Standing with Charlie Hebdo and Against Extremism

The murderous terrorist attack on a French satirical newspaper, which left 12 people dead, has shocked and outraged the world. Islamic extremists targeted Charlie Hebdo, the Paris-based paper, for its cartoons lampooning Islam. But it’s worth noting–as many have–that the paper poked fun at politicians, celebrities, and all the major religions.o-VEILED-570This caption explains the cover above. Vice has a good story about the paper’s anti-religion and anti-establishment history. After I heard the news of yesterday’s massacre, which killed ten of the paper’s staffers, including its top editor (and two police officers), the New York Daily News opinion editor captured how I felt.

Throughout the day, cartoonists from around the world shared how they felt. Here’s one from a Washington Post cartoonist:

For more reactions, commentary and updates, see Slate’s continuing coverage. (By the way, the slain top editor of Charlie Hebdo had stood tall against previous attempts at censorship and intimidation.) George Packer at The New Yorker has put up a good piece, and so has his colleagues, Amy Davidson and Philip Gourevitch. There are many others who have written eloquently about this terrible event, but the one that really speaks to me (and others, I presume), is this post by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, particularly this passage:

liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

8 Responses to “Standing with Charlie Hebdo and Against Extremism”

  1. Tom Scharf says:

    The proper response is to give Islamic Jihad a good lesson in The Barbara Streisand effect.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

    There is an attempt to do this, but it is a bit half hearted. Many outlets are covering their cowardliness with the veil of religious sensitivity. The WP printed one in their print version editorial, the NYT opted out. Any discussion on the legitimate decision to not unnecessarily antagonize any group with ridicule used only for shock value without the equally legitimate discussion of not caving to censorship at the point of a gun is disingenuous.

    There are a lot of parallels here with paying ransoms to terrorists. If you cave, you are inviting more of the same. With the recent North Korea incident and this one, western journalism’s and the media’s integrity and ethics are being challenged, let’s hope they are up to the task.

    If someone threatened the NYT’s editorial board for opining on the deficiencies of right wing politics, I suspect they would find their journalistic integrity pretty quick.

    One thing is for sure, you do need actually bravery to cover Islamic Jihad nowadays. The press core in Syria is non-existent.

  2. bobito says:

    I wish the world would get fed up enough about this crap to actually band together and do something about it. The UN was, in fact, created “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security”.

    The murders in France are shocking, but worse things happen (state sponsored and otherwise) in the middle east every day!!! Why the outrage and calls for solidarity when it happens in US/Europe and not for every despicable act??? Shouldn’t we be equally offended by the school massacre a few weeks ago? Shouldn’t we be equally offended by the state sponsored oppression of women and gays?

    We have one area of the world that is threatening “peace and security” across the globe, it should go without saying that the UN needs to step in and do something about it through cooperation between it’s member states. I realize there is no simple answer, but unless we force freedom onto the middle east I see no way out of this. The censorship and totalitarian tactics (to put it nicely) used by the governments and leadership of most middle eastern countries will squash any attempts at a grass roots effort to achieve freedom and democracy. Too much absolute power and it’s associated power to corrupt absolutely…

    In the mean time, I’m all for an all out Mohamed picture rebellion! CGI him into gay porn, have him being dominated by women, or enjoying a nice bacon sandwich… But long term, there needs to be an overt plan to root out sectarian rule in the region and implement true democracy. Even if it means that the UN needs to run the entire region for a while. It’s not like there are any significant military powers in the middle east to stop it from happening…

  3. JH says:

    Thanks Keith,

    This is an unspeakable outrage. Let’s hope it finally galvanizes Europe to unrestrained engagement with the US and it’s allies in the effort to wipe groups that support these acts from the face of the planet.

    Let hell rain on ISIS, Al-Qaeda and all their brothers in violent extremism.

  4. Buddy199 says:

    We can decry the atavistic nihilism of jihadis, and try to encourage civilized muslims to isolate and purge the death cult infecting their religion. The problem is that poll after poll shows that a chillingly large number of muslims in the Middle East and European immigrants from the Middle East sympathize with the tenets of jihadism. How that fundamental problem can be changed is anybody’s guess.

  5. Buddy199 says:

    It’s easy to pose as a staunch defender of freedom of speech by slamming religious people you know will never threaten you in return. What’s a Mormon extremist going to do? Bake you a pie? It takes some spine to actually stand up to the jihadis, which many of our cultural, media and political elites have shown a complete lack of.

  6. JonFrum says:

    Thank you for a rational comment.

  7. JonFrum says:

    So if I submit a comment on a NYT article telling what fun it would be to shovel Jews into ovens, how long would it last? For the vast majority of people, censorship means blocking words I agree with. Wasn’t a college professor in this very country just removed from his job for questioning gay marriage?
    Obviously, no one should die for an opinion. On the other hand, these guys – two in their sixties, ‘children of ’68’ have been behaving like juvenile a-holes for decades. Their word is defined by it’s mean-spiritedness. Excuse me if I’m not rushing to the barricades to defend those particular clowns. The clash between Islam and the West – yes, that is what we’re talking about – is a far bigger topic than this one attack merits.

  8. Viva La Evolucion says:

    The ability for one to criticize religion and/or offended it’s believers is one of the most sacred aspects of the freedom of speech. I think that promotion of theory of evolution and science education are some good ways to reduce religious extremism. I believe that a strong belief in an afterlife contributes to religious extremism/terrorism as well. If one believes in evolution, as many religious people do, to some degree, Then, at what point in human evolution did humans evolve the ability to have an afterlife? Did neanderthals experience an afterlife,…chimps, dogs, cats, mice, insects,. What about microscopic organisms?. I would say that the likelihood of humans experiencing an afterlife is the same as a microscopic organism going to heaven/hell.

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