Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Could Charlie Hebdo Have Published in Your Country?

 

13610541.jpgThe website spiked-online.com has an interesting thought experiment: could Charlie Hebdo have published in Great Britain, that ancient bastion of free speech and an independent press?

They come to answer in the negative, because complaints from all sorts of left-wing groups would pressure organizations to refrain from carrying the magazine, and it would have gone under from lack of revenue.

Now, I think that’s a fair prediction as far as it goes, but so what? Shouldn’t individual citizens be free to organize and express their displeasure about a magazine? As long as violent coercion and/or the power of the state are not brought to bear, are these not the methods societies should use to moderate themselves?

But, the thought experiment did make me think it could be illustrative for people to ask “Could Charlie Hebdo publish in my country?” and also to ask “If not, then why not?”

Up until recently, Charlie Hebdo almost certainly would have been ruled illegal in the Great White North, or at least litigated into bankruptcy thanks to the (now deprecated) language of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Even today, there’s still a “blasphemous libel” law in our Criminal Code. It’s really old, and completely unenforced, but it’s still on the books.

Furthermore, there are exceedingly few print magazines in Canada that do not receive government subsidies in the form of reduced postage rates or even direct grants. It’s highly unlikely that a magazine like Charlie Hebdo would qualify.

How about in the U.S?

I don’t think there would be any legal impediments for a magazine like Charlie Hebdo. Market forces would, however, probably kill it, or at least keep it reduced to a regional ‘zine or underground newsletter.

The closest the U.S. got was Mad magazine. In its heyday it might have published the sort of stuff that Charlie Hebdo puts out, but Mad has been entirely neutered under Time-Warner’s ownership.

Basically, I simply don’t see a magazine like Charlie Hebdo getting any traction with the companies that distribute print media in America. It could publish independently, or online, but without access to commercial distribution networks a print edition would be smothered in its cradle.

Thoughts?

There are 32 comments.

  1. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think what’s been lost in the moment of violence is the true nature of “Charlie.” It was fanatically leftist, almost radically atheistic.

    So, yes, that would appeal very much to the faculty lounges and their acolytes on American university campuses. Remove the Islamic content and the Jew-hating, anti-Christian stuff would probably go over big.

    • #1
    • January 12, 2015, at 11:17 AM PST
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  2. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill: Remove the Islamic content and the Jew-hating, anti-Christian stuff would probably go over big.

    But that’s sorta my point. Remove the Islamic content and it’s a different magazine.

    • #2
    • January 12, 2015, at 11:39 AM PST
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  3. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Space-wise I don’t know how much that took up. If you read about the history of the mag it wasn’t exactly that big. It actually ceased publishing for some time. I wouldn’t describe it as a French institution.

    If they had gone The Onion route and became a digital company this might not have even happened.

    • #3
    • January 12, 2015, at 12:40 PM PST
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  4. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    That was the lead of David Brook’s NYT column a few days ago, highlighted by Peter Robinson on the main feed:

    The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

    • #4
    • January 12, 2015, at 1:12 PM PST
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  5. Seawriter Member

    When I was in my late teens and early 20s there was a magazine even more over the top than Charlie Hebdo being published in the United States. The title is not Ricochet COC-compliant, but roughly translates to equine droppings.

    Saw it advertised in magazines appealing to young males — model-making, muscle-cars, sports (but not girly magazines). The ads emphasized its edgy humor. Never saw it at bookstores or magazine stands, so, I don’t know how big a circulation it had.

    There were also lots of underground comix (yes, spelled with an “x”) back then reaching Charlie Hebdo territory. Lots of those in the head shops and comics stores in Ann Arbor while I was there. (What was a non-dope smoking kid doing in head shops? They sold small boxes for roaches – marijuana butts – that were just perfect for storing wargame pieces in. Cheap, too.)

    Seawriter

    • #5
    • January 12, 2015, at 1:49 PM PST
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  6. Tiger Member
    Tiger Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Not in Australia –

    • #6
    • January 12, 2015, at 6:30 PM PST
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  7. Cato Rand Coolidge

    I think you’ve got to distinguish between a publication nobody wants to read and a publication that can’t be published. Those two problems are apples and oranges. I don’t think there’s an ounce of doubt Charlie Hebdo could be published in the U.S. Any claim to the contrary is hyperventilating nonsense. Our legal protections for free expression remain very robust, despite the efforts of a dedicated, but ultimately small and impotent, class of would be censors. Whether anybody would buy it is another matter altogether and if the answer is “no” I’m not going to lose any sleep over that.

    • #7
    • January 12, 2015, at 7:57 PM PST
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  8. Tony Martyr Member
    Tony Martyr Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Cato makes a good point – I would have agreed with Tiger, but that would have been based on “could it survive?”. I think it COULD be published in Australia. It would be spending a lot of time in court, and before the Press Council, and that would (probably quickly) have driven it to the wall (the process is the punishment), but I think it could start and operate.

    • #8
    • January 13, 2015, at 3:43 AM PST
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  9. Stephen Hall Inactive

    Australia is not the Soviet Union. A CH-type magazine could legally publish in Australia.

    Its content would, however, get it into serious legal trouble very quickly under the federal Racial Discrimination Act and similar state legislation. It would face numerous law suits for damages by persons who felt that they had been ‘humiliated’, ‘insulted’, ‘vilified’, etc. The magazine would probably lose many of those suits under the current legislation. Eventually, nobody would insure it for commercially affordable premiums. It would be quickly tamed, or it would close.

    • #9
    • January 13, 2015, at 4:53 AM PST
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  10. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    Technically Charlie Hebdo would face problems in English Canada. But Frank Magazine is pretty much Charlie Hebdo of Canada and its latest issue is going to be nothing but Charlie Hebdo stuff. So yes it will be published in the Great White North.

    Confederation leads to very wide differences in culture and laws.

    • #10
    • January 13, 2015, at 5:34 AM PST
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  11. Cato Rand Coolidge

    It wouldn’t even face the legal harassment in the U.S. I readily concede that the ability to constantly harass a small publication by hauling it before a human rights star chamber and forcing it to bankrupt itself with legal fees is functionally indistinguishable from simply legally mandating its closure, but we don’t suffer from either problem in the U.S.

    • #11
    • January 13, 2015, at 6:48 AM PST
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  12. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Cato Rand:It wouldn’t even face the legal harassment in the U.S. I readily concede that the ability to constantly harass a small publication by hauling it before a human rights star chamber and forcing it to bankrupt itself with legal fees is functionally indistinguishable from simply legally mandating its closure, but we don’t suffer from either problem in the U.S.

    Are we talking “America”, or “American college campuses”?

    • #12
    • January 13, 2015, at 6:54 AM PST
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  13. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    ToryWarWriter:Technically Charlie Hebdo would face problems in English Canada. But Frank Magazine is pretty much Charlie Hebdo of Canada and its latest issue is going to be nothing but Charlie Hebdo stuff. So yes it will be published in the Great White North.

    Confederation leads to very wide differences in culture and laws.

    I’ve been a Frank subscriber for many, many years. I’ve never seen an issue where it took pot shots at any religion. It has always restricted its satire and criticism to politicians, media personalities, and pompous socialites.

    Yes, they’re doing a Charlie Hebdo issue, but it’s the first time they’ve ever done such an issue.

    • #13
    • January 13, 2015, at 7:07 AM PST
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  14. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Cato Rand:I think you’ve got to distinguish between a publication nobody wants to read and a publication that can’t be published. Those two problems are apples and oranges. I don’t think there’s an ounce of doubt Charlie Hebdo could be published in the U.S. Any claim to the contrary is hyperventilating nonsense. Our legal protections for free expression remain very robust, despite the efforts of a dedicated, but ultimately small and impotent, class of would be censors. Whether anybody would buy it is another matter altogether and if the answer is “no” I’m not going to lose any sleep over that.

    I agree it could publish, but could it find distribution?

    Theoretically, just because a publication cannot convince a distributor does not necessarily mean nobody wants to read it.

    Thankfully, we have the Internet nowadays for getting around that problem.

    • #14
    • January 13, 2015, at 7:10 AM PST
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  15. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Miffed White Male: Miffed White Male That was the lead of David Brook’s NYT column a few days ago, highlighted by Peter Robinson on the main feed: “The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

    Well, since I don’t think any student publications should be funded by schools in the first place, I find it hard to fault that part.

    • #15
    • January 13, 2015, at 7:13 AM PST
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  16. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Seawriter: The title is not Ricochet COC-compliant, but roughly translates to equine droppings.

    Hipposcat?

    • #16
    • January 13, 2015, at 7:13 AM PST
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  17. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Miffed White Male:

    Cato Rand:It wouldn’t even face the legal harassment in the U.S. I readily concede that the ability to constantly harass a small publication by hauling it before a human rights star chamber and forcing it to bankrupt itself with legal fees is functionally indistinguishable from simply legally mandating its closure, but we don’t suffer from either problem in the U.S.

    Are we talking “America”, or “American college campuses”?

    First of all, “legal” harassment comes from the state, so we are excluding non-public college campuses from the calculation. As far as public schools go, the law is pretty clear. It is unfortunate that we need groups like FIRE (most notably but together with a host of others) around to remind administrators of it, but it is quite clear. And as far as I understand it, administrators too thick to understand it usually get the message pretty quickly, given the clarity of the law.

    I guess what I’m saying is that yes, there’s some harassment at public universities, but it’s one thing to be harassed by a bully who doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on (the U.S. situation) and another to be harassed by a bully who does, or at least may, have the law on his side (EU, Canada, etc.). A little pushback in the U.S. will virtually always ensure the right of expression, even in the most hostile environment we have in this country — the leftist campus.

    • #17
    • January 13, 2015, at 7:51 AM PST
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  18. Podkayne of Israel Member

    They could never have been permitted to print the anti-Islamic stuff in Israel. I don’t know about the anti-Christian stuff. Our Left, however, considers even the most vulgar material against traditional Judaism or Jewish symbols to be merely “edgy”.

    • #18
    • January 13, 2015, at 7:56 AM PST
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  19. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Misthiocracy:

    Cato Rand:I think you’ve got to distinguish between a publication nobody wants to read and a publication that can’t be published. Those two problems are apples and oranges. I don’t think there’s an ounce of doubt Charlie Hebdo could be published in the U.S. Any claim to the contrary is hyperventilating nonsense. Our legal protections for free expression remain very robust, despite the efforts of a dedicated, but ultimately small and impotent, class of would be censors. Whether anybody would buy it is another matter altogether and if the answer is “no” I’m not going to lose any sleep over that.

    I agree it could publish, but could it find distribution?

    Theoretically, just because a publication cannot convince a distributor does not necessarily mean nobody wants to read it.

    Thankfully, we have the Internet nowadays for getting around that problem.

    It will no longer be discriminated against by the USPO (unlike, say, “homosexualist” publications 50 years ago). If I run a private trucking company, though, should I be compelled to transport it?

    Don’t I have the same rights we all agree the anti-gay photographer and baker should have?

    What if I’m a devout Catholic, or Muslim, or whatever and am repulsed by it’s anti-religion themes?

    What if it’s a devoutly Catholic magazine we’re talking about and I’m Christopher Hitchens — convinced the Catholic Church is an authoritarian tyranny?

    What if it’s “ISIS Today”? Am I, as a freedom loving westerner, compelled to participate in its distribution?

    Freedom means freedom for everybody from state coercion. I don’t see why a private distributor should be excluded from that, or compelled to participate in distributing whatever they find offensive — on whatever grounds.

    • #19
    • January 13, 2015, at 8:02 AM PST
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  20. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Cato Rand: Freedom means freedom for everybody from state coercion. I don’t see why a private distributor should be excluded from that, or compelled to participate in distributing whatever they find offensive — on whatever grounds.

    Note that nobody argued that a private distributor should be compelled to participate. The question was akin to whether or not any private distributor in the USA would ever choose to participate.

    • #20
    • January 13, 2015, at 8:09 AM PST
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  21. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Cato Rand:

    Miffed White Male:

    Cato Rand:It wouldn’t even face the legal harassment in the U.S. I readily concede that the ability to constantly harass a small publication by hauling it before a human rights star chamber and forcing it to bankrupt itself with legal fees is functionally indistinguishable from simply legally mandating its closure, but we don’t suffer from either problem in the U.S.

    Are we talking “America”, or “American college campuses”?

    First of all, “legal” harassment comes from the state, so we are excluding non-public college campuses from the calculation. As far as public schools go, the law is pretty clear. It is unfortunate that we need groups like FIRE (most notably but together with a host of others) around to remind administrators of it, but it is quite clear. And as far as I understand it, administrators too thick to understand it usually get the message pretty quickly, given the clarity of the law.

    I guess what I’m saying is that yes, there’s some harassment at public universities, but it’s one thing to be harassed by a bully who doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on (the U.S. situation) and another to be harassed by a bully who does, or at least may, have the law on his side (EU, Canada, etc.). A little pushback in the U.S. will virtually always ensure the right of expression, even in the most hostile environment we have in this country — the leftist campus.

    Yeah, but sometimes the process is the punishment.

    • #21
    • January 13, 2015, at 8:27 AM PST
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  22. Seawriter Member

    Miffed White Male: Yeah, but sometimes the process is the punishment.

    Unless you attend a college, no internal process they initiate against your politically incorrect magazine affects you. You can (and should) tell them to pound sand, rather than appear before their tribunal. At most, they can ban your product on campus. (So, sell it at stores just outside the campus, and place a Banned at Podunk U” banner on your next cover.)

    With luck, the tribunal may do something actionable. At which point you sue them, win, and use what you get to keep the magazine in the black – adding a “Funded by a generous grant from Pondunk U” banner to the covers.

    Seawriter

    • #22
    • January 13, 2015, at 8:44 AM PST
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  23. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Misthiocracy:

    Cato Rand: Freedom means freedom for everybody from state coercion. I don’t see why a private distributor should be excluded from that, or compelled to participate in distributing whatever they find offensive — on whatever grounds.

    Note that nobody argued that a private distributor should be compelled to participate. The question was akin to whether or not any private distributor in the USA would ever choose to participate.

    Maybe, I thought I read an implication in the OP and some of the comments that some of these practical difficulties a Charlie Hebdo might face in economic survival amounted to a sort of censorship. Perhaps I’m over reading them, but that’s the idea I’ve been reacting to.

    • #23
    • January 13, 2015, at 9:04 AM PST
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  24. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Cato Rand:

    Misthiocracy:

    Cato Rand: Freedom means freedom for everybody from state coercion. I don’t see why a private distributor should be excluded from that, or compelled to participate in distributing whatever they find offensive — on whatever grounds.

    Note that nobody argued that a private distributor should be compelled to participate. The question was akin to whether or not any private distributor in the USA would ever choose to participate.

    Maybe, I thought I read an implication in the OP and some of the comments that some of these practical difficulties a Charlie Hebdo might face in economic survival amounted to a sort of censorship. Perhaps I’m over reading them, but that’s the idea I’ve been reacting to.

    Nope. The thought experiment was “could Charlie Hebdo publish in your country?” rather than “would Charlie Hebdo have the right to publish in your country?”

    • #24
    • January 13, 2015, at 9:12 AM PST
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  25. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Seawriter:

    Miffed White Male: Yeah, but sometimes the process is the punishment.

    Unless you attend a college, no internal process they initiate against your politically incorrect magazine affects you. You can (and should) tell them to pound sand, rather than appear before their tribunal. At most, they can ban your product on campus. (So, sell it at stores just outside the campus, and place a Banned at Podunk U” banner on your next cover.)

    With luck, the tribunal may do something actionable. At which point you sue them, win, and use what you get to keep the magazine in the black – adding a “Funded by a generous grant from Pondunk U” banner to the covers.

    Seawriter

    Agreed, and I’d add that the point I was making is that the process is a less effective punishment here than anywhere else in the world — because of the strength of our laws permitting free expression.

    Let me add — don’t let the best become the enemy of the good. Regrettably, there isn’t a world in which free expression is never challenged. There will always be “the offended” and they will always try to squelch what offends them — in any time or place, and under any system. All we can do is try to control how we respond to that reality.

    Moreover, the response will always take one of two forms — violence or some sort of non-violent dispute resolution. Presumably we all prefer to avoid violence, so we are left with some form of non-violent dispute resolution as the best option. Again, regrettably, that always involves costs, which means in some sense, “the process is always going to be the punishment.”

    But all we can do is try to minimize the costs. We cannot eliminate them. I will not pretend the American legal system is overly impressive when it comes to minimizing costs, but in truth, the kind of quick injunctive relief often available when a boneheaded administrator tramples on free expression rights — as well established as they are — is comparatively cost effective relative to much of what goes on in the American legal system.

    • #25
    • January 13, 2015, at 9:17 AM PST
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  26. Seawriter Member

    Misthiocracy: Nope. The thought experiment was “could Charlie Hebdo publish in your country?” rather than “would Charlie Hebdo have the right to publish in your country?”

    Like I said back in Comment 5, Charlie Hebdo-like magazines were being published in the US at least as late as 1980. A lot of the underground comix were at least as (and intentionally as) offensive as Charlie Hebdo. I knew about them back then because I grew up in a town with an active drug culture.

    As near as I can tell, nothing prevents publication of these types of magazines in 2015, although distribution is unlikely to follow conventional channels. (It did not back then, either.) But I have not seen this type of magazine since leaving Ann Arbor, Michigan, so I cannot testify to their existence today.

    Seawriter

    • #26
    • January 13, 2015, at 9:20 AM PST
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  27. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Seawriter: Like I said back in Comment 5, Charlie Hebdo-like magazines were being published in the US at least as late as 1980. A lot of the underground comix were at least as (and intentionally as) offensive as Charlie Hebdo. I knew about them back then because I grew up in a town with an active drug culture.

    Indeed. In the OP I wrote that Mad Magazine used to come pretty close to the sort of stuff Charlie Hebdo publishes, but that it’s been neutered under the ownership of Time-Warner (and don’t get me started on the increasing progressive orthodoxy of the current incarnation of Cracked).

    One could also cite magazines like National Lampoon and Heavy Metal, which both liked to push the envelopes of “good taste”.

    So, how come magazines of this sort are no longer published (or at least distributed commercially)?

    1980 was THIRTY-FIVE years ago.

    • #27
    • January 13, 2015, at 9:24 AM PST
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  28. Seawriter Member

    Misthiocracy:

    Seawriter: Like I said back in Comment 5, Charlie Hebdo-like magazines were being published in the US at least as late as 1980. A lot of the underground comix were at least as (and intentionally as) offensive as Charlie Hebdo. I knew about them back then because I grew up in a town with an active drug culture.

    Indeed. In the OP I wrote that Mad Magazine used to come pretty close to the sort of stuff Charlie Hebdo publishes, but that it’s been neutered under the ownership of Time-Warner (and don’t get me started on the increasing progressive orthodoxy of the current incarnation of Cracked).

    One could also cite magazines like National Lampoon and Heavy Metal, which both liked to push the envelopes of “good taste”.

    So, how come magazines of this sort are no longer published (or at least distributed commercially)?

    1980 was THIRTY-FIVE years ago.

    I do not know that they are no longer published – only that I no longer frequent the types of establishments which had those types of magazines.

    Even back then underground comix were kind of an underground thing. The market for them was pretty small. You would not see them in newsstands at a mall, B Dalton’s, Waldenbooks, or even the original Borders Books on State Street in Ann Arbor. You had to go to a hole-in-the-wall head shop.

    My bet is you can still find magazines with CB-type humor in hole-in-the-wall specialty places today. There just is not enough of a market for that niche to have it in mainstream outlets any more than there was enough of a market for it in 1980.

    Seawriter

    • #28
    • January 13, 2015, at 9:54 AM PST
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  29. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Misthiocracy:

    Seawriter: Like I said back in Comment 5, Charlie Hebdo-like magazines were being published in the US at least as late as 1980. A lot of the underground comix were at least as (and intentionally as) offensive as Charlie Hebdo. I knew about them back then because I grew up in a town with an active drug culture.

    Indeed. In the OP I wrote that Mad Magazine used to come pretty close to the sort of stuff Charlie Hebdo publishes, but that it’s been neutered under the ownership of Time-Warner (and don’t get me started on the increasing progressive orthodoxy of the current incarnation of Cracked).

    One could also cite magazines like National Lampoon and Heavy Metal, which both liked to push the envelopes of “good taste”.

    So, how come magazines of this sort are no longer published (or at least distributed commercially)?

    1980 was THIRTY-FIVE years ago.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but print magazines as a format are dying. Time and Newsweek barely exist anymore in that format (if they do at all, I don’t even know, haven’t seen either in a long time). I don’t think the loss of Mad or Cracked can really be put down to PC distributors.

    • #29
    • January 13, 2015, at 11:37 AM PST
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  30. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Cato Rand: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but print magazines as a format are dying. Time and Newsweek barely exist anymore in that format (if they do at all, I don’t even know, haven’t seen either in a long time). I don’t think the loss of Mad or Cracked can really be put down to PC distributors.

    True, Mad’s circulation peaked in 1974, but it is still published, and it’s published by one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world.

    Also, Cracked today is one of the most popular and successful online “publications”, with over 300 million monthly page views.

    These publications are not “lost”. They’ve adapted to the market. The thought experiment is, can that market include something like Charlie Hebdo and, if not, is that desirable?

    • #30
    • January 13, 2015, at 12:30 PM PST
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