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Arts & Culture

U-T San Diego Cartoonist Steve Breen Reacts To Paris Killings

Steve Breen tweeted a cartoon that he created after the Paris shootings that left 12 people dead.

Steve Breen, an award-winning editorial cartoonist at U-T San Diego, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the killing of four cartoonists and eight others at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly publication.

Breen, who has won two Pulitzer Prizes in editorial cartooning and is the author of "Unicorn Executions and Other Crazy Stuff My Kids Make Me Draw," said he would not call cartoons that Charlie Hebdo has run "irresponsible," but he is cautious in his work when dealing "with religion and race because I don't want my point to be lost or twisted."

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Here is the full statement Breen provided to KPBS:

"The killings in France need to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who senselessly lost their lives today. No one should ever be hurt or killed for saying, writing or drawing anything. People are asking for my reaction to this as a cartoonist. My first thought was one of sadness and shock. Paris will likely have a chilling effect on the world of satire. I guess I always thought something like this could happen, but it seemed unlikely. The Danish cartoon incident was one thing but this massacre is obviously on another level.

"Personally, I try to be provocative but not needlessly provocative in my work. I won't say the cartoons which ran in Charlie Hebdo were irresponsible, because that connotes justification for this kind of terror. (and it needs to be noted that this magazine printed controversial material involving all manner of subjects, not just Islam) But if the goal is to get people to think about your message, and then you inflame passions to the point where emotions take over thought and reason, things go off the rails. Drawing Mohammed, especially in highly offensive fashion, is like sticking your finger in someone's eye. If you're trying to reach them or change their minds, is that the best approach? Mohammed, according to Muslims, should never be depicted in paintings or drawings. You can get the same message across by just labeling a figure as 'Islamists.' Would a hardened radical be reached with a gentler brand of satire? Maybe not. But as a cartoonist, I've learned I have to be extremely careful when I deal with religion and race because I don't want my point to be lost or twisted. That's just me. Others may disagree.

"That all said, violence is never, ever an acceptable response to commentary or satire. We can self-censor ourselves for various reasons but we can't live in a world where some person or some group decides what's offensive and what's not."