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Journalism by Joe Sacco

Journalism (2012)

by Joe Sacco

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Ok, I love Joe Sacco's work. His empathy for people comes out in both the story telling and the visual portrayal of the people he interviews. However, unfortunately, more and more I feel self-righteousness has crept into his writing. Let me explain.

In his introduction, he consciously argues that his biases are justified, in that, following Fisk, he "is on the side that suffers." Unfortunately, except for perhaps the Indian Dalits story, where there IS only one side to that story, in the others his biases are not as "pure" as he likes to think (or have us think). On the political conflicts, when it comes to Russians and Israelis vs. Palestinians and Chechens, one side is portrayed in one dimension while the other are pure victims. In particular, in the Chechen story Russians are either the evil Putin or thuggish murderous soldiers. Well yes, it's true, the Russian army pounded Chechniya into dust and Putin is kinda evil. But the Chechniyan rebels are blood thirsty mad men as well and bear equal responsibility for the suffering of their own people. So true, the Chechniyan people suffered awfully, but you can't put all the blame on the Russian soldiers or even Putin.

By contrast, despite his anti-Imperialism he still relates on a human basis to his fellow US compatriots. So while objectively the US invasion of Iraq caused far more damage to Iraqis and Iraq, than Russia's razing of Chechniya, and objectively the US had less right to intervene, you would never know it from Sacco's pieces. Sure in one of the three Iraq stories he talks about US torture, but nonetheless the picture coming out is that the US soldiers are well meaning fine young folk from Rural America put in an unfair situation by bad Bushies. There is a lot of truth in that, but that's equally true of Russian soldiers, who had to deal with crazed Chechniyan militants. And equally so for Israeli soldiers. In fact the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has even more twists and nuances but at least Sacco does try a wee bit to paint Israelis as not all having horns. Similarly, I had to read in the text of his afterward that he sympathized with the African migrants over his Maltese tribe, because I sure didn't get that feeling in the story. There he portrayed all the complexities of both sides but that didn't quite align with his self image so he had to add clarifying words, words that contradict the story he actually told.

The point is not who is "right" or "wrong" in these stories - the point is Joe Sacco follows his heart which is not always or only about "the side that suffers." He loses clarity because he relies only on his own feelings and his empathy for the people in front of him, even when that empathy is not always or only about suffering (e.g. US soldiers or his Maltese tribe). So he ends up being both inconsistent and unfair. He too easily forgets that in most human stories, suffering is multi-sided and complex, and revels in his vision of himself as a moral hero, when he has nothing personal at stake.

What Sacco does is great story telling in a comic form, sort of an ongoing memoir of his own life and people he encounters. Perhaps it's political advocacy and perhaps in some places (mostly in the Chechniyan story), it verges on propaganda. But the title of this book is just plain wrong - this isn't Journalism. ( )
  aront | Jul 25, 2017 |
This is a collection of reportages in graphic novel format, written/designed between 1998 and 2011, focusing on the plight of people affected by war or poverty. The stories cover places such as the Palestinian Territories, the Caucasus, Iraq, the refugee camps in Malta and India. In their stark and unflinching look at the plight of the people portrayed, they challenge our humanity. ( )
  sushicat | Jan 14, 2016 |
Compilation of short "stories", covering different humanitarian problems around the world (India, Chechenya, Yugoslavia...). As usual, Sacco introduces very well the background of the place. Few draws and words give a very informative view on the situation. Then he goes deeper into it interviewing the people in the field.

Informative, interesting although it won't make you feel really good about humanity. ( )
  ivan.frade | Oct 13, 2014 |
  shawjonathan | Feb 19, 2013 |
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To Paul Copley and Hal Swafford, teachers and friends.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805094865, Hardcover)

A first for the world's greatest cartoon reporter, a collection of journalism, including articles on the American military in Iraq that have never been published in the United States

Over the past decade, Joe Sacco, "our moral draughtsman" (Christopher Hitchens), has increasingly turned to short-form comics journalism to report from the sidelines of wars around the world. Collected here for the first time, Sacco's darkly funny, revealing reportage confirms his standing as one of the foremost war correspondents working today.

In "The Unwanted," Sacco chronicles the detention of Saharan refugees who have washed up on the shores of Malta; "Chechen War, Chechen Women" documents the trial without end of widows in the Caucasus; and "Kushinagar" goes deep into the lives of India's untouchables, who are hanging "onto the planet by their fingernails." Other pieces take Sacco to the smuggling tunnels of Gaza; the trial of Milan Kovacevic, Bosnian warlord, in The Hague; and the darkest chapter in recent American history, Abu Ghraib. And on a mission with American troops—pieces never published in the United States—he confronts the misery and absurdity of the war in Iraq.

Among Sacco's most mature, accomplished work, Journalism demonstrates the power of our premier cartoonist to chronicle human experience with a force that often eludes other media.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:17 -0400)

A journalistic collection in comic book format from the sid3elines of wars around the world includes articles on the American military in Iraq, the Caucasus widow trials, the dilemmas of India's "untouchables," and the smuggling tunnels of Gaza.

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