I’m likely one of the few Americans not of French origin who had ever heard of Charlie Hebdo much less read it before the Paris massacre.
Not some sort of humblebrag, but context. I read French periodicals and though I don’t speak French well at all – about like a four-year-old — I understand it spoken fairly well and read it just fine.
That said, most Americans – and especially Tumblr – writing about the magazine really just have no fucking clue.
They don’t understand French culture, they don’t understand satire and have no idea of the context of the debate or even really any knowledge of history.
That’s what’s tricky about two-layer satire like Charlie Hebdo’s: the joke only works if you see both layers, which often requires conversant knowledge of French politics or culture. If you don’t see that layer, then the covers can seem to say something very different and very racist.
Yeah – after the massacre, I saw consistent and pervasive interpretations of the cartoons as being racist when all the ones I saw cited where specifically and (to me) obviously making fun of racism and racists.
That’s what context and actually knowing something about French culture can do for you.
I’m amazed at how many people are willing to spout off at the mouth or at the keyboard in reference to things about which they have absolutely no clue at all.