A Look Inside Charlie Hebdo, Their Creative Process & the Making of a Fateful Cartoon

A week ago, Char­lie Heb­do was any­thing but a house­hold name. On Wednes­day, after the appalling ter­ror­ist attacks in Paris, all of that changed.

We all now have Char­lie Heb­do on the tip of our tongues. We’ve seen sam­ples of their satir­i­cal car­toons. And we’ve read about the news out­lets too afraid to print them. But what do we still know about Char­lie Heb­do — about the actu­al car­toon­ists who made the news­pa­per tick, their satir­i­cal ambi­tions and their cre­ative process? Not very much.

The short doc­u­men­tary above, filmed at Char­lie Heb­do in 2006 by Jerôme Lam­bert and Philippe Picard, helps fill in some of these blanks. The clip shows sev­er­al of the car­toon­ists and edi­tors mur­dered ear­li­er this week —  Jean Cabut (aka Cabu), Bernard Verl­hac (aka Tig­nous) and Georges Wolin­s­ki — mak­ing a fate­ful deci­sion: Would they put a satir­i­cal image of Muham­mad on the cov­er of their news­pa­per?

The Char­lie Heb­do car­toon­ists turned “provo­ca­tion and bad taste” (to use Lam­bert and Picard’s words) into a par­tic­u­lar­ly French form of polit­i­cal satire. As the French trans­la­tor Arthur Gold­ham­mer explained it ear­li­er this week, “There is an old Parisian tra­di­tion of cheeky humour that respects noth­ing and no one,” which goes back to the French Rev­o­lu­tion. “It’s an anar­chic pop­ulist form of obscen­i­ty that aims to cut down any­thing that would erect itself as ven­er­a­ble, sacred or pow­er­ful,” and it is direct­ed against “author­i­ty in gen­er­al, against hier­ar­chy and against the pre­sump­tion that any indi­vid­ual or group has exclu­sive pos­ses­sion of the truth.” That tra­di­tion will con­tin­ue next week when Char­lie Heb­do and its sur­viv­ing staff plan to pub­lish one mil­lion copies of their next edi­tion.

The video above, put online by The New York Times, is cou­pled with a short op-ed by Lam­bert and Picard. You can read it here.

Fol­low us on Face­book, Twit­ter and Google Plus and share intel­li­gent media with your friends. Or bet­ter yet, sign up for our dai­ly email and get a dai­ly dose of Open Cul­ture in your inbox.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.