Painters (Rauschenberg), musicians (Shostakovich), to most currently the cartoonists at Charlie Hedbo have been known to push the boundaries when it comes to their art. The successful artists make statements that are just the right mix of covert and overt messaging. There is enough ambiguity that the general populace can entirely miss the main thesis, and it keeps them guessing as to whether there is more to it than what's initially seen and heard.
In the case of Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, his work was banned on the accusation - not proof that his composition was anti-Stalinist (ref Wikepedia: Shostakovitch).
“McCarthyism is the term applied to the attempts in the late 1940s and early 1950s to expunge Communists and fellow travelers (often identified as homosexual) from American public life…For gay men and lesbians, the period was one of police harassment, witch hunts, suspicions of disloyalty, and dismissals from jobs…”
Rauschenberg and Shostakovich, unlike the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, never admitted to what their work was all about beyond the surface. Fear probably played a factor. The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were a different breed. They faced their fears and aggressively attacked the issues head-on with their cartoons. As noted in the article French cartoonists killed in Paris took a profane aim at the world, the magazine’s editor Stephane Charbonnier defiantly stated “but I'd rather die standing than live on my knees."
It is great that artists are brave enough to challenge the status quo, push for positive change, and want to make the world a better place. However, the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo knowingly and consciously incited the anger of Muslim extremists. They knew that they were putting their lives in danger. There are magazines like The New Yorker that prove that satire and humor don’t have to be in-your face and insulting to make a point.
It’s unfortunate the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo crossed the boundary of no return. Clearly they didn’t understand that not everyone saw their humor as they did, and that they were segregating the Muslims - both moderates and extremists. Satirical artists must know the limitations of the world around them. Otherwise, they risk crossing the fine line between satire and hate. To quote Clint Eastwood, “a man’s gotta know his limitations (movie clip).”
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