Political Satire – Funny or Not?

small boat at sea illustrating post about political satireWe all know about the horrific massacre of the staff at the French satirical magazine, famed for its political satire, Charlie Hebdo. It was widely condemned, not just because of the murders but also as an attack on free speech, art, culture and comedy.

But, is their depiction of the drowned Syrian refugee boy, Alan Kurdi, as growing up to be a sex pest funny? Well, not to me. I’m sure his family don’t think so either. But, do I think the creators deserve to die because of it? Of course not.


Some creative people I have worked with are very much of the opinion that you can say, or do whatever you want with satire and comedy.  This also appears to be the case with the creatives of Charlie Hebdo.

However, even as a writer who writes comedy and who has written comedy for television I still would question this. When I was studying film and television in college we were taught the notion of ‘fair game.’

sunset over Galway Bay to illustrate an article on politcial satireWhat it meant in practice was that when it came to powerful and rich public figures who had chosen to live their life in public, it was okay to make jokes about them, but when it came to the poor and powerless it was not cool.

This doesn’t seem to apply as much today and certainly not in the offices of Charlie Hebdo. I don’t know why they consider it okay to have no regard for the feelings of other people in the name of comedy and satire.

The magazine has said it is satirizing Islamophobes and those who are opposed to migration. If this is the case, are they assuming that those of us who don’t get this aren’t as clever as they are? How clever do you have to be to find the cruel and racist mockery of a dead child funny?


Does saying that mockery is okay because it is political satire make it true? Is it not more true to say that depicting a Syrian as a future sex pest is actually racist?

Is it not more true to say that depicting a migrant as a sex pest is not just agreeing with those opposed to migration but is also handing them ammunition?

Is it not more true to say that depicting a dead child as a future sex pest is especially cruel to his family?

And finally, is it not more true that this satirical cartoon is just not funny and that if it were, then all the above would still be true?

Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.
Jonathan Swift




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