For Charlie Hebdo

Profanation … neutralises what it profanes. Once profaned, that which was unavailable and separate loses its aura and is returned to use … [It] deactivates the apparatuses of power and returns to common use the spaces that power had seized.

The profanation of the unprofanable is the political task of the coming generation.

Giorgio Agamben

Members of the  editorial board of the satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo were today massacred. Among those killed were the caricaturists Charb, Wolinski, Cabu, and Tignous: what could be called a generation of left-wing cartoonists, that of May 1968.

Charlie Hebdo traces its roots back to the satirical newspaper Hari-Kari, founded in 1960 by François Cavanna and Georges Bernier. Banned on various occasions, it would find a successor in May 1969, with L’hebdo hari-kari and the monthly, Charlie. In 1970, the weekly would again be banned, reappearing as Charlie Hebdo.

Animated by the political engagements of its founders, and markedly rooted in a non-sectarian leftist libertarianism, the magazine excelled in profanation, in the mocking of all that is held to be sacred and therefore inviolable.

Profanation is here not to be understood as exclusive to religious matters, but to all that is elevated above the possibility of critique and change.

Those who murdered the members of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial board are not just fanatical religious obscurantists striking out against the freedom of speech (something that can be read as the confrontation between two sacred values). What is opposed here is rather the violence of sacralisation, perhaps the final ground of all institutionalised power, and the power of creation which can recognise no limits, or that whatever limits there may be, they are but ephemeral, always things to be played with, laughed at.

Revolution is the permanent possibility of profanation.

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