Life Skills for Fanboys: Charlie Hebdo and the Other Stuff You Should Know
written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2015
To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics. Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help. Previous columns are indexed at the end.
As I mentioned in the Webcomic Factory blog, the massacre is a huge tragedy. One that needs to be avoided in the future. We all want that. Everyone everywhere wants to avoid needless bloodshed. But the key word in that phrase is “needless”. How you define it. For some, the bloodshed is unfortunate, but “needed” depending on their agenda.
But what concerns me more at this time and place is no longer the actual event. That’s over and there was nothing much most of us could do to stop it during these past few days. The gunmen are dead, their accomplice will no doubt be tracked down and now the mourning begins. It’s how we react to the events that concerns me.
In the days following September 11, 2001, people in the U.S. lost their minds. I remember getting a phone call from a friend when the first plane hit. (Naturally, I was asleep.) I rolled over and picked up the phone and my friend was in a panic. “Dude! A plane hit one of the Twin Towers! It’s on TV right now!” I mumbled something like, “Get the fuck out of here.” Not believing him, hung up the phone and went back to sleep.
By the time I woke up, the media was already creating sound bytes to explain it all. In the days that followed, you could see that George W. Bush was suddenly being elevated. Not for anything that he had actually done (I had remarked when he was running that he was a shifty eyed little criminal that would probably be the first president ever to do time.) but because he just happened to be sitting the Oval Office at the time of a tragedy. Overnight he went from being a one-term joke, to being lauded as a great man simply for being there. People suddenly trusted this buffoon and even the guys that would normally make fun of him backed off. Suddenly, it was all about supporting the president because, well, you gotta.
In the years that followed, I watched as people who I thought were intellectual, smart and thoughtful turn into braying, hyenas of vengeance. It seemed like over night Dennis Miller turned into a conservative loon. New Yorkers, whom I had always regarded as fairly smart, now had this emotional blind spot. It was at this New York Party I was verbally attacked. I thought New Yorkers would be antiwar liberals. They were liberals, but now they all had a justification to unleash Hell and fuck anyone that got in their way.
September 11th did so much damage to the psyche of America. It’s still damaging America. No one wants to talk about the 9/11 scams or the abandonment of the 9/11 rescue workers or just the endless fucking war that got started— (Well, really jump started) by this emotional and irrational reaction to a tragedy. How many soldiers signed up after 9/11 to get payback on Iraqis who had nothing to do with it and no WMD’s? How are all those people who blindly supported Bush even after it was painfully obvious he was a liar who was in over his head?
The New Crisis
This massacre is bad, horrific, horrible, terrible, tragic and on and on. But I’m not somehow condoning the actions of these maniacs by discussing the root causes for those actions. I’m antiwar, remember? But if you don’t look at history, you’re doomed to repeat it.
As Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com documents in his op-ed, the gunmen had training in Syria and at least one was appalled by U.S. torture at Guantanamo Bay. This will likely be ignored by the media in the coming days because it doesn’t exactly jibe with the idea that everyone who picks up a gun and shoots someone is pure evil and every victim that’s shot is nothing but goodness and light. It’s more complicated than that. It doesn’t mitigate the crimes to say that these gunmen were motivated by the hypocrisy of the U.S. because ultimately, this is the price of hypocrisy. This is karma. The French are our allies in the endless “War on Terror”. They helped us bomb Libya and they have their own version of Iraq called Mali. It doesn’t make the massacre of anyone right, but it puts into context why it happened. These two French Muslims didn’t roll out of bed one day and suddenly say, “Hey, let’s be evil!” They saw things, they were outraged and they reacted. Without the War on Terror, the bombings, the torture— What do they have to react to?
We gained nothing from the torture, the bombings and the War on Terror. Were in the negative financially, spiritually, emotionally—- By any measure, the wars are lost and the image of America and the situations we find ourselves in are much, much worse. So yeah, we could’ve done without all this bullshit and maybe these guys would still be a couple of struggling rap artists instead of mass murderers.
How we react to this new crisis is vital. Cartoonists all over the world are now just like the citizens of New York after September 11th. Some of (as Joe Sacco said in this cartoon) our tribe has been killed. Now it’s time to unleash the beast! Suddenly, I find Muhammed pics all over Reddit along with Charlie Hebdo tributes. Were these brave cartoonist willing to wade into the fray when one of Charlie Hebdo’s creators was put on trial for anti-Semitism in France?
No, mostly because many of my fellow comics creators spend their days recycling superhero stories, talking about superhero movies or generally wasting everyone’s time on completely derivative and unimportant work. You know who you are people. I almost dread doing comic-related podcasts these days because invariably my uninformed interviewer will ask me more questions about the latest superhero movie than anything relevant in the world of comics or the comics medium or my work. Now, for once, they might stop talking about the latest fucking Batman/Superman movie for a second. Unfortunately, I think most will be so far out of their depth on the subject, they’re likely just to repeat whatever they heard on the news, just like a lot of people did after September 11th without critically thinking about it.
And that’s the way a lot of the cartoon tributes feel too. Look, I’m not saying they should happen, but there’s a fine line between tribute, exploitation and bandwagon jumping. As I said in my Webcomic Factory blogpost, I was thinking about a Muhammed comic for the Antiwar Comic during the South Park controversy. Ultimately, I decided I had more to say on other topics. While Islam is a factor in the current state of war we live in, it’s not the factor as Juan Cole writes.
The Bottom Line
As David Brooks (a guy I normally disagree with quite vigorously) writes, I Am Not Charlie Hebdo. I’m a clown that writes the dick jokes here and occasionally writes though provoking stuff between the lines here or more blatantly on The Webcomic Factory. My fellow comic creators are miles away from me in terms of being informed about world politics, with some exceptions. So just like the ignorant reaction of most Americans when the towers fell, I see the same pattern in my fellow creators’ reactions.
“Hey let’s post a Muhammed cartoon!”
“He let’s post a sad group of superheroes around a copy of Charlie Hebdo.”
“How about a bullet ridden, bleeding copy of the magazine?”
That’s fine. Expected. But will they bother to learn anything beyond the good vs. evil sound byte television media will spoon feed them? It remains to be seen. Will they dig deeper? Think more? Maybe stop talking about superheroes for ten fucking seconds? Doubtful. The news cycle will shift, the next tragedy will be upon us and this crisis will fall back into the review mirror just like the Boston Marathon Bombing or anything else.
Lesson not learned. Nothing read. The only thing left behind will be the cartoons and the license to bash Muhammed, I guess. And when it comes time to talk about the “boring” policy concerns of endlessly bombing other countries, sanctioning their governments and generally just bullying the entire world— Where will you be, fellow comic creators? Will you still be inspired by the folks at Charlie Hebdo and looking to stir the pot? Or will most of this trouble be forgotten and you’ll be back to reading Deadpool and falling into the Left/Right tribalism that seems to consume people in November.
I implore you fanboys and fellow creators alike— Stop reacting. Think. Read. Know things. Read something important and create something important. Take risks. Defy authority and question it voraciously in your life and in your work.
It’s what the folks at Charlie Hebdo did and that would be a real tribute.
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The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics? Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword
Beware the Geek Scams
In Response to Chuck Dixon, Paul Rivoche and Janelle Asselin
Dealing with Critics and Haters in the Internet Age
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Geek Feminists and DC’s T-Shirts