Satire is “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues,” as defined by the Oxford Dictionary. Yet that definition doesn’t highlight the vicious potential inherent in satire. A prime example is the Charlie Hebdo case.
Honestly, I normally don’t pay attention to satire in the news unless it causes an uproar. Now, since the Charlie Hebdo issue occurred, I’ve paid more attention. There will never be an agreement by everyone regarding where to draw the line for satire. But I’ve realized that my line is when a piece of satire that wouldn’t offend me personally ends up making me feel offended for another person, religion, or race.
Almost every cartoon that appears on Google images in relation to Charlie Hebdo crosses the line. These cartoons go past humor, irony and exaggeration and are offensive and inappropriate.
New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression.” His belief is that those people who were killed are being revered for using freedom of speech.
Yet these cartoons go should not be classified as free speech; they should be classified as hate speech. They are crossing a line. Brooks said if these cartoons were attempted to be published in an American college newspaper, they wouldn’t last 30 seconds. In those American colleges, the cartoons would be classified as hate speech. This difference shows how every place has a different line when it comes to satire.
The line for satire depends entirely on the author and audience. The author plays a huge role in satire because it is based on his/her own knowledge and experiences. Then the audience that sees the satire itself also plays a role. Their knowledge, experiences and opinions greatly impact public sentiment.
Originally, only a few thousand copies of “The Charlie Hebdo” were issued every week, which created a limited audience, but people within that audience still lashed out because of the offense created by the cartoon. Authors should be more careful and look at the bigger picture and consider if they are offending people by targeting their race or religion.
When considering where to draw the line for satire, authors need to consider if they are offending people by targeting aspects of their lives that are intrinsic to their identities. For me, that line is apparent when I am not being attacked, but I am offended for those who are.