Why I defend Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon (and why I am angry at another bad joke)

by felicitamodna82
Not-so-important foreword:

I resume my blog, hoping my huge issues with writing will be successfully dealt with in a few months…

What can one do with stereotypes?

Stereotypes and prejudices are widespread, and sometimes serve as a source of inspiration or as basis for humour or satire (please note that, even though there is a relation between those two, they are not the same thing). Right now, politically correctness is challenging many common approaches to humour. This is good in most cases, although I have seen some huge misunderstandings, and also many cases of outright censorship, the latter of which I don’t support. Calling somebody out on his or her implicit support of shit like racism, sexism and co. allows for a discussion on the matter; censorship usually acts more as the broom sweeping the dirt under the carpet than anything else, not to mention that not all politically incorrect jokes are necessarily  a sign of implicit support of racism, sexism, ableism, whatever.


Today, the Italian-speaking internet is roaring and rioting because of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons about the earthquake in Central Italy (one of the centres next to the epicentre being Amatrice, the town which gave the name to the amatriciana sauce. Yes, this is relevant).

Yesterday, my not-so-humble person found in her Facebook homepage a dumb link, shared by a commercial state-funded Austrian radio station. The link was stating a very racist thing about, well, Italians. I am a poor Italian living in Austria (relevant as well).

Now, let’s review the type of humour, the content, and the source,  and let’s analyse my very different reaction to those links.

Charlie Hebdo and the new Italian speciality

charlie hebdo earthquake

CH’s cartoon: Italian-style seism. All rights to CH itself.

(I am not fluent in French, but I understand it a little: it says “penne with tomato sauce”, “gratin penne” and “lasagne”).

CH’s cartoon hits hard, and I recognize it. After the initial impact, though, my brain immediately connected the menu-like style of the captions to the typical image of Italy abroad so far (Italian speciality: pasta & pizza) and to the sad, recurring episodes of mass murder by community inaction almost every time there is an earthquake in Italy. Considering that the country is full of active faults, considering the last 20 years [I remember Modena-Reggio (Po plain) 1996, Assisi and co. 1997?, Parma-Reggio-Modena (mountain districts) 2008, l’Aquila 2009, Modena-Ferrara (Po plain) 2012], considering the costs for modernising/restoring/rebuilding cannot be covered by sig. and sig. ra Average Italian, and considering that money in Italy gets thrown out of the window in every possible way except by funding interventions in this sense, well, I think the evil satiric magazine hit the right spot.

Right now, the new Italian speciality is going to be wounding and killing Italian citizens by letting their houses collapse on them, not pasta (or pizza, for all that matters). Bravo, Charlie Hebdo. I read the cartoon like this and I appreciated it. (now I fear I will discover they did not mean it like that and I will be publicly stoned. Not “stoned” the funny way, the other).

Please note that the same magnitude of the above mentioned earthquakes in, say, Japan would not have had all the casualties, the damages and the homeless people we  had.

I appreciated the Italian black humour and satire blog Umore Maligno even more. Following the wave of indignation, they published:

Emilia-Romagna protests against CH’s cartoon: “Hey, the lasagne would be US!””

They made fun of the very strange indignation of some who have been Charlie for as long as only certain targets were targeted, or who spread sexism every single day “because it’s funny”; they got the point with lasagne being from Emilia and the amatriciana sauce from Amatrice; they might have reminded many readers that people in Modena and Ferrara still live in containers (or maybe they just wanted to get more clicks and squirted out some words nobody could ignore? Another stoning for me).

Now, making fun of the dead is bad, bla bla bla, yadda yadda. But these are declared satirical publications: they exploit sarcasm and black humour, and sometimes they even make people think about things. Like in this case. I see no disrespect towards victims, because there really is none. They are depicted as victims even here. Please note that I suffer from PTSD, and one of the things that triggers it is an earthquake. I experienced the 1996 and the 2008 ones, and my closest relatives and friends were hit by the 2012 one, some of them even hard, so spare me the “you don’t know what you are talking about”.

Moreover, Charlie Hebdo clearly still depicts the earthquake victims as victims. I would not say they lacked humanity, after all.

And even if all this does not convince you, it is satire, you either like it or not. I asked my friends to make a black humour and satire contest in case I die…so I’d say I like it. If you don’t, don’t like it, but please don’t make them responsible for the victims and don’t promote shootings (yes, some people are wishing those religious idiots come back and finish the job).

Ö3’s way of using my radio licence money in order to make people even dumber than they already are.

Ö3 is a state Austrian radio station broadcasting commercial stuff. Many of us usually follow it in order to get some news and traffic updates, but apart from a few specials I don’t listen to it.

For some reasons I got to read this in my newsfeed:


People speaking 3 languages: trilingual. People speaking 2 languages: bilingual. People speaking only one language: Italians

Now, why did Frau Ratti get angry at this?

  1. Ö3 is funded by all Austrian residents, even if they are not Austrians. Especially if they are not Austrians.
  2. It is not like the level of the contents they usually publish is particularly high or educational (understatement of the year. Hint:” Frag das ganze Land”), but supporting stereotypes and prejudices is very, very bad. It gets even worse when many people find it amusing, and many others increase the fun by adding that the French are worse.
  3. Partially a corollary of no.1 and no. 2, they are actually supporting people living in Austria to perpetuate what I call “the velvet discrimination” against Italians in Austria. We are not Muslims and we don’t get the hatred and the suspicion other groups get, but somehow too many people approach Italians with ideas stuck in their heads such as we don’t speak languages, we are adorable and trendy stupid people, we are lazy, we are always late (because stupid and lazy), we are only good for working in gastronomy, and many other things. You don’t know what I mean if you haven’t experienced it. I have been often discriminated because I am Italian, and the fact that it is not a hateful or violent discrimination does not make it a discrimination any less.
  4. They are not making satire or use sarcasm; they don’t want to create paradoxical situations where humour is not just meant as a means to laugh because the paradox itself emerges and makes you question the real issue behind the joke. They are not making extremely tasteless jokes for shock value on a blog followed only by fans of the genre. They are not even Italians criticizing what’s wrong in the Peninsula. They seriously think they are funny (and cute because they spend their holidays in Italy).

I will leave out the fact that bashing at a numerically relevant community is quite stupid, because I simply don’t approve that a state radio station supports discrimination (soft or hard, does not matter), spreads it (they obviously have some good coverage), and uses everybody’s money to do it. The size of the targeted group should not be a criterion for accepting a discriminating joke or not.

My answer was:

ö3 comment

Only two likes for my sarcasm. That speaks volumes…

Translation: “All right. Now I hope that I – being a trilingual Italian woman – will be exempted from paying TV and radio licence fee from now on, because there is no way I pay it in order to fund the dumbing down of the current population”.

Ach, I thought I was sooo funny…



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