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All posts in 1月, 2015


Financial Times Writer Says Charlie Hebdo ‘Just Being Stupid,’ ‘Not the Most Convincing Champion’ of Free Speech

Here’s how Tony Barber of the Financial Times reacted to this morning’s massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo:

Apparently, "common sense" now means "censoring yourself for fear of being murdered."SignetCharlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims. If the magazine stops just short of outright insults, it is nevertheless not the most convincing champion of the principle of freedom of speech. France is the land of Voltaire, but too often editorial foolishness has prevailed at Charlie Hebdo.

This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extend to satirical portrayals of religion. It is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.

If there is an unconvincing champion here, it is not Charlie Hebdo. It’s Mr. Barber, a man who seems to think “the principle of freedom of speech” is best represented by speakers with views so inoffensive that no one would want to censor them in the first place.

Update: The Financial Times has replaced Barber’s original post with an “expanded and updated version” of the article; in the new version, the phrases “just being stupid” and “not convincing champion of the principle of freedom of speech” have been removed. Fortunately, I took a picture before the whitewash:

Here is how it looks now:

Let me be clear: the people responsible for murdering the journalists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7th were the men who pulled the triggers of the Kalashnikovs aimed at them. Moreover, we’ve no need to reach into our grab-bag of ethical epithets in order to find one that fits these men’s characters; we don’t need to speak of “barbarism”, or a “complete lack of civilised values”, or agonise about how they became radicalised – because we know the answer already – but what we can unequivocally assert is that these men, in those rattling, coughing, cordite-stinking moments, were evil. If by evil is understood this: an egotism that grew like a cancer – a lust for status and power and “significance” which metastasised through these murderers’ brains. The problem for the staunch defenders of Western values is that each and every one of us possesses this capacity for evil – it’s implicit in having an ego at all; so when the demonstrators stood in the Place de la Republique holding placards that read “JE SUIS CHARLIE”, they might just as well have held ones reading: “NOUS SOMMES LES TERRORISTES”.

The French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the law exists to restrain our worst impulses, not encourage our best. Those politicians, religious leaders and commentators that in the hours and days since this atrocity have spoken about freedom of speech as a sine qua non of that liberty which is in turn essential for civilisation, would’ve done well to remember both this and their own history: the birth of the French republic was attended by justice – blindfolded and wearing earplugs: it was called the Terror. When the sans-culottes stormed the Bastille they found a handful of prisoners in the ancient bastion, among them the Marquis de Sade, who soon enough found himself elevated to the position of revolutionary judge, despatching aristos and other reactionaries to the guillotine. It was a nice example of liberation – if by that is meant the freedom to murder for political ends.

The idea that the French secularists have of their political system (and for that matter the British secularists of theirs, the Americans ones of theirs, and so on), is that it not only encourages their best impulses, but that if it’s perfected it will render the entire population supremely free and entirely good. This is a process that both right and left seem to feel is unstoppable – whether powered by some sort of moral “natural selection”, or historical determinism. For these boosters the Enlightenment project of perfecting man’s moral nature is still underway, and will only end when a (godless) heaven has been established on earth. But such rarefied progress is precisely what is mocked, not only by the murdering of Parisian journalists, but by the drone strikes in Syria, Iraq and Waziristan, which are also murders conducted for religio-political ends. It is mocked as well by the clamouring that follows every terrorist outrage for the suspension of precisely those aspects of the law that exist to restrain our worst impulses; in particular the worst impulses of our rulers: namely, due process of law, fair trials, habeas corpus and freedom from state-mandated torture and extra-judicial killing.

The memorial issue of Charlie Hebdo will have a print run of 1,000,000 copies, financed by the French government; so, now the satirists have been co-opted by the state, precisely the institution you might’ve thought they should never cease from attacking. But the question needs to be asked: were the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo really satirists, if by satire is meant the deployment of humour, ridicule, sarcasm and irony in order to achieve moral reform? Well, when the issue came up of the Danish cartoons I observed that the test I apply to something to see whether it truly is satire derives from HL Mencken’s definition of good journalism: it should “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted”. The trouble with a lot of so-called “satire” directed against religiously-motivated extremists is that it’s not clear who it’s afflicting, or who it’s comforting.

The last cartoon drawn by Charb, Charlie Hebdo’s editor, featured a crude pictogram of a jihadist wearing a hat called a pakol – this would mark the fighter out as an Afghan, and therefore as unlikely to be involved in terrorist attacks in the West. Charb’s caption flies in the face of this: above the Afghan jihadist it reads: “Still no attacks in France”, while the speech bubble coming from his mouth reads: “Wait, there’s until the end of January to give gifts.”

Setting to one side the premonitory character of this cartoon, and the strangeness of a magazine editor who was prepared to die for his convictions (or so Charb said after the Charlie Hebdo offices were firebombed in 2011), yet not to get the basic facts about his targets correct, is it right to think of it as satire? Whatever else we may believe about people so overwhelmed by their evil nature that they’re prepared to deprive others of their lives for the sake of a delusory set of ideas, the one thing we can be certain of is that they’re not comfortable; moreover, while Charb’s cartoon may’ve provoked a wry smile from Charlie Hebdo’s readers, it’s not clear to me that these people are the “afflicted” who, in HL Mencken’s definition, require “comforting” – unless their “affliction” is the very fact of a substantial Muslim population in France, and their “comfort” consists in inking-in all these fellow citizens with a terroristic brush.

This is in no way to condone the shooting of Charb and the other journalists – an act that, as I pointed out initially, is evil, pure and simple, but our society makes a fetish of “the right to free speech” without ever questioning what sort of responsibilities are implied by this right. But then it also makes a fetish of “freedom” conceived of as agency worthy of a Nietzschean Ubermensch – whereas the truth of the matter is, as most of us understand only too well, we are in fact grossly constrained in most of what we do, most of the time – and a major part of what constrains us are our murderous, animal instincts.

Why hasn’t Japan banned child-porn comics?

By James FletcherBBC News, Tokyo

Japan’s comics and cartoons – known as manga and anime – are a huge cultural industry and famous around the world. But some are shocking, featuring children in sexually explicit scenarios. Why has Japan decided against banning this material?

It’s a Sunday afternoon in Tokyo and Sunshine Creation is in full swing. Thousands of manga fans, mostly men, crowd into an exhibition centre, poring over manga comic magazines laid out for sale on trestle tables snaking around the rooms.

Posters of elfin-faced, doe-eyed cartoon heroines, many of them scantily clad and impossibly proportioned, turn the cavernous space into a riot of colour.

“This area is mainly dealing with sexual creations,” explains Hide, one of the event organisers.

We stop at one table where the covers on display feature two topless girls. To my eyes they look to be in their early or pre-teens, and the stories show them engaged in explicit sexual acts.

Several other stands are selling similar material. It would certainly be considered controversial, and possibly illegal, in the UK, Australia or Canada, but here it’s no big deal.

“Everyone knows that child abuse is not a good thing,” Hide says. “But having that kind of emotion is free, enjoying imagining some sexual situation with a child is not prohibited.”

His candour takes me by surprise. He then introduces me to the word “Lolicon”, short for “Lolita complex” – the name for manga featuring young girls engaged in sexually explicit scenarios. It can involve incest, rape and other taboos, though Hide’s tastes lie more with high-school romance.

“I like young-girl sexual creations, Lolicon is just one hobby of my many hobbies,” he says.

I ask what his wife, standing nearby, thinks of his “hobby”.

“She probably thinks no problem,” he replies. “Because she loves young boys sexually interacting with each other.”

By 2020… we have to turn Japan into a country which people don’t call a perverted culture”

Kazuna KanajiriChild protection campaigner

Material like this is a tiny part of Japan’s huge manga industry, which generates around US $3.6bn in sales annually. But it attracts a lot of attention and controversy.

In June 2014, Japan’s parliament voted to ban the possession of real images of child sexual abuse. Production and distribution of these images had been illegal since 1999, but Japan was the last country in the OECD to outlaw possession.

At the time there were calls to also outlaw “virtual” sexual images – in manga, anime and games – of characters who appear to be under 18. But after much debate, Japan’s parliament decided against this. The decision drew condemnation from child protection campaigners and NGOs, particularly outside Japan.

One clue to understanding it is in the fact that Hide was happily discussing his “hobby” with me only minutes after we first met. Although manga involving very young children does appear to have some social stigma attached to it, sexual material involving adolescents is a fairly mainstream interest.

Japan’s legislators were apparently reluctant to put large numbers of manga fans – potentially millions – on the wrong side of the law.

Fans like Hide argue they are just enjoying harmless fantasy. No child models or actors are involved, he says, so “there is no child abuse for creating sexual topic mangas”.

But is the boundary between fantasy and reality always clear?

Tokyo’s Akihabara district is the spiritual home of the manga world, a place where neon signs and loud pop music overwhelm the eyes and ears. Multi-storey bookshops line the streets, selling manga on every topic under the sun.

In their adult sections, restricted to people over 18, it’s not hard to find manga with titles like Junior Rape or Japanese Pre-teen Suite.

“People get sexually excited by something, then become used to it,” says Tomo, who works behind the counter in one of the adult stores. “So they are always looking for something new, and get sexually excited by young, immature women.”

This is what worries critics – the concern that even if no-one is harmed in the creation of sexually explicit manga, it might normalise, facilitate, or lead to an increased risk of sexual abuse.

No-one knows whether this is the case – research has been inconclusive. But many in Japan, particularly women, have a wider concern too. They see these images as part of a society that turns a blind eye to extreme pornography – often degrading to women – and the sexualisation of young people.

You don’t have to look far in Japan to find a fascination with youth. Pop groups of young girls perform for crowds of adult men. And from billboards and advertisements to manga, schoolgirl imagery is everywhere.

LiLy, a popular writer of books for young women – Sex in the City, Tokyo-style, she says – told me about her school days when men would approach her and her friends and offer money for their socks or panties.

“I think that is disgusting, it’s very kinky,” she says. The fascination with adolescent sexuality is “all about the power that men want to achieve, men who are tired of strong independent women,” she argues.

The family model of LiLy’s parents’ era still holds strong sway in Japan – a father who earns the money and a mother who stays at home as a housewife. But the weakness of Japan’s economy has made this difficult for men to realise.

“There are people business-wise who are not successful, maybe they are running into fantasy with Lolicon manga.

“I hate it, I seriously hate it. I want Japan to kick out the kinky, just leave children out of that kinkiness, even your fantasy.”

But others are sceptical about how far the government should step in to prescribe and enforce a particular vision of what’s “good” or “proper”, especially regarding people’s fantasies.

“There’s every reason to be critical, that’s fine,” says manga translator and free-speech advocate Dan Kanemitsu. “But when you give people the authority to police others based on what they might do or what they think, that’s thought-policing.”

So would he stand up for the right of creators to draw manga featuring young children and taboos like rape and incest?

“I’m not comfortable with it, but it is not my right to tell people how they think or what they want to share,” he says. “As long as it doesn’t infringe upon people’s human rights, what’s wrong with having a fantasy life?”

Japan and images of child sexual abuse

  • Japan outlawed the production and distribution of images of sexual abuse of children in 1999 – 21 years after the UK
  • In 2013, the US State Department described Japan as an “international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography”
  • Japan’s police agency reported 1,644 offences in 2013 – more than in any year since the 1999 law came into force
  • In June 2014, Japan banned possession of real images of child sexual abuse – people were given one year to comply

Among the manga shops of Akihabara, child protection campaigner Kazuna Kanajiri takes me to see something she thinks is a much bigger problem than cartoons and comics. We climb a flight of stairs off the main street and emerge into a room packed full of DVDs.

Kazuna picks one off the shelf – it features real images of a girl she says is five years old, wearing a skimpy swimsuit and posing in sexually suggestive positions that mimic adult pornography. All the other DVDs in the shop also feature real children.

“I feel sorry for the children,” Kanajiri tells me.

These so-called “Junior Idol” DVDs became popular after the production of child pornography was outlawed in 1999. They dodged the law as long as the children’s genitals were covered, but Kanajiri argues they’re now illegal after the law was strengthened last June.

“People who exploit should be punished properly,” she says. “It’s completely illegal under the law, but the police haven’t cracked down.”

While some of the content in manga and anime featuring minors in sexual situations might be shocking and attention-grabbing, Kanajiri and other campaigners I spoke to told me that for now, they are focused on more important battles to protect real children.

But she tells me she hasn’t given up hope of a ban on contentious manga and anime.

“I want to make it disappear,” she says. “By 2020, when the Summer Olympics will take place in Japan, we have to turn Japan into a country which people don’t call a perverted culture.”

It’s a description which supporters of manga strongly reject. But as the Olympics approach, outside eyes will turn to Japan, exerting a powerful pressure for manga and anime to be part of what people see as “cool Japan” rather than “weird Japan”.

Listen to James Fletcher’s radio report at 11:00 on Thursday 8 January on BBC Radio 4′s Crossing Continents, or afterwards via the BBC iPlayer



Satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo attacked by gunmen

At least 12 dead after three gunmen walk into the building in Paris and open fire before fleeing in a getaway car.


Firefighters carry an injured man on a stretcher out of the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Photograph: Philippe Dupeyrat/AFP/Getty Images

At least 12 people are dead after three hooded gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs attacked the headquarters of a French satirical magazine and opened fire on journalists and police guards.

The three men – who a police union spokesman described as “commandos” – are now on the run after walking into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris’s 11th arrondissement at about midday on Wednesday and fleeing in a getaway car driven by a fourth.

The death toll includes 10 journalists and two police officers. At least five people are seriously injured.

A policeman walks near the site of the attack Photograph: ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA

Rocco Contento, a spokesman for the Unité police union, said “it was a real butchery” in the building. He said the Charlie Hebdo offices were guarded and protection increased in recent weeks because of fresh threats against the magazine, but the attackers had entered the building intending to kill.

Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed in 2011 after a spoof issue featuring a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed on its cover.

Contento said the attackers had got into a getaway car driven by a fourth man on fleeing the building and drove to Port de Pantin in north-east Paris, where they abandoned the first car and hijacked a second – turning the driver out into the road.

The French president, François Hollande, headed to the scene of the attack and the government said it was raising the security level to the highest notch. “This is a terrorist attack, there is no doubt about it,” he told reporters.

Hollande speaks to the press after arriving at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Photograph: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

Witnesses working in the building opposite heard shots as the attack began and saw a police officer “between life and death” lying on the road outside.

Streets were closed off around the building in the aftermath of the shooting and a few hundred metres away on the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir a police car’s windscreen was riddled with bullet holes.

In 2008, Charlie Hebdo was criticised for running Danish cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed. The magazine defended the publication in the name of freedom of expression.

More details soon …





















China’s Rise In Western Political Cartoons, Chinese Reactions


From Guancha:

China in Western Cartoons, As Bitter Witness to China’s Rise!

In the West, political cartoons are a type of news commentary, using exaggerated and humorous drawings to quickly and accurately convey the gist of a news story, allowing readers to understand hidden meanings, provide political criticism, get society to think, and thus influence public opinion. Political cartoons have a long tradition in mainstream Western media, the target of their portrayals and ridicule ranging from government heads of state to business leaders, covering everything from political incidents to urban legends, serving as an another window to the world.

Modern Chinese consider themselves to be the “descendant of the dragon”, with the dragon being a totem of Chinese belief, auspicious, full of vitality, representing good fortune and luck, with no lack of dragon symbols in every dynasty and age. In Western mainstream media political cartoons, the image/symbol of the “Chinese dragon” is no stranger, but they often misrepresent it as an evil symbol, reflecting the West’s deep anxieties and complicated feelings about a newly rising China. The dragon’s massive size and cruel characteristics are often used to suggest China’s increasing power and threat toward other countries.

Below, let’s look at the China in Western cartoons. Among them, apart from the “ferocious/frightening” dragons used to symbolize China, there are also pandas and other symbols. From these, readers may be able to see the West’s bitterness/resentment with China’s rise.


China sternly condemn Japan’s [revisionist] textbooks.


Americans can no longer stand China’s appetite.


The US dollar and the Euro are facing a crisis, China’s holding the life buoy deciding which one to toss it to.


China’s peaceful rise in the eyes of America, with the flashlight being the Pentagon.


This show the jealousy regarding the Euro fattening up China. Note the flower in the pot.


The meaning here is that China is looks weak, but the truth is behind it.


Everyone should know the meaning of this picture, right?


Whenever the two [American political] parties fight, they are liable to use the China card at any time.


America’s envy, jealousy and hate can all be seen on the money.


Giant panda crushes Uncle Sam underneath it.


Pay attention to the flag stands.


America’s worries over China’s anti-satellite experiment…just one breath and it’s gone…


G20 became G2…(I think this was drawn by Europeans).


Encircle China. The Japanese prime minister holds a sign calling for “allies”.


The donkey and the elephant are busy stacking bricks (trade barrier), both screaming that they have the higher one, but China is instead left outside (this should be calling for more trade protection to keep China down).


China reached space by selling shoes.


Uncle Sam taking away lots of products, while China takes away lots of American dollars.


Asian issues. While China is busy trying to put out the fire, America is running ahead with a gas pump.


For the vote on the Syrian crisis, who dares touch it with China and Russia in the way?


The G20 summit can’t move this US-China trade boat.


Majority leader Harry Reid is making a statement: the US Olympic team uniforms were made in China! They should throw it in a big pile and burn them! “American flag pin: made in China; Suit: made in China; shirt: made in China; glasses: made in China; necktie: made in China; cufflinks: made in China; microphone: made in China; podium: made in China.


Once again it US election time, and they all voice a hardline against China, but deep down they want to kiss up to China (who knows).




Making fun of China’s food safety problems (which we really need to take seriously).


Again the Syrian crisis, can’t get past China and Russia.


China is holding a book on Japanese aggression, Japan is holding a book on international law, while the other hand is reaching for the Diaoyu Islands.


This is clearly preaching about China’s rare earth metals monopoly.


So this is what the American dollar is like…(“Little Black” [referring to Obama] is very worried, while Uncle Sam is feeling helpless).


America: long live our partnership, hey! My coat…(this is attacking American policy towards China).


1945: Hiroshima, 2011: Fukushima


Race between China and America, the message here is good.


And old picture, of the Eight-Nation Alliance dividing China among themselves.


America using the US dollar to hold the world hostage, but the world’s pockets are empty (RMB issue).


China: Quick, eat, it really does taste good, trust me.


Old picture, of the Japanese invasion of China, with America hiding on the side to watch.


The Chinese leader holding an axe with the words “US debt” and making an inviting gesture. Obama: Oh, he wants to me bow my head.


Obama’s true face.


The dragon is holding a big stick.


The whole world belongs to China (our costs are high too).


Shall we say 1 billion? (blackhearted Europe would do anything for China’s money).


The dragon is very angry at America.


1. I’m outraged that our Olympic uniforms were made in China 2. I know! I’m going to buy new uniform made in the USA 3. Borrows some money from China to buy them.


To meet the needs of the director (America), China has to play both the role of the monster and the role of the world savior, really making it hard for China.

Dr. Seuss Draws Anti-Japanese Cartoons During WWII, Then Atones with Horton Hears a Who!

seuss japan 1

Before Theodor Seuss Geisel AKA Dr. Seuss convinced generations of children that a wocket might just be in their pocket, he was the chief editorial cartoonist for the New York newspaper PM from 1940 to 1948. During his tenure he cranked out some 400 cartoons that, among other things, praised FDR’s policies, chided isolationists like Charles Lindbergh and supported civil rights for blacks and Jews. He also staunchly supported America’s war effort.

To that end, Dr. Seuss drew many cartoons that, to today’s eyes, are breathtakingly racist. Check out the cartoon above. It shows an arrogant-looking Hitler next to a pig-nosed, slanted-eye caricature of a Japanese guy. The picture isn’t really a likeness of either of the men responsible for the Japanese war effort – Emperor Hirohito and General Tojo. Instead, it’s just an ugly representation of a people.

In the battle for homeland morale, American propaganda makers depicted Germany in a very different light than Japan. Germany was seen as a great nation gone mad. The Nazis might have been evil but there was still room for the “Good German.” Japan, on the other hand, was depicted entirely as a brutal monolith; Hirohito and the guy on the street were uniformly evil. Such thinking paved the way for the U.S. Air Force firebombing of Tokyo, where over 100,000 civilians died, and for its nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And it definitely laid the groundwork for one of the sorriest chapters of American 20th century history, the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese-Americans.

waiting for signals

Geisel himself was vocally anti-Japanese during the war and had no trouble with rounding up an entire population of U.S. citizens and putting them in camps.

But right now, when the Japs are planting their hatchets in our skulls, it seems like a hell of a time for us to smile and warble: “Brothers!” It is a rather flabby battle cry. If we want to win, we’ve got to kill Japs, whether it depresses John Haynes Holmes or not. We can get palsy-walsy afterward with those that are left.

Geisel was hardly alone in such beliefs but it’s still disconcerting to see ugly cartoons like these drawn in the same hand that did The Cat in the Hat.

jap alley

In 1953, Geisel visited Japan where he met and talked with its people and witnessed the horrific aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. He soon started to rethink his anti-Japanese vehemence. So he issued an apology in the only way that Dr. Seuss could.

He wrote a children’s book.

Horton Hears a Who!, published in 1954, is about an elephant that has to protect a speck of dust populated by little tiny people. The book’s hopeful, inclusive refrain – “A person is a person no matter how small” — is about as far away as you can get from his ignoble words about the Japanese a decade earlier. He even dedicated the book to “My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan.”

You can view an assortment of Dr. Seuss’s wartime drawings in general, and his cartoons of the Japanese in particular, at the Dr. Went to War Archive hosted by UCSD.

via Dartmouth

Uploaded on Apr 17, 2011

The cartoonist Patrick Chappatte travelled to Lebanon in February 2009, two and a half years after the war between Israel and Lebanon. In a cartoon documentary he describes how the population of the affected area lives with the constant threat of death or disfigurement through unexploded cluster munitions. Millions of these bomblets were scattered during the conflict and many failed to detonate. Thus, the 2006 war continues every time someone steps on an unexploded submunition.
This documentary was initially published in comic-strip form in the Swiss daily Le Temps.

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