Friday, December 26, 2014
It's Hard Being Loved...Charlie Hebdo Doc Laughing Outside Of History
Just re-released in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, is Daniel Leconte's It's Hard Being Loved by Jerks (C'est Dur D'être Aimé Par Des Cons). The 2008 documentary follows the ultimately triumphant trial of that French satirical newspaper, charged by the World Muslim League and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France with defamation.
But just how triumphant the publication turned out to be, is laced with eerie irony in post mortem retrospect, as the grinning faces of the cartoonist victors who brag on camera, are counted among the recently assassinated. But not exactly unaware of that possibility, amid multiple threats half a dozen years ago. And when challenged on camera if mockery of an immigrant culture was worth risking their lives, the eager reaction came off less as that of ardent social activists than danger junkies. Intimating a bizarre, opposite sides of the same coin connection between these extreme cartoonists, and the extremists in pursuit.
Overloaded with talking heads and under-furnished with any broad social context - including the real difference between satirizing the power structure as opposed to an oppressed people your own government has collaborated in murdering in the millions - the documentary feigns impartiality by tossing in a few challenging pundits from the opposite side of the spectrum. Most prominently from eccentric civilian commentators joining the heated circus atmosphere just outside the courtroom. And when one of them is ejected from the building by security because 'you're bothering people' by what seems like daring to air an opposing view, this telling moment blatantly stifling free speech in a documentary supposedly heralding free speech, is oddly tossed by the wayside along with the unfortunate Muslim challenger.
So what remains here when pared down to ideas rather than glorified individuals, includes those many cartoonists and supporters living and dead, and celeb defenders counting Francois Hollande, Holocaust filmmmaker Claude Lanzmann, and Nicolas Sarkozy preferring to text in his sympathy - to the defendants' dismay. And satirists - or sketch makers as they are known by some of their adversaries in the Muslim world, preferring to live contextually and conveniently outside of history.
Namely, the contrasting notions of free speech and hate speech. And in effect, anti-Muslim cartoons which further the dangerous discrimination against the Muslim population in Europe - immigrant and native born alike. In fact, unintentionally revealing itself in the film, are the most prominent objections raised. That is, in the scary post-9/11 world, the labeling of all Muslims as potential terrorists - in particular one incendiary cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. And not the typical petty pronouncement - that's it's all about showing Muhammad's face. And speaking of faces, their objection to the anti-Semitic facial characteristics - after all, many Muslims are indeed Semites as well. Though once again ironically, anti-Semitic speech is prohibited in France, but only if it pertains to the Jewish branch of Semites there.
Then there's the film's chief talking head and Charlie Hebdo editor at the time, Philippe Val, mouthing off repeatedly about free speech. Yet his own unquestioned dubious rap sheet includes firing one of the magazine's most prominent figures, Maurice Sine, for publishing a cartoon that year about the marriage of Nicolas Sarkozy’s son, Jean, to a Jewish retailing heiress. Which Val deemed anti-Semitic. ( Sine won a 40,000 Euro court judgment against Charlie Hebdo for wrongful termination). And counting as well, longstanding charges of anti-Islam racism and Zionism against Val. And added to this hypocrisy, another figure hastily appearing ironically in the documentary, controversial French comedian Dieudonne. Who has now been arrested along with dozens of others at the moment in France, for exerting their free speech. But oppositional speech the authorities don't want to hear spoken, namely not unquestionably deifying Charlie Hebdo.
And meanwhile, in no way coincidental crackdowns on freedom everywhere in Europe, in reaction to the Charlie Hebdo assault. Which many believe, with suspicions mounting, that this reactionary advancing of the security state was the originally preemptive intent anyway. After all, didn't the CIA and French intelligence meddling in the Middle East train and arm the very assassins in question, in death squads to bring down governments in the Middle East, the better to invade, occupy and loot their resources? And while officially eroding civil liberties further, under the cloak of terrorism alerts?
So in effect, were the Charlie Hebdo assassinations somehow carried out by the CIA and their French counterpart collaborators? If nothing else, food for thought for a very different sort of publication.