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Je suis Charlie


Two of the magazine's front covers, one saying, 100 lashes if you don't die laughing, and the other, Love is stronger than hate

Two of the magazine’s front covers, one saying, 100 lashes if you don’t die laughing, and the other, Love is stronger than hate

There’s one more thing I have to say about Charlie Hebdo, before I shut up. It was at times silly and offensive. It wasn’t that popular; in fact it closed down for a while because of lack of funds. But it is precisely because it was so silly and offensive that the attack on it is so important to think about, while the inevitable debate on press freedom cranks up again.

People talk a lot about the freedom of the press, and we are all led to believe that journalists spend their days toiling after The Truth. Some, maybe. I can think of very honourable examples of these, such as Paul Foot and John Pilger, both of whom had a hard time when they took on the British and Australian Establishment.

Most of us, though, not so much. If some extremist twit with a Kalashnikov had stormed the newsrooms of any of the tabloid newspapers where I worked, he would have been murdering people who were probably just about to press the send button on headlines such as ‘Drink’ll wrinkle your winkle’, or ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster.’

On the face of it, those journalists at Charlie Hebdo weren’t doing anything particularly noble either when they were murdered. They were having a morning meeting, drinking coffee, and probably doodling Francois Hollande doing something unmentionable. To picture them being murdered, is surreal. Did they, in those first few seconds, think it was some kind of a joke? Is it some kind of appalling irony that these satirists were killed by men with no sense of humour?

The difference between Charlie Hebdo and most mainstream newspapers, though, is that it took a shot at every religion going. It published cartoons which some found extremely offensive. But, why not? I read a blog post yesterday in which the blogger stated that he wouldn’t get away with writing about the Queen having oral sex. And yet he demonstrated his liberty to do so, simply by saying that. Has he been arrested? I don’t think so. Has he been torn to shreds by the corgis? No. He was free to say what he damn well pleased. And other people were free not to read it. Same with Charlie Hebdo.

Obviously, we cannot malign people simply because of the way they are (he must be bad because he’s a catholic/protestant/jew/muslim/jedi knight), but if we cannot take pot shots at institutions, if we cannot allow ourselves or others, however outrageously, to question them, then we might as well buy kalashnikovs and shoot ourselves.

Whatever we think of the content of Charlie Hebdo, we have to remember that its office was fire-bombed in 2011, and that the police took the death threats to the editor Stephane Charbonnier seriously enough to give him protection. And yet he and his staff still went on bringing out their mag. If those terrorists hadn’t arrived on Wednesday morning, probably only three men and a dog would have read it.

Not many people like reading offensive material. Charlie Hebdo’s normal print run of about 60,000 (in a country of 66 million people) proved this. In a free society we allow free speech and ignore what we don’t like. But we still make space for it; we respect other people’s opinions, because we want people to respect our own.

Next week Charlie Hebdo is bringing out one million copies. Its cartoons, that the terrorists didn’t like, have now been given much greater coverage than their murdered artists could ever have dreamt of. I didn’t much like some of those cartoons either, but today, Je suis Charlie.


cartoons via Creative Commons available at http://960thepatriot.com/blogs

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


23 thoughts on “Je suis Charlie

  1. I think it is likely that they had a certain juvenile approach to commentary and never dreamed they would be taken seriously enough for them to be murdered for their efforts. I don’t think they were heroic in any way. Just out to mock any “Sacred Cow” which wandered across their imagination, and in most circumstances such antics would have been very largely ignored. There is an increasing atmosphere of inter cultural and religious suspicions which I find quite worrying, and I know that love rather than hate is the only thing which will resolve it. That or some giant catastrophe which will appal the various ranting and bigoted parties into a period of silence at least. Its not a happy time on many levels 😦

    Posted by Peter Wells aka Countingducks | January 14, 2015, 2:00 pm
    • Maybe they thought like that when they started, but they had been firebombed, and the editor had received death threats, and had been given two police bodyguards. They certainly knew the strength of feeling against them. Is it heroic to continue voicing your opinions, when you know you might be attacked because of the offence they give? If you have no malicious intent, then yes.

      Posted by elainecanham | January 14, 2015, 2:17 pm
    • You are quite right. Nothing can excuse the violence in any way

      Posted by Peter Wells aka Countingducks | January 14, 2015, 2:30 pm
    • Love it when people say that (I mean, the being right bit!) 🙂

      Posted by elainecanham | January 14, 2015, 2:50 pm
    • I did say you were “quite” right but I did not say you were “Absolutely right” or had “Hit the nail squarely on the head” or anything else which implies brake free praise although I am happy to be the author a moment of cheer in your life as you once again spoke sense to a world which needs more of it. 🙂 This is not a serious reply but is just an example of me wallowing in my appetite for pedantry !

      Posted by Peter Wells aka Countingducks | January 14, 2015, 2:57 pm
    • But quite can be an indicator of an absolute, as in quite appalling or quite something (and quite right). Quite good, or quite nice, on the other hand is faint praise indeed. But, Peter, you have to know, I’ll take any compliments I can get!

      Posted by elainecanham | January 14, 2015, 3:13 pm
  2. I want to thank you for including “Jedi Knight” in your list of religions that are made fun of frequently. My son is a Jedi Knight, and in our predominantly judeo-christian society, his religion is often forgotten (tear).
    Je suis Charlie.

    Posted by naptimethoughts | January 11, 2015, 11:14 pm
  3. One wonders if they didn’t realise there would be a come back and they’d achieve the opposite of what they were trying to do. It just goes to prove that brains are more effective than violence. Yes, as the saying goes, I might not agree with what you say but I’d fight for your freedom to say it. Or draw it. Je suis Charlie aussi. And have a good 2015 Elaine.

    Posted by olganm | January 10, 2015, 9:51 am
    • Thanks, Olga. I don’t think they gave much thought to what the consequences were, I think they probably thought they were avenging warriors fighting for a shining cause. You have a good one too, Olga.

      Posted by elainecanham | January 10, 2015, 6:05 pm
  4. Sorry Elaine, I haven’t fully qualified as a proper Charlie yet. I’ll catch you up. lol
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Posted by davidprosser | January 9, 2015, 8:23 pm
  5. Je suis Charlie

    Posted by simon682 | January 9, 2015, 7:24 pm
  6. You proved the fact that violence breeds violence, and stupidity breeds even more stupidity. Now people are especially going to look up the cartoons. Irony is seeping through the cracks of our messed up world. I have absolute no liking for those cartoons, and yet, these murders can never be condoned. But what good will any of this do? Many such incidents are bound to happen in the future.

    Posted by Nida S. | January 9, 2015, 7:22 pm
    • I suppose there will be some, but many – I hope not. And I hope people don’t stop saying what they think because they are frightened of the consequences.

      Posted by elainecanham | January 9, 2015, 9:33 pm
  7. Je suis Charlie.
    xxx Hugs xxx

    Posted by davidprosser | January 9, 2015, 4:11 pm
  8. Very well stated.

    Posted by Matt | January 9, 2015, 3:44 pm

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