Je suis Charlie | Thursday 8 January 2015

je suis

I can partially understand the backlash to the #jesuischarlie hashtag based on the fact that some of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, especially on their covers, are quite racist and seem unworthy of solidarity.

I have said (in the past, not just now) that I would not have published the Jyllands-Posten (or simply “Danish”) Mohammed cartoons, on the basis that the harm done in the broader sense (and I’m not talking about the riots, I’m talking about the potential dehumanising of a minority) didn’t really balance out the flexing of the freedom of speech muscle. The ethical scales didn’t bear it out and furthermore, some of the images just seemed in poor taste for no good reason (the Mohammed with a cartoon bomb for a turban is a shining example of this).

Some of the cartoons/covers since then I would have published (the “Love is stronger than hate” cover published after their offices were fire-bombed, the more benign portrayals of the prophet that simply poke fun, etc), some I wouldn’t (like the pregnant Boko Haram abductees as welfare leeches – something someone brought to my attention today on Twitter).

For me, #jesuischarlie wasn’t – and isn’t – about saying, “fuck yeah, publish with impunity, racism and hate speech SHOULD be published”; it was about saying that when someone believes you can be shot for your speech, we are all in the firing line.

Cartoonists and satirists in particular, but writers (and artists and *shudder* content makers) too – we can all offend. And while we should be mindful of that offence we should not be fearful of it.

Nous sommes Charlie not because we all support those cartoons and articles which maybe punch down (on the islamic minority) rather than up (at the broader institutions that perpetuate isolation of that minority), but because maybe we say the wrong thing one day in our exercise of free speech and we piss off the wrong person. There but for the grace of many gods/editors go I.

Obviously a lot of this is self-evident, and I’m mostly working through this myself to get it down and out, because I understand those who are rightly offended by the Charlie Hebdo covers.

But je suis Charlie nonetheless.

 

 

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