Danziger: 'The Weapon Against Them Is Satire'
In France over the weekend, a nation still in shock over the terrorist attacks that started with the killings of 12 staffers at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo began the long road to recovery with a unity march attended by millions. But the questions regarding how this could have happened, and why, and what happens next, remain.
"Like everyone else, I was shocked that this amount of bloodshed was spilled in a place essentially given over for the most part to humor and satire," said syndicated political cartoonist Jeff Danziger. His cartoons have appeared in the Times Argus, Rutland Herald and in newspapers around the world. He's also the author of The Conscience of a Cartoonist.
Danziger called one of the murdered cartoonists, Georges Wolinski, a fixture in the paper. "He was in his eighties and his cartoons were refreshingly youthful," Danziger said. He said he had met Wolinski and talked to him, but "everybody knew him. He'd put out about 12 or 15 books of work."
Many cartoonists have responded to the tragedy, and Danziger is one of them. He said he wanted to convey that the pen is mightier than the sword against these terrorists.
"The weapon against them is satire. If you have seen the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo, most of them are so over the top they probably would never be run, not in this country, not in most other French publications. But these guys specialized in provocation and well, unfortunately, they got it," Danziger said. "Cartoons are a big deal in France. They really like them, much more so than publications in our country."
Danziger was in France just last year, for the premiere of a movie he was featured in called Cartoonists, Foot Soldiers of Democracy. VPR spoke with him at that time about the importance of freedom of the press, free expression and the right to offend, but Danziger said unfortunately it seems to be the case that those messages are only taken seriously when something horrific occurs. The film was selected at the Cannes Film Festival in the documentary category. "But it wasn't shown widely even in France until after this, so yes, you can draw what conclusions you want sometimes."
Danziger said that cartoonists don't face the same consequences here for their work, and he doesn't fear for his safety. "It's an interesting job, I wake up every morning and say, 'What am I going to do when I grow up?' But I have grown up."