Charlie Hebdo

You’ve probably already heard about what happened in France today:

Masked gunmen attacked the Paris offices of satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, killing 12 people before fleeing.

French security forces launched a major manhunt in the capital after the gunmen fled the scene of the attack, The Guardian reported. Police are searching for two brothers from the Paris region and another man from the northern French city of Reims in connection with the attack, a police source told Reuters.

The attackers stormed Charlie Hebdo’s Paris newsroom during an editorial meeting and began firing indiscriminately, police and prosecutors said. Witnesses told police that the gunmen shouted “we have avenged the prophet,” according to Agence France-Presse. Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Corinne Rey said the gunmen spoke to her in fluent French and claimed to represent al Qaeda. The gunmen called out some of the victims’ names, she told Reuters.

What is there to say? Civilized people understand that there is no right to go through life without ever being offended. Unfortunately, extremist religion is especially good at making people uncivilized.

Jonathan Chait points out a common and disturbing reaction to such events often, sadly, expressed by liberals:

Just over three years ago, the office of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine whose staff was horrifically murdered, was firebombed. Time‘s Paris bureau chief, Bruce Crumley, responded to the attack at the time with an outpouring of anger and contempt — mostly aimed at the target of the attack. “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?” he began, “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.” Yes, Crumley carefully noted, terrorism is bad, too. But his primary villain was the satirical magazine that provoked the attacks.

Crumley is loathsome and despicable. His attitudes are as much a threat to a free society as are the actions of the gunmen themselves. Claiming that publishing satirical cartoons constitutes openly begging for violence is awfully close to claiming that violence is an appropriate response to blasphemy. Crumley and the many who think like him are apologists for terrorism, pure and simple.

The trouble, though, is that Chait goes to far in trying to make his point:

Consider, for instance, the official view of the Obama administration, as expressed by White House spokesman Jay Carney in 2012, when asked about Charlie Hebdo‘s blasphemous cartoons depicting Mohammed:

Well, we are aware that a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Muhammad, and obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this. We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory. But we’ve spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression that is enshrined in our Constitution.

In other words, we don’t question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it. And I think that that’s our view about the video that was produced in this country and has caused so much offense in the Muslim world.

Now, it has to be said, and I’ll say it again, that no matter how offensive something like this is, it is not in any way justification for violence–not in any way justification for violence. Now, we have been staying in close touch with the French government as well as other governments around the world, and we appreciate the statements of support by French government officials over the past week, denouncing the violence against Americans and our diplomatic missions overseas.

Carney put it more delicately, but his actual line did not stray very far from Crumley’s:

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.

Chait concludes with:

The line separating these two positions is perilously thin. The Muslim radical argues that the ban on blasphemy is morally right and should be followed; the Western liberal insists it is morally wrong but should be followed. Theoretical distinctions aside, both positions yield an identical outcome.

The right to blaspheme religion is one of the most elemental exercises of political liberalism. One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.

This is ridiculous. The view expressed by Carney is miles away from the view expressed by Crumley.

Crumley’s view very strongly implies that the blasphemers got what they deserved. That implication is entirely absent from anything Carney said. Also absent from Carney’s statement was any implication that one should never commit blasphemy. Chait just made that up.

Let’s consider a parallel case. There are many Neo-Nazi groups in America that publish offensive and demeaning things about Jews and Blacks and others besides. Suppose that a handful of vigilantes storm into their offices one day and kill the editors and writers, claiming vengeance on behalf of those who were offended.

I’m sure we would all suddenly rush to the defense of the Neo-Nazis. We would talk stirringly about the importance of free expression and would emphasize that being offended is no excuse for violence. We would offer all the usual sentiments, and we would be entirely sincere in doing so.

But every time we made those points, we would also feel compelled to mention that we are not at all defending the content of what the Neo-Nazis published. We would feel almost physically compelled to do so, in fact. Every statement made on their behalf would begin with, “Of course, I don’t approve of what the Neo-Nazis were publishing. But …”

Unlike Crumley, that’s all Carney was doing. He unambiguously condemned the violence and defended the right of free people to publish whatever they like. But he also found time to mention that the administration he represents thinks that what Charlie Hebdo published was a very poor form of satire. I see nothing wrong with that, and I even agree with him up to a point. The rule of thumb is this: Being a dick doesn’t make you a brilliant satirist. And the cartoons in question had far more to do with being dickish than they did with making a serious point about anything.

Perhaps you disagree with Carney, or me, about the artistic merits of the cartoons. Well and good. The point is simply that it’s no affront to liberal principles to defend the right to publish something while questioning the wisdom of doing so. What is an affront to liberal principles, and an all too common one at that, is to imply that blasphemy as such is unacceptable and to further imply that violence is an appropriate response.

In short, Crumley crossed a line Carney never came near.

I said I agree with Carney up to a point. That point comes at the end, where he mocks the idea that Charlie Hebdo was making a noble point. While I don’t generally like dickishness for its own sake, the very fact that there is no shortage of savages like the gunmen in this case, and also no shortage of half-wit apologists like Crumley basically defending them, provides quite a plausible justification for publishing the cartoons. Contrary to Carney, sometimes the very fact that so many people would want outlaw certain forms of expression is, all by itself, a good reason for engaging in that expression.

Comments

  1. #1 Pedr
    January 7, 2015

    “While I don’t generally like dickishness for its own sake,”

    I for one, when it comes to this Islamic filth, love dickishness for its own sake. I am waiting for some vile derisive explicit pornographic Manga showing the epileptic camel jockey getting it on with Aisha, his 6 year old wife. Of course, he was a gentleman and waited until she was 9 for that. I am not picking on them per se. Under current Jewish law, based on the Babylonian Talmud, A GIRL OF THE AGE OF THREE YEARS AND ONE DAY MAY BE BETROTHED BY INTERCOURSE ( Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah, Folio 44b, commenting on Numbers 31:18, Soncino English Translation of the Babylonian Talmud ).

    As Jefferson pointed out, the best way to deal with people like this is through ridicule and not argument.

  2. #2 eric
    January 8, 2015

    Bill Donohue also came out and essentially blamed the cartoonists. Link. However, to everyone else’s credit, those are pretty much the only two cases of this I’ve heard about. I’m sure there are or will be more, but right now the overwhelming majority of western responses seem to be in defense of CH and free speech.

  3. #3 fraac
    United Kingdom
    January 8, 2015

    It’s every human’s duty to challenge authority, hold it to account and destroy it where necessary. But we’re all middle class white guys. It’s up to the sons and daughters of Islam to throw out their idiotic blasphemy rules.

  4. #4 kilnon
    January 8, 2015

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with ridiculing religion, and people who fiecely defend religion and kill for it, have to realize that they are not the ones, who created it. You can even say, that these murderers don’t even have anything to do with religion because they were most likely coerced into it. It does not make any sense to defend something that came from other people
    Have some faith in your own capacity to observe the truth. A violent response to caricature is completely unacceptable, and a testament to barbarism, lack of education and sound
    judgement. Just the fact that someone would do something like this to somebody, while forcing these people to believe that they
    were all created by one god, including the cartoonists, is no
    more than the evidence that religion is sheer nonsence, which even its most fundamental adherents find hard to believe or comprehend. I am sure that mohamed, who claimed to be a prophet of god, would not need sidekicks, because human
    nature in itself undermines the entire notion that people were created by god!

  5. #5 jane
    January 8, 2015

    It’s not clear to me that Crumley is loathsome, despicable, or an apologist for terrorism. We aren’t seeing his whole piece here, just the cherry-picked quotes by Chait, who would have us believe that he made Charlie Hebdo the “primary villain.” But Chait would also have us believe this of Carney, and you agree that this is not true.

    It seems possible that the only thing Crumley did wrong was to acknowledge the fact of blowback – which may be intentionally sought for political gain to a point, then suddenly, a la 9/11, run out of control. Inevitably, some tiny fraction of any group that might be targeted by dehumanizing propaganda will be vicious thugs, who may respond with vile behavior. (I’m sure you are aware of incidents of terrorism by people purporting to represent Jewish and African-American interests, often when they did not feel that legal approaches adequately protected them.) If the existence of such people within a fashionable scapegoat group is said to justify the scapegoating, the law-abiding majority of the group becomes trapped between the increasingly radical sociopathic fringe of their own group and the escalating hatred and suspicion of the broader society.

    How does that end? Perhaps you have been satisfied to see anti-Muslim and anti-Arab propaganda pushed in the American media, because some of Them are “savages”, therefore Them deserve it (while Us of course do not, no matter how much torture and drone-bombing we perpetrate). Have you noticed that it is becoming increasingly acceptable here to demonize African-Americans in the same way? After all, some really are brutal criminals, just as some poor North African kids from the banlieues are in France. Therefore, it seems, it has become acceptable not just for radical radio hosts, but for TV hosts, police leadership, and nationally known politicians to say things about black people that fifteen or twenty years ago would have been considered unspeakably racist. This is coupled with organized nationwide efforts to roll back voting rights. Would you like to see a four-page spread in Mad Magazine or the National Lampoon, a few years from now, showing cartoons like that about black Americans? If not, we ought to be talking about how to de-escalate hate, fear and divisiveness between groups, not how to gleefully promote it.

  6. #6 eric
    January 8, 2015

    It’s not clear to me that Crumley is loathsome, despicable, or an apologist for terrorism

    Well Jane, you could’ve clicked on the link to Crumley’s original article, which Chait provides in his article, before defending him. Personally, I don’t think his statements are merely attempts to say “hey, some people don’t honor free speech, and they pose a risk you might consider.” He very clearly and repeatedly says things that puts some ofthe blame for the attacks on the speakers. Like these (my bold):

    …not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists…

    and

    What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?”

    They tempted people with their words! We’ve heard that before, haven’t we? How many slut-shaming victim-blaming attacks claim the women tempted or was a temptress? Maybe all of them? How about this one:

    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.

    Those bombers…they were provoked I tells ya! And in case that wasn’t enough, this is about as plain as can be:

    it amounts to defending the right to scream “fire” in an increasingly over-heated theater.

    Given the history of that example, it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t think drawings of mohammed should be protected free speech; he considers them to meet the legal criteria for incitement. Shouting fire in a crowded theater is the classic example of speech that people generally agree shouldn’t be protected.

    How does that end?

    It should end with us expecting citizens of countries with free speech laws to abide by those laws. Right? Or is it too much to ask for your neighbor to obey the law?

  7. #7 jane
    January 8, 2015

    Eric – There’s evidence that the first publication of the one big batch of virulently Muslim-bashing cartoons, by a Swedish newspaper, was actually intended to inspire hysterical and belligerent reactions. The involved parties included the American anti-Muslim and anti-Arab zealot Daniel Pipes, and they clearly knew some Muslims would go out in the streets and scream about it, and wanted them to, so they could say “See, see how Them overreact?” I’m sure nobody expected that the overreaction to those cartoons, the new anti-Muslim novel being promoted, or whatever would include a bloodbath of this magnitude – but there are parties who will be happy to exploit it now that it has happened.

    “Is it too much to ask for your neighbor to obey the law?” No indeed, it is not. NOBODY aside from ISIL types is saying these murders were even remotely justifiable. But it does not follow logically from that that the entire Muslim community should be blamed for criminal viciousness by a few, any more than all white people should be blamed when a white man shoots up a schoolful of children or a white mercenary machine-guns innocent passersby in Iraq. My objection to Jason’s column is that he seems to be saying if any members of certain groups that are minorities in the West behave terribly, it retroactively justifies past abuse of those groups as well as future abuse. This leads to an ugly place. Is it too much to ask for your neighbor to refrain from efforts to make your and your children’s position in society more precarious?

    There’s another issue about the free speech laws in France: They are not written and applied quite equitably. I’ve read about an Afro-French comedian named Dieudonne. He’s been arrested, threatened with prison, and forced out of theater gigs for saying things that were allegedly anti-Semitic (and may well have been; I do not know the details). In France, as in several other European countries, if you published a magazine issue full of cartoons depicting Jews as subhuman animated bombs and the like you could well be arrested and charged with a crime. If it is perfectly legal to do the same to Muslims, their youth correctly feel that they are second-class citizens at best, whom the laws don’t, and don’t wish to, equally protect.

    The law against murder must be respected by everyone no matter what the circumstance. Many other laws, including laws regarding free speech and its limitations, may be more or less respected depending upon how reasonable they are and how justly they are applied. If your group’s enemies can say things about you that you can’t have prosecuted, but that you couldn’t say back to them without being prosecuted, why shouldn’t you go out in the streets and burn the flag?

  8. #8 eric
    January 8, 2015

    Eric – There’s evidence that the first publication of the one big batch of virulently Muslim-bashing cartoons, by a Swedish newspaper, was actually intended to inspire hysterical and belligerent reactions.

    So what? A double ‘so what’ in fact – what does that have to do with Crumley’s comments on the earlier Charlie Hebdo bombing, and what does’ someone’s speech intent to offendhave to do with its legality?

    it does not follow logically from that that the entire Muslim community should be blamed for criminal viciousness by a few

    Did anyone here do that? Did Jason? Did I?

    My objection to Jason’s column is that he seems to be saying if any members of certain groups that are minorities in the West behave terribly, it retroactively justifies past abuse of those groups as well as future abuse

    I don’t see that in his post at all. Can you point to the part that implied that to you? I’m not insisting you show me where Jason literally said that exact thing. If there is some paragraph where you thought it was implied or there was some subtext with that meaning, please point it out to me.

    France, as in several other European countries, if you published a magazine issue full of cartoons depicting Jews as subhuman animated bombs and the like you could well be arrested and charged with a crime.

    You mean you don’t think Charlie Hebdo could ever have gotten away with negative characterizations of Christians and Jews?. Or this?. Or perhaps this? When a magazine publishes an article with Jews and Nazis kissing and a byline referring to Jew-Nazi love, under the renamed magazine title “Shoah Hebdo,” I think at that point we can dispense with numerically counting how many times they attack each religion and just concede that they are equal opportunity offenders.

    If your group’s enemies can say things about you that you can’t have prosecuted, but that you couldn’t say back to them without being prosecuted, why shouldn’t you go out in the streets and burn the flag?

    Feel free to burn a flag in response. But not murder people.

    I also simply don’t buy your argument that these folks’ beef is with the unequal application of free speech laws, for two reasons. Firstly, if that was the case their beef would be with the government which is applying the laws unfairly. But these folks aren’t attacking the government, they’re attacking civilian speakers. Secondly, they aren’t calling for a greater freedom for them to draw anti-Jewish cartoons. Its pretty ludicrous to even suggest that, IMO. They are clearly upset that other people can speak offensively to them, not that they can’t speak offensively to others.

  9. #9 eric
    January 8, 2015

    Actually I may have to modify my last post. Intent to offend may indeed have something to do with legality, but in exactly the opposite way you (Jane) imagine. I bet that in the US court system, at least, showing intent to offend (rather than directly incite) would likely be a good defense of the legality of your speech. IOW it makes it more legal, more likely to be protected – not less.

  10. #10 eric
    January 8, 2015

    Ack, some explanation required. #8 was in response to a different reply of mine that is still awaiting moderation (because it had links to Charlie Hebdo magazines filled with anti-Jewish cartoons, the sorts of things Jane says would never be allowed to be published). So you will all have to wait with bated breath to read what #8 refers to. 🙂

  11. #11 Kilnon
    January 8, 2015

    There is definitely a difference between ridiculing religion and spreading hate against muslims, with the latter being undoubtedly morally reprehensible. Spreading hate against muslims, which has proven to lead to attacks on muslims, though, as far as it has been observed, does not provoke muslims to perptuate acts of violence in “self-defense” as does something as innocent as a comical portrayal of the religion of islam and mohamed, is in the category of crime. Muslims have demonstrated to be offended more by the criticism and ridiculing of the religion of islam, which one should hesistate to even refer to as “theirs”, particularly due to the overwhelming coercion and forcible imposition factors that play part in conversion to islam. I think the lack of education in the muslim community, and some people’s inability to take and keep more or certain things into perspective at all times, such as the fact that islam/religion teaches people that all people were created by god, and that the first major commandment states that you should not kill, effects the outcome of what kind of values these people will have, and, as one can notice, their values seem ridiculously skewed. Islam and mohamed do not belong to anyone! You have the choice to adhere to this religion or not. If only muslims and Christians could refrain from fusing themselves with religious texts, and adopt the correct view on what religion, god, faith in god and people are, many future religion related disasters can be potentially averted.

  12. #12 jane
    January 8, 2015

    Eric, you’re putting up a whole field of straw men. For example: first, the fact that the worst cartoons involved were meant to hurt and anger people does not affect their legality, nor did I claim it did; it affects the morality of their publication. It also makes it somewhat disingenuous to bash Crumley, as you do in message 6, for simply acknowledging that some of the participants in this history really did intend and hope to piss people off.

    Second, nobody here claimed that anger over hate speech justified murder.

    Third, I did not say that anti-cartoon protestors’ main goal was to be equally free to slander Jews; it’s ludicrous that you’d suggest I did, I*M*O. The point is that it’s harder to expect Muslims to tolerate propaganda telling the public that they are subhuman and evil when they know that if they put out similar levels of hate speech about other groups they would be arrested. While anti-Nazi sentiment or homophobia might make the kissing image you describe offensive to many, it does not demonize Jews or label them as inherently dangerous. Again, it is illegal to do so openly in France, and as far as I know Charlie Hebdo has not made a habit of it.

    As for what Jason said, here’s the quote: “the very fact that there is no shortage of savages like the gunmen in this case, and also no shortage of half-wit apologists like Crumley basically defending them, provides quite a plausible justification for publishing the cartoons.”

    The widespread dissemination of propaganda promoting hatred of a group is itself discrimination, and leads to more dangerous forms of discrimination. The fact that there are some scumbags among Muslims, as among every religious and ethnic group, does not “justify” discriminating against every member of that one group. As an American, you surely would not want to have a principle of collective guilt evenly applied worldwide. Nor does it make sense that if some majority-group members are viewed as “half-wit apologists” – I’m sure you know the Civil Rights-era equivalent – for criticizing discrimination against a minority, it justifies the discrimination. This is essentially saying that Muslims deserve to suffer collectively not only for crimes other Muslims commit, but for the putative sins of any white people who are sympathetic to them.

  13. #13 Kilnon
    January 8, 2015

    Perhaps, knowing that hate, these days, is spread not only against muslims, but absolutely against every single group on our planet…should be encouraging, as muslims are not really singled out. The internet is flooded with hate blogs that demonize, stigmatize and even incite genocide against even the most quiet groups on the world stage. There is a lot of ignorance out there, and even those people who hate terrorists, for instance, are no different than terrorists in terms of taking out their hate not just on the perpetrator of a crime but also on a lot of innocent people that are somehow associated with the criminal. It’s truly outrageous. I guess in a world like this, each individual person needs to exercise caution in order to avoid harm as much as possible, and it seems that worrying about who you are and how you are perceived is totally futile. There is always going to be someone to hate you and harm you no matter who you are. Plus, don’t forget what people can do to perfectly innocent people in countries like the US that bullied millions into suicide.

    Another, perhaps, positive thing is that you always have the option to keep your beliefs to yourself, because not only that you cannot even prove to people empirically that you believe in god… you do not even have to expose your beliefs to anyone since people cannot really tell what you believe in. And even if they guess correctly, you can always say that it’s only their assumption. Protecting yourself from harm is more important than trying to prove something to somebody.

  14. #14 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 8, 2015

    jane–

    My objection to Jason’s column is that he seems to be saying if any members of certain groups that are minorities in the West behave terribly, it retroactively justifies past abuse of those groups as well as future abuse

    Retroactive? Muslim extremism in response to trivial slights did not start yesterday.

    It’s nice that you say that you don’t think the terrorists in yesterday’s attack were justified. But everything else you’ve written gives the impression that you do think they were at least partly justified.

  15. #15 Craig Thomas
    January 9, 2015

    Jane, noone’s asking muslims to suffer.
    They are simply being expected to not demand immunity from criticism, satire and offence.
    Reactions such as this one in Paris guarantee ongoing efforts to satirise their religion.
    The only way such satire might tail off is if they stopped making ridiculous impositions on civilised society’s freedoms by demanding, with threats of violence, immunity from satire and criticism.

    If you yourself honestly *did* want to end this cycle of satire and violence, you have two choices:
    1) attack the satirists, curtailing our freedoms, and re-shaping our society according to lines dictated by primitive holy books
    or
    2) demand your government laid down the law in no uncertain terms in order to ensure this segment of society learns to live according to *our* values rather than the values of their pre-mediaeval holy books.

    Your choice.

  16. #16 eric
    January 9, 2015

    It also makes it somewhat disingenuous to bash Crumley, as you do in message 6, for simply acknowledging that some of the participants in this history really did intend and hope to piss people off.

    Crumley does not “simply acknowledge” that they hoped to tick people off. He very clearly describes the pictures in terms of it being unprotected speech. For him it’s tempting, provocative, and just like shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. Even despite the direct quotes I gave you, you are still insistent on this point? I don’t know what stronger proof I could give you than his own words comparing it to the fire/theater example.

    Third, I did not say that anti-cartoon protestors’ main goal was to be equally free to slander Jews; it’s ludicrous that you’d suggest I did,

    So why did you bring up the unequal treatment issue at all? Was I foolish to assume that you brought it up because you think it has some relevant connection to their motviation in committing the attack?

    This is essentially saying that Muslims deserve to suffer collectively not only for crimes other Muslims commit, but for the putative sins of any white people who are sympathetic to them.

    Again, I think you’re arguing against someone else but not Jason or I: neither of us said that. Nobody is demanding collective punishment. In fact I have to say that I think the French police have shown a great deal more restraint than our FBI probably would have.

    Lastly, your comment(s) on discrimination ring my alarm bells, because I associate that with illegal behavior. Certainly speech that targets a group with insults can be bigoted and can influence the attitudes of others. But I disagree that the mere speech itself crosses the line into what we typically call discrimination (e.g., refusing someone a job or service, or preferentially giving a job or service, based on race, religion, sex, age, or whatever). I strongly disagree with Crumley and anyone elso who would remove such admittedly coarse and nasty satire from the class of protected speech.

  17. #17 jane
    January 9, 2015

    Jason – I can’t see how you read that. In no other context does the failure to embrace the beliefs of a terrorist’s targets make you a terrorist sympathizer. You can condemn Christian clinic-bombers and Eric Rudolph while remaining anti-choice or anti-gay rights. You can denounce Baruch Goldstein without denouncing Israel. You can – most comparably to this case, and contrary to the blatting of certain right-wing thugs – condemn the killing of NY cops by a black man angry over civil rights violations without agreeing that we should cease to care if blacks’ civil rights are violated.

    It’s now been reported that the cop who was executed as he lay wounded on the sidewalk was a Tunisian-French Muslim named Ahmed Merabet. The shooter could see that he was Arab and therefore likely Muslim – in France that’s a safe bet – and didn’t care. Nor was Merabet a continuing threat. He was killed solely for being a cop. (Eric, that’s what the American media would in other contexts call an “attack on government.”)

    We don’t know what Merabet thought of the rising tide of Islamophobia and racism in France, though he probably didn’t love it. All we know about him is that in an attempt to protect a primarily white, Christian public, he ran towards the sound of assault rifle fire – how many of us can swear we would have the courage to do so? – and he died for it. When someone suggests that the actions of the Scumbag brothers or their ilk justify anti-Muslim propaganda, remember that Detective Merabet was one of its targets. To respond to his murder by putting out more cartoons bashing him would dishonor his memory. That is why, though I unequivocally condemn terrorism against any group, je ne suis pas Charlie.

    Eric – There are two issues; one is whether it should be legal to put out propaganda demonizing a group, and one is whether it is right. Campaigns of speech designed to convince the majority that some minority is a dangerous, untrustworthy, inherently inferior fifth column may not be discrimination, but they most certainly do inspire discrimination – and sometimes worse. Hence, I consider them to be prima facie immoral. (Bleats of “But the people *I* hate really are inherently inferior and dangerous!” cut no ice – everyone says that.)

    As for legalities, the reason that Europe prohibits some subtypes of hate speech is that within living memory they have had pogroms far worse than anything American bigots have come up with. If the publication of Mein Kampf helped to lead to public acceptance of the Holocaust, maybe, they concluded, the cost of respecting Hitler’s Absolute Right to Free Speech(TM) was just too high to be borne. There are real competing values at stake.

    For that matter, we do not have, if we ever had, totally unfettered free speech in the U.S. Several American Muslims have been imprisoned for writing for extremist websites – indeed, one was killed without trial abroad for producing hateful propaganda, and his teenage son was then killed for, um, attainder of blood. Where should the line be drawn? I don’t know, but perhaps assuming that there’s a single Right answer is not the way to find the sweet spot.

  18. #18 eric
    January 9, 2015

    He was killed solely for being a cop. (Eric, that’s what the American media would in other contexts call an “attack on government.”)

    Oh please, seriously? Armed terrorists intent on killing the cartoonists find a policeman at the scene. They shoot him. And you think their motivation in doing so is to attack the government?

    Campaigns of speech designed to convince the majority that some minority is a dangerous, untrustworthy, inherently inferior fifth column may not be discrimination, but they most certainly do inspire discrimination – and sometimes worse. Hence, I consider them to be prima facie immoral.

    Then your speech is prima facie immoral, because your speech is designed to convince the majority that the minority [free-speech advocates who use offensive satire to make their point] are dangerous. Right? And don’t bleat about how CH-like publications really are dangerous, you already told me that cuts no ice with you.

    Where should the line be drawn? I don’t know, but perhaps assuming that there’s a single Right answer is not the way to find the sweet spot

    I don’t necessarily think there is a single right answer that all countries worldwide must follow. However I do prefer the US method of drawing the line at direct incitement to violence. We don’t always live up to it, but I think as a guiding principle its superior to Europe’s decision to censor any neonazi speech no matter how unrelated to violence it may be.

  19. #19 jane
    January 9, 2015

    Heh! I quoted your words – and they are suitable in mainstream American discourse, where attacking a cop is seen as terrorism against the state.

    It amazes me how often people who see their enemies as ultimately subhuman and deranged are also supremely confident that they totally comprehend the motivations of those people. For example, such people cannot possibly be motivated by land or political disputes – even though objective studies find that most terrorists are – but only, solely by their inherently eeeevil religion. Our embrace of that bit of mindlessness has allowed not just Israel, as once happened, but Russia and China to play us like fish.

    As for point 2: heh again. Pathetic attempt at a straw man. There is nobody who does not think that there are some opinions whose public promulgation is immoral, even it were stipulated that no violence by or against supporters would directly result. You do not have the power to decide who has the right to opinions.

    As for the U.S. laws vs. European laws, I respect your opinion, though I’d object to any effort to declare their laws Bad because they are not identical to ours. I myself am not sure. I might feel more strongly if I were a German Jew.

  20. #20 eric
    January 9, 2015

    It amazes me how often people who see their enemies as ultimately subhuman and deranged are also supremely confident that they totally comprehend the motivations of those people.

    Can you table the subhuman crap? Nobody here is saying that. If you know someone who is specifically calling muslims subhuman, go to their blog and tell them why they are wrong. Doing it here sounds like a veiled accusation that I’m (or Jason is) a religious bigot.

    Actually, how about a point-blank clarification: who are you saying thinks muslims are subhuman? How about a name or group name?

    As for point 2: heh again. Pathetic attempt at a straw man

    Its not a straw man. You said speech attempting to convince a majority that some minority is dangerous is immoral. You are attempting to convince us that Charlie Hebdo type speech is dangerous. Thus your speech is immoral by your own standard.

    You do not have the power to decide who has the right to opinions.

    I don’t want it. But I don’t want people like you having it either. Do you realize that the arguments that you pose in this particular paragraph – that everyone finds some speech immoral, and that nobody has the right to decide who has opinions – are arguments in my favor, that they are arguments in favor of legally expansive free speech, right? So please, keep on that line. The ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion’ argument is an argument for why Crumley is loathsome, despicable, and an apologist for terrorism (three things you said he wasn’t): because he very clearly thinks CH cartoons should be treated like shouting fire in a theater, and not as an opinion everyone is entitled to air.

  21. #21 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    @Jane

    [The point is that it’s harder to expect Muslims to tolerate propaganda telling the public that they are subhuman and evil when they know that if they put out similar levels of hate speech about other groups they would be arrested.]

    There is no reason for muslims to stoop down to the level of those Jews, for instance, who try to portray muslims as subhuman and evil, by trying to impress and gain acceptance of some conservative Nazi, who can be easily avoided and ignored. There is no need for anyone, whether they are a Jew or muslim, to cater to those, who hate them because there is always a safe place for Jews and muslims, and it is in the liberal state of mind. Hate is something nobody really needs. Hate is a remnant of our primeval barbaric human nature, and it is precisely hate that needs to be eradicated… from within everyone.

  22. #22 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    You can always strive towards eradicating hate as opposed to claiming the right to turn into swine. This is a much better alternative to double standard.

  23. #23 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    @Jane

    [It amazes me how often people who see their enemies as ultimately subhuman and deranged are also supremely confident that they totally comprehend the motivations of those people.]

    Trying to understand the motivations behind crime is not really necessary because it literally forces people to open their minds to crime and tolerating harm… whether it is committed against those people or they are the ones who commit it. And by no means, you should be bullied by the legal system into forgiving the criminal and giving up on due process because both criminals and legal system employees prey on your understanding behind the motivations of those criminals due to their own agenda. Nobody should commit crime, and if they do, they should be prosecuted for it. Period.

  24. #24 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 9, 2015

    jane–

    I can’t see how you read that. In no other context does the failure to embrace the beliefs of a terrorist’s targets make you a terrorist sympathizer.

    You’re saying a lot more than that. You explicitly defended Bruce Crumley, who, in discussing the previous attack on Charlie Hebdo, was quite clear that he places some of the blame on the cartoonists themselves. You write that the publication of the anti-Muslim cartoons in Sweden was a deliberate provocation orchestrated by Daniel Pipes. You present that like it’s a stunning revelation that puts what happened in a new light. But even if what you say is true, it’s irrelevant. Then you look at what happened in Paris the other day and think the time is right to discuss the vagaries of French free speech laws.

    If it was not your intention to say the terrorists had at least some justification, then I don’t see why you’re bringing up any of this.

    That you can object strongly to the sorts of things Charlie Hebdo publishes without supporting the terrorists was the main point I made in the opening post. I don’t know why you would think pointing that out serves as some sort of rebuke to me.

    As for publishing further cartoons, I’ve seen public opinion polling that shows that a large majority of Muslims in England believe it should be illegal to blaspheme against their prophet. I’m guessing the results would be the same in most European countries. My argument is that when such illiberal attitudes are so rampant, it’s entirely appropriate to put a thumb in the eye of those who hold them, by publishing material that I might otherwise consider offensive if published without that context.

  25. #25 kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    This murder of the cartoonists is a real global tragedy. Wherever they might be right now…let it be a parallel universe, in which they all survived and are now successfully convallessing….and did not get what their murderers were hoping for, which is death….So much for those islamic terrorists being muslim…They are no different in their beliefs, when it comes to afterlife, than atheists the vile kind.

  26. #26 kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    Perhaps, we should ask the opinion of the entire world population, a.k.a. dumb primate, on what happened to the cartoonists…

  27. #27 DW
    January 10, 2015

    “Perhaps you disagree with Carney, or me, about the artistic merits of the cartoons.”

    Not their artistic merits, but their social or civic merits. Ridicule of religion is important in helping people oppressed by religion to free themselves from it. Cartoons ridiculing fundamentalist religions say to people suffering under them, “Look, there’s another world out here! There’s a way out. You could renounce your religion and still find friends. There are other people who see that these people are horrible.”

    We don’t protect freedom of speech just for the heck of it. It’s not an abstract principle. We protect all or most speech because what is offensive to one person turns out to be quite constructive and helpful to someone else, and vice versa.

    Satire of religion is no different from political satire. It comforts the downtrodden by assuring that at least other people recognize the ridiculousness, brutality and stupidity of those in power. Religion harms a lot of people and satire of religion plays a role in helping some people see a way out. It also sends a message to religious leaders not to bother trying to increase or consolidate their power in the secular realm, because there will be pushback, we aren’t all impressed by you.

  28. #28 proximity1
    January 12, 2015

    The Onion master satirists demonstrate how to pay homage to their fallen French colleagues at Charlie Hebdo

    From The Onion

    “It Sadly Unclear Whether This Article Will Put Lives At Risk”

    News• World• News• ISSUE 51•01• Jan 7, 2015

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/it-sadly-unclear-whether-this-article-will-put,37715/

    In a poignant example of irony, one of Stéphane Charbonnier’s last cartoons read this way

    “Toujours pas d’attentats en France” (Still no [terrorist] attacks in France”) followed by an Afghan-looking, AK-47-armed guy who objects, “Wait! We have until the end of January to extend our [New Year’s] wishes.”

    Graphic at this link at Le Nouvel Obs:
    http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/charlie-hebdo/20150107.OBS9468/charlie-hebdo-le-dernier-dessin-de-charb-toujours-pas-d-attentats.html

    (It’s common custom in France to exchange cards at the New Year with one’s best wishes ( vœux ) for the year ahead. )

  29. #29 eric
    January 12, 2015

    Jason:

    My argument is that when such illiberal attitudes are so rampant, it’s entirely appropriate to put a thumb in the eye of those who hold them, by publishing material that I might otherwise consider offensive if published without that context.

    I agree with you (and DW) in general about republishing. But as a society we do seem to have different, inconsistent standards for when its appropriate or not. In the last 80’s-early 90’s, nobody seemed to think that republishing the Hustler joke about Larry Falwell was required in the defense of free speech. AFAIK, not even the strongest free speech advocates suggested papers do that, or called them ‘cowards’ for not doing that – and yet the odds of violence occurring from it were practically zero, certainly far far less than repblishing the CH islamic material. And I bet this is not a one-off instance; I bet that in general, many free speech advocates would not view the republication of profanity (swear-laced articles) or dirty jokes that come under attack, as being as necessary (in support of free speech) as the republication of blasphemous articles that come under attack. So yeah, even us ardent free speech defenders tend to defend the speech we view as important more than we defend the speech we view as unnecessary/unimportant. The notion that we defend all speech equally is not true in practice, at least when it comes to demanding republication; we only demand that level of support in certain cases…and those cases tend to align with our preconceived notions. IOW, its a bias we have.

  30. #30 proximity1
    January 12, 2015

    @ 27 “Cartoons ridiculing fundamentalist religions say to people suffering under them, “Look, there’s another world out here! There’s a way out. You could renounce your religion and still find friends. There are other people who see that these people are horrible.”

    No kidding. And no one better appreciates these facts than the religious authorities themselves who vigorously surpress such satire for that very reason. For the ordinary member of the flock of faithful, the religious leadership invite, encourage or in various ways make it understood that they expect the faithful to echo this taking of offense, which many do out of a completely innocent idea that they’re merely “defending their own religion” rather than those authorities who hold and wield power under and through it.

    Joke: “One hundred lashes if you don’t die of laughter.” [ Charlie Hebdo ]

    Not a joke : One hundred real lashes of the whip (or worse) for printing, repeating, such a piece of satire. Such are the times in which we still live!—plagued by blind 6th century (or earlier) bigotry and stupidity. And liberals make “being sensitive” to such ilk a hallmark, a badge of, their “liberal enlightenment.”

  31. #31 Jessica T. Van Nostrand
    United States
    January 17, 2015

    The terrorist attack in Paris was done by individuals that seem to have felt they were marginalized by society. These are the people who join cults, gangs and apparently ISIS, ISIL. I have read the Quran and I know about the history of the Muslim religion as well as the life of the Prophet Mohammed and the millions of “peace loving Muslims” that follow his words. It hurts me that people of any decent religion can find a way to radicalize it to the point of killing people, blowing up 10 year old babies, indiscriminately kill those who are not of like mind despite also being Muslims and feeling justified and righteous believing a loving God, their God, our God would bless such barbarism. I do not believe that most Muslims agree with the behavior of these extremists and like many of us, are praying to God for it to stop.

    In Medina, when Mohammed was living there with his first followers, Mohammed lived amongst Christians and Jews. At that time, no one was forced to become a Muslim but instead they were respected as “people of the book,” although thought to be severely misguided. How many Christian sects think the same of other Christian sects. This is 2015, not the dark ages where “the Christians” went to Constantinople and slaughtered Muslims and then the Muslims returned the deed.

    Ordinary Muslims by nature are peaceful, it is the leaders that become corrupted by the power they have, which is no different than so many other religions. We have not forgotten about the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland for so many years. What happened to the peaceful legacies of people like Mother Teresa and Ghandi?

    May God comfort the family’s of the people who were killed. Terrorism needs to end. Whether under the guise of humor or anything else, I disagree wholeheartedly that any religion should make fun of another person’s religion. When humor is done to instigate and agitate unstable people who like to kill along with hurting and angering people who are not terrorists, I think that kind of humor is unnecessary and in poor taste. Did those people not remember Rushdi?

    We must learn to respect each other and our social and religious differences. We are all human beings, we are all Children of God and for those of us who may be wrong about our beliefs, please remember, God is the Judge and He will Righteously judge us all in the end, it is not our job to judge each other.

    Our only job is to love God, serve Him and treat others as we want to be treated. I am sure if a magazine or newspaper print Jesus in a disgraceful way, we would be up in arms and would not find it funny at all. Who knows how some radical Christian would react.

    Please, pray for each other and pray for peace. Pray that people who are kidnapped come home and pray that we somehow one day soon, remember that we are ALL children of God. We probably have so much rain right now because He is crying at what we do to each other.

    God bless.

  32. #32 Phil
    January 17, 2015

    “The terrorist attack in Paris was done by individuals that seem to have felt they were marginalized by society.”

    Yes…oh yes. Marginalized by governments and societies who let them into their countries and cultures where they could actually notice that. It is a shame that they couldn’t detect the flaws of the toilets they were so anxious to leave.

  33. #33 Alexlok
    France
    January 17, 2015

    I would like to add a relevant thing: in France, we happen to have laws that forbid too much offensive dickishness. For example, Neo-Nazis can’t hold publicly antisemitist discourses, as well as a whole range of things like incitation to hate, apology of terrorism, antisemitism, homophobia…

    And when Charlie Hebdo first published these pictures, muslim representatives did go to trial against them, and it’s a judge, taking into account objective arguments, who stated it was not offensive or dickish enough to condemn them.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.