Local Editorial Cartoonists React to Attacks in France

Jan 7, 2015

Editorial cartoonists around the world, including Pittsburgh, are creating cartoons in response to the attacks against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Masked gunmen stormed into the French magazine’s office Wednesday morning, killed 12 people, including the magazine’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, and wounded 11 others. The attackers have yet to be captured.

“I’m horrified about what’s happened,” said Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist. “Aside from it being a tragedy and a horrific terrorist attack, it’s also targeted on a satire magazine, which is really what I do, so that sort of hits home even harder.”

Randy Bish, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial cartoonist, told 90.5's Essential Pittsburgh that he is having trouble grasping the idea of someone using an assault weapon against somebody who is "armed only with a pencil or pens."

The magazine’s depictions of Islam have resulted in previous threats and even a firebombing in 2011, but it also satirized other religions and political figures.

Rogers said he is looking to draw something more somber for Thursday – something that would show how “horrific” and “unacceptable” the attack was.

“Obviously it’s a very hard topic to draw something about – it’s not funny, you can’t really make a joke – but these are the things that we have to do when these things happen,” Rogers said.

He said he wants to be very thoughtful and careful about what he draws in response.

“It’s much like after 9/11 – you really couldn’t get into the politics of it or the satire of it, but you really sort of had to react to the response that everyone was reacting to, a sense of mourning and horrified disbelief at what happened,” Rogers said. 

“At the same time realizing that you know, as a satirist myself, and as somebody who works in journalism, this is not going to stop us from saying what we believe and trying to express our views.”

Rogers said the attacks won’t result in him changing how he draws his cartoons. If anything, he said it’ll encourage him to do more.

“I don’t worry about offending people,” he said. “Because if I’m not offending somebody some of the time, then I’m probably not doing my job.”

Bish said he doesn't plan to change his cartoons, either.

“If anything, they’ve probably given us a louder voice,” Bish said. “In trying to silence a few, they have  made a noise that is going to be louder than anything they could ever imagine.” 

Rogers said people have taken some of his drawings as anti-Catholic or anti-Jewish, but he insists he’s talking about the politics, not the religion.

“People have a hard time separating the two,” he said. “So that’s when I get the angriest letters and the threats are from people who can’t separate politics from religion.” 

But Bish said satire has an important job in the world even though it offends many.

“I think that it’s important in any society that there be somebody somewhere whose job it is to rock the boat and to tell people that there’s something not right here, we’re being cheated, we’re being wronged in any case where we see an injustice,” Bish said. “I think that’s a very important part of any free society.”

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include comments from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial cartoonist Randy Bish.