DJ @DeeJayNDN Says Charlie Hebdo Is Racist, and So Are You If You Disagree #JeSuisCharlie

taubira-en-singe-charlie-hebdoSay what you want about Charlie Hebdo Magazine. Crass, tasteless, unfunny etc. You’re entitled to your view, and I suppose it’s all subjective. But one thing they are not, is racist. In fact, they mocked and ridiculed the racist far-right.

You may be forgiven for misconstruing their cartoons on first glance as racist, not all of us have a grasp of the French language and their frenetic political scene. However once someone has enlightened you on these points, it would be best to stop shouting ‘racist!’ lest you embarrass yourself, or denigrate dead cartoonist any further.

I’d like to share an exchange I had with a Twitter user named @Deejayndn. I’ve no idea who they are, except they have over 10,000 Twitter followers, called me racist and are ‘in a band’ apparently.

Ok, so I was copied in to this exchange at some point on Charlie Hebdo:


This is the image they are referring to:


In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the slew of apologists for Islamic terror that followed, the website ‘Understanding Charlie Hebdo‘ was set up to explain the nuance and context that was lost on the non-french and ideologues. As pointed out on the site, here’s some vital context for the above image:




  • The font chosen (serif) is reminiscent of traditional right-wing political posters. Left-wing and communist posters in France usually use a sans-serif font. This is the first hint that the cartoon is mocking a right-wing element.
  • The blue and red flame logo on the bottom-left is the logo of the Front National, a far-right political party in France.
  • The person depicted is Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, drawn as a monkey. This is referencing various occasions of far-right activists depicting Taubira as a monkey (online sharing of photoshops, sound imitations, calling out, etc.).
  • The title is a play on words of Marine Le Pen’s slogan “Rassemblement Bleu Marine” (Navy blue Union).


The cartoon was published after a National Front politician Facebook-shared a photoshop of Justice Taubira, drawn as a monkey, and then said on French television the she should be “in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government” [Le Monde] (she was later sentenced to 9 months of prison). The cartoon is styled as a political poster, calling on all far-right “Marine” racists to unify, under this racist imagery they have chosen. Ultimately, the cartoon is criticising the far-right’s appeal to racism to gain supporters.

The cartoon was drawn by Charb. He participated in anti-racism activities, and notably illustrated the poster (below) for MRAP (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples), an anti-racist NGO.

Click the supplied link to view the poster the same artist drew in support of MRAP. It should be clear to any thinking person that the intention of the above poster was to mock, ridicule and expose racists.  By co-opting their absurd rhetoric and tactics to shine a light on their bigotry, you disempower them. This is what satire does best. What are the chances explaining this to someone will:

A. Get them to change their mind
B. Make them Double-down
C. Make them call me a racist.

Place your bets…

So, Dee Jay’s opening concern is that a specific demographic, (black people in this instance) are being dehumanized by Charlie Hebdo magazine. I point out ‘dehumanization’ is not what they were doing.

I then provide the above link explaining the context of the image

This didn’t seem to help:

I try to spell it out:

I keep trying to explain…

It starts getting a little odd from here on:

I keep trying

There then seems to be an implication only racists can be depicted when mocking racism. I’m not sure what this means.

I keep trying..

Even though I’ve kindly provided them with a link detailing not only who’s depicted in the picture, but why – they keep making this bizarre demand

This continues for a while. I think I try to pre-empt their train of ‘thought’.

It seems the record is scratched at this point

It may be worth mentioning at this point; the very person depicted in this picture paid homage to Charlie Hebdo after the attacks, endorsing the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ campaign. Clearly because they are bright enough to understand satire.

They provide a link of racist imagery, as if I have no idea some people make intentionally racist images. Ever the optimist, I try again…

We then seem to encounter an unhelpful inability to distinguish between the words ‘subject’ & ‘target’.

The brilliant part about this, is that they use a screenshot of my actual words, to claim I said something different from my actual words, which I clearly didn’t… because the actual words are clearly visible thanks to the screenshot they helpfully provided – in order to try and prove I said something…I didn’t.

We move back to the subject vs target debacle

CAPtain Shouty

It took longer than expected, but the tactic of trying to win an argument by accusing your opponent of some such flavour of bigot or other begins

The campaign to paint me as a racist steps up a gear

Then they just spell it out:

There’s a few other tweets chastising me for not denying that I’m a racist, so I point out the disingenuous way of arguing this way:

And back to square one.

Prompted by the high follower count of this individual and references to a band, a quick Google search seemed appropriate – which revealed this thing of beauty.

I rest my case.

UPDATE 04 May 2015

Seems a black, French Immigrant tried to explain to Dee Jay the nuances and importance of Charlie Hebdo for people of his background. The response from this courageous defender of the persecuted? Blocked!

You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.




  • Pingback: @DeeJayNDN Says Charlie Hebdo Is Racist, and So Are You If You Disagree #JeSuisCharlie | Godless Spellchecker’s Blog | Athe1stP0werBlog

  • A beauTigua ending lol

  • *beautiful.

  • Sorry, but he’s right. The t-shirt is satire, as Natives are mocked as sports mascots, so the table was turned. I see no such thing in your ‘satire’, it’s just racism. Had this person been mocking whites in a similar way, then I could see it being satirical, but it is not. It is, and will always be, just racist.

    • Stephen Knight

      Which is to say context, intent and topical information is irrelevant. Well it isn’t. It’s not racist to mock racists by shining a light on the absurdity of their racism. And they *are* mocking ‘whites’ by doing this, racist ones. Did you even read the above piece highlighting the context and response of the lady depicted? You’re slandering dead cartoonists who challenged racism and the far right. “It’s just racist because it always is” is not a particularly thoughtful position.

      • I’d like your opinion about a recent pic (you can see it here ) —made by a local administration of a political party (“M5S”). It’s a political attack (satire, if you concede it) to the italian Democratic Party (PD) —the party who currently runs Italy—, accused to exploit immigration to increase the number of membership cards (the text of the post says “membership campaign”, the text inside the pic says “membership cards [tessere]: discount for castaways”).
        The pic was described as racist (needless to say, not by authors nor by non-opposing electorate) and so was retreated (with excuses that opened another political case…) to avoid further “embarrassment” and to avoid to give unfriendly parties a “lever”. This is my own translation of an excerpt of an italian huffingtonpost article used by many PD’s sustainers to “mock” M5S and label it as racist (according to them, just a confirmation of something whey already knew as true): “[…]The three immigrants […] are represented with somatic traits that resemble the apes, as in old posters of the fascism”.
        On a Twitter conversation I tried to explain that, in the “worst” case, it’s how the authors of the pic want you to think that PD sees those immigrants (hence, in the “worst” case, it’s also an accuse of racism against PD). If we have to use words to translate the picture, the PD woman at the desk would be saying “come on, you ape-like human beings! subscribe! there’s a discount for you!”. Since I dared to explain this view in a tweet, I was labelled myself as racist who was trying to justify the unjustifiable racist picture (2days of bullying…). My point of view could be biased (I voted for M5S), though I think my rationality is clean and sharp, and I can’t see how whatever is represented in that picture could be twisted and become a “fault” of the pic’s authors (and then of the whole party). On second thought, I even find rather hard to see clues of an attempt to make a resemblance with apes (beyond those common to any human being, I mean): somatic traits may be stereotyped, but not to the point of mocking them for themselves — on the other hand, white european faces with totally black skin would be a lot strange and unreal…
        Of course, the main issue became the supposed racism of the authors (and of the whole M5S party), and nobody talked about the supposed exploitation of immigrants made by PD. And this is my interpretative key: the “you represented them as apes!racist!” was instrumental to divert the attention and bite back in the ass the “attacking” party.
        Enough of context, I hope! 😀 …
        Do you think the picture is really problematic or, rather, your article could fit “my” case too?

  • I think the problem is that there is too much focus on the picture itself instead of why the picture was drawn in the first place. Just like the cover of the New Yorker that came out a couple of years ago, people were so bent out of shape because of the picture that they failed to realize that it was drawn to point out the absurdity of what some people thought of Obama at that time. Before we call sometime racist or indecent maybe we should take the time to understand the full context of of the situation.

  • If you can’t answer yes or no to the simple question posed, you’ve got a problem.

    Charlie Hebdo cartoons are juvenile attacks claiming some kind of common insight.

    Trying to make a case with Deejay in a “caucasions” t-shirt, highlights your privilege and ignorance of the perspective – basically, everything you claim against Deejay in your back and forth on twitter, however, replacing “Indians” with “caucasians” and changing the colour of the face from red to white hardly compares to putting the face of a black person on a monkey. Charlie Hebdo is looking for a punch in the mouth just cry foul. Bravo.

    • Stephen Knight

      If you can’t answer yes or no to the simple question posed, you’ve got a problem.

      Or perhaps the problem is thinking such a question is so simple and absolute that it can be boiled down to fallacious black or white reasoning. Also, perhaps if concepts such as intent, context and political insight didn’t exist or mean anything, you’d have a good point. But they do, so you don’t. And, of course, not to mention the actual fact that Charlie Hebdo are a satirical anti-racist publication, and the cartoon in question is also anti-racist satire. This mere point alone should be enough for any thinking person to stop bleating ‘racist!’ at them.

      Charlie Hebdo cartoons are juvenile attacks claiming some kind of common insight.

      ‘Common’ insight? What does that mean? Also, juvenile seems subjective. I see no attempt to back this claim – yet even if you could it wouldn’t prove they’re racist. I note you’ve chosen not to try though.

      Trying to make a case with Deejay in a “caucasions” t-shirt, highlights your privilege and ignorance of the perspective – basically, everything you claim against Deejay in your back and forth on twitter, however, replacing “Indians” with “caucasians” and changing the colour of the face from red to white hardly compares to putting the face of a black person on a monkey.

      You missed the point of my comparison. I never claimed it was ‘like for like’. It isn’t. I’m talking about co-opting the behaviour of those you feel are being racist in order to satirise them, and in turn highlight their absurdity. It’s a very effective method of disempowering idiots, as Dee Jay seems to agree. It’s just that he’s a hypocrite who thinks he can satirise issues of race in this manner, but not Charlie Hebdo.

      Charlie Hebdo is looking for a punch in the mouth just cry foul. Bravo.

      I’ve no idea what this means. Do you?

  • I’m never really sure as to whether they in fact do understand satire yet pretend they don’t just because calling things racist on Twitter is a fun pass time and an opportunity to signal their virtue, or just don’t understand satire.

  • “That the cartoons were not intentionally racist does not preclude their being experienced as racist.” —

    Where I come from I think that many people would consider that image racist. That said, I do understand that it is an satirical imagined political poster for a racist party. It really depends on the culture of the reader, how they interpret that image.

    Time to move on, I guess.

  • Pingback: PEN Six vs. Charlie Hebdo: The “Conditionalists” Betray Free Speech | Arguments Worth Having

  • This twitter exchange and the whole ridiculous “is charlie hebdo racist?” debate in general has made me think of what Slavoj Zizek has said about how best to combat racism.

  • “If you’re CREATING racist depictions of a demographic to showcase the racism of someone else, that makes you racist.”

    I might have helped to ask this guy what he thinks the word “racist” means. At some point when 2 people are talking past each other, it’s evident that one of them either doesn’t get what a word means, or is intentionally trolling. In this case I think it’s the former, but it ends up resembling the latter.

    I also think he didn’t understand his own argument. Maybe he felt on some intuitive level that he had a valid point, but he couldn’t verbalize it, so he ended up saying something really silly while feeling really right. If he was trying to say that using racist depictions to mock racism can be almost as harmful as actually being racist, then he would have a point. A tiny, irrelevant point. Yes, something can be “racist” even if you don’t intend it as such. But that point wouldn’t have fit his agenda, so he stuck to the absurd script that “mocking racism means you are racist”.

What do you think? Leave some comments!