What appears superficially to be a clash of cultures is also a problem of environmental justice. If there had to be an attack on the irrationality of religion, the more appropriate satirical shots could just as well have been aimed at what is known as the “nuclear priesthood” and other techno-scientific cults that are driving the global crises of conflict and environmental destruction. On this point, there is some irony in the way the world media covered the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The focus was on the religious cartoons, yet the journal’s strong record of environmental reporting was completely overlooked.
To some extent, this was Charlie’s fault. The journal has been faulted for neglecting its environmental and political coverage in recent years in favor of the fight it picked with religious extremism. Norma Finkelstein, saying that the cartoons were “sadism, not satire,” accused the journal of forgetting that satire is best aimed at the powerful rather than at disadvantaged groups.
On the other hand, Charlie certainly never abandoned its concern with other issues. The foreign media simply didn’t make the effort to read back issues, or to note even that cartoons, regardless of their merits and demerits, are usually regarded as an extra added onto the content of primary interest. It’s as if aliens came to learn about the The New Yorker and formed their impressions by seeing only the witty jokes about neurotic Americans talking to their psychologists.