinette surely had a political valence), gouaille does not seek to stake out a political position or mock one political party to the benefit of another. It is directed, rather, against authority in general, against hierarchy and against the presumption that any individual or group has exclusive possession of the truth.

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