Spectator cartoonist Michael Heath: 'Funny is now
Updated: 7 Aug 2016, 10:15
Cartoonist Michael Heath has said it is now
dangerous to be funny, because people are quick to take offence.
Heath, 80, has spent six decades as a cartoonist for publications including Punch, the Evening Standard, the
Guardian, the Independent and Private Eye. He is now cartoon editor at the Spectator.
Appearing on Desert Island Discs, he told Kirsty Young: "The whole thing about, say, political
cartoonists is that they should be so outrageous that everyone asks questions in the house about the drawing yesterday in
the Guardian or whatever.
"That was not
my thing. I copped out, I wanted to be what I am, which is funny.
"Funny is now dangerous and you've got to be careful what you do and there are whole groups of people
who take offence and look to take offence and wish to take offence, and then take offence at whatever you do."
Asked about cartooning in the aftermath of the Charlie
Hebdo attack, Heath said, "There's a limit to what you can do."
WE have learned recently that the French satirical magazine Charlie
Hebdo was in financial difficulties and down on its luck before the tragic events that took away a number of its cartoonists.
This indicates it was not as popular as the European media has been making out. Far from being a noble and upstanding defender
of free speech, it was quite the opposite. It was very hostile to those deemed to be “anti-Semitic”.
Charlie Hebdo sacked
an 80 year old cartoonist, Maurice Sinet, in 2009 after he was put on trial for “anti-Semitism”, worded officially
as “inciting racial hatred”. If he were on trial for offending Islam, he would have been carried around the offices
of the magazine and toasted as a great “satirist”. But there are no laws to protect Islam. Only the Jews are sacrosanct.
After the Paris March for Unity,
the French state gave the magazine a million euro, then there were the sponsorships from various newspapers, including from
some in Britain. A massive number of the latest ‘Mohammed’ issue were printed, the same kind of cover that inspired
a previous violent response. Sales were brisk, as they say, but they failed to learn the obvious lesson which had little to
do with free speech.
Charlie Hebdo is basking in the sun of an early glowing summer of publicity but it will not be long before it faces
its own winter of discontent and sales drop away again. It was about to close before the gunmen arrived at the offices.
It claims it knocks everyone,
including Jews, but this was not case in the past. The French people know this and had largely turned their backs on the publication.
Maurice Sinet used the pen name
of Siné. He wrote articles as well as contributing cartoons when employed by Charlie Hebdo but he crossed
a red line when he commented on the marriage of Jean Sarkozy, son of a French president, to a Jewish heiress. He wrote
(in French) that if Jean Sarkozy planned to convert to Judaism, as was rumoured, “He’ll go a long way in life,
that little lad”. Personally, I find that highly amusing but from another section all hell broke loose.
Meddling Jewish journalist,
Claude Askolovitch, went on the attack with accusations of “anti-Semitism” whereupon the editor of Charlie Hebdo
demanded that Maurice Sinet get down on his knees and apologise to the Jews. Philippe Val, the editor, was to sack Sinet for
an “anti-Semitic” cartoon along with an article after Sinet told him he would prefer to “cut off his own
balls” than write a letter of apology.
So Maurice Sinet (the cartoonist Siné) was to be taken to court for “anti-Semitism”
over his Sarkozy cartoon. It was a civil case brought by Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme
that rebounded with Maurice responding with a separate case of slander. This led to further litigation between Maurice Sinet
and his former employer Charlie Hebno for wrongful dismissal. In 2010, Maurice was awarded 40,000 euro for wrongful
dismissal, with editor Philippe Val later resigning from Charlie Hebno and Maurice founding his own publication Sine
Hebno (see right).
Even the inevitable death threats from the Jewish Defence League did not deter the courageous octogenarian
cartoonist including the online threat, "Twenty centimetres of stainless steel in the gut, that should teach the bastard
to stop and think." The usual response from rabid Zionist Jews, you could say. Death threats were not new to me, either.
This is a different story to
my own experience with Jews objecting to my cartoons. In 1981, I was tried at Snaresbrook Crown Court in East London for “counselling
and procuring, aiding and abetting the publication and distribution of material likely to incite racial hatred” ...
namely a publication called The Stormer. Note the phrase “likely”, which more or less precluded the necessity
of proof. The complaint came from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
I pleaded not guilty on some very sound grounds. I did, indeed, draw
all the cartoon strips for the entire four page comic but I neither published nor distributed it. I left the original drawings
with a man called Jimmy Styles in East London who then took them to the late Tony Hancock, a printer on the South Coast. I
had heard the police had raided Jimmy Styles’ carpet shop in Roman Road and pulled up the floor boards looking for the
originals and negatives for printing. I was kept in the dark about this until I read about its distribution, from the South
of England all the way up to Dundee, in a tabloid newspaper.
The man who supplied and drove the transport for distribution was Ray Hill who,
it turned out later, was a mole and agent provocateur for the Zionist group Searchlight, which poses as an anti-fascist
outfit but, in reality, serves the Zionist entity. He was working for them at that time. As such, Searchlight bears
huge responsibility for the distribution of a publication that was originally created as a simple private experiment in bad
taste. By the standards of material in the United States, where free expression is enshrined in the US Constitution, it was
Jewish academic, Victor Navasky, wrote in his book The Art of Controversy - Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power,
in a chapter on me, " The Israel-watcher in me acknowledges that he got Begin's activities as a member of the Stern Gang
right but feels that Edwards undercuts his own observation by the hatefulness of the message implicit in his visual language.
The citizen in me finds his ideas repugnant, yet the sociologist in me wonders why the authorities find his work, which
itself is a caricature of conventional bigotry, sufficiently threatening to earn him imprisonment."
Victor Navasky disapproves of
me as a person but his liberal inclinations find appreciation in the idea that freedom of expression must cover all aspects
of the art of caricature and cartoons no matter how offensive they may be to some. Surely it is the very essence of caricature,
that exaggerates, stereotypes and reveals perhaps the darker side of humankind, that should be free of all censure, artistic
limitation and should be given full rein in order to experience its full potential. This should include experiments in bad
taste. The liberal aspect of my nature demands it.
I have recently appeared on Iran’s English-speaking PressTV news
channel, giving my views on the treatment of BBC reporter Tim Willcox who attended the Paris March of Unity. There, Willcox
interviewed the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who was going on about how the Jews are the target. He interjected with,
“The Palestinians have also suffered by Jewish hands”. Again, the full force of Jewish intolerance is felt and
they fell on Willcox demanding their pound of flesh. This was intolerable, they said, mentioning the Palestinians is an anti-Semitic
act, don’t you know? Israel had been maligned by this deviating from the Zionist narrative. Then Prime Minister Netanyahu
gate-crashed the proceedings even when told he was not welcome, pushing his way to the first column of marchers, up with the
best of them, waving like mad when all others showed a more solemn demeanour. This was your proverbial “pushy Jew”
of legend showing them who is boss. The rest of the world cringed at this vulgar behaviour.
Back to Willcox, this is the BBC whose editor
of the Middle East news desk sent a memo to all its journalists reminding them they should always give a pro-Israel slant
in their news reporting. Its anti-Palestinian propaganda is supplied, of course, by the Israeli military.
The editor of the Middle East
new desk is Raffi Berg. Another, a former Head of Policy was a member of the Labour Friends of Israel and swore that only
an Israeli-friendly agenda would be permitted at the BBC.
I pointed out these aspects of the BBC’s policy when interviewed on PressTV,
along with my own experience of being denied freedom of expression when jailed for twelve months in a British prison.
My main point was that just about any group can be lampooned, ostracised, ridiculed, insulted or simply have the piss taken,
except one ... that’s right, the Jews.
I recall an article in a copy of ACTION in the early 1960s. A passage in it said something
like this: “There is only one thing more absurd than the idea that the Jews are responsible for all the evil on this
earth and that is the idea the Jews can do no wrong and are perfect”.
There are people who do subscribe to one of either of those viewpoints
and they would both be wrong.
The Charlie Hebdo incident brought out all these people, the great and the good, the ordinary people and
those without any stake in society. The sloganising began immediately and the loudest was FREE SPEECH! The March of Unity
was to be about free speech and the world would join together in order to celebrate it. What a load of rubbish.
When Jews stop regarding themselves
as above criticism and their view as sacrosanct; when this nonsense about the mildest form of criticism regarding Israel and
its Jewish population being ‘anti-Semitic’ is exposed for the sham it all is, then we all may be on the path towards
a kind of freedom. The evil, I claim, is Zionism. It is the root cause of so much trouble in the world today, especially in
the Middle East. When the United States frees itself from the grip of the Jewish lobby and stops siding with Israel at the
UN then there is hope, my friends. Until then, the suffering goes on while the world does nothing.
copyright©2015 Robert Edwards