Cartoonists React to Massacre at French Satire Journal | NECN
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Cartoonists React to Massacre at French Satire Journal

Ed Koren, an artist long associated with The New Yorker, shared with NECN a cartoon he drew out of grief following the attacks.

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    Ed Koren, an artist long associated with The New Yorker, shared with NECN a cartoon he drew out of grief following the attacks. (Published Monday, Jan. 12, 2015)

    Many cartoonists are showing solidarity with the French satire journal Charlie Hebdo, where gunmen believed to be linked to terror groups killed 12 people at the newspaper last week. Artistic displays of support for the journal, and for free speech, have been widely shared on social media.

    "I was stunned and then heartsick," said cartoonist Ed Koren, whose fuzzy drawings often appear in the pages of The New Yorker.

    Koren, who is Vermont's cartoonist laureate, said he was inspired to pen an image of a slain jester after hearing of the violence.

    "Grief, mostly," Koren said, describing what was on his mind at the time he drew the cartoon. "I felt I had to do something."

    The central Vermont artist said while he did not know the political cartoonists targeted in the Charlie Hebdo attack, he was familiar with their work. He described them as provocative button-pushers, interested in big questions and big ideas, with nothing off-limits for their satire.

    Charlie Hebdo springs from a French satirical tradition that reaches back to the republic's revolutionary roots: rude, scabrous, an enemy of power and piety, the Associated Press wrote. Its targets have included popes, politicians, and the Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims believe all images of the prophet are blasphemous; Charlie Hebdo's cartoons could be deliberately crude and outrageous, once showing Muhammad as a star in a porn shoot.

    The AP reported that some witnesses told authorities that the attackers who killed 12 people at the paper's offices shouted, "We have avenged the prophet."

    Koren says if Charlie Hebdo ruffled feathers, like by depicting the sacred prophet Mohammad, that was usually their goal. Still, he insisted violence against the artists was no way to respond.

    "What you expect is a discourse; a kind of discussion about it," Koren told New England Cable News. "You can take offense, you can speak to that, and say why. But just to do what was done was another level of reaction that's unacceptable, and horrible, really."

    At the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, an art program focusing on comics, graphic novels, and visual storytelling, recent graduate Simon Reinhardt said cartoons have the power to elicit emotional responses in people.

    "Images are more potent than words in a lot of cases," Reinhardt told NECN. "If we take anything from this [attack], it should be that there's a lot of cartoonists doing work that needs to be seen and that needs to be protected against censorship of all kinds, and violent intimidation of all kinds."

    Charlie Hebdo has vowed to publish its next issue as planned, and to not give in to terrorists.

    Police officials said Monday as many as six members of a terrorist cell involved in the Paris attacks may still be at large, the AP reported, including a man who was seen driving a car registered to the widow of one of the gunmen.

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