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Shot of the Day: Charlie Hebdo, Was This Week’s Cover an Anti-Smoking Message?


The terrible message of the terrorist attack on the French satire magazine in Paris is clear enough. Full Stop. But the message on the cover of the current issue leaves us scratching our dumb American heads. Is it a French thing?

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On Wednesday, in Paris, two terrorists gunned down 12 people (at last count) in an attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a very politically incorrect satire magazine with a history of running covers that make fun of public figures, including some of Prophet Muhammad that have inflamed fundamentalist Muslims.

The massacre, which is believed to have been motivated by the suspects’ Islamist fervor, follows the publication of the cover below, which does not parody Mohammad but does skewer the (in)famous French novelist Michel Houellebecq, who was once widely celebrated as the enfant terrible of French letters. But over the past decade his increasingly virulent anti-Muslim rantings have made him seem to many non-Muslims—including Charlie Hebdo—as a bitter old crank. And of course he is despised by many more Muslims. (Houellebecq announced yesterday that he was stopping his PR for the new novel.)

His newest novel, Submission, was published on the day of the attack. In it he imagines how terrible life will be when France is ruled by fundamentalist Muslims.

The Charlie Hebdo cover cartoon is titled “The predictions of the wise man Houellebecq” and reads: “In 2015, I’ll lose my teeth.” And “In 2022, I’ll observe Ramadan.”

Now, we’re the first ones to admit that we just don’t get the satire. Maybe it’s a French thing. Maybe we’re not sophisticated enough. It’s clear that Charlie Hebdo does not think Houellebecq, a well-known chain smoker, is a wise man making serious prophecies.

Are they basically saying he should be a lot more worried about losing his teeth and other health problems related to his addiction to cigarettes than worried about some distant future threat that he is likely not to survive long enough to see?

If so, that anti-smoking message had one hell of an impact. Whether we get it or not, we pay tribute to the Charlie Hebdo staff and others who were murdered on Wednesday. Je suis Charlie!