Cartoons and humour

J'accuse: Anniversary - The Dreyfus Affair

By Jean Pierre

On 13th January 1898, 108 years ago, Emile Zola's famous article "J'accuse" appeared in Paris on the front page of 'L'Aurore" ('The Dawn'). Emile bravely exposed corruption and injustice in France, as many are likewise exposing it here in Australia.

In J'accuse', Zola exposed a coverup involving the highest levels of the French political and military establishments and judiciary whereby an innocent man - Captain Alfred Dreyfus - had been falsely accused of spying or Germany and sentenced to Life on Devil's Island. Captain Dreyfus had been deliberately selected by the authorities as their ideal scapegoat solely because he was a Jew. They did so knowing the identity of the real spy - Captain Ezterhazy. Zola laid bare their conspiracy and its true purposes. He prophetically warned that the scourge of anti-semitism if unchecked would destroy France.

Zola published 'J'accuse' in open defiance of French censorship laws knowing he could be prosecuted. He was duly tried and sentenced to three years imprisonment but had the sentence quashed on appeal only to be put on trial once again. This time proceedings were commenced by the very judges whose corruption he had exposed. Zola was forced to flee into exile in England facing threats to his life.

A century later here in Australia, there have been many similar high level cover-ups by all governments, Federal and State, Liberal and Labor. Many innocent 'Captain Dreyfuses' have been framed by the authorities to protect the criminal acts of well connected public officials. The same modus operandi revealed by Emile Zola in 'J'accuse' still operates - only the scourge of anti-semitism has been replaced by another deeply entrenched prejudice with a long and murderous history - fear of the mentally ill. Australian governments have routinely employed psychiatrists to falsely label their own 'Captain Dreyfuses' as 'mentally ill' - so they can be summarily stripped of their legal and human rights - this was a method favoured by Nazi Germany, the USSR and China to crush dissidence.

Emile Zola is needed today more than ever.

" ...It is a crime to lie to the public, to twist public opinion...it is a crime to poison the minds of the meek and the humble, to stoke the passions of reaction and intolerance, by appealing to that odious anti-semitism that unchecked, will destroy the freedom-loving France of the Rights of Man. It is a crime to exploit patriotism in the service of hatred....I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much, and is entitled to happiness..." - Emile Zola, 'J'accuse'.

To commemorate the bravery of Emile Zola, artist Gerard Crewdson will be displaying the above text with an image of Emile Zola in a public work of art called 'J'accuse', along with another painting in which the artist imagines a 'dictators' version of the show Australian Idol in which the assembled Australian leaders score the maximum 10 out of 10 from the celebrity panel of judges - A. Hitler, J. Stalin, Chairman Mao. [See Cartoons, humour and other contributions.] All of these have in common the use of psychiatry to crush dissidence.