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January 2015

Asking the Wrong Question

Oppressive governments often lock up writers, artists, intellectuals. They lock them up because such people are dangerous to those in power. In the United States, we mostly don't have that problem. This is partly because of the first amendment, but also because American writers, artist, and intellectuals are mostly tame.
The lack of politics in art and literature is seen as a virtue as though there were a pure aesthetics that could only be tainted by the addition of politics. In the US, this is partly the legacy of McCarthism. While our arts are sometime offensive, they do little to change the structure of power.
And so it comes to me as a shock that in Paris there is a terror attack on cartoonists. Cartoonists? Really? Cartoonists.
Many of my friends and many people I admire seem to feel that is this is a good moment to engage their critical skills, to evaluate the worth of the long and successful careers of the recently deceased cartoonists. In other words, what did these artists do wrong that made people want to kill them? I don't think that's the right question.

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