Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Je suis Charlie"

Over the last week or so there has been shock and anger and rallying 'round the Charlie Hebdo staff and magazine.  There have been cries of "freedom of the press" and "free speech" and every sort of rhetoric one can think of.  People are angry.

I have been fence sitting over this one..... trying (as only I can) to shut the whole thing out... to make it go away - because it doesn't fit into "my world"... none of it...not the cartoons.. not the murders... not the "rally 'round the flag" mentality.

But then the noise - the voices and pictures pushed their way into my world.  And I decided it was time to find out more.... 

So I went looking for these Charlie Hebdo cartoons.... and I discovered every religion .. every group is a target for their satire.

That took some of the steam out of my argument.

But not all of it.

Yes I believe in freedom of the press and Yes I believe in freedom of speech - but I also believe those freedoms come with responsibility and respect.   And truthfully folks I am not seeing a whole lot of that from Charlie Hebdo.  What I am seeing is a shock for shock's sake.  I am seeing a group of "journalists" running amok - saying what they think will get a rise out of folks.... trying very hard to be shocking and the center of attention ... at the expense of a whole lot of innocent folks. And that just doesn't sit well with me.

I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press - after all we have fought some tough battles to get them - and I am not advocating turning back the clock.  I am just feeling that we are taking advantage of those freedoms - and forgetting that with freedoms come the responsibility for what we say - and maybe just maybe having some respect for the thousands of folks who are caught in the fall out from our clever little satirical cartoons or editorials.....

But then - that's just me.


  1. As you (rightly) observed, the Charlie Hebdo journalists cover every single religion in their cartoons. Islam is not an exception.

    Where you, and many other people, principally on the other side of the Atlantic, struggle and misunderstand, is the role of these cartoons.

    They are satirical. I don't mean to be insulting with this - I'm sure you're well aware of what satirical means. In Europe - especially in France but in the UK as well - there is this idea of making people think by using humour, by magnifying some ridiculous element of something to illustrate the ridiculousness of the larger world. This is intrinsically understood. Here (the UK), for many years, we had a television programme called "Spitting Image" which was very definitely NOT respectful - to anything. It used puppets (you can google them to see the puppets) to re-enact events in a satirical way and to make people think about current events differently - and it wasn't just politicians that were lampooned, but royalty, and religious figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Although many were upset by what Spitting Image did, it also - at its peak - undeniably kept issues at the forefront of people's minds. Private Eye, also in the UK, functions in much the same way. A similar US-based publication might be The Onion.

    What the Charlie Hebdo journalists understood is that religion is a dangerous thing and that it NEEDS to be mocked. Faith is a wonderful thing, individual, genuine faith is inspirational and i envy, to a certain extent, those who have it. But religion, whether institutional or otherwise, especially when it is used (either top down, or socially) to control, is dangerous and harmful. It is this that Charlie Hebdo attacks. Some of the cartoons attack the way that religions act towards homosexuality or gay marriage, for example, specifically the way that they try to control other people having gay relationships/sex/marriage. If the individual believes that gay sex is wrong for them because this is what the grandpoohbear says, then fine. If the individual then believes that the grandpoohbear should be worshipped worldwide and all gay sex should be banned because of this, not so fine. And that is the kind of thing that Charlie Hebdo - and other satirical artists attack.

    I leave you with something Stephen Fry said. "And aren’t we all tired of those who claim to know the answer to life, death and the creation being so fucking sensitive about their knowledge? If I knew the answer to it all, if I thought I understood the wishes of the author of the universe and was privileged to understand what happens to us after death, the last thing I would be is all prickly and defensive. ‘Mock me all you like,’ I’d cry. ‘Go on, laugh your socks off, paint crude daubs, make mocking films. They pass me by as the idle wind which I respect not.’" (in fact, the entire blog is worth a read, so I'm leaving you the link:

    I really hope this has helped to clarify things. Yes, Charlie Hebdo may have said some things that were offensive, insulting, but they did so not to go out of their way to shock, as you said. They had to sell copies, sure, but they also tried to make people think.

    And regardless, they certainly did not deserve to die.

  2. Anonymous4:27 pm

    Keth - Thank you for putting so elegantly what I was feeling about this post of morningstars.

    I was a little taken aback by her post and you clarified why i felt in such a manner.

    And as you said in the end ..regardless no deserved to die


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