Sunday, January 25, 2015


A comment I left in a long, long facebook discussion thread about "Je suis Charlie":

If the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoon is for an audience of non-Muslims, then what's the point? It's highly likely that everyone is already in agreement with the artist that it's just fine and dandy to make a Mohammed cartoon. So it's just one big circle jerk of agreement and masturbatory love for free speech.

Well, okay. Art can be anything. But such art strikes me as nothing more than self-congratulatory jingoism, and, worse, it also ridicules a dispossessed minority, for reasons unknown. So under these circumstances, assuming your audience is already in agreement with you about Mohammed, and where offending millions of Muslims is just sort of a byproduct, either intentionally or not, I assert that this is bad and somewhat pointless art. It's certainly not well thought out.

Now assume that Muslims are your audience. Again, what's the point? Are you trying to convince them that it's actually a good thing to depict Mohammed as a cartoon? Well, offending them is, at least, counterproductive. That is, you stand no chance at all of convincing Muslims that visually portraying their prophet is a good idea when they're all pissed off at you. So, like the circumstances I described above, this is bad and pointless art, in that it can't possibly accomplish what it's presumed to be trying to accomplish.

Either way, with a sympathetic audience or a hostile audience, the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons are just senseless. And that's why I call them what they are: bullying, a hypermasculine pissing match about what ought to offend people. And I think that also makes it bad art.

This is criticism, not censorship. I'm not saying they can't do it because it's offensive; I'm saying they shouldn't do it because it's badly planned, badly executed, confused, and intellectually dishonest art. If you don't really need to offend millions of people to get your message across, but do so anyway, or if doing so destroys your message, or it's a message that doesn't really need to be gotten across, all these things make for bad art.

And this particular art, the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons, does nothing but make the world a worse place. And I think that makes for bad art, too.