Firebombed French Paper Is No Free Speech Martyr

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A police officer stands in front of the headquarters of satiric French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, where a fire broke out overnight, November 2, 2011. (Photo: Thibault Camus / AP)


Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?

The difficulty in answering that question is also what’s making it hard to have much sympathy for the French satirical newspaper firebombed this morning, after it published another stupid and totally unnecessary edition mocking Islam. The Wednesday morning arson attack destroyed the Paris editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo after the paper published an issue certain to enrage hard-core Islamists (and offend average Muslims) with articles and “funny” cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed—depictions forbidden in Islam to boot. Predictably, the strike unleashed a torrent of unqualified condemnation from French politicians, many of whom called the burning of the notoriously impertinent paper as “an attack on democracy by its enemies.”

We, by contrast, have another reaction to the firebombing: Sorry for your loss, Charlie, and there’s no justification of such an illegitimate response to your current edition. But do you still think the price you paid for printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the logic of “because we can” was so worthwhile? If so, good luck with those charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring.

Though police say they still don’t know who staged the apparent strike, the (sorry) inflammatory religious theme of the new edition has virtually everyone suspecting Muslim extremists were responsible. Which, frankly, is exactly why it’s hard not to feel it’s the kind of angry response–albeit in less destructive form– Charlie Hebdo was after in the first place. What was the point otherwise? Yet rather than issuing warnings to be careful about what one asks for, the arson  prompted political leaders and pundits across the board to denounce the arson as an attack on freedom of speech, liberty of expression, and other rights central to French and other Western societies. In doing so they weren’t entirely alone. Muslim leaders in France and abroad also stepped up to condemn the action–though not without duly warning people to wait for police to identify the perpetrators before assigning guilt, especially via association.

The reasons for such concern were as obvious as the suspicions about who had staged the strike: the coarse and heavy-handed Islamist theme of the current edition of Charlie Hebdo. As part of its gag, the paper had re-named itself “Sharia Hebdo”. It also claimed to have invited Mohammed as its guest editor to “celebrate the victory” of the Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia’s first free elections last week. In addition to satirical articles on Islam-themed topics, the paper contains drawings of Mohammed in cartoons featuring Charlie Hebdo’s trademark over-the-top (and frequently not “ha-ha funny”) humor. The cover, for example, features a crudely-drawn cartoon of the Prophet saying “100 Whip Lashes If You Don’t Die Of Laughter.” Maybe you had to be there when it was first sketched.

If that weren’t enough to offend Muslims sensitive to jokes about their faith, history helped raised hackles further. In 2007, Charlie Hebdo re-published the infamous (and, let’ face it, just plain lame) Mohammed caricatures initially printed in 2005 by Danish paper Jyllands-Posten. As intended, those produced outrage–and at times violent reaction–from Muslims around the world (not to mention repeated terror plots to kill illustrators responsible for the drawings). Apart from unconvincing claims of exercising free speech in Western nations where that right no longer needs to be proved, it’s unclear what the objectives of the caricatures were other than to offend Muslims—and provoke hysteria among extremists. After it’s 2007 reprinting of those, Charlie Hebdo was acquitted by a French court on inciting racial hatred charges lodged by French Islamic groups over those and other caricatures—including one run as the paper’s cover cartoon depicting Mohammed complaining “It’s Hard To Be Loved By (expletives)”. When it comes to Islam, Charlie Hebdo has a million of ‘em—but they’re all generally as weak as they are needlessly provocative.

Editors, staff, fans, and apologists of Charlie Hebdo have repeatedly pointed out that the paper’s take-no-prisoners humor spares no religion, political party, or social group from its questionable humor. They’ve also tended to defend the publication during controversy as a kind of gut check of free society: a media certain to anger, infuriate, and offend just about everybody at some point or another. As such, Charlie Hebdo has cultivated its insolence proudly as a kind of public duty—pushing the limits of freedom of speech, come what may. But that seems more self-indulgent and willfully injurious when it amounts to defending the right to scream “fire” in an increasingly over-heated theater.

Why? Because like France’s 2010 law banning the burqa in public (and earlier legislation prohibiting the hijab in public schools), the nation’s government-sponsored debates on Islam’s place in French society all reflected very real Islamophobic attitudes spreading throughout society. Indeed, such perceived anti-Muslim action has made France a point of focus for Islamist radicals at home and abroad looking to harp on new signs of aggression against Islam. It has also left France’s estimated five million Muslims feeling stigmatized and singled out for discriminatory treatment—a resentment that can’t be have been diminished by seeing Charlie Hebdo’s mockery of Islam “just for fun” defended as a hallowed example of civil liberty by French pols. It’s yet to be seen whether Islamist extremists were behind today’s arson, but both the paper’s current edition, and the rush of politicians to embrace it as the icon of French democracy, raises the possibility of even moderate Muslims thinking “good on you” if and when militants are eventually fingered for the strike. It’s all so unnecessary.

It’s obvious free societies cannot simply give in to hysterical demands made by members of any beyond-the-pale group. And it’s just as clear that intimidation and violence must be condemned and combated for whatever reason they’re committed—especially if their goal is to undermine freedoms and liberties of open societies. But it’s just evident members of those same free societies have to exercise a minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their rights and liberties—and that isn’t happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble statement by gratuitously pissing people off.

Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile. Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response—however illegitimate—is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.

So, yeah, the violence inflicted upon Charlie Hebdo was outrageous, unacceptable, condemnable, and illegal. But apart from the “illegal” bit, Charlie Hebdo’s current edition is all of the above, too.

128 comments
DaeKim
DaeKim

Bruce, haven't you joined ISIS yet? You think like IS, talk like IS, and smell like IS, then you must belong to IS.

Ac70
Ac70

Certainly, millions of people demonstrated on Sunday another opinion than the one exposed in this article and this is reassuring. Finally, people, and the journalists that take some risks, may start to wake up and understand that a condamnation of the atrocities made in the name of Islam have to be made by us, and not only Bush-like militarily actions. This is what Charlie Hebdo has always tried to do by attacking extremists showing how they pervert religions. But humour is not what charaterizes the terrorists organizations. This article is just completely missing the point of Charlie Hebdo's courageous message.

Hamx
Hamx

GREAT ARTICLE!!!!! Wonderful! You make great points sir!!!

Nylund93
Nylund93

"if people violently attack you for something you published, it is your fault for being so intolerant of their intolerance". That's basically what you said. *

Fixed.

Nylund93
Nylund93

"And within a climate where violent response—however illegitimate—is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless"

Are the people threatening with violence not contesting the principle? That may be one of the stupidest things I've ever read. Did you even go to school?

"if people violently attack you for something you published, is it your fault for being so intolerant of their intolerance". That's basically what you said.

If someone violently attacked you for this article, did you have it coming? What if they found your writing highly offensive and had threatened you at an earlier point which you ignored and kept writing? Are you not being disrespectful towards their totalitarian attitude which finds all criticism highly offensive?

You're acting as if people's inability to handle criticism is justification for them to suppress the free word. You want to kiss your oppressors on their hands and tell them you're not gonna be mean by expressing yourself freely? Do you for some reason like the idea of being ruled over by totalitarian fascists? You're a shame to your profession.

AndreasSchlitzer
AndreasSchlitzer

This is by far the most stupid piece of writing I have ever read.... Its a shame that the author is a journalist himself and is not aware of any implications of what he is writing here, complete intellectual failure...

themuscleman14
themuscleman14

I have serious doubts that a majority of the commentators below realize this article was written in 2011 and not in lieu of the recent attack.

JoNellSimsTurner
JoNellSimsTurner

I stand by their right to defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression AS WELL AS their right to choose to be  obnoxious and offensive just because you can.

An infantile behavior, perhaps, but they have the right to be so.

Remember also, that is is 'infantile', is simply your opinion . . which I also stand by your right to have.  

Clearly, they have a different opinion . . . which they have every right to have.  

 

sigzero
sigzero

The Author is a big idiot.

LonnieWright
LonnieWright

the fact that this author has any space to type this nonsense is an affront to common sense. perhaps when someone comes to murder him for expressing his views he might have a different view.

doug6352
doug6352

Henry Luce is rolling in his grave.

Alfred_Hussein_Neuman
Alfred_Hussein_Neuman

I wonder if Mr. Crumbly is okay with provocative cartoons, jokes, artwork (Crucifix in Urine) of non-violent religions?  It appears he is only exercising restraint against violent Islam.

pyc
pyc

There is no liberty of speech without minimal provocation, especially in humor. Liberty of speech is actually just that : accepting to have his ideas offended by someone else. If everybody agreed, speech would be meaningless. The author of this paper attacks Charlie Hebdo on totally unfounded bases, a newspaper that he clearly does not know. Charlie Hebdo is and has always been, as many papers in France since more than a century, a profoundly anti-clerical newspaper. If bigots do not like it, they just don't buy it. Interdiction of Mohammad representation is an islamic rule and only concern muslims. It is a religious precept that has not to be followed, in any manner what so ever , by non muslim people. If they feel offended, too bad for them. What offends me, is veiled woman in all muslim countries. Too bad for me. 


Our society should not resign on its values, especially when some people threaten to put bombs if it does not bend to their own rules. What does Mr Crumley wants ? That Charlie Hebdo only makes fun on white well educated christians that share tea at 5 O clock ? But that will just be a denying of a long french tradition ! When CH makes fun of the queen, it DOES offend British people. But they don't put bombs and most of them would agree that it is not even an event. At the end of the day, you have muslim people that put bombs because some drawings made a connection between Islam and terrorist attacks. I believe Crumley attitude is exactly the same as the one of people looking at a raped woman and saying that maybe her skirt was to small.

EvaKru
EvaKru

I think this is a pretty wise article, at least it is written by a person who is not indifferent and who is trying to think rationally. 

Unfortunatelly, the comments show that people do not really demonstrate tolerance or real love for freedom of speech (ideas of killing the author or spitting in his face are just barbaric to my mind). People are hopeless, they don;t even understand what they read. let us hope that this childishness will not lead to other tragic consequences.

PS and this confusing cowardness with wise usage of resources is just hillarious

Pardon me, I am emotional. Most likely will not answer anyone... as I dont want to waste time online. 

spookym123
spookym123

And the rape victim had it coming because she dressed provocatively, Bruce?

LoanTran-Thanh
LoanTran-Thanh

Sorry for TIME magazine. I thought it was a serious magazine, apparently not. Our freedom of speech is important for us, and we must fight for our FREEDOM. Is it because you are a satirical magazine that you should be targeted and killed? If TIME does not defend that concept, and not able to defend our values, let it be a coward, but from now on, I will never read any more your news magazine, ever.

jiscanne
jiscanne

There was this morning two articles in the british press (this one and an other in the financial time) that are just unbelievable. Do they express the opinion of most english people ?

Do they forget that the very base of Speech Freedom is the Right to Blasphem ? Right to Blasphem has been permanently attacked those last 10 of 15 years (as well Human Rights, even by some coalitions in front of UNO). And many "moderate muslim" still agree with those attacks, alas. I understand it's hard but they 've got to swallow it (Right to Blasphem), cause this is essential.

The fonction of CHARLIE was very important, some one (we all) must keep on with it.

NB : the british sense of humor is definitively a joke

100 slash of whip for this journalist will it do him some good (doesn' matter who hold the whip - I wont) ???

EvaKru
EvaKru

@Nylund93 he did not say it. it is your interpretation. the problem is that people are not only capable of critical and realistic thinking, they are so much driven by hysteria, that they can not even understand what exactly is written directly.

FlyingGabriel
FlyingGabriel

@Nylund93 So after you've taken a breath ... perhaps you can provide the context which justifies Maurice Sinet being sacked by the same publication for antisemitism ... not to mention vilified by the intelligensia and political commentators as well?  Inability to handle criticism snuffed out the "free word" with consumate ease on that occasion, with round applause from some who now choose to champion it in it's vilest form.  What noble principle should we defend here?

RobertGarmong
RobertGarmong

@themuscleman14 It doesn't matter. In 2011, this was appeasement over the first batch of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. Today, it's appeasement over the most recent attack. The principle is the same. This was despicable in 2011, and it's despicable now.

EvaKru
EvaKru

@JoNellSimsTurner yes, they have the right to do so. but it also means that there will be some other people affected. it means the deaths of the innocent who did not agree with such a point of view and simply wanted to live. 

our public actions affect not only us, but lives of other people

EvaKru
EvaKru

@Alfred_Hussein_Neuman no he is not okey. and why dont you ask also: he seems to be okey with cutting rain forests, with polution, with economic crisis?  The main point of this article was different. Love for demagogy is destructive for society

EvaKru
EvaKru

@pyc he wants us to think well before acting, and understand that if we make our choices we need to be ready for the consequences. WHo knows also, maybe there are better solutions than what we know? 

at least he wants us to think, to my mind. it is his right to express his opinion as well... his freedom of speech. 

Alfred_Hussein_Neuman
Alfred_Hussein_Neuman

@EvaKru So you believe it's okay to attack (joke, ridicule, satirize)  the weak and passive religions?  Perhaps we should have other religions, faith, races, etc will respond similar when they are the target of humor.   

EvaKru
EvaKru

@spookym123 and to fight with rapists one needs to wander in unsafe places at night unprotected? Or maybe send their daughters to do so?

This is all demagogy. Bruce is not blaming them for this horror. He is warning us to be careful and to look for a real efficient solution. Silly bravade is only a silly bravade, it can kill. while if you want to enjoy the freedom of speech you need to at least be alive and have the opportunity to enjoy it! (live in peace)

Hamx
Hamx

@ARenaissance-Man You're pathetic. Obviously, you haven't read the article. The is one of the best articles I have come across! 

BrunoElliott
BrunoElliott

I am English and I feel a terrible sense of loss about Wolinski, Cabu and Charb (and shock and dismay for the others murdered). These were cartoonists of the very highest order and the World has lost a handful of some of its finest illustrators. Please don't tar me with same brush as the idiot in The Financial Times. Like another great French person said (Boris Vian): 'On est pas là pour se faire engueuler!'. Yours sincerely, Another English Joker

RobertGuiscard
RobertGuiscard

@EvaKru Terrorist-loving Eva is from Russia. What a surprise. Does Putin pay you? Facebook profile name is eva.kru.52

RobertGuiscard
RobertGuiscard

@FlyingGabriel French papers are not supposed to attack the private lives of politicians, let alone those of their children. 

What noble principle should we defend? Free speech of course. What noble principle are you defending? The right to butcher and massacre the staff of a magazine when you are "offended" by it. You are beyond sick and disgusting, and you're not one hair better than the terrorists themselves.

RobertGuiscard
RobertGuiscard

@EvaKru Russian, what you are proposing is bowing to terrorism and violence. Like you have done, with your dictator Putin. We in the West will never do that. 


It is also interesting that this idiot claims that the cartoonists are not "innocent". You are a total terrorist-lover. 

pyc
pyc

@EvaKru @pyc

I did not deny mister Crumley to express himself. I just totally disagree with him. Also, what makes you think that CH drawers were not ready for the consequences ? They have been making fun of the pope and of jewish soldiers in Israël all their life, and ... ha but no ... Islam, that's totally forbidden because there are crazy guys that will come to kill you. That is just surrender. Total surrender of your own values towards other values that you do not share. 

A satiric newspaper in France, Le canard enchainé, which was born under WWI to mock the militaries,and which just had his  best caricaturist assassinated, has motto on its front page every week : "Liberty of press gets used only if you don't use it". That is exactly what I think Crumley is proposing us.


And also, I think the position is totally useless. Facists, green or not green, will always find excuses to kill people. Without CH, they would just have found some little jewish girl to murder in cold blood, like they did some years ago.

EvaKru
EvaKru

@Alfred_Hussein_Neuman @EvaKru no, it is not what I meant at all. I do not believe so. I think no ne should me attacked at all. there is too much violence in the world without that. I totally condemn terrorism, but I find mocking very destructive, even if it is a part of the "freedom of speech". I believe mocking shows low culture. lack of common sense, lack of love and responsibility

Alfred_Hussein_Neuman
Alfred_Hussein_Neuman

@EvaKru @spookym123 Bruce is saying, You did this to yourself.  Well, perhaps I should use his own words "making it hard to have much sympathy for the French satirical newspaper firebombed this morning, after it published another stupid and totally unnecessary edition mocking Islam."


Just the same as saying, "it's hard to have much sympathy for her, given the way she was dressed."

RobertGuiscard
RobertGuiscard

@Hamx @ARenaissance-Man And you are one of the dumbest people we have ever come across. You are probably the author - your 8th grade writing skills give it away.

EvaKru
EvaKru

@RobertGuiscard @EvaKru I have just noticed you left my facebook page name.... omg, what an mentally challenged creature. It is a not a secret, as i am writing here through my facebook. 

ps  i am very far from terrorism-loving, and from the issues related to Putin if someone is interested in visiting my home page, so no need to discuss that with me. 

EvaKru
EvaKru

@RobertGuiscard @EvaKru they are innocent victims, because none has the right to murder. but you need to skip unnecessary details. the main thing is to be responsible for yourself and people around you.... at least on your personal level. and careful. i dont know.... i would never tease anyone for the sake of teasing. i would solve issues differently. do you understand? i guess the author of the article was just as shocked as other people but he was also shocked by carelesness and maybe to him human life is the most important value? not the right to mock? 


Besides, .... this ""russian"....sounds so not racistic (because I assume you and me are same race) but not in the line of this "freedom of speech". 


I still think that not bowing violence... people need to work on some real level. I dont thik cartoons help.  I think cartoons create more work for the police. 

EvaKru
EvaKru

@pyc @EvaKru this is true. we will have to face this danger no matter whether there are caricatures or not. but caricatures to my mind create the chance for more unnecessary deaths. 


I think the point of this article is very simple: be careful. do not risk when it is not needed. I think the point is to minimise the number of victims, to stop spreading hatered, to stop escalation of   problems that already exist. 


I absolutely can not understand how people can find it stupid. Ideas to protect people are honorable to my mind. 

EvaKru
EvaKru

@Alfred_Hussein_Neuman @EvaKru @spookym123 First of all, being dressed improperly and making offensive caricatures are not totally identical things.


Second.... I will absolutely not accept anyone imposing any kind of dress code on me. But If I have to go to a local crazy pub with drunk guys I will try to protect myself. So that that I am alive and can enjoy my freedom of dressing nicely in more normal conditions.

__

Even if Bruce might use some formulations that I do not agree with (like I do believe every victim deserves sympathy), these are details. The main point is to be responsible and respectful.


__

Here I end the discussions. I do, really do not like - my favourite word - paralogisms - that are widely used in modern infromation demagogy. I want to stay apart from this. Have a nice evening!

RobertGuiscard
RobertGuiscard

@EvaKru There is no link to your Facebook page in your profile. Nor is there a mention on your Facebook page of how much you love terrorism. You have no freedom of speech in Putinland, and now you're trying to take away ours. 

RobertGuiscard
RobertGuiscard

@EvaKru "they are innocent victims"


You denied that the cartoonists were innocent victims, you terrorist-lover. Apparently, you are so fond of the fact that in your Putinland, no one can voice his opinion, that you want to extent capital punishment to the West.


"i would never tease anyone for the sake of teasing."


You have a problem with "teasing", but not with mass murder. Okaaaay. Putin has taught you well.


"i guess the author of the article was just as shocked"


No, he clearly was not. He is clearly an apologist for attacking people for satirizing and voicing their opinion, just like you.


"Besides, .... this ""russian"....sounds so not racistic"


But you are a Russian. And the fact that you are a Russian has relevance to this conversation. I think Pyc is also a Russian, but he is smart. You are a dumb bimbo trying to export your own tyranny to our lands, and I don't like that. Keep your Putinism to yourself.


" I think cartoons create more work for the police. "


Yes, we shouldn't have cartoons, newspapers, or opinions, because Islamists don't like them. 

pyc
pyc

@EvaKru @pyc

I will tell you why I also find this paper stupid. It is because of the phrase

"printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the logic of “because we can”".

When one wants to criticize just-murdered people, the minimum, the absolute minimum, is to know a little bit what you are speaking of. CH drawers were NOT racists, in any way you can think of it.  These people were 68 extreme left, started their careers on critisising French policy in Algeria, they were more than everything against Front National and anti-immigration laws, made tons of drawings on Israel attitude towards palestinians (and also a plenty, obviously, against suicide bombers), hundred of tons on french politicals.. They were, in particular Cabu, extremely talented, renowned and appreciated in their country. Clearly very funny too (most of the time). The author does not understand in particular that Cabu was considered in France as the genius of caricaturists, veneered by the entire profession since more than 40 years ! I have big big doubts on the fact that he saws these "offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient " drawings and if he did I wonder if he tried to understand them at all. And no, the logic is not "because we can". It is "because we do", because it is their job. There is no caricature without a target, and muslims as equal to anyone on this regards, specially if the drawer does not believe in your god. They were humanist free men and intended to stay so. And they died as free men. They have all my profound and sincere respect.

EvaKru
EvaKru

@pyc @EvaKru well someone is giving comments that the article was written in 2011. So, the author was right? 


The guys were childish to my mind. Maybe with good intentions. But at war there are no good or bad intentions. The victory depends on our wisdom, not only on what nice guys we are

pyc
pyc

@EvaKru @pyc

Yes i knnow it was writen before. And still I don't agree with you. At war, and on this apparently we do agree, you do not capitulate, otherwise there is no point in seeking victory. Victory which by the way will not happen any time soon : we'll get regularly terrorist attacks for some hundred years, because there is no reason for islamic lunatics to take less time to be clever than it took to christian ones.

EvaKru
EvaKru

@pyc @EvaKru actually people do capitulate at war. Remember Kutusov and Moscow) Napoleon was defeated. There is strategy and tactics...these a different. And this is not the only example of capitulation as military tactics. Just google....