WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS

PARIS – Some thoughts following the terrorist attacks on Paris which left over one hundred and twenty people dead and many severely wounded, at the time of writing.

My first thoughts following the news of the Paris attacks were to get off the internet. Stop tweeting, stop writing, stop reading. As Kurt Vonnegut told us, ‘There is nothing intelligent to say after a massacre’. It was a quote I had cited following the Charlie Hebdo murders in January and the noise that inevitably follows is distressing and often unhelpful. There were those who immediately want to make political capital from the bloodshed to show that liberals were hopelessly naïve in their openness. The far right have a particular field day. And then there are the liberals who feel that the time has come to remind you about the massacres in Kenya and Beirut which got less press and outrage on social media. Well done. Although there’s a valid point here, there’s more than a whiff of righteousness in seeking to refine our sense of horror into a ‘teachable moment’. Our profiles will now be suitably flagged and details will emerge. Narratives and counter narratives will be unwoven and unfurled, but none of it really means more than Marlon Brando whispering The Horror! The Horror! at the end of Apocalypse Now.

Having said that, I got one clip from British horror critic Kim Newman on my Facebook page. He put on the scene from Casablanca where the French in the exile port, teeming with refugees out sing the Nazis with the most stirring La Marseillais committed to celluloid. The prostitute sings it, the freedom fighter sings it and Ingrid Bergman listens to it. Her emotions are our emotions in that moment. And this scene reminded me of something. Casablanca is the film of refugees. In 1938 a teacher from New York spent his summer in Vienna. Murray Burnett was helping Jewish refugees to gain safe passage out of Nazi territory and Europe. Returning to the States, he wrote Everybody Comes to Rick’s about a bunch of disparate and desperate refugees trying to escape the North African town for Lisbon and then the US. No one wanted the play or the screenplay. It was too political, too anti-German, until Pearl Harbor and the day after that Irene Diamond read it at Warner Bros and thought it would work well with Ronald Reagan, or maybe, and this would be a gamble, Humphrey Bogart.

But Casablanca isn’t just about refugees fleeing a terroristic regime, it stars them. Paul Heinreid (who plays Lazlo) had fled Nazi controller Austria, as had Peter Lorre (Ugarte). S. Z. Sakall, the cuddly waiter Karl, got out too but lost three sisters to the concentration camps. Conrad Veidt, world famous as the star of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, had also escaped as a noted critic of the regime. He plays Colonel Strasser. In Casablanca even the Nazis are played by anti-Nazis. Behind the camera we have a Hungarian Jew, the scriptwriters are two Jews and a Communist and in Jack Warner’s childhood home, they only spoke Yiddish. With economic migrants Claude Rains and Ingrid herself making up the other major parts, aside from Bogart the only American involved is Dooley Wilson and guess what – he’s originally a drummer who can’t play a lick on the piano.

So what’s my point? I suppose it is that we need to come together. That moments of terror, of horror, are moments which seek to divide us, to make us hate each other and the ‘other’ – for their religion, their race, their national origin – but in reality it is our difference, our diversity, and our common humanity which makes us strong. Our voices will always rise stronger than those of the Jihadists or the hate mongers of the Right. As soccer fans left the Paris stadium on Friday and impromptu singing of La Marseillais rang out and filled the heart (click here).

In more ways than one we will always have Paris.

NEW CHARLIZE THERON FRAGRANCE PULLED

PARIS – Charlize Theron’s publicity campaign for her latest line in fragrance – Je Suis Charlize – has been pulled due to issues of taste.

A spokesperson for the actress said:

This campaign has been planned for months and it was only when we actually had the launch party and everyone looked at the adverts and the poster that we thought ‘oh wait!’ Lenny Kravitz was actually the first person to notice, because he reads newspapers and stuff. We didn’t want to cause any offence, though we did think about continuing with the adverts anyway. I mean, we’re also sure that Charlie Hebdo, being a satirical magazine, will fully understand our mistake and forgive us.

This is not the first time the actress has accidentally courted controversy. In 2001 her German football kit fashion top Nein 11 was misinterpreted as a reference to Obama Bin Laden’s attack on the Twin Towers. And more recently her Hurricane Katrina swimwear collection was pulled due to perceived insensitivity. However, Charlize Theron has always been dismissive of criticism. ‘I was in Prometheus,’ she told the Studio Exec.

And I consider that the way an action hero in the 80s would think of Vietnam. It hardened me. Turned me into a weird kind of killing machine. I consider good taste to just be Brian Dennehy in  a sheriff’s uniform telling me to move on. I mean, you’ve seen Prometheus, right?

Do you believe the publicity campaign should have been pulled? Add your comment in the box below.

A WORD ON CHARLIE HEBDO

Do you have any idea how brave it is for Charlie Hebdo to do what they do?

These are not stupid people knocking out copy and doodles for giggles ignorant of the potential consequences. Granted, on a cold sober day they wouldn’t have thought two masked men would massacre them whilst they drank their morning coffee but the fear of some kind of reprisal will have been omnipresent. Stronger on the bad days and barely traceable on most.

Fear is something we live with on a daily basis. Ever since the twin towers took a swan dive we’ve been consciously and unconsciously in it’s grip. As a political tool it’s used to create the illusion of chaos so your government can sweep in and restore order. After all, without chaos or the fear of the bogeyman under your bed, why do you need a government at all?

As for religions, they have been merchants of fear since back in the Stone Age. The Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam in particular have, ironically, made it into a science designed to socially control and manipulate, usually the poorest in our society, to do the bidding of whoever is preaching the word. Sure there is a lot of positivity and inspiration to be gleaned from religious texts but the love is phoney. It’s conditional love, rules and regulations you must adhere to or face the consequences in this life or the next.

There’s no point banging on about religion, many will over the next few days but the fact that it still holds so much sway in 2015 is incomprehensible.

Obviously with The Studio Exec being a satire site yesterday hit us hard and made us take a long look at ourselves. We’re minnows in the media game, masked and fairly anonymous but even we self-censor, hold things back and dilute our satire out of fear of reprisal and we’re not talking about fear of being machine-gunned in our office, it’s fear of a few negative responses on Twitter which seems so fucking ridiculous this morning it’s almost embarrassing. Being seasoned writers, we’ve plenty of experience of working under constraints, being told what we can’t write and what we can, either by a humourless editor, a scared client or shit for brains advertisers and yet, even when we’ve created a forum on which we can express ourselves freely, we still hold back.

Or at least, we did. Now the shackles are very much off.

You will read a lot of bullshit from the major newspapers and media organizations championing freedom of speech today. The same organizations owned and controlled by the likes of Rupert Murdoch or some other owner with an agenda. You will be buried by an avalanche of hypocrisy, of meaningless claims and finger pointing, of false promises and fake sentiment. This is the world we live in and unless we aspire to the kind of courage that Charlie Hebdo has in spades, the world will keep on spinning in the same direction.

Our hearts and our thoughts go out to the families of the fallen. You will be avenged.

JE SUIS CHARLIE

PARIS – The attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris today was not so much a terrorist attack as a targeted assassination of free speech.

The planning was precise. The layout of the building, the security measures and the timing had all been thought out. Eye witness reports tell us that when the murderers got into the second floor editorial meeting they called out some of their victims by name before killing them. It very much looks like this was the kind of commando raid that we would see in a movie to take out some kind of radically popular political leader, or a war lord, or a general, or a gangster. The bathos that it was all planned and executed to kill a bunch of human beings because they made a joke you didn’t like is the kind of absurdity that the magazine would have detected and made obvious to the world; and the kind of absurdity the perpetrators would not have got. Some people just don’t get the fucking joke.

Usually as a flippant film satire site, I steer clear of politics, but the attack on the French satirical magazine, the journalists, cartoonists and writers and the police who protected them, is too close to home to ignore. Over the next few days we’re going to hear a lot about how Charlie Hebdo steered a dangerous course, how there is free speech, but also mitigating circumstances, how you shouldn’t shout fire in a theater. In this case, all those arguments are invalid. Charlie Hebdo have a long tradition of roughly ridiculing everybody. The establishment of France which has called a day of national mourning in honor of the victims were treated with giddy contempt, as were Popes and Jewish leaders. That Islam should be exempt from such ribbing via self-censorship, actual censorship or violent intimidation would be an insult to the whole idea of free expression.

There is going to be a backlash undoubtedly and the merchants of hate on the far right and even the not so far right across Europe look poised to be the beneficiaries of the outrage and disgust the act has provoked. I would hope that French people would emulate the Australians in their response to a recent terror attack, where solidarity and inclusion triumphed over hatred and division. After all, the latter is exactly what the murderers want.

Yesterday I tweeted a quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 – “there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre”. I hope I’ve tried to add something that isn’t just noise. All I have to add is my heartfelt sympathy for the victims and their families and of course “Poo-tee-weet, poo-tee-weet”!