Sunday, 18 January 2015 20:26 GFP Columnist - Trevor Hill
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As the publisher of the GFP, I suppose I should say a little bit about the Free Expression Awareness Campaign that’s currently underway in Paris, France, courtesy of the controversial publication Charlie Hebdo, and offer my rendition on this complex issue.
 
It was without a doubt, a most un-cool thing for the Charlie Hebdo people to be killed while drawing crappy cartoons.   And by crappy cartoons I’m mean crappy cartoons that I can’t be bothered to look at (except for the cover of the “Je suis Charlie” Issue, which is on the GFP Facebook Page because the GFP supports Reporters Without Borders and they put the cover on their Facebook Page and I shared it yadda yadda).
 
There are a lot of “things” I don’t look at.
 
Anyway, it’s very simple - “If you don’t like what you’re watching – change the channel!”  That’s right, if you don’t like what they publish, print, video, text, or whatever, you have an option to NOT look at it. 
  

I guess some Muslims don’t get this part.  Ignoring something isn’t in their DNA, or genes, or blood… or minds.
   

Free Expression, Free Speech and Free Press - the part that’s ‘Free’ is a misnomer, a fabrication of our faith in each other to have the ‘freedom’ to show, say and/or write down our thoughts without getting beat up over of it. 
  

When did we humans ever think it was ‘free’?  The events in France, as with a thousand others, weren’t ‘free’.  Others have paid a price.   Our “freedom” (whatever we may think that is) is based on the victories and deaths of others who have come before us.  We revel in the false belief that we of democratic means can spew out our rhetoric, our satire, without just cause, and without fear of retribution or retaliation. 
 
There will always be ‘retribution’, no matter how many of us stand in the driving rain, snow or sleet, chanting “Je suis Charlie”
 
“Free Will”.  Now… that is ‘free’ and it’s what gets us in the most trouble.
 
Considering the current religious situation in France which includes a strong Muslim population, Charlie Hebdo took it upon themselves to go after Muslims with clear provocation whether the Muslims liked it or not.  They didn’t.  They weren’t amused.  Just like any group of people who’s taking it on the chin over their ideology.  You’re just not supposed to shoot people over it.
 
Just because the staff of Charlie Hebdo thought it was cool doesn’t mean the rest of France (or the world) would.  And then ‘Free Will’ took over and a couple of people who didn’t like Charlie Hebdo – came a callin’.  It wasn’t good.
 
God, Jesus, Buddha, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster have been lampooned since we knew what ‘lampoon’ meant.  It pisses off large groups of humans and bad things happen sometimes because of it.
 
It’s absurd that we should believe that all seven billion of us should understand each others ‘satire’ – it ain’t gonna happen. 
 
Without any kind of ‘expression’ we would explode.  Imagine those people in countries where free speech is not allowed.  Where free expression is repressed and free press is state run and not “free” at all.  How frustrating it must be, to not be able do what I do now.  Write whatever I want.
 
We need our expression in order to talk about all the things that bug us, or intrigue us.  Without it, we would never know what the ‘bad guys’ are thinking because they’re stupid and can’t keep shit to themselves.
 
The human spirit, which cannot be held back or caged, needs to say what is happening to itself, its family, its town, its country and its world.
 
Sure, we can all dig down deep into that nasty part of our ‘humanity’ and drag up the most despicable thoughts we can have and then put them on paper.
 
Are we going to offend someone? 
 
Oh hell yeah.  Because of our sensitive, honourable, traditional, highly-agitated human intellect and emotions.
 
For example… if I draw a ‘satirical’ cartoon depicting a whiney Netanyahu complaining about ‘how the Jewish people were victimized during the Holocaust’, and in the next frame, a non-descript figure says, “Stop it, you’re not the only ones who’ve been persecuted on this planet, but you’re the only ones who keep complaining about it!”  The end.
 
As you can see, this ‘cartoon’ will probably piss some people off.  Others would agree with it.  Others would laugh.  Others would label it anti-Semitic.  But what we have here is the formulation for a discussion.  Or hell.  Whichever comes first.
 
Should I be shot?  Probably not, but who the hell knows.  (And by the way, I’m not picking on the Jewish community, I trust everyone understands this.  On the other hand, it says something when I have to put this statement into this article – HA!)
 
The GFP could post a variety of detrimental material, but it serves no purpose other than showing us people who have opened their mouths without putting their brains in gear, which is fine on its own, but who cares about the nut-bars?
 
This is not to say that the GFP is without any controversial articles or editorial cartoons.  On the contrary, there is material on the GFP that some would find questionable but it is presented within boundaries that make it debatable and not subjected to attack.  We are the mature version of a free press where in the future everyone regardless of who the hell they are, can put their material without reprisal; where people’s material is presented with editorial conscience and not irresponsible sensationalism.
 
Basic Publishing Facts
1. There are a lot of “Charlie Hebdo” type magazines.
2. Not all publications need to be a “Charlie Hebdo”.
 
It is easy to insult, to offend, and to point out our inherent differences with malice and without forethought.
 
It is harder to use our thought processes to come up with a viable idea, plan or solution.
 
Let’s face the music about Charlie Hebdo:  they let it all hang-out with nary a thought about who was going to get pissed off.  Their homophobic, sexist and xenophobic “cartoons” were enough to enrage not only Muslims but others as well. 
 
The publication ‘Charlie Hebdo’ stretches the line between “free” expression and the reality of the emotions of the essential human being and they risk their lives doing it because they believe in their version of free speech.
 
Free speech comes with a grain of responsibility because the spectrum of people on this planet is many and diverse; without rules, we have mayhem.  Without journalistic protocols, we have editorial chaos.
 
Freedom of Expression is not the freedom to hate, the freedom to incite, or the freedom to bully.  Yet others believe that it is.  It is however, the right to use our brains and show each other something we haven’t seen before; something that we can share; something to debate, discuss and to disagree; or something to support. 
 
It is the exploitation of our emotions by others who are intending to coerce us into beliefs we may not really agree with by using art or words.  People may say that’s what Charlie Hebdo did, but I contest that the terrorists are doing that as well as they push their ideals onto the rest of the world.
 
The jihadists and terrorists are certainly exercising their ‘right to free expression’.  It doesn’t really get more “expressive” than blowing yourself up or starting a shooting spree with a death wish in mind - over a belief.  And yet… the terrorists are hypocrites as they denounce free expression at the same time. Confusing isn’t it?
 
Do I think cartoonists should draw whatever they want?  Sure, they can draw offensive cartoons until the cows come home and their fingers fall off for all I care.
 
Am I going to publish them on the GFP?  Only if they are a good fit for the GFP format, if they’re good enough and if they make sense; or if they’re absolutely roll-on-floor funny, which they rarely are.
 
But here’s the thing, drawing offensive cartoons is like taking a gun and firing it off in different directions – eventually someone is going to shoot back.
 
If our intention on the planet is to just piss each other off like we did 300,000 years ago then so be it – let’s call it a day for we have learned nothing at all.
 
The cartoonist had the right to draw their thoughts, the editor had the right send it back, improve it or accept it, and the publisher had the right to stop it or print it.  The publisher always has the final word.
 
Don’t blame the cartoonist.


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Comments  

 
0 #2 Trevor 2015-01-21 17:15
:-) Hi George! I can certainly appreciate the fact that not all Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are completely detrimental, and I doff my chapeau to them for their incredible sized brass balls in pushing their thoughts onto unsuspecting Parisians and defending the Danish toon.

Your cartoons are a perfect example of ‘responsible offensiveness’ (if that’s such a thing); your renditions include footnotes for those who don’t know the whole picture. Without those footnotes, some people may be offended by the nature of the toons themselves.

As far as the ‘final word going to the reader’, yes - they have the final-final say on whether or not whatever they read, or look at, is crap or not!

But without the publisher’s final ‘Okalie Dokalie’, the public might not ever see the material. (In the old days the public would have never seen some of the submitted material sent to a newspaper. You’d have to stand on a street corner with your leaflets and pass them out for the public to see your stuff. Good times.)

But this whole “free ‘expression” topic is touchy to say the least, and I know it’s a multi-faceted issue and will be debated on what’s acceptable and what’s not long after I’m gone!

Thanks for your input!
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0 #1 G. Tod Slone 2015-01-19 19:15
Interesting thoughts, Trevor ! As mentioned, I used to check out Charlie Hebdo when I was living in France. I do agree with you that most of the cartoons were puerile, but not all of them... at least not in the 1980s. Also, when most of the world press was cowering and refused to publish the Danish cartoons in 2005, even though said cartoons provoked riots and deaths and were clearly part of that news story, facts of that story, Charlie Hebdo stood up and published them. For that, I say bravo to CH!

As for cartooning, I never seek to simply ridicule in my cartoons, but rather to expose hypocrisy, faulty arguments, etc. And you are right, few cartoons (certainly not mine!) get people rolling on the ground with laughter.

Offensive for the sake of offensive is without doubt not my purpose as a cartoonist.

Actually, I disagree with you on the publisher having the final word. The readers tend to have the final word… :)
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