Censor Reiersen

Pages for a new History of Political Cartooning in Denmark 

Censorship had a name in the 1840'ies Denmark: Christian Reiersen.

Peter Klæstrup for Corsaren, No. 213, October 11, 1844.
Corsaren on its fourth birthday recalling its hatching
cleverly playing onto its innocence.
Reiersen has gone down in history as a man weighed down by the constant barrage of critical articles and magazines, he had to keep in check, first and foremost Corsaren.

The annals are telling us of the embittered final decade of his career in which he had to work still longer hours having to be relieved from his other duties and in the end writing the King for a pay-rise to be compensated for the "manifold humiliations destroying health and serenity, the insults and undeserved defamations" in full-filling his task.

The compensation was duly given and let us be blunt: With the mix of the strict and the irritable all through the 1840'ies, throwing tantrums, when rules were tempered with, another bureaucrat come to mind; the one who came to define the danger of mistaking dutifulness with the reason for fulfilling his task. The latter was a bureaucrat to the core of his being and made himself one with his task making certain the trains left for Auschwitz as scheduled: Adolf Eichmann, who in his own words were "the best to get the job done", and consequently - according to his line of logic - had to take his fate upon him:

Peter Klæstrup for Corsaren, No. 814, September 25, 1846.

Abraham would sacrifice his own son at God's command, however the Age of Miracles was no more, in the words of Corsaren. No hand from above would stop Reiersen from killing Corsaren No. 313. Not that week either and in the six years, 1840-46, the weekly was in the hands of its founder, the young author M.A. Goldschmidt it was seized in a total of 43 weeks.

Peter Klæstrup for Corsaren, No. 302, July 3, 1846.
Corsaren arming itself.
Like Eichmann, Reiersen never asked to be transferred to other duties and at one point his dedication led him to censure one of the king's own speeches. He gave presence to the censorship of printed matter and the cartoons on his person of which Corsaren was brimming, symbolized the response from King Christian VIII on the existence of critical magazines: NO, NO and NO - and keep an extra eye on those troublesome personages.

Peter Klæstrup for Corsaren,
No. 320, November 6, 1846.

Christian VIII himself was a no go in terms of being drawn unless done so in regal splendour, which Corsaren cleverly played on in cartoons such as the case of Abraham above in which we even have a double layer at hand. The king was officially the hand of God to a degree that he has here taken on divine powers deciding life and death on his whim. Life as in the free spirit of his fellow men.

Ultimately everyone - the king, his censor and the critical voices of the day - all found themselves in a frustrating stalemate. The king stubbornly holding on to his rights, while democratic ideas were surfacing from still new corners. Corsaren characterized itself as a picador, irritating the bull with fine pointed arrows, but with no intention of killing it. Only, it found itself in a tournament for which it was totally unprotected and having to arm itself to withstand.

To Reiersen it must have been all the more provoking having his physiognomy known as but the self-serving servant having his moment. Beware, as Corsaren mocked him at one point, one day the table will be turned, and we shall be the conceited ones bedecked with honors.

In the meantime Reiersen saw himself as "The cold-blooded murderer and yet a man; a tragedy according to the Statute of September 27, 1799" (the law of censorship) as the cartoon was titled above on the editor of De Frisindede (i.e. The Free Thinkers) Claudius Rosenhoff. The allusion to his day job teaching the guitar serves likewise as the illusion of his critical nerve getting cut.

Reiersen personified the absurdity, the business, for which there would be no need the minute a constitution of democracy was signed. Which took place in 1849. Three years before Goldschmidt had sold on Corsaren giving Reiersen a final salute, portraying him having A Spot of Lunch:

Peter Klæstrup for Corsaren, No, 327, December 24, 1846.
- Bon appetit!

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