The French satirical magazine is once again at the heart of a controversy thanks to a cartoon by Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, a mainstay of the publication as well as its publishing director.
The cartoon shows pig-like creatures chasing after young women, with an inset drawing based on the famous photo of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach. “What would little Aylan have grown up to be?” the caption asks, with this response: “Ass groper in Germany.” The cartoon is linking Kurdi’s death with recent news of sexual assaults in Cologne, allegedly by men of North African or Arab descent.
On the face of it, the cartoon seems blatantly racist, although as always Charlie Hebdo has defenders who argue that it is an ironic commentary on racist attitudes. The problem with this defense is that constantly using super-racist images to satirize racism seems like a strategy with diminishing returns. After constantly publishing such racist images, isn’t it fair to ask whether this isn’t a satire on racism but simply an expression of racism?