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MAD Magazine’s Chilling Response To The Charlie Hebdo Murders

In a TV commentary, Mad Magazine editor John Ficarra notes a lingering fear among professional provocateurs.

MAD Magazine’s Chilling Response To The Charlie Hebdo Murders

Given Charlie Hebdo’s comparisons to Mad Magazine, it made sense for Mad to come out in solidarity with the French satirical magazine whose editors were murdered by jihadists this month over cartoons skewering Islamic fundamentalism.

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What was unexpected was its gravitas. In a rare moment of seriousness, Mad editor John Ficarra appeared on CBS Sunday Morning in a chilling commentary. Beyond the attack on free speech and horror of cartoonists murdered for doing their job, is the hesitancy that now permeates the creative community.

Although Mad has also targeted religious institutions or leaders—most notably the Catholic Church for its child-abuse cover-up, its practiced a different brand of satire. “The worst that could happen to us was that we would get a stern letter from their lawyers–we live for those. Not once did we ever fear for our safety,” said Ficarra in the commentary.

“When Sunday Morning approached me about doing this commentary, I paused,” he added. “In this unsettling new world, by the simple act of appearing on camera, denouncing the terrorists and defending the rights of cartoonists and satirists, would I be drawing a target on my back and the backs of my colleagues?

“And the very fact that I had these fears?” he said. “Score one for the terrorists.”

Yet, despite comparisons, the magazines maintain differing satirical boundaries—views in keeping with a debate erupting in France over whether the Charlie Hebdo editors pushed their humor too far.

The cartoon pays homage to the iconic Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photo and statue commemorating WWII’s Battle of Iwo Jima.

Mad Magazine will continue its longstanding tradition of lampooning American pop culture, lifestyle and politics. Recent world events and attacks on free speech won’t change that,” Ficarra told Fast Company. “However, we’ve always believed that just because you can print something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.”

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About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.

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