It would have been very easy to put up a ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) graphic as my entire post in response to the assault on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris last Wednesday. But that’s almost the same as Twitter hashtag activism: the thought that by posting a hashtag, or a picture, one is changing the world. (OK, writing a whole post about it isn’t much better. But at least I’m putting out real thoughts, not just another Internet meme.)
Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is a French satiric magazine known for publishing irreverent humor. In 2011, their offices in Paris were firebombed, and last Wednesday, three men shot up the offices, killing twelve, including most of the staff, to avenge the magazine’s cartoon representations of the prophet Mohammed.
In the US, liability makes cowards of us all: Sony Pictures originally shelved the movie The Interview not because they were hacked, but in response to the large theater chains, who took seriously the notion that the North Koreans might wreak havoc on them for showing the movie, and refused to present it. As far as I know, there is no American publication analogous to Charlie Hebdo: there are humor magazines, but they suffer from political correctness.
But Charlie soldiered on.
The news the staff was massacred was initially saddening and shocking. But on further thought, it shouldn’t be all that surprising: indeed, our President remarked that ‘The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.’ And the publication of images of Mohammed has been greeted with violence in some parts of the world.
But we must stand up for the right to publish such images.