The anti-religion and anti-establishment history of Charlie Hebdo

Vice News reports: Charlie Hebdo has never paid much attention to sacred cows, and has lampooned everyone from the pope to presidents in its polemical caricatures and irreverent editorials.

Speaking to VICE News on Wednesday, Peter Gumbel, author and global fellow at The Wilson Center’s Global Europe Program, described Charlie Hebdo as “a magazine that provokes deliberately,” and called the attack “a carefully premeditated attempt to destroy the magazine and kill all the cartoonists.”

“They picked the day when there was an editorial meeting when all the staff would be there,” said Gumbel, “they knew who they wanted, they asked names of people before they killed them, it was premeditated murder.”

Tom Bishop, director of the Center for French Civilization and Culture, and a professor of French at NYU, explained that Charlie Hebdo “holds a very particular place in French culture because of the country’s tradition of satiric magazines.”

“They’re not at all party-aligned,” Bishop told VICE News. “They tend to be viewed as holding nothing sacred. That’s their attraction.”

Famous for its unsparing, sardonic — and often obscene take on the news, politicians, and religion, Charlie Hebdo was pretty much born out of controversy, after its former incarnation, Hara-Kiri (subtitled “Stupid and vicious newspaper”) was banned by the government in 1970 over an insulting headline about the death of former French president and military hero Charles de Gaulle.

The new publication, which was baptized Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) in homage to Charlie Brown, soon made a name for itself as an anti-religious, anti-clerical, and anti-establishment voice in the French media landscape. Despite a limited circulation, the leftist and staunchly secular magazine was well known across France, and together with satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine came to form the backbone of French political and religious satire.

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