Whether or not it was necessary to publish Xavier Gorce’s drawing on incest that appeared on Tuesday, January 19, in a newsletter of World ? No, said Caroline Monnot, the editor of the daily, in a message of apology addressed to readers and published the same day, after a discussion with the designer, on Lemonde.fr. The next day, Xavier Gorce announced his decision to put an end to nearly two decades of collaboration with The world. In a clarification, Jérôme Fenoglio, the director of World, reaffirmed for its part that the publication of this drawing constituted ” a mistake “, while noting the illustrator’s decision and specifying that “We didn’t want it”. We return here to the circumstances and the questions raised by this departure.
- Has Xavier Gorce’s drawing been censored?
The drawing by which the controversy arose appeared in “Le Brief du Monde” of January 19, a newsletter published at 6 am, Monday to Friday. This newsletter is sent to the mailboxes of its 52,000 subscribers and cannot be modified a posteriori. In addition, this drawing still appears on Xavier Gorce’s blog, hosted by Lemonde.fr. This drawing was therefore in no way censored.
However, its publication prompted reactions on Tuesday morning within the editorial staff of the World and the Society of Editors of World, several journalists considering that the lightness with which this drawing dealt with the question of incest put it at odds with the in-depth work carried out on this question in recent months: a double page of investigation, the title of ” one ”and the editorial of the daily in its edition dated November 24, 2020, then an in-depth follow-up of the consequences of the charges of incest against his twin brother brought by Camille Kouchner against the political scientist Olivier Duhamel, his father-in-law, in a book published in early January, The Big Family (Threshold, 2021).
- Why did “Le Monde” apologize?
The editorial management of World felt that Xavier Gorce’s drawing was confused, out of place in some of its terms, and could legitimately offend some readers, even as a painful release of speech on the facts of incest was witnessing the taking of awareness on this subject long taboo within society. She further considered that the connection with transidentity, intended to create a humorous effect, was particularly unwelcome. In short, that it was in the state of a drawing which would have required discussions with the author and clarifications which could not take place before publication.
On the other hand, contrary to what the cartoonist said in the media, Xavier Gorce was contacted on Tuesday in the middle of the day – so before the publication of the apologies of the World – by Jérôme Fenoglio, with whom he had a long conversation about the content of his drawing. This discussion did not remove the ambiguities about the meaning of this drawing. At its end, the publication of a short text of apology for the attention of shocked readers appeared legitimate to the management of the World.
“This drawing can indeed be read as a relativization of the gravity of the acts of incest, in inappropriate terms vis-à-vis victims and transgender people. The world would like to apologize for this error to the readers who may have been shocked ”, wrote Caroline Monnot in her text published Tuesday at 2:20 p.m. on Lemonde.fr.
” We consider (…) that press freedom, a vital element of our democracy, cannot be divided, added Jérôme Fenoglio in his update on Wednesday. It must be just as complete for cartoonists, or journalists, as it is for newspapers in their choice of whether or not to publish a drawing. ”
- Are the drawings of the “World” validated before publication?
Like all articles, photos, videos or infographics, the drawings published in The world are subject to validation by the editorial management. For example, Plantu offers several sketches of drawings every morning to the editorial management, who chooses one, which the designer then finalizes. For his part, Serguei, another designer employed by The world, generally only offers one track, but this is the subject of extensive discussions with the artistic direction of the newspaper before its finalization.
It was different for Xavier Gorce, and this is what can explain this publication error. “Le Brief du Monde” appearing in the wee hours of the morning, the author of “Indégivables” generally delivered his drawing late in the evening, or even at night. This drawing was then validated by the editor of permanence on the news, without possible discussion with the direction of the drafting, nor with the author.
On Tuesday 19 January, in the evening, Jérôme Fenoglio also proposed to Xavier Gorce to modify this validation circuit, in order to prevent such a problem from occurring again. The designer should then have delivered his drawing the day before its publication. The objective was to be able to cross the points of view on the drawing and thus to avoid possible problems of comprehension of the latter. Xavier Gorce’s decision to end his collaboration with The world cut this project short.
- What were the reactions of the readers of “Le Monde”?
The excitement caused by the publication of this drawing within the editorial staff was quickly followed by the arrival of outraged reaction mails to the letters of the readers, throughout the morning. « Indignation », “Indecency”, “Incomprehension”, “Astonishment”, “Perplexity”, “infamous”, “violent”, “nauseating”, “extreme bad taste” : the words used by readers were particularly strong, denouncing both what they felt to be the neglect of incest victims, but also the confusion with transgender people.
Some of these messages also attacked ideas « rances » see “Reactionaries” of the designer, who would have yielded in recent months, in the words of a reader, to “The easy and gratuitous provocation to avoid wondering about social issues which clearly make him uncomfortable”. “I appreciate trash humor, black humor, excess and the second degree, but, here, nothing is funny or irreverent, we only feel the bitterness, the desire to harm and to exclude “, wrote a reader, Mathieu Nguyen.
The apologies of the World then the update, Wednesday, of Jérôme Fenoglio, published after the announcement of the departure of Xavier Gorce, triggered a second round of reactions, more numerous and just as indignant. In the midst of the – unfounded – accusations of censorship, these readers accused their newspaper pell-mell of trampling on freedom of expression and the “Je suis Charlie” movement, of giving in to the « cancel culture » and political correctness or to follow in the footsteps of New York Times, who had decided, in 2019, following the publication of a controversial cartoon, to no longer publish press cartoons in its international edition.
“If the latest fashion in your journal is to refrain from humor and irony, to refrain from any expression that is not absolutely guaranteed without any roughness and totally inclusive / benevolent / odorless / tasteless, then I ask you a question: what is the point The world ? », questioned Olivier Dupuy. Most of these messages claimed to regret the departure of Xavier Gorce, a reader even proposing to the illustrator to buy him the drawing by which the controversy had arrived.
- Is the press cartoon threatened in the “World”?
The world is today the French daily general information which makes the most use of cartoonists and press illustrators: around 70 per month, including those published in “Le Brief du Monde”, to which we can add the eight drawn blogs hosted by Lemonde.fr. And he does not envisage in any way bending this line, as the New York Times was able to do so, in the most radical way, in 2019. Or like other French newspapers which have reduced, or even eliminated, for several years, this mode of expression.
“We will welcome, in the coming weeks, a designer to succeed Xavier Gorce in our newsletter“ Le Brief du Monde ”, affirmed Jérôme Fenoglio in his update on Wednesday. We will persist in defending this particular kind of freedom of expression, including when it disturbs us and pushes us aside, while remaining vigilant on our freedom to publish by remaining true to our values. “
When Plantu retires on March 31, cartoonists from the Cartooning for Peace collective will take over on the front page of the newspaper. The commitment of World for press cartoons will therefore continue to last.