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“Children Are Off Limits”: If Ted Cruz Is Going To Use His Daughters As Props, He Should Be Mocked For It

Ted Cruz, a leading presidential candidate, released a new Christmas-themed ad — a lighthearted riff on familiar themes, in which he tweaked words from a well-known holiday story to fit his campaign platform. He appeared as himself, alongside his wife and his two young daughters, who dutifully recited lines that had been scripted to further their father’s agenda.

What’s a satirist to do?

Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Ann Telnaes decided not to focus on the candidate’s message, but the manner in which it was pitched — namely, the fact that Cruz used his children as mouthpieces for his campaign.

There wasn’t any mistaking her intent, either. The headline for the cartoon, which featured Cruz’s daughters as monkeys on a leash being controlled by a Santa-clad Cruz turning an organ grinder, laid it out: “Ted Cruz Uses His Kids As Political Props.” And she explained her feelings further, in a tweet:

Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad- don’t start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well. https://t.co/7hafBacOiK

— Ann Telnaes (@AnnTelnaes) December 22, 2015

She also made her case in a note that ran alongside the cartoon in the Washington Post:

“[T]here is an unspoken rule in editorial cartooning that a politician’s children are off-limits. … But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game.”

Yet the cartoon was pulled.

The editor who pulled it, Fred Hiatt, said he didn’t agree with Telnaes and hadn’t viewed the cartoon before it was posted. Hiatt echoed Telnaes’s original disclaimer, saying in the editor’s note that has supplanted the cartoon on the Post’s site: “It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it.” However, he said that he did not agree with her that an exception to that practice was warranted in the case of Cruz and his daughters.

Jeff Danziger, a political cartoonist and acquaintance of Telnaes, sided with her. “I think she’s right,” Danziger said in an email. “If [Cruz] uses his daughters to get votes, he’s the one putting them on the stage.” (Danziger’s work appears in The National Memo.)

So assuming Cruz’s actions were deserving of editorial comment in cartoon form, would there have been a more appropriate way to go about it? Perhaps the problem was a lack of context. Readers didn’t necessarily need to be familiar with the ad that Telnaes was referencing, which had been released three days earlier, on Dec. 19, although of course that would have helped.

It’s possible there was a broader satirical target than simply Cruz and his daughters. After all, candidates’ family members have often appeared in campaign materials: Whether it’s pictures of Hillary Clinton holding her infant granddaughter, Charlotte, or the McCain, Palin, and Romney progenitors gamely posing for group photos, children and families humanize the candidates and drive home campaign messages by putting a memorable face on abstract talking points about “safety,” “family,” and “the future.”

But the degree to which Cruz has been using his children – and his dad, and his mom, and his aunt – is worth noting. Buzzfeed recently unearthed footage posted by Cruz’s campaign for Senate that was culled from 16-hour videos of him interacting with his family, but it’s clear from the videos that these aren’t surreptitiously filmed get-togethers or spontaneous hangouts. They play eerily as though Cruz had sat down with his mom and dad, prompting them to sing the praises of their wonderfully competent son.

Does anyone really think Telnaes was attacking Cruz’s children, rather than Cruz himself?

The cartoon’s depiction of the girls as monkeys was clearly an attempt to draw them in a stock role as a beggar’s pawns; it seems highly disingenuous to advance the argument that Telnaes was in any way criticizing the girls’ looks or character, which would, of course, be an ugly and reprehensible thing to do.

Telnaes criticized their father for using them in such a grossly crass way, trying to score political points by playing cute. And now, ironically — since the cartoon caricatured Cruz as a panhandler — by pulling the ad, the Washington Post has given the Texas senator a whole new excuse to ask for more money and more ammunition to use in his screeds about how the “mainstream,” “liberal” media treats him unfairly. Cruz is still grinding that organ, and getting his daughters to dance.

 

By: Stephanie Schwartz, The National Memo, December 23, 2015

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Children, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why We Fight”: The Right And Wrong Reasons For Outrage

That was an incredibly moving scene in Paris yesterday, the largest civilian mobilization in French history, which is quite a history. We must hope that the humanist (an important word to which we’ll return) solidarity on display there can be sustained. To see so many people from so many religions and non-religions and so many different countries all saying the same thing is an all-too-rare sight in this petulant world.

But a little part of me wondered from time to time if we all really are saying the same thing. Let us suppose that Charlie Hebdo had published a cover showing Jesus and Mary Magdalene and a couple of the disciples besides absorbed in a sexually adventuresome tangle, and a couple of deranged militant Christians had gone in there and mowed the staff down. Or let’s imagine it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob similarly depicted, or Moses, and a couple of Jewish religious fundamentalists had committed the slaughter. How would, and should, our reactions be the same, and how would and should they be different?

This is where certain lines and distinctions can be drawn. Everyone left to right would criticize mass murder. We’re all against that. The Christian and Jewish identity organizations would all denounce them. Abe Foxman would put out a reassuring statement. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League…well, actually, based on his dubious response to this tragedy, it would be a little harder to predict how much sleep Donohue might lose over the murder of Christian blasphemers.

But by and large, that’s the easy part. Now come the harder parts. Would we be chanting Je Suis Charlie in ideological unison the way we are now? I think we most certainly would not be. Would conservative Catholics, even those not out there on Donohue’s unique wavelength, link arms with liberals and secularists to defend the right of a blasphemer of Jesus? Would Benjamin Netanyahu, in my Jewish hypothetical, have made a special pilgrimage to Paris to express his solidarity with the dead who had so defamed his faith? I think never in a million years (and by the way, remember that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas did do precisely this by attending Sunday’s March).

I think it’s pretty obvious they would not be nearly so enthusiastic about the sanctity of Charlie Hebdo’s rights to make satire in these cases. I, for my own part, would be, as would (I think) most of my friends. Then there’s a contingent to my left (yes, conservative readers, there is a contingent to my left, and they’d be delighted to fill you in on my numerous apostasies and on mainstream liberalism’s pusillanimity more generally) that would respond to the inevitable “they got what was coming to them” nudge-and-wink rhetoric from conservatives by opposing all that even more vociferously.

Each of these three tendencies is distinct, and each is protesting in this case against, or in behalf of, somewhat different things. All oppose murder and support free speech in vague terms, but after that they diverge. The theological-conservative tendency says Je Suis Charlie chiefly out of its revulsion at Islam and fear about its power—fear that it can strike us anywhere anytime. For them, a slaughter by an extremist Christian or Jew would not be qualitatively even the same kind of crime, because this crime to them is absolutely emblematic of a religion whose inherent qualities provoke this fanaticism, and which terrifies them.

On the…I’m grasping for an adjective here; multicultural is too tread-worn. So let’s just say on the left, there is condemnation of the killings, of course, and defense of Hebdo’s rights. But the greater preoccupation on the left is to preempt and counter the theo-conservatives and to search high and low for evidence of racism on the part of others—including Charlie Hebdo itself, for some of the cartoons that we know about, the one about the Nigerian girls most notably, but even some of the anti-Islam ones. Fear of power comes into play on the left also, but in a very different way than on the right. People on the left, who will tend to see Muslims as victims of Western power objectives and think Christians and Jews have plenty enough power to fend for themselves, will be more likely to see Muslims in general (though not mass murderers) as victims.

Both of these positions are relativist in almost exactly the same way. They’re mirror images of each other of course, but for both, how to respond to this atrocity is chiefly about which set of actors threatens their world view—Muslims (for the right) or the mostly Christian and somewhat Jewish capitalist power structure (for the left).

But the response should be about humanist values and nothing else. This isn’t about power relationships or who’s offended and who’s not. It’s certainly not about racism, either Charlie Hebdo’s or the right’s, and it isn’t even about free speech per se. It’s about the specific right to commit blasphemy, especially through satire, an activity that, as Jeffrey Goldberg noted a few days ago, is “directly responsible for modernity.” Obviously it’s not the only precondition of modernity, but it’s up there.

The Christian and Judaic systems do have more modernity than Islam has right now, there’s no doubt about that. This is the smidgen of a point the right has, although 1) I hate to cede that point to “the right,” because it is a fundamentally liberal point that liberals should be willing to make, i.e. that the Muslim world needs more liberalism, and 2) the right embeds it in so much paranoid and bilious upholstery that it gets buried and alienates many who might otherwise agree. But I do wonder what would happen to an American publication that published a blasphemous drawing of Jesus and friends of the sort I described above.

The editors probably wouldn’t end up dead. But note that I feel comfortable only saying “probably,” not “definitely.” Without question they’d get death threats, hundreds or thousands of them, and they’d need police protection, and they’d lose advertisers and sponsors and maybe be forced out of business and not be able to find decent new jobs. None of those things is painful death, so that’s a difference and an important one. But it’s not as clean a distinction as merely defending the right to commit religious offense, period. That’s what modernity is, and we could use a little more of it ourselves.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 12, 2015

January 13, 2015 Posted by | Charlie Hebdo, Paris Shootings, Religion | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Paris Terror: What ‘Je Suis Charlie’ Should Mean To Us”: Restoring And Preserving Everything Decent That Distinguishes Us From Our Enemies

Not long after 9/11, leading figures in France’s champagne industry decided that they would hold their 2002 annual awards gala in New York City rather than Paris. At no little expense, they displayed solidarity with New Yorkers, and America, at a time of sorrow and fury – like so many of their compatriots. The first toast of the evening included the words, “We are all New Yorkers.” It was one more instance, symbolic but significant, when the French renewed the bond that has existed since this country’s founding.

And not too long after that, disagreement between the French government and the Bush administration over the invasion of Iraq led to a breach between us and our oldest allies. They tried in vain to save us from a tragic mistake or worse, and were rewarded with vilification from Fox News to the floor of Congress.

By now, of course, we know that the French never disagreed with us about the danger posed by Islamist jihad, only about the means and priorities in combating that adversary. Today the French military is supporting the U.S. and other allies by conducting airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq. That continuing alliance requires us all to repeat “Je Suis Charlie” in the aftermath of the atrocious terror attack on the Parisian satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.  Yet while we owe that gesture to our old friends, we still owe them, ourselves, and the world much more.

As an assault on liberty and security, the barbaric shootings that killed the editor of Charlie Hebdo, four cartoonists, a police officer and six more innocents cannot be excused or explained. The victims had every right to do what they were doing and what they had done, regardless of the violent anger they stirred among the perpetrators and their sponsors. It is criminal warfare by an implacable enemy that will not desist until it is destroyed.

To understand what is at stake in this struggle, it is important to look closely what we are defending. There is no equivalent to Charlie Hebdo in the United States, nor is there a tradition of the kind of anti-religious satire that has been among its specialties. Those killed had the kind of cultural stature of Doctor Seuss, Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau, the editors of Mad magazine or the producers of The Daily Show – except that their style is far more offensive and challenging than most Americans can imagine, not only in insulting Islam but Christianity, Judaism, and every other congregation of believers in France.

Rightists who regard the defense of Charlie Hebdo as merely another opportunity to bash Muslims ought to glance back at the magazine’s equally savage assaults on institutions they hold dear, since its anarchic sense of humor has spared no one. Nobody needs to approve of anything that the editors published, including the mocking cartoons of Muhammad, to reject the use of violence to suppress them.

Indeed, it is possible to reject the content of those drawings and still stand firmly with the Charlie Hebdo staff. In free societies, there will always be writers and artists who use their freedom in ways that the rest of us find obnoxious, ugly, even dangerous. The French imam who denounced the killings clearly and called the victims “martyrs” surely doesn’t care for those cartoons. But he knows the price of living under constitutional freedom that protects his right to worship – and to protest, without violence, words and pictures that offend.

If only the would-be persecutors of Islam in the West adequately comprehended that same principle. And if only they realized that such persecution is exactly what the jihadists desire.

Effective opposition to violent Islamism means neither denying that this grave challenge exists nor demonizing Muslims. It means seeking to make ordinary Muslims, by far the most common victims of Islamist terror, our allies as well. And in the aftermath of the Iraq war, the Senate torture report, and every other mistake and crime since 9/11, supposedly committed to defend liberty, it means restoring and preserving everything decent that distinguishes us from our enemies.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, January 9, 2014

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Charlie Hebdo, France, Freedom | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“#JeSuisCharlie”: I’d Rather Die Standing Than Live On My Knees

This terrible thing happened.

Three hooded men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles seized a magazine newsroom in Paris and murdered many of the journalists meeting there. At least 12 people are dead; at least 11 others are injured. A detail I can’t shake: One of the gunmen reportedly began the massacre by calling out the journalists by name.

As I write, we already know that four cartoonists for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are among the dead: Editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb; Jean Cabut, known as Cabu; Bernard Verlhac, known as Tignous; and Georges Wolinski.

Charlie Hebdo has made fun of many religious leaders, but it is best-known for having offended fundamentalist Muslims. And even many non-Muslims object to them as racist in their depictions. In 2011, the newsroom was firebombed for its satire on Islam and cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad.

As various news organizations have reported, Charbonnier had been under police protection since the firebombing, but he made clear that he would not be intimidated by threats of violence.

“It may sound pompous,” Charbonnier told the French daily newspaper Le Monde in 2012, “but I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

Eyewitness videos show that after Charbonnier and at least 11 others, including two police officers, were murdered, the killers shouted in the street before fleeing.

“God is great,” they yelled. “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo.”

We journalists are frequently criticized for inflating coverage when one of our own is killed. This week has been no exception. Within hours of the Paris massacre, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were peppered with posts from those demanding to know why we weren’t pursuing with equal vigor the story of a homemade explosive that blew up Tuesday outside an NAACP chapter in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Their outrage is understandable, but I would argue that so is our focus in the immediate aftermath of the Paris massacre. The Colorado Springs explosion reportedly did minor damage to the NAACP office and a barbershop in the building, but no one was injured or killed. The FBI is investigating.

I am writing this before we know the identities of all the victims in the Charlie Hebdo massacre. So much sad news to come. There will be official investigations, but we already know the killers’ dark hearts because of what they screamed — behind the anonymity of hoods, we should always emphasize.

We mourn our colleagues who die in war zones, but this one feels different because of where they were killed. They had simply shown up for work. If you’re a journalist, it’s too easy to imagine this happening again, to journalists somewhere else. To journalists anywhere else.

I understand that not everyone in the general public cares about the safety of journalists. I do ask that you try to understand why many people do. We are, after all, fellow humans.

Of course, we are seeing the inevitable criticism that Charlie Hebdo should have just stopped its habit of inciting. A desire to label satire as needless provocation illustrates its need. Extremists have always relied on fear to cripple their opposition.

Salman Rushdie spent years in hiding after Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for his assassination because of his novel The Satanic Verses. On Wednesday, his support for the slain journalists and the magazine was unequivocal.

I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the Union of French Mosques, was also steadfast: “We condemn … this hateful, criminal act. … While the terrorists are intensifying their acts to exacerbate the confrontation inside our country, both Muslim and Christians have to intensify their actions to give more strength to this dialogue, to make a united front against extremism.”

By Wednesday afternoon, cartoonists from around the world had produced tributes to Charlie Hebdo and the journalists who were murdered.

Some news organizations blurred images of the magazine’s controversial illustrations in their coverage, but many others posted galleries of them. The entire newsroom of Agence France-Presse posed for a picture holding white-on-black signs, which read, “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie.” The hashtag “JeSuisCharlie” generated a Twitter thread as inspiring as it was informing.

On Wednesday evening, crowds gathered throughout France, including at Place de la Republique in Paris. Many raised pens in tribute to the slain cartoonists.

By the tens of thousands, they showed up, their faces visible to the world. Many of them chanted, “We are not afraid” and “We are all Charlie.”

This terrible thing happened.

Hope survived.

 

By: Connie Schultz-An Award Winning Columnist and  Essayist for Parade Magazine: The National Memo, January 8, 2014

January 9, 2015 Posted by | Free Speech, Journalists, Paris Shootings | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Will We Walk The Satirical Walk?”: Now Is The Time To Stop And Think About What Satire Really Means

“Satire is what closes on Saturday,” satirist George S. Kaufman wrote, satirically. It is worth unpacking what this quote really means. Ostensibly, it means that when you choose the rapier of satire rather than the comforting swaddle of mass entertainment, you are limiting your audience in a self-sabotaging matter: While you’re busy finding yourself clever, the crowd has moved on to giggle along with cute kittens singing catchy songs. Satire is satisfying, but generally speaking, the only people listening are the person doing the satirizing and those who already care enough to agree with him. Most people ignore him, or, if they do anything at all, call him a jerk.

In the wake of today’s tragic terrorist attack in Paris, which killed 12 people including top cartoonists at satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the word “satire” has taken on its own power, its very existence a rejoinder to hatred, a founding pillar of Our Way Of Life. It is being cast as noble. But this is not how we usually see satire. Satire is usually a pain in the ass. Satire exists to discomfit the comfortable, to slaughter sacred cows, to puncture the illusion that we all live in a “polite” society. Satire is crude, and rowdy, and often self-aggrandizing: Satire is meant to call attention to itself in any way possible. Charlie Hebdo was particularly skilled at this: One cover, actually supporting the French law banning Muslim women from wearing burqas, featured a woman wearing a burqa … somewhere other than her head. Good satire is a little gross and cares not of taste. You want people to think … and you’re not against using a good dick joke to do it. Satire attempts, by its very nature, to shake people to alert.

But, mostly, people don’t like to be shaken to alert. They just want to go along with their day. They care a lot less about freedom of expression than they do freedom to go about their lives in peace. You’ve seen a lot of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo today, a strong defense of satire as a way of life. But it is worth noting that most publications aren’t showing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. And it is also worth noting that Americans—the people supposedly so proud of their freedom of expression—haven’t always been on the side of the angels here. South Park’s attempts to show a cartoon of Muhammad were famously censored by Comedy Central—in an episode that explicitly stated that the lesson everybody learned was “the best way to get what you want is to threaten other people with violence”—and the Metropolitan Museum of Art quietly removed all images of Muhammad from its halls five years ago. Even when Charlie Hebdo was firebombed four years ago, Time Paris bureau chief Bruce Crumley wrote that it was “hard to have much sympathy” for the magazine and that “insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile.”

Charlie Hebdo would respond, “of course it is.” If you’re not being obnoxious or offensive, what are you even doing? One image shared in the wake of the attack today was an old cartoon from The Onion that showed, ahem, “an image of the Hebrew prophet Moses high-fiving Jesus Christ as both are having their erect penises vigorously masturbated by Ganesha, all while the Hindu deity anally penetrates Buddha with his fist.” (It’s quite the image!) The joke here, of course, is that those religions don’t attack those who show their gods in cartoon form … but that is also what makes the joke, and the image, ultimately sort of toothless. (While certainly inventive.) After all: You didn’t, actually, see Muhammad in that Onion picture. Obviously not. Who wants that heat?

But: If no one is offended, then what is the point? It’s all self-congratulatory faux enlightenment with no conviction behind it. It’s a back pat for “getting it,” without actually risking anything. The offense is the point. The offense is the defense of the way of life. Charlie Hebdo fought for—and its cartoonists and writers and editors and police protectors ultimately died for—the right to piss people off without regard of taste or civilized society or what you or anyone else thought of them. We all stand with them today. But will we stand with them tomorrow? Did Sony Pictures and those theater chains stand with them two weeks ago? Does Comedy Central, and the Met, stand with them now? We live in an open society—free, among other things, to be timid. It is encouraging to see the world embracing Charlie Hebdo’s principles of satire and aggressive engagement with extremists today. But I can’t help but fear this show’s gonna close by Saturday.

 

By: Will Leitch, Bloomberg Politics, January 7, 2014

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Free Speech, Freedom of Expression | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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