"If you start by asking whether or not you have the right or not to draw Muhammad … then the next question is, can you put Muslims in the paper? And then, can you put human beings in the paper? In the end, you can’t put anything in, and the handful of extremists who are agitating around the world and in France will have won." (Charlie Hebdo editor, Stéphane Charbonnier/The Guardian)
“We’re a newspaper that respects French law,” said Gérard Biard, the editor in chief. “Now, if there’s a law that is different in Kabul or Riyadh, we’re not going to bother ourselves with respecting it.” (New York Times)
Charlie Hebdo is a political satire magazine in Paris, France. "Charlie Hebdo is part of a venerable tradition in French journalism going back to the scandal sheets that denounced Marie-Antoinette in the run-up to the French Revolution." (BBC News)
According to the BBC, the magazine is a combination of "left wing radicalism with a provocative scurrility that often borders on the obscene".
In 2011 their offices were bombed over caricatures supposedly insulting to Islam. They rebuilt, reopened for business, and doubled down. They have received repeated threats over their editorial and satirical content.
Charlie Hebdo is an equal opportunity "offender". The magazine published cartoons lampooning other religions and French politicians in the past.
On Wednesday, terrorists attacked the office of Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and wounding 8. Allegedly the attack was a response to a recent issue supposedly offensive to Islam. According to the BBC, "The gunmen shouted "we have avenged the Prophet Muhammad", witnesses say."
European heads of state or their spokespeople condemned the violence. Many spokespeople in the Paris Muslim community condemned the attack. The Obama administration also condemned the attack and offered assistance.
There is a price to pay for invoking your freedom. Sometimes that price is high. Sometimes it is the ultimate price. There is no such thing as too high a price to invoke and protect freedom.
There is or should be no such thing as sacrificing freedom in the name of security. That odious concept is suppression and repression. It is what dictators the world over dream of.
Self censorship is well and good in the name of good taste, appropriateness, etiquette, good judgement, or other social niceties. Most media outlets self censor and know how far they can stretch the envelope before angering consumers. That is just good business.
In any country that touts a free press, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression, there is no such thing as offensive or hate press, speech or expression. There is only unfettered free speech, press, and expression, along with unfettered free criticism.
It is the government's duty and obligation to protect those freedoms. Government has no right, duty, or obligation to interfere or respond, no matter who might be offended or the potential reaction to the offense.
The only limits on free speech, press, or expression are if they create an imminent threat or clear and present danger. Even those limitations have been narrowly defined and strictly limited by the courts.
Freedom of press, speech, and expression guarantees the free flow, debate, and discussion of thoughts, ideas, and criticism vital to a free society. Argument and debate can be made over expression and speech, its propriety, offensiveness, or other issues. Argument, debate, and criticism are vital. They are not repression. They should stop short of banning any speech, expression, or publication.
Charlie Hebdo paid a high price for their satire. 12 people dead, including the editors. They were fierce and fearless in a world that demands moderation and cowardice.
Over one hundred journalists were killed doing their jobs in 2014. Many were executed just because they were journalists. Journalists have been arrested, including in the United States, just for doing their jobs.
People in the worlds of writing, art, photography, entertainment, and other creative endeavors come under constant attack for their speech and expression. Executives, lawyers, and public relations people craft oleaginous apologies to appease the overly tender sensitivities of the easily offended.
We send our military to the far flung corners of the world to supposedly protect, instill, and even die for freedom. Yet, here at home, we suppress, repress, and even oppress freedom of the press, speech, and expression if it offends the overly tender sensitivities of whoever.
Sending people to shed blood or die for freedom while suppressing it at home is the epitome of hypocrisy.
When does it stop? When do we say enough is enough? When do we stand up for our rights to publish, speak, or express ourselves without restraint, apology or withdrawal of our work? When do we end self censorship solely because we fear blow back or repercussion?
The hastag, #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), was created to support Charlie Hebdo, the victims, and freedom of the press, speech, and expression.
I am Charlie. You are Charlie. We are all Charlie.
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