I am (not) Charlie – 2017 Update

Written by  //  September 1, 2017  //  Media  //  No comments

It should have never been difficult to grasp the basic yet vital distinction between defending the right of ideas to be expressed and celebrating those ideas. Now that a Charlie Hebdo cartoon has been aimed at white Americans, offending white westerners, it seems the wisdom of this principle has been re-discovered.


Glenn Greenwald:
Charlie Hebdo May Now be Criticized Because They Mocked White Texans Rather Than Muslims

(The Intercept) The newfound free speech crusaders borne of the January, 2015 murders of 10 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris sought to promulgate a new, and quite dangerous, standard. It was no longer enough to defend someone’s right to express their ideas while being free to condemn those ideas themselves: long the central tenet of the free speech movement (I defend their right to free speech even while finding them and their ideas repugnant). In the wake of the Hebdo killings, one had to go much further than that: it was a moral imperative to embrace and celebrate the ideas under attack and to glorify those who were expressing them, even to declare ourselves to be them (#JeSuisCharlie).
As a result, criticizing the content of Charlie Hebdo’s often-vile cartoons became virtually blasphemous. It became common to demand that one not only defend the right of the cartoonists to publish them but also, to show “solidarity,” one had to re-publish those cartoons no matter how much one objected to their content – thus adopting that speech as one’s own. Opposition to lavishing these cartoonists with honors and prizes was depicted as some sort of moral failure or at least insufficient commitment to free speech rights, as evidenced by the widespread, intense scorn heaped on the writers who spoke out in opposition to bestowing Charlie Hebdo with an award at a PEN America gala.
… what I argued repeatedly, what that it was not a belief in free speech that was driving these demands that Charlie Hebdo cartoonists be honored and revered and their cartoons be celebrated. Free speech was just the pretense, the costume.
Indeed, most of the political leaders who led the “free speech parade” in Paris had long records of suppressing free speech, and few of these new free speech crusaders uttered a word as the free speech rights of Muslims have been assaulted and eroded throughout the west in the name of the War on Terror. What was driving this love of Charlie Hebdo was approval of the content of their cartoons: specifically, glee that they were attacking, mocking, and angering Muslims, one of the most marginalized, vulnerable and despised groups in the west.

2015

14 September
Charlie Hebdo publishes cartoon of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi
I find the cartoons appalling but, as the French so often point out, Anglos tend to fail to appreciate Gallic humor/satire.
(The Independent) “Maajid Nawaz, founder of the think-tank Quilliam defended the magazine’s cartoon: “Taste is always in the eye of the beholder. But these cartoons are a damning indictment on our anti-refugee sentiment,” he wrote on Facebook. “The McDonald’s image is a searing critique of heartless European consumerism in the face of one of the worst human tragedies of our times.
“The image about Christians walking on water while Muslims drown is (so obviously) critiquing hypocritical European Christian “love”.
Charlie Hebdo may face legal action over cartoons
(Al Jazeera) Controversial magazine may face legal action for inciting hate crimes after publishing cartoons about Alan Kurdi

28 August
Emmanuel Todd: the French thinker who won’t toe the Charlie Hebdo line
After the horror of the Paris attacks, everyone agreed that the ensuing street rallies were the best of France. Then a leftwing historian called them a totalitarian sham – and his critique of ‘zombie Catholicism’ has outraged a nation
(The Guardian) Todd’s massively contested and controversial book, Who is Charlie? – which is published in English next week – instantly became a bestseller and caused one of the biggest intellectual slanging matches of recent years, even by bruising French standards. It was slated as “a polemical ego trip”; Todd was accused on the front page of the daily Libération of “blasphemy against 11 January”. The paper’s editor, Laurent Joffrin, told the Guardian that Todd’s book was not just “absurd, insulting and false” but “gratuitous controversy and harmful”. Todd made every major TV show and magazine cover and was dubbed “the disturbing intellectual”. The Socialist prime minister, Manuel Valls, took the unprecedented step of writing a furious critique of the book in Le Monde accusing Todd of “self-flagellation”. Todd in turn likened Valls’s blind optimism about France to that of Marshal Pétain, the leader of France’s collaborationist Vichy regime in the 1940s.
Who is Charlie? is now being published across the world with a preface warning that in all western societies “a Charlie lies slumbering” – a horrific event that cleaves society apart and sees the highly educated and well-off stick their heads in the sand.

1 August
Charlie Hebdo’s Multi-Million-Dollar Pile of Tragedy Money
(Vanity Fair|August 2015) Since the massacre in its Paris offices, Charlie Hebdo has seen a reported influx of $33 million due to skyrocketing sales, subscriptions, and donations. Probing the tension this sudden wealth has created within the staff and the country, Roger Cohen explains why Charlie Hebdo’s fate is so important.

19 January
On Muslims: lessons from Charlie
(NOW.) Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most of them do not support, or understand, freedom of expression. While they joined the world in condemning the Charlie Hebdo massacre, they could not hide their frustration with the cartoons they deemed offensive, which forced them to explain the “motives” behind the crime, and therefore stand out as supporters of “freedom, but…”
Je suis Charlie; Je ne suis pas Charlie; Je suis Ahmed
Unfortunately not everyone takes such a sanguine view.
Growing anger across Muslim world over Charlie Hebdo magazine as hundreds of thousands march in Chechnya and Iranians chant ‘Death to France’ (but Pakistanis mistakenly burn the wrong flag)
Protesters marched through Grozny in Chechnya carrying posters that read ‘Hands off our beloved prophet’
Groups gathered in Bannu, chanting ‘Death to government of France’ before setting fire to effigy of Nicolas Sarkozy
More than 2,000 Iranians also protested outside French embassy in Tehran urging the ambassador to be expelled
They are angry at the caricature of the Prophet Mohammed that has appeared on the cover of Charlie Hebdo
The Paris-based satirical magazine has increased the print run of the ‘survivors’ edition’ to seven million

16 January
Charlie Hebdo protest leaves 4 dead, dozens injured in Niger
Protesters angered by French satirical weekly’s latest caricature of Prophet Muhammad

14 January
Tout Est Pardonné
Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover isn’t objectionable; it’s brave and touching
(NOW.) It may be their finest hour. Somehow the usually puerile and intentionally vile Charlie Hebdo has managed, on its own terms, to be magnanimous and occupy the high moral ground while at the same time nonetheless infuriating the thin-skinned religious types that are its favorite targets. That’s an impressive circle to square. My friends and colleagues at The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates have made the best case one could against Charlie Hebdo’s new cover, but I find it entirely unconvincing. Here’s why it makes no sense for anyone to be offended, annoyed or angry.
Pope Francis Speaks Out on Charlie Hebdo: ‘One Cannot Make Fun of Faith
But: “To kill in the name of God is an aberration”
For Pope Francis, there are limits to free speech.

13 January
CHARLIE-COVER Charlie Hebdo: first cover since terror attack depicts prophet Muhammad
French satirical magazine’s surviving columnist says cover is a call to forgive the terrorists who murdered her colleagues last week
Charlie Hebdo Cover Features Muhammad on Post-Attack Issue
Satirical Magazine’s Issue Will Feature Prophet Muhammad Holding “Je Suis Charlie” Sign
(WSJ) Another target for this week’s issue is likely to be Sunday’s solidarity march in France, surviving staff members said. The massive rally became a magnet for French and international political figures that have been a mainstay in Charlie Hebdo’s pages. Attendees included dignitaries from Turkey, Egypt, and Russia, countries that it has criticized for curbing free speech.
“All those dictators at a march celebrating liberty,” Mr. Léger said. “We of course are going to continue the mockery. We’ll see if it makes them jump.”

Charlie Hebdo and the media
Nothing justifies the murder of journalists or cartoonists over their work – but this story is in need of context.
(Al Jazeera) The edgy and provocative magazine exists in a country like France only because writers and journalists there are legally protected in their right to do their work with sharpened, and sometimes, poisoned pens.
The horrific killings of 10 staff members at the magazine seems rather clear-cut a denial of that right.
But the provocative publication has a history of publishing cartoons that many have deemed offensive, and what was missing from the initial media coverage was context and an attempt to understand why this had happened.
France has a tradition of satire that shocks and savages – to an extent that would not be tolerated in other, so-called liberal democracies.
There is nothing that justifies the murder of any journalist or cartoonist over their work – but this is a story in need of explanation.
Helping us to do that are: Padraig Reidy, from the campaign group 89up; Anna Reading, a professor at Kings College London; writer and academic Richard Seymour; and Alain Gresh, the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique.
I am not Charlie. I am against their position and I have attacked their position … But they have the right to have it and no one has the right to kill them. — Alain Gresh, the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique

On not understanding “Charlie:” Why many smart people are getting it wrong
(Daily Kos) Many smart people are getting a flawed picture of Charlie Hebdo. They are concluding, based on simplistic and misleading analysis, that many of the magazine covers and cartoons promoted racist views. In fact, as I will show, some of the covers elaborately lampooned racist views of right wing parties, like Front National, by imitating some of their imagery, inserting snarky comments, and even posting mock party logos next to the images. Therefore, it would be clear to pretty much any French readers that they were making fun of these things. However, people unfamiliar with the details of this rather elaborate satirical humor are now pulling these images off the internet and claiming them as evidence that Charlie Hebdo promoted the very racist views that they were in fact lampooning. So, I think it is important that we set the record straight.

Charlie Hebdo and the hypocrisy of pencils
(Red Flag|Australia) newspapers across the globe … have been filled with depictions of broken pencils re-sharpened to fight another day, or editorials declaring that we will defeat terrorism by our refusal to stop mocking Islam. … every image that invoked the idea that Western culture could and would defend itself from Islamist extremism by waging a battle of ideas demonstrated the same historical and political amnesia.
Reality could not be more at odds with this ludicrous narrative.
For the last decade and a half the United States, backed to varying degrees by the governments of other Western countries, has rained violence and destruction on the Arab and Muslim world with a ferocity that has few parallels in the history of modern warfare.
It was not pencils and pens – let alone ideas – that left Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan shattered and hundreds of thousands of human beings dead. Not twelve. Hundreds of thousands. All with stories, with lives, with families. Tens of millions who have lost friends, family, homes and watched their country be torn apart.

Hebdo Charlie Break oneFrom Tunisia to Bangkok, ‘I Am Charlie’ rallies back free speech
Editors at newspapers around the world express support for victims of attack on Charlie Hebdo office by reprinting weekly’s provocative covers.
(Haaretz) From Berlin to Bangkok, tens of thousands took a stand against living in fear, as rallies defended the freedom of expression and honored the victims of a Paris newspaper attack.
Viewing the Paris killings as a cold-blooded assault on democracy, people from all walks of life — journalists and police officers, politicians and students — turned out in cities around the world Thursday, holding up pens and joining hands in an outpouring of silent solidarity.
Many held placards proclaiming “Je Suis Charlie” — “I am Charlie” — a slogan that went viral on social media within hours of Wednesday’s terror attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

Lettre ouverte au monde musulman
Par Abdennour Bidar, Philosophe spécialiste des évolutions contemporaines de l’islam et des théories de la sécularisation et post-sécularisation
(HuffPost Quebec) Je te vois toi, dans un état de misère et de souffrance qui me rend infiniment triste, mais qui rend encore plus sévère mon jugement de philosophe ! Car je te vois en train d’enfanter un monstre qui prétend se nommer État islamique et auquel certains préfèrent donner un nom de démon : DAESH. Mais le pire est que je te vois te perdre – perdre ton temps et ton honneur – dans le refus de reconnaître que ce monstre est né de toi, de tes errances, de tes contradictions, de ton écartèlement interminable entre passé et présent, de ton incapacité trop durable à trouver ta place dans la civilisation humaine.

Unmournable Bodies
By Teju Cole
(The New Yorker) The scale, intensity, and manner of the solidarity that we are seeing for the victims of the Paris killings, encouraging as it may be, indicates how easy it is in Western societies to focus on radical Islamism as the real, or the only, enemy. This focus is part of the consensus about mournable bodies, and it often keeps us from paying proper attention to other, ongoing, instances of horrific carnage around the world: abductions and killings in Mexico, hundreds of children (and more than a dozen journalists) killed in Gaza by Israel last year, internecine massacres in the Central African Republic, and so on. And even when we rightly condemn criminals who claim to act in the name of Islam, little of our grief is extended to the numerous Muslim victims of their attacks, whether in Yemen or Nigeria—in both of which there were deadly massacres this week—or in Saudi Arabia, where, among many violations of human rights, the punishment for journalists who “insult Islam” is flogging. We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others. [emphasis added]

Charlie Hebdo Is Heroic and Racist — We should embrace and condemn it
(Slate) The editors and cartoonists murdered in Wednesday’s attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo are now martyrs for the cause of free speech. Threatened with death for publishing drawings of the prophet Mohammed meant to mock Islamic radicals, they refused to censor themselves, and so were gunned down. They died bravely for an ideal we all treasure. But their work featuring Mohammed could be sophomoric and racist.
… it’s wrong to approach this issue as an either-or question, to blaspheme or not blaspheme. Free speech allows us to say hateful, idiotic things without being punished by the government. But embracing that right means that we need to acknowledge when work is hateful or idiotic, and can’t be defended on its own terms. We need to recognize, as Vox’s Matt Yglesias argues today, that standing up for magazines like Charlie Hebdo is a “regrettable” necessity, in part because it provides cover for anti-Muslim backlash. “Blasphemous, mocking images cause pain in marginalized communities,” he writes. “The elevation of such images to a point of high principle will increase the burdens on those minority groups.” And the more those groups are mistreated, the more angry radicals we can expect to see.
So what should we do? We have to condemn obvious racism as loudly as we defend the right to engage in it. We have to point out when an “edgy” cartoon is just a crappy Islamophobic jab. We shouldn’t pretend that every magazine cover with a picture of Mohammed is a second coming of The Satanic Verses. Making those distinctions isn’t going to placate the sorts of militants who are already apt to tote a machine gun into a magazine office. But it is a way to show good faith to the rest of a marginalized community, to show that free speech isn’t just about mocking their religion.

Trolls and Martyrdom: Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie
By Arthur Chu
When the only thing you’re reverent of is irreverence, you eventually get chan culture—people who shout racial slurs and think they’ve accomplished something in the name of ‘free speech.’
(Daily Beast) … you get one long continuous blast of pure offensiveness and taboo-breaking for taboo-breaking’s sake until all taboos are broken and there’s nothing left to say. You get people who shout racial slurs in unbroken succession all day and think they’ve accomplished something in the name of “free speech” by doing so.
Well, that’s their right in a free country. It may be fun and it may get them paid, until oversaturation ruins our sense for irony and destroys the market for it.
I wonder if the shooters knew that by killing the staff of Charlie Hebdo they would be enshrining them as immortal martyrs—and if they knew that by promoting a bunch of troll cartoons into the Western canon this way they’d be turning up the heat of Islamophobia in Europe, driving more and more people into their arms. I wonder if this whole media blitz of unconditional support for Charlie Hebdo and its “message” is exactly what the terrorists wanted, in the first place.
Now that’s another a level of irony indeed—all the more so because it’s a level of irony that escaped the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo.

David Brooks: I Am Not Charlie Hebdo
The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.
Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.

In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons
By Glenn Greenwald
(The Intercept) … there are all sorts of ways ideas and viewpoints are suppressed in the west. When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication of those ideas as well, I’ll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that’s not the case, let’s have equal application of this new principle.

Jeffrey Goldberg: We Are Not All Charlie
It is easy to express solidarity with murdered cartoonists, but it is difficult to live as bravely as they did.
(The Atlantic) If the future does not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam—in other words, to people who speak freely and offensively—then it belongs to those who would suppress by force any criticism of religion. This is not an American idea, and it certainly isn’t Charlie.
Here is someone who is not Charlie: Tony Barber, of the Financial Times, who wrote yesterday: “Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims. If the magazine stops just short of outright insults, it is nevertheless not the most convincing champion of the principle of freedom of speech. France is the land of Voltaire, but too often editorial foolishness has prevailed at Charlie Hebdo.”
Art Is Free: Responses to Charlie Hebdo
Atlantic illustrators articulate their reactions to a brutal attack.

aislin Hebdo CharlieHoward LaFranchi: What I learned from Charlie Hebdo
I was first introduced to Charlie Hebdo as a 17-year-old exchange student. Americans wondering just what is meant by a ‘satirical magazine’ might think what a news-minded Larry Flynt and the creators of ‘South Park’ might concoct.
(CSM) We can argue the appropriateness of skewering and mocking others’ symbols of faith, we can even condemn Charlie Hebdo, as some already are as France mourns its fallen cartoonists, for crossing a line from vicious ridicule to disdain and racism. But remember that among Charlie’s dead were one Mustapha and one Ahmed.
And isn’t that the point – something I started learning decades ago from my lycee friends in the south of France – that we have that right to argue and condemn, in words and speech? And that to protect that freedom, we must even defend the right to be “stupid and vicious” with the pen?
In that sense, nous sommes tous – we are all – Charlie.

An imam explains why Muslims hate seeing depictions of the Prophet Muhammad
Sikander Hashmi of the Kanata Muslim Association discusses the Charlie Hebdo massacre, freedom of speech, and how to fight extremist rhetoric
This week’s horrific attack on the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris has sparked an important discussion about the power of satire, the right to publish offensive or even “blasphemous” materials in a free society, and where freedom of speech and respect for religion overlap and sometimes clash.

Ishmael N. Daro: How should we react to the Charlie Hebdo massacre?
(o.canada.com) Charlie Hebdo “mocked everyone, not just Muslims,” many will insist. One hopes, however, that satirists train their sights on the rich and powerful, the pompous and privileged. Punching up, in other words. The Muslim community in France is not those things, but in the rush to declare themselves allies, many people outside the country are happily sharing and republishing material that would normally be deemed, at best, in rather poor taste. Wednesday’s tragedy does not retroactively excuse the newspaper’s regular targeting of a religious minority, just as that newspaper’s provocative output does not excuse the murder of its journalists.
The well-meaning but misguided insistence that news outlets now republish the offensive cartoons also gives unwarranted credence to the attackers’ worldview, in which mere images of a long-dead man take on near-supernatural powers. Republish them or not, but we’re not fighting for the soul of humanity here.
One Canadian outlet that is purposely avoiding publishing the images is CBC News, according to an internal memo gathered by media critic Jesse Brown.
“We wouldn’t have published these images before today — not out of fear, but out of respect for the beliefs and sensibilities of the mass of Muslim believers,” David Studer, director of journalistic standards and practices, wrote to staff. “Why would the actions of a gang of violent thugs force us to change that position?”
That strikes me as… reasonableEnglish author Will Self, discussing the Paris shootings with VICE, put it better than I can: “The trouble with a lot of so-called ‘satire’ directed against religiously motivated extremists is that it’s not clear who it’s afflicting, or who it’s comforting. This is in no way to condone the shooting of the journalists, which is evil, pure and simple, but our society makes a fetish of ‘the right to free speech’ without ever questioning what sort of responsibilities are implied by this right.” (emphasis added)

The Case against #JeSuisCharlie
(The Walrus) The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were probably the wrong people, in the wrong setting, to satirize Islam and its prophet
I do not seek to delegitimize anyone who shows solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were brutally murdered for exercising their freedom of speech. But I believe that one can denounce this act of violence without celebrating the message promoted by the victims. That is why you will not see me telling anyone #JeSuisCharlie.

George Packer: The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders
(The New Yorker) A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.
These thoughts don’t offer a guide to mitigating the astonishing surge in Islamist killing around the world. Rage and condemnation don’t do the job, nor is it helpful to alienate the millions of Muslims who dislike what’s being done in the name of their religion. Many of them immediately condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo, in tones of anguish particular to those whose deepest beliefs have been tainted. The answer always has to be careful, thoughtful, and tailored to particular circumstances. In France, it will need to include a renewed debate about how the republic can prevent more of its young Muslim citizens from giving up their minds to a murderous ideology—how more of them might come to consider Mustapha Ourrad, a Charlie Hebdo copy editor of Algerian descent who was among the victims, a hero. In other places, the responses have to be different, with higher levels of counter-violence.

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