Last week, Vox’s Max Fisher wrote a stirring defense of Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Islamic extremism cartoons. This week, he says the magazine is racist.
Last Wednesday’s piece was titled, “Charlie Hebdo’s most famous cover shows what makes the magazine so important.” Here’s a bit of Fisher’s argument which makes clear that the cartoons are aimed at extremism not at all Muslims. This message was exemplified, Fisher said, in one famous cover [emphasis added]:
that is exactly why Charlie Hebdo’s “Love is stronger than hate” cover so well captures the magazine’s oft-misunderstood mission and message. Yes, the slobbery kiss between two men is surely meant to get under the skin of any conservative Muslims who are also homophobic, but so too is it an attack on the idea that Muslims or Islam are the enemy, rather than extremism and intolerance.
What a difference a week makes. Fisher now argues that Charlie Hebdo cartoons are indeed racist:
The portrayal of people of color, as well as Muslims of all races, has been consistently and overwhelming negative in Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Reading Charlie Hebdo cartoons and covers in the aggregate, a reader is given the uniform and barely-concealed message that Muslims are categorically bad, violent, irrational people. This characterization indulges and indeed furthers some of the widest and most basic stereotypes of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. That would certainly seem to be racism in its most unmistakable and transparent form.
A few paragraphs later, Fisher points to some counter-arguments to the claim that Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are racist. One of these arguments sounds remarkably like the argument Fisher himself made just last week:
Another counter-argument is that its lampooning of radical Islam is aimed at separating out radicalism from mainstream Islam, which is ultimately a service in favor of Islam… But just as we have to consider the larger context when understanding the intent of Charlie Hebdo’s satire, so too must we consider that larger context when evaluating the satire’s effect. And that larger context is not flattering to Charlie Hebdo.
So Max Fisher of last week was insensitive and wrong, and Max Fisher of this week is, having seen the light, in the right. Of course you won’t learn that by reading Vox (either this week or last week). Fisher’s change of heart is never mentioned.