Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

April 6, 2011

Tintin Au Congo Can Be Tried For Racism

In something of a surprise decision given the recommendation last month from the relevant prosecutor's office that the court in question -- le Tribunal de Première Instance de Bruxelles -- not accept jurisdiction to decide whether or not Tintin Au Congo is racist in a way that makes it subject to laws against the defamation to groups of people, that court decided that it could hear the case after all. The article here gives a rundown of the multiple years spent in court by Mbuto Mondondo, who is apparently greatly satisfied with the decision.

imageI know from covering it in blogger's fashion here that the case doesn't interest most people but for those that are interested it unlocks dams of certainty and passion as to what's just and what's not that make it difficult to find any path into the matter not already trail-blazed by an advocate or critic of the court case. That's usually okay, but the legal foundations feel so different here that I think there's a large disconnect in terms of what a lot of folks see as appropriate potential action. That doesn't stop people agitating for one way or another of looking at the matter.

What I hear most often from the side that thinks the case is stupid or even dangerous is that it trivializes the intent of the law for the sake of course-correcting the dissemination of art whose racism is easily understood both as racism and as a deeply unfortunate product of its time. What I hear from the other side is that the criticism of Mondondo comes from an infuriating, deeply troubling perspective that combines the willful excuse-making of the fanboy with the cold arrogance of French-language speaking people generally when it comes to any suggestion of a blind spot in national or regional character. I'm also never surprised when I meet people disgusted with both sides, questioning, say, both the authenticity of the complaint and the strangulated fashion in which the publisher tried to negotiate issues of jurisdiction.

At any rate, you might try and google-translate the article in question and read it, or cast about for something like it, in order to catch up with the issues involved -- and stake out your own position if you're inclined. Apparently, the complaint seeks a banning of the book unless contextual and/or warning information is provided. There will be discussions and even maybe oral arguments on the issues involved leading up to a decision or agreement later this month.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

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