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Monday, January 12, 2015

Who Is Charlie Hebdo?

Link: Charlie Hebdo Cartoonist Rejects "Sudden Friends"

Most people in the world had no idea what "Charlie Hebdo" was before January 7, 2014.  For those of you who still might be in the dark, CH is a weekly French satirical magazine that focuses on French and European current events.  CH also comments on international issues.  As its "hook", the publication is known to summarize its opinions with cartoon caricatures.  CH has been a part of French media and politics for as long as I can remember, and can be found on most Paris coffee tables, after Le Monde and Le Figaro.  I have never enjoyed or appreciated Charlie Hebdo. You see, when I became an adult, I stopped finding it necessary to insult other people in order to make a point.  On many occasions over the years (too many to count) I believe that CH crossed the line in its insults.  The difference between political satire and CH is the difference between sincerely trying to make a point and insulting people to cause injury.  And yet, on January 8, I did not hesitate to tweet, "Je Suis Charlie".  As often as I have been enraged and insulted by the magazine, nothing CH has ever done comes near to justifying murder.  I realize that by repeatedly tweeting "Je Suis Charlie", I gave the impression that I considered this to be an issue of freedom of speech, or freedom of the press.  I don't.  I think CH was wrong to continually print cartoons that were intended to insult large groups of people.  I'm a practicing Roman Catholic and an American, I've been on the receiving end of a few less-than kind cartoons over the years.  Actually, I have a relatively thick skin.  I don't mind some sensitive humor as long as I understand the motivation.

After seeing some of the cartoons that have been printed over the last few years, I can understand why practicing Muslims would be angry with CH.  Many of the cartoons seemed to be drawn with one goal in mind: to include as many visuals as possible that will be offensive to Muslims.  The link that I chose to include provides a good example of the attitude that existed at the magazine before this horrible event occurred.  When I say "Je Suis Charlie", I am sharing in a universal solidarity for the protection of freedom of speech, and also declaring my abhorrence to murder.  My disgust with some of the methods used by CH has not changed.  I believe in a society that engages in political and social discourse without the need for insults.  How do I express my disagreement with CH's methods?  I don't buy the magazine.  What happened on January 7 was about more than a few cartoons.  The two monsters and their AK47s were determined to rack-up a sizable body count, which explains why so many were killed and injured.  The gratuitous execution of the unarmed police officer will stay with me for the rest of my life.  The police officer was a Muslim, but it made no difference.  They were on a mission to kill.

If CH had not printed cartoons with a Muslim theme, would this event have been avoided?
There is not way that I would make that assumption.  There are other newspapers and magazines in Paris who have printed cartoons that have shown Islam in a less-than-favorable light.  Its very possible that these two had a list, and if CH had not been convenient, they may have had a plan B to attack some other media outlet.  We are dealing with two separate issues, and I will take the opportunity to opine on both.  The media (the press) needs to govern itself with a bit more severity.  I cannot believe that it is necessary to trade in insults in order to get a point across.  Attacking the opposing idea or thought with a string of insults or vulgar cartoons is a lazy way of damaging the other side.  If you feel strongly about something, then take the time to explain yourself.  I don't approve of the methods utilized by Charlie Hebdo in its weekly political satire/commentary.  It shouldn't be necessary to malign and besmirch what other people respect, in order to make a point.  As for the second point, committing murder because of an insult is never acceptable, regardless of who or what has been insulted.  Instead of, "Je Suis Charlie", we should have all held up signs or tweeted the phrase, "We Are All Human".  What happened in Paris on January 7 was not so much an attack on Charlie Hebdo as it was an attack on our culture, our humanity and our sense of basic right-and-wrong.

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