Charlie Hebdo won′t go over well in Germany, says satirist | Books | DW | 30.11.2016
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Charlie Hebdo won't go over well in Germany, says satirist

The French political satire magazine "Charlie Hebdo" is releasing its first edition in Germany on Thursday. Former "Titanic" editor-in-chief Martin Sonneborn predicts it won't go over well.

On the eve of the German release of the new "Charlie Hebdo" magazine on December 1, DW's Stefan Dege spoke with Martin Sonneborn, a satirist-turned-politician. The former head of the "Titanic" magazine and European parliamentarian representing "Die Partei" doesn't see much of a future for the magazine in Germany.

DW: "Charlie Hebdo" is coming to Germany. Mr. Sonneborn. Do you think it will be well received?

Martin Sonneborn: I don't. At the moment, "Charlie Hebdo" is living off of the attacks. The magazine itself had become relatively small in France. And only after the Islamists had carried out this attack was it once again on people's lips. Printings afterward were 307 times greater than in the past. But I don't believe that magazine will go over well in Germany, because it has such a specifically French aspect and represents a very unique type of humor.

The expected print run of the magazine is 200,000 copies - twice as much as that of the "Titanic." Are Germany's satirists worried?

Martin Sonneborn Satiriker (picture-alliance/Sven Simon/M. Ossowski)

Martin Sonneborn, satirist

No. Of course I told our editors to put on burkas and head to the nearest newsstand to buy and then burn the magazines. I believe that, should the French make it here, the satire magazines would coexist nicely side by side.

Since the terror attacks in 2015, the magazine has become something of a symbol for press and media freedom. What speaks to the contrary?

The simple fact that one cannot understand it. Sure, there will be a few French people who welcome the fact that it can be purchased on newsstands a day earlier. But I do not believe that many Germans have this relationship to France. The cartoons in "Charlie Hebdo" are often hard to comprehend and are quite radical. I am very thankful that in the days after the terrorist attack on "Charlie Hebdo," our magazine "Titanic" saw an uptick in subscriptions, with 1,500 new subscribers that are interested in satire. In that way, we remain quite friendly to the magazine, but I don't give them much of a chance here.

The French are a bit sharper in their criticism, throwing a critical eye on Muslims, for example. And of course, recently, there was the uproar about a cartoon featuring Italian earthquake victims as part of a pasta dish. May satire do this?

Yes. In theory, satire may do anything. The question remains, though, if the joke is good or not. Satire is an art form and it seeks to rectify an absence. I don't see that in this case. I only glanced at the joke and didn't really understand what it was about. I found it neither funny nor satirical.

You once wrote a thesis about the "satire magazine Titanic and the possibilities for satire." What sort of satire does Germany need?

Back in the late 1990s, when I wrote this, I said that in today's undifferentiated media landscape, there was no possibility to make an impact through satire. Then I put that idea off to the side in my activities as a "Titanic" editor. We were able to bring the World Cup to our country and forced right-wing radicals in state parliaments to step down. The pope sued "Titanic." That shows that satire can have an effect. Yet I hate to disappoint you: We write "Titanic" for ourselves. Finding a good joke about the things that bother us helps us to come to grips with this insane and increasingly lunatic capitalist system in Europe.

Could German humor be a hit if it were exported? You are something of a pioneer - a satirist who made it into the European Parliament.

I don't know if my colleagues take me seriously as an ambassador of humor. At least not all of them do - thankfully. But I do believe that German humor is undervalued by others around the world. We underestimate ourselves just as we underestimate the role that Germans play in Europe. We are Europe's metronome. And we are much further advanced in our humor than we believe.


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