Originally, I was not going to speak on the situation in Paris concerning Charlie Hebdo. For those who do not know, Charlie Hedbo is a satirical weekly paper in Paris that is most known for its controversial content. On Wednesday, three enraged gunmen opened fired on the office leaving 12 dead. After gaining notoriety in 2006 for their depiction of a sobbing Muhammad, under the headline “Mahomet débordé par les intégristes” (“Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists”), the publication received heated condemnation from the Muslim world. The motive for this massacre goes without saying.
Religion wasn’t the only controversial topic targeted. As Jacob Canfield writes in the Hooded Utilitarian, “its cartoons often represent a certain virulently racist brand of French xenophobia. While they generously claim to ‘attack everyone equally’, the cartoons they publish are intentionally ‘anti-Islam’ and frequently sexist and homophobic” (First Post, 2015). Safe to say Charlie Hebdo was not exactly a place brimming with material for the sensitive, light-hearted, and those with strong moral values and ethics. Though, isn’t that the essence of satire? While distasteful, I cannot imagine, nor do I want to, live in a world without it. Still, I would never be one to write such. Some satire can be great when done right, but Charlie Hebdo often pushed the limits.
This post is not to condemn, merely share what I saw when I occasionally browsed the web. As an aspiring writer and journalist I see the larger problem at hand, a problem that has followed writers from the past and it is shocking how it is still a problem now. From this tragedy, to our reporters in hiding, and those forced to censor themselves in fear of this, it begs the question: Is there an absolute right to free speech? And history has shown us time and time again that there is none. Free speech does not come without consequence.
The world tells us you can say what you want but doing so makes you a target. You can have your views but you shouldn’t say them. We will reward your silence and punish your voices. This is what it has come to, where if you speak against the President you can be ‘coerced’ to resign. Where if you mock a religion you can be murdered. Our world tells us, racism exists and it is allowed to exist, but you must say nothing of it. According to this world speaking of such allows it thrive and if victims address it, they are pulling a ‘card’ as though their issues are comparable to a game.
It’s becoming a culture now to not talk about things because we don’t want to offend anyone. Has it not become clear that silence is just as offensive?
Charlie Hebdo struck something in me. My content will never be as extreme as theirs, my moral code would never allow me to do what they have done, however what’s to stop someone from finding fault in my words and murdering me? Everyone has a right to free expression no matter how distasteful. In fact, without them, how would we even know what distasteful content was?
So as a writer, a journalist, and a pursuer of free expression, Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo , mais je pourrais être . (I am not Charlie Hedbo, but I could be.)