Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo

9th January, 2015 9:19 am

je-ne-suis-pas-charlie

In the hours after the murder of 10 journalists and 2 police officers in Paris, my inbox has been popping with strident messages in defence of free speech. They come from bloggers and columnists, from left and right. This is perhaps the only issue on which Paul Goodman and Emma Burnell stand united. We must, we are told, stand in solidarity with the people who were massacred. ‘I am Charlie Hebdo’ has become a viral sensation across the world. We are told we need to decide which side we are on, to defend free speech or give in to tyranny, to choose, as Alex Massie puts it in the Spectator, ‘between civilisation and barbarism,’ or ‘modernity and a kind of fanaticism we’ve known in our own past’.

I’m very uncomfortable with this kind of language. Despite its championing of freedom and its talk of modernity, there is a deep-rooted authoritarianism behind it. First of all it assumes that ‘our’ civilization is a good thing which must be defended at all costs, that the distribution of power and wealth in our society is right, that our biggest problems come from enemies outside. Secondly, it tries to construct a set of absolute moral polarities, suggesting we possess a single ‘way of life’ which is in danger. It subjugates our differences to an artificial unity which can only be imposed by an elite or the state – it’s that which makes it right wing. The assumption that ‘we’ share a common set of values which differs from our enemies stops us from understanding the particular circumstances which shape our lives and actions. This language of absolute moral opposites is uncivil and strident, with a totalitarian edge. What if your idea of civilization isn’t mine?

To explain what happened in Paris we need to be more concrete, more specific. I don’t think the murders of 12 journalists in Paris was an attack on free speech. I don’t think the murderers wanted to turn France into a Muslim country. Their violent actions were driven by an exaggerated and irrational sense of humiliation and victimhood. The journalists at Charlie Hebdo believed they were attacking an assertive global religion. But Charlie Hebdo is not a samizdat publication dangerously exposing the brutality of a totalitarian state. It did not stand up for freedom or democracy. Satire’s strength comes from its capacity to expose the hubris of those who claim to be great. In contrast, Charlie Hebdo wanted to provoke and humiliate Muslims who, while in some places are powerful, in France feel victimised and powerless. Their frenzied violence was a sign of the killers’ belief in their weakness not their strength.

The murder of 12 journalists in Paris was a disgusting crime, an act which should be condemned with equal force as the killing of every other man or woman who does not threaten the perpetrators with violence. My response is sympathy for the family and friends of the dead and hope that the killers are quickly punished, but not solidarity. Of course, the magazine should have the right to publish what it did. I support the absence of legal restrictions on many things which I believe are stupid, immoral and harmful, just as I support the use of the state’s capacity to use force against people who violently stop them. In the case of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, I’d rather they weren’t published. That isn’t because I think we should give in to the threat of violence, but because they cause people harm without achieving any good.

For left-liberals, the kind of people who make up Labour activists, that view shouldn’t be controversial. We don’t believe people should deliberately set out to harm others. We should be non-judgemental about what harm is (one person’s harm is another person’s pleasure), so should be able to imagine how a cartoon about a religious leader causes damage. But, because legal prohibition is itself a brutal form of violence, we should oppose using the power of the state to stop it. There are many things we can condemn but should not ban.

But too many on the left have been seduced by a right-wing language of absolute moral struggle. It is a language invented during the McCarthy era and Cold War to keep conservatives in power, and now used to talk about Islam. Something funny happens when it comes to Muslims and free speech. We, the left in particular, seem so desperate to prove we’re on the side of freedom against tyranny, we confuse what should be legal with what is right. We’re told that we need to do everything we are allowed to – however offensive it is – otherwise we’re accused of being appeasers (as I will be for this article). We forsake our sense of solidarity with those who feel victimised for the sake of a wrong-headed moral stridency. Charlie Hebdo’s defence was that if could offend, it must. We don’t have the same trouble in other spheres of life. I don’t think adultery should be banned, but that doesn’t mean I should sleep with someone else’s wife.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo was a heinous crime, not an act of war. The response to it should be to combine good policing with a confident civility. Despite occasional moments of terror, we – unlike the people of Syria or Afghanistan – should stop pretending we are under attack. Compared with other causes of unnecessary mortality, relatively few people die in Europe from political violence, Islamist or otherwise. We need to remember that our society is not only held together by law and rights. It also depends on practical civility, on our willingness to converse with respect with people who don’t share all our beliefs. In Europe, free speech is not under threat. Instead of championing supposed liberal civilisation against its alleged enemies, we should treat those we live amongst with civility. Here, the danger is not Islam or Islamism, but the assumption that people who are different from us cannot be our friends.

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  • George Morgan

    This is just massively preposterous nonsense. To say that massacring people for publishing drawings isn’t an attack on free expression is absurd and offensive to the memories of the people murdered for exercising it.

    The freedom to ridicule religion is foundational to any sort of free society and needs to be exercised to be maintained. That Muslims in the west are marginalised doesn’t change this.

    Charlie Hebdo satirised all religions equally. That we should be free to hurt people’s feelings is precisely the point. There’s no requirement that we should respect people’s far-fetched and retrograde beliefs just because they’re in an oppressed group. For example, how are we supposed to challenge backwards nonsense like religiously motivated homophobia if we give people a free pass that says – I’m oppressed, you can’t challenge me! This kind of thinking leaves LGBT people, women etc from Muslim backgrounds out in the cold without the support they’d otherwise get.

    The kind of self-sensorship called for here is another kind of suppression of free speech.

    You’re falling over yourself to excuse and minimise horrendous events committed by a couple of nut jobs in the name of defending normal Muslims. It’s perverse. It’s this kind of nonsense that allows the right to say it’s them rather than the left that’s upholding our freedoms.

    • Brian Barder

      Hear, hear, George. Well said.

      • PeterBarnard

        Well, yes and no, Brian. If I may take the sentence beginning the second paragraph, “The freedom to ridicule ….,” why “ridicule?” Why not say the “freedom to question …,,” or “freedom to challenge …?” Why do people think that they have a right to actively cause offence, or insult people?

        The English language is sufficient to the point of richness that a point of view may be expressed without recourse to profanity or insult, and the point of view gains strength as a result, whereas as soon as gratuitous insults (in the name of “freedom of expression”) are handed out, all it invites is gratuitous insults in return and the chance of civilised debate evaporates – and consequently, arriving at a state of “we’ll have to agree to disagree” is lost.

        As far as the Mohammed cartoons are concerned, my view is that in all religions there are sacred elements, dear to the very heart of those who are in a particular religion, and when those sacred elements are “ridiculed,” or “insulted,” then it may well be a dagger to the heart of an individual. If I was an editor, with the opportunity to print the cartoons, I would rule “that’s one line we are not going to cross.” (I have no interest from a religious point of view – I’m not a practising Christian, nor am I a member of any other religion).

        The handmaiden of “freedom” is responsibility and I have to say that
        I think that there is a self-serving – not to say self-indulgent – mentality amongst some journalists. Freedom of expression is associated with a noble purpose – to expose corruption in the “corridors of power.” It should not be abused, but all too frequently is.

        A Happy New Year to you!

        • Matthew Blott

          What nonsense. I am offended when people insult my intelligence telling me the Earth was created by a non existent deity six thousand years ago. Scientific facts are sacred to me and I feel a dagger in my heart whenever I hear rubbish contrary to such facts but do people stop proselytising their belief systems? No and nor should they.

          I hope you have a terrible New Year!

          • PeterBarnard

            Interesting ….

          • Nick London

            Matthew. This is such tripe. Tolerance is a good indicator of intelligence isn’t it? No point turning yourself into a science fascist either. It’s not a good look. I am an atheist, and I am not a scientist, but have read enough to know we are still scratching around in the dark, with some fairly wild conflicting theories about how it all works. To elevate that to fact and then get militant about other peoples crazy ideas is jumping the gun a bit….. You are sort of playing into the hands of those who would paint advocates of free speach as islamophobes.

          • PeterBarnard

            Indeed. Fallibility has the potential to occur whenever human beings think or do things.

            Science has eliminated smallpox from the face of the earth … and has also given us the thalidomide births.

          • treborc1

            Yes and ATOS and labour have stated you can now use your teeth to fill shelves at Tesco.

          • Matthew Blott

            Tripe? You’re the one sounding like Rowen Williams coming out with the wishy washy relativist garbage. What is a science fascist? Someone who insists on facts being treated as facts? It’s true there are a lot of things we don’t know but there are also lots of things we have discovered and the age of the universe and creation of the solar systems are amongst these facts and it did not happen six thousand years ago. What is intelligent about being tolerant of ignorance? Must we infantilise those we disagree with? In any case I do tolerate idiots that believe in fair tales – I’m not trying to kill them or even lobby for them to be removed from their jobs or homes. I believe in a pluralist society where everyone has the right to free expression, you it seems do not believe the same.

          • Nick London

            Yes, tripe. Make your mind up. Am I a weak over tolerant wishywashy relativist, or someone who rejects pluralism? Hard to be both, no? My point is you said religious faith offends your intelligence just by being there. You having all the answers worked out because science has delivered them to you. Yet by definition all science measures is what our technology and observations are capable of. Just the same as when they wrote the Bible or Koran. And in 1000 years time our science will look like ignorance too. So Aristotle gives way to Newton gives way to Einstein and Einstein could not hope to comprehend quantum physics. And for all we know the laws of physics change one, twice or a trillion times to explain the operation of the universe when we start to examine what separates a quark from a string. or what separates the known universe from the utterly incomprehensible nature of creation. String theory, multi worlds theory, quantum gravity etc may as well be called faiths for all they are measurable, and what sits behind all that may as well be called Yahweh for all we as a species are ever likely to know of it. So I recommend learning some humility. The old Dawkins showboating is getting stale. Just because they are wrong doesn’t make you right.

            Sent from my iPad

          • Matthew Blott

            Oh dear I didn’t think you were a moron. Because technology was primitive thousands of years ago and supernatural theories were created for rainbows, thunder and any other unexplainable phenomena of the time that means current scientific theories (backed by mountains of peer reviewed evidence over the decades and centuries) should be viewed with scepticism? I’m staggered that you compare the fairy tales of the Bible and the Koran alongside Darwin’s Origin of Species and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Nice try with the shoehorning of the names of historical philosophers and theories of the day to try and give your bollocks more credibility.

          • Nick London

            staggered, offended, “dagger to the heart”. My, you do seem twitchy. What are you, 15? You do a good job of making sh!t up and then arguing against it. I didn’t say any of this. You’re almost as bad as the bloke who wrote this sh!t article. Ironically I appear to have deeper respect for those who have advanced science, and current theories, than you, since you appear to completely miss their relevance to the point. Have you actually read the stuff you claim such devotion in or just read a few Dawkins polemics? Einstein showed much more humility! I wonder if you know what the f@ack you are talking about.

          • Matthew Blott

            What have I made up? Let’s be fair now – I called you a moron. I don’t know you and your other comments suggest someone I would normally agree with (which is why I’m a surprised you decided to start an argument with me) so I may have flung that at you in the heat of the moment. But you did say I was talking tripe and I’ve never been a man to walk away from a fight so there was only ever going to be one type of response (that’s called an olive branch so let’s try and keep this civil). I’ve re-read what you said and it does sound to me like you’re equating peer reviewed scientific theory with fairy tales. Aside from creationists Darwin’s evolutionary theory isn’t contested. Nor the age of the universe – in fact new technology enables us to see further into space and thus further back in time which has enabled us to view light within 200 thousand years of the birth of the universe.

            “all science measures is what our technology and observations are capable of”

            Well Biblical and Koranic theory was pretty rudimentary I’m sure you’ll agree. But I think we’ve a bit beyond that. But you say this …

            “in 1000 years time our science will look like ignorance”

            It doesn’t work like that. We know more but we still revere Newton and Galileo because they were spot on. I suggest in one thousand years Darwin will still be spot on and evolutionary theory will not be viewed as quack science. Sure some of the things you mention aren’t uncontested. But there aren’t armies enforcing this orthodoxy of opinion and in a thousand years we’ll see these theories as we do now – unlike the uncontestable religious truths I have no idea why we are arguing over.

          • Nick London

            Apology accepted….I think. What you made up, to knock down, was that I was suggesting an equivalence between science and religion, or the Religious texts and Darwin etc (who i didn’t even mention). What I said is we are working with the tools available to us, as they were. No I clearly don’t think Einstein will be considered ignorant for as long as anyone knows his name. But we remain ignorant of so many mechanisms fundemental to our universe that it is a safe bet this age will be thought of as comparatively primitive in 100 let alone a 1000 years. And that is thanks to advances in, yes, science and thought.
            What worried me in your post, and the reason why I commented, was what I saw in it an arrogance which has become common to the tone of debate post Hitchens, Dawkins etc., and which has is being seized upon by the religious as a sort of fundamentalism. I see why they (Hitchens et al) did it: to attack creationism being taught in schools, to attack appeasement of militant Islamists – but it’s always scary to hear people talk in such a dogmatic way because it is too easy and constrains open discussion. It sounds oppressive. It’s bad enough from an Oxford don, let alone others.
            You may know that there is afield of thought that says that this damages science because it effects the ability of scientists to investigate non mainstream ideas because their careers get blighted. Yet, obviously, that is how science advances.
            You may also know that there are areas of scientific debate where the operations are so mysterious to us (eg quantum entanglement) as to be bordering on the mystical in their possible connotations. These things are wonderous.
            Personally, when I finally managed to get my head around the most rudimentary consequences of relativity for our perceptions of time and issues like determinism it blew my mind and made me think I could not understand the real consequences of this in 100 lifetimes.
            So that’s why I said we need to have humility.
            Non of this is intended as a defence of organised religion and other hokum. People should be taught how to critically think in secular state schools so they can start to distinguish worthwhile ideas from oppressive ones. I am in favour of tolerance, but would not tolerate state funded faith schools, preaching medievalism to kids, and would be very happy to personally help the likes of choudrey to go live in the isis “state” he seems to fond of using the end of my boot.

            Sent from my iPad

        • disqus_gyVdkG6MAh

          So, not in favor of freedom to make fun of religion then….yeeesh!

        • Nick London

          Peter, I have tried give my own response to your point in my response to mahfuz below. As with many of these issues I believe we mischaracterise this when we talk about deliberately offending muslims. What is being challenged is the threat of violent death for saying what you want to say.

          • PeterBarnard

            Thanks, Nick.

            Although I specifically mentioned the Mohammed cartoons, I did also say that “…in all religions …” Maybe I’m a little too old-fashioned for today’s world, but I do believe that civility (and good manners) cost nothing, and that debate is enhanced when civility and good manners are used.

            As far as the Paris murders are concerned, there is absolutely no justification for them.

          • Nick London

            I agree with that, but the fact is that if someone says “I will kill you if you say x” how do you challenge their illegimate assumption of that power except by saying “x”. Sometimes saying “I reserve the right to say x” is meaningless if (as in the case of the Independent) we know the truth is they are just too scared, and self censor out of fear not good taste. That’s why, in my view, publishing those cartoons was not islamophobic.

          • PeterBarnard

            I think that the only answer is a long-term one, involving changing hearts and minds in all sorts of people in all sorts of places.

            Short-term thinking and reaction will not achieve the necessary change.

        • MonkeyBot5000

          If I may take the sentence beginning the second paragraph, “The freedom to ridicule ….,” why “ridicule?”

          Because the freedom to say only things that other people want to hear is no freedom at all.

          Since we have the freedom to believe what we want, anything can be offensive if someone chooses it to be. It would be impossible to restrict speech to the point that no-one was ever offended.

          It would be ridiculous to even try and – when you see a ridiculous idea – ridicule is the sane and rational response.

          • PeterBarnard

            But I did say also that any idea should be subject to challenge, or question.
            Reciprocal ridicule is not necessarily sane, nor rational, as it may well descend into the “yah-boo” stuff. The proper response is surely to be calm, but also clinical and piercing, using the very best that the English language places at our disposal?

          • MonkeyBot5000

            You can ridicule something calmly and precisely – I’d argue it’s funnier that way.

            If I see or hear something that is ridiculous, I should have the right to point to it and say, “That is ridiculous”. Essentially, that is ridiculing the idea in question. If it happens to be your idea, you might be offended by the fact that I find it ridiculous, but that doesn’t justify preventing me from voicing my opinion.

            As for the “yah-boo” stuff, take a look at PMQs. They all use “parliamentary language”, but there is often very little in the way of insightful political debate.

    • Mahfuz

      You can criticise Islam without using racist caricatures of Muslims though. The disrespect those types of cartoons foster contribute to an environment where hatred against muslims is given an easy ride. Minstrel shows and cartoons of black people portrayed as zoo animals helped underscore the political oppression of Black Americans in the 30s. Cartoons of Jewish people sitting on piles of money were printed all over Europe not so long ago. We all think these things are unacceptable. When these things are aimed at Muslims people come running to defend them. We agree that Religion should not be exempt from criticism but the depictions in the cartoons are really disgusting – brown Men in turbans carrying bombs etc.

      • George Morgan

        I’ve seen a few people decrying the Hebdo cartoons as racist, and trying to draw an equivalence between them and obviously racist things like the Tintin in Congo cartoons. The racistness of otherwise depends on the content and context. A drawing mocking people for their ethnicity is not at all the same as a drawing mocking specific people, who have an ethnicity, for their behaviour or statements.

        While white people aren’t necessarily best equipped to adjudicate on whether things are racist or not, loads of BME people and organisations have made clear that they do not deem these images racist.

        I’m struggling to understand how a cartoon of say, a middle eastern extremist, would be drawn in a non-racist way, in your view. Draw them as white?

        • Mahfuz

          I think we disagree on whether the cartoons are mocking specific people or whether they are playing into wider stereotypes about Muslims

          • George Morgan

            I don’t think it needs to be of a specific named individual rather than a generic extremist for the point to stand.

            Articles like this one play into stereotypes about Muslims as much as anything, by lumping the sensibilities of normal Muslims in with those of the attackers.

            A current stereotype you see in things like tabloid scares that we’re all secretly being fed halal meat, is that Muslims demand special treatment and for other people to adhere to their religious requirements. This article takes this as read.

        • iCal Sal

          Draw them as human, not hook nosed monsters.

      • Nick London

        The problem with this is that these men were not killed because their cartoons were considered racist, whether or not that is the case (I don’t see the equivalence with the examples you give personally). They were killed because they dared, having been threatened, to defy people who would say that offending their religion is punishable by death. That threat is of course, itself incredibly offensive to those who have any basic moral code. There would be no humour, nothing brave, nothing worthy, in insulting Islam simply to offend Muslims so as to hurt devote people. Any credible editor is likely to avoid doing so unless there is a very good reason. The threat is the reason. The threat is being challenged, not Islam. The threat must be challenged because it is insane and far more offensive than any cartoon is capable of being, no matter how touchy you are about your faith. Take away the threat, and the insult is unlikely to be repeated by reasonable people.

      • disqus_gyVdkG6MAh

        Islam is not a race, and the cartoons did not target any particular race that practices Islam.

        • iCal Sal

          Actually they did. French Muslims are mostly North african.

          • disqus_gyVdkG6MAh

            Twisted logic. Just because the French Muslims happened to be from North Africa, a cartoon in France that mocks Islam is therefore anti-North African? That’s a nice angle toward banning criticism of religion you’ve got there.

          • iCal Sal

            Nope. Didn’t say a word about banning anything.
            The problem is that CH relies on racist imagery for their depictions of Muslims.

            I don’t want anyone banned or killed but I’ll be damned before I disseminate these cartoons.

          • disqus_gyVdkG6MAh

            I don’t think it’s racist. Should the muslims in their cartoons be white guys?

          • iCal Sal

            Well, some think it is racist.

    • Doug Smith

      “a couple of nut jobs”

      Interestingly, of the radicalisation of one of the culprits, the New York Times reports:

      “Chérif’s interest in radical Islam, it was said at the 2008 trial, was rooted in his fury over the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, particularly the mistreatment of Muslims held at Abu Ghraib prison.”

      Another example of blowback it seems, as predicted by Chalmers Johnson.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        It is strange how little we hear of western-living Muslims outraged at the treatment of Muslims by fellow Muslims in Muslim countries. For example today, a blogger in Saudi Arabia beginning a months long sentence of 1,000 lashes for daring to be a bit rude about some religious leaders.

        And of those that we do hear about, it is because they take their outrage to the airwaves or write of it, instead of taking a Kalashnikov and murdering their fellow citizens.

        There are 2 billion Muslims in our world, and their’s is a noble religion. It is only a tiny fraction who are murderous and barbarous, just as there have been tiny fractions of Christians, Jews and no doubt others who did similar things. But none of us can in any way condone this, whether done during the Crusades or in 2015.

        • Doug Smith

          “how little we hear”

          I don’t imagine the mainstream media would want to report anything that might be detrimental to an important ally of the West.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Well, by the fact that I have heard of it on the BBC, your point is disproven.

          • Doug Smith

            A report about the punishment but where are the reports about the various opposition movements?

            Let’s not forget: Saudi Arabia’s brutal regime is the British arms industry’s biggest market, receiving £1.6bn of military exports. There are now more than 200 joint ventures between UK and Saudi companies worth $17.5bn.

          • PeterBarnard

            It’s called realpolitik, Doug. It’s ugly at times, but it keeps our world going round.

            In addition to the arms business benefiting the UK, US (and others), Saudi Arabia produces in excess of 10 million barrels/day of crude oil ; without that production, the mature Western democracies would be gasping ….

          • Doug Smith

            “It’s ugly”

            It certainly is.

            And I suppose we’ll just have to console our not so gasp-free selves with counting the money while, as Hilary Clinton has noted:

            “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeTand other terrorist groups.”

          • treborc1

            Tony Blair giving a Prince a billion quid to what was in ensure no poverty in Saudi Arabia.

            Good solid politics of the arms trade, give money to solve poverty so you can solve pobverty in another country by killing men women and children.

            Or the Euro fighter cost to much and so needed to be sold with a Billion quid cost reduction.

      • Nick London

        So what Doug? It’s our own fault?

  • RWP

    Everyone has a right to be offensive without living in fear of physical force reprisals.

    “Charlie Hebdo wanted to provoke and humiliate Muslims” – no they didn’t. They were poking fun at the “thou shalt not speak ill of my faith” worldview of extremists. Two very different things.

    I don’t like your article but I’m not going to break into your office and kill you.

    • iCal Sal

      So how is portraying boko haram’s VICTIMS as toothless welfare queens attacking extremists? Or drawing a black woman as a monkey?

      • madge hirsch

        Both these cartoons were directed at other targets than the ones you seem to think and you have made this mistake because you do not understand their context. The first cartoon was directed at rich people who were squealing about universal child benefits ( which they do not actually need) being reduced so that poor people ( who do need them ) can be helped more. The second cartoon was poking fun at the FN who had recently been in trouble for comparing our Justice Minister to a monkey. Neither cartoon was anything to do with Islam or Islamic extremists.

        • iCal Sal

          So what? You don’t criticize racism by donning blackface. Attack the racist politicians directly, not by illustrating their racist ideas.

      • Cassandra

        Go to the ‘Understanding Charlie Hebdo’ site for an explanation of the specific, local incident which generated this cartoon. It was making a political point aimed at racists.

        Please don’t take images out of context in this way. It’s harmful, not least because it sabotages understanding.

        • iCal Sal

          Here’s the thing: it already has been taken out of context. The cartoons are being used as avatars by people spewing the most islamophobic, racist tripe.
          It doesn’t matter what the original intention was, because it is far too easily divorced from that.

          • Cassandra

            I understand & share your desire to be protective of people from minority groups. Yet I’m also alarmed by your assertion that anything which can be taken out of context & used malignantly shouldn’t be published. That would mean that we could only make literal statements, & those so carefully worded as to offend no one, & hence say very little – not to mention the cultural impoverishment so caused.

            Don’t people have a responsibility to investigate context before they leap to judgement? By your argument, those Muslim boys in Bradford publicly burning a book they hadn’t even read were quite right. It would seem to follow that people who are perceived to have offended may also be burned, which indeed is the logic and practice of Da’esh.

            Personally, I’m greatly in favour of satire, as in England as in France, it functioned as a tool of liberation from both monarchy and Church.

            Muslim people form a minority in Europe, and as they overall don’t flourish so well as some other groups, as individuals they may require, at least for now, special attention and help. Islamic ideology is a different matter. That is shared by 1.6 billion people, and is a site of contest. By kowtowing to the ill-informed opinions of the most illiberal Muslims, you deny support to those brave enough to call for reform and reinterpretation.

            Finally, you must surely see that as disparate people who share public space, everyone at times feels put upon and offended by the habits & beliefs of others. Maintaining civility in these circumstances is required of adults. Why should one group be exempt from this obligation?

          • iCal Sal

            Never said it shouldn’t be published, just not celebrated,

  • Tommo

    An obnoxious article that tries to find excuses for the terrorists.

  • PATRICKNEWMAN

    Now why did we (453 dead) and the French (88 dead) fight a war in Afghanistan. Surely it wasn’t to keep our streets safe?

    • George Morgan

      If we didn’t start wars every now and again, even ones we would certainly lose, how would the armed forces and all the arms companies keep all the money rolling in?

  • Pulpstar –

    Here’s how free speech works:

    You (Jon Wilson) have a right to publish this.

    “I” have a right to think alot less of you as a result, and I do.

    George Morgan’s critique is utterly correct.

  • Tissue Price

    Tu es un crétin

  • Tom Sanders

    WTF are you talking about?

  • Tom Sanders

    Anyway you are too late. The f*ckers are holed up surrounded by armed police. Hope no more innocents are killed or injured but likely they are not coming out alive. Which is a shame.

  • Chrisso

    “Charlie Hebdo wanted to provoke and humiliate Muslims who, while in some
    places are powerful, in France feel victimised and powerless. Their
    frenzied violence was a sign of the killers’ belief in their weakness.”
    What an appalling, stupid statement to make. Charlie Hebdo satirises politicians and religions, not just Muslims. You call it ‘provocation’. It’s called freedom of speech. End of. Clearly we can’t rely on your support for the liberal democratic tradition.

  • MrSauce

    You know he’s right because in areas of the world where the Islamists hold power, they are completely OK with personal freedoms and liberty: they feel no need at all to act in violent, totalitarian and brutal ways, and everything is just dandy.
    Oh, hang on a minute…

    • Matthew Blott

      LOL

  • Ashurstman

    This is without dobt the most stupid and illogical article I have read on LabourList.
    However, I will not be calling round with any like minded people and attacking you. Why – well to (mis)quote another Frenchman in a different age I may disagree with you but I defend absolutely your right to say it.
    That does not mean I support the current political, economic or social balance. In fact the Charlie Hebdo creed was and I hope will stay is that everything is open to criticism. They have lampooned symbols of Catholicism and other religions but the Pope did not send the Swiss Guards around to register his offence or that of French Catholics, many of whom feel powerless and alienated from their government.
    The point is that religious extremism – and Christianity has had and still has its zealots – must be challenged and whatever the adherents of a religion believe the non-religious of us are free to criticise their beliefs and the consequences of it. I respect their right to believe in whatever they want but all I want is their respect for my right to be critical.
    So “Je suis Charlie”!

  • paul barker

    Theres an interesting discussion on this over at Libdem Voice. As I understand it Charlie Hebdo was like Private Eye, they take the piss out of anyone they can but especially anyone they can get a rise from. The more anyone gets offended, the more they get made fun of. Its not meant as Philosophy, its not deep & its often cruel. It is not something anyone deserves to die for doing.
    Defending someones right to say things is not the same as agreeing with what they say.

    • MrSauce

      There’s something interesting happening at Libdem Voice?!
      That is news.

  • Graham Cresswell

    I’m not a Labour supporter – quite the reverse – but I’m so shocked by this article that I’m prepared to swim in the dangerous waters of the Labour List.

    Firstly, I am completely poleaxed to read the apparent acceptance (by a leftie) of a moral equivalence between the way of life in the western democracies and the misogynistic, homophobic, authoritarian caliphate that is the objective of ISIS and their fellow travellers. I’m astonished that anyone could suggest that we should accept this until such time that we have eliminated the inequalites of free-market democracy. If you want to see inequality, I suggest you visit Saudi Arabia.

    Secondly, insofar as the militant Islamists in France suffer an ” exaggerated and irrational sense of humiliation and victimhood”, this is to some extent self-inflicted (as it is in UK) by the reluctance of large sectors of their communities to integrate.

    Thirdly, the journalists of Charlie Hebdo have attacked politicians of all stripes and other “assertive global religions” including Catholicism, and have certainly not singled out Muslims “to provoke and humiliate”.

    Fourthly, I’m surprised to learn that “one person’s harm is another person’s pleasure”. That seems to be a let-out to justify any amount of wickedness.

    Finally, I’m a fascist hyena pig-dog (or, at least, I vote Conservative) and I think your article is shameful but I would defend to the death your right to publish it. And I will defend Charlie Hebdo’s right and duty to satirise any group that seeks to impose on others a murderous tyranny in the name of medieval unreason.

    Je suis Charlie

    • Tom Sanders

      There’s no danger here. It’s like fishing in a barrel, mostly.

    • Matthew Blott

      Thankfully this article is getting the treatment it deserves.

    • Nick London

      whilst, as you are a tory, I am very pleased you wont be returning to this blog, I can assure you that the author of this piece is no sort of socialist worthy of the name.

  • Diana Jeuda

    “We need to remember that our society is not only held together by law and rights. It also depends on practical civility, on our willingness to converse with respect with people who don’t share all our beliefs.”

    Would that we could all remember this…

  • SOMARA556

    This is a disgraceful article, the reaction of some on the left and far-left to this massacre is shameful. Saying ‘what happened was bad and all but…’ and then going on to smear the murdered satirists as ‘racists’ and ‘islamophobes’ is nothing but an attempt to excuse the attack and blame the victims. Thankfully the reaction of most people has been very different to the author. What happened to the left? They used to be at the forefront of the fight for freedom of speech and expression but now (with some exceptions) they are useless at best and a hinderince at worst. CH were not ‘attacking defenceless Muslims’, they were lampooning the ‘Islamic rage boy’ types of this world, the type of people who think it is ok to murder people over some cartoons, those people are not ‘powerless’ especially in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran where they are in power.

    Part of the job of a satirist is to hold up a mirror to societal groups and attitudes, how on earth could you expect any satirist to avoid satirising a religion often referred to as ‘the religion of peace’ despite it being central to so much violence and oppression in the world today? Once again shame on the author and anybody who uses the ‘jenosuischarlie’ hashtag. #JesuisCharlie

  • Matthew Blott

    What an execrable piece. I cannot express in words how much I loathe the author of this piece right now. The difference between me and those he’s apologising for is I think he has every right to spout the swill he’s coming out with and have no intention of killing him for doing so.

  • Matthew Blott

    One more point: this is without doubt the most disgusting thing I have ever read on Labour List. If I was a Ukip party activist I would be tweeting this to death for the rest of the day.

    • Equality 7-2521

      Well said. Can you imagine the left’s faux horror if a UKipper took someone at the BBC hostage for the p— taking out of St. Nigel. And do you think the same left would be saying ‘it’s a lone wolf attack / it’s not fair to blame all kippers for this’ etc? No, they’d be slinging mud like there’s no tomorrow.
      Until the left stop appeasing these b*stards and the silent ‘moderate’ followers of the ‘Religion of Peace’ speak out this will continue.
      And speaking of which, did anyone see the millions of moderates out protesting this week that the killings ‘were not in my name’? Still waiting…

  • Equality 7-2521

    An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
    Sir Winston Churchill

    • Jane Manby

      I’d forgotten that quote

  • Steve38

    Mr Wilson, just like the journalists at Charlie Hebdo, writes this article in order to provoke. His intention is to offend. Judging by the reaction of readers he has succeeded.

    But his core argument fails. He says,

    ‘ First of all it assumes that ‘our’ civilization is a good thing which
    must be defended at all costs, that the distribution of power and wealth
    in our society is right, that our biggest problems come from enemies
    outside.’

    As a European historian of Asian societies he will be well used to discussions on cultural relativism. He will be well practised in making non-judgemental comments. But what his article betrays is an inability to discern absolutes in rights and wrongs.

  • Matthew Blott
    • Ian

      Yes, well worth a look people.

  • Angela Sullivan

    I agree with this post. Giving offence to people should never be done gratuitously, even if they are Muslims. Or French.

    Now, Je suis Rosemary Healy. She is a Labour Councillor who was suspended for re-tweeting a photo which showed the Tories “road to economic recovery” ending at Auschwitz.

    This offended a Tory Councillor who commented “This trivialises the horror of the holocaust and she should be ashamed of herself” The Labour party suspended Councillor Healy and she made a grovelling apology in which she claimed not to have realise what her tweet actually showed.. Ed Miliband even got involved called the tweet “offensive and totally wrong”.

    I am disgusted beyond words. Not with Councillor Healy, but with Ed Miliband. Exactly how does a poster which compares the present cull on the unemployed, the sick and disabled to the Holocaust “trivialise” its horrors? People are suffering deprivation and despair as a result of benefit cuts. Some of them have committed suicide of starved. Ed should have backed his Councillor to the hilt and told everyone that the hardships people face under this government are not “trivial”, and the comparison, however offensive, was accurate.
    Please read the list below if you are not convinced.
    Thanks to Alan Reading and ‘ Vote Of No Confidence In The UK Coalition’……..
    This post is an ongoing list showing the names of those that have paid the ultimate price at the hands of our unelected Tory led government, the DWP and Atos.
    Consider the fact that as of 2011 (the point at which they stopped counting) the actual figure of those lost due to the actions of the Tories stood at 10,600 people dead. Assuming that the figures have been increasing at a steady rate from that point, then the number of dead will now stand at approximately 44,000.
    This is about a fifth of the total number lost to Adolf Hitlers Aktion T4 program during WWII.
    Please note also that this list is not an exhaustive one as it shows only those names that have been reported upon via the press and media.
    It will be added to as new victims come to light.
    Thanks to Paul Smith for some of these names…
    Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from polycytheamia, Terry asked for an ambulance to be called during his Work Capability Assessment. He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend his WCA but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not. He died the following day.
    Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from COPD and fearful of losing her benefits. Committed suicide.
    Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his Doctors advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.
    Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith based Poet and Author. Suffered from severe depression. Committed suicide after DWP stopped his benefits due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision.
    Leanne Chambers, 30. Suffered depression for many years which took a turn for the worst when she was called in for a WCA. Leanne committed suicide soon after.
    Karen Sherlock. Multiple health issues. Found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. Fought a long battle to get placed into the support group of ESA. Karen died the following month of a heart attack.
    Carl Payne, 42. Fears of losing his lifeline benefits due to welfare reform led this Father of two to take his own life.
    Tim Salter, 53. Blind and suffering from Agoraphobia. Tim hanged himself after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.8
    Edward Jacques, 47 years old and suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C. Edward had a history of severe depression and self-harm. He took a fatal overdose after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.
    Linda Wootton, 49 years old. A double heart and lung transplant patient. Died just nine days after the government found her fit for work, their refusal letter arriving as she lay desperately ill in her hospital bed.
    Steven Cawthra, 55. His benefits stopped by the DWP and with rising debts, he saw suicide as the only way out of a desperate situation
    Elenore Tatton, 39 years old. Died just weeks after the government found her fit for work.
    John Walker, 57, saddled with debt because of the bedroom tax, John took his own life.
    Brian McArdle, 57 years old. Suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped.
    Stephen Hill, 53. Died of a heart attack one month after being found fit for work, even though he was waiting for major heart surgery.
    Jacqueline Harris, 53. A former Nurse who could hardly walk was found fit for work by Atos and her benefits withdrawn. in desperation, she took her own life.
    David Barr, 28. Suffering from severe mental difficulties. Threw himself from a bridge after being found fit for work by Atos and failing his appeal.
    David Groves, 56. Died of a heart attack the night before taking his work capability assessment. His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him.
    Nicholas Peter Barker, 51. Shot himself after being told his benefits were being stopped. He was unable to work after a brain haemorrhage left him paralysed down one side.
    Mark and Helen Mullins, 48 and 59 years old. Forced to live on £57.50 a week and make 12 mile trips each week to get free vegetables to make soup. Mark and Helen both committed suicide.
    Richard Sanderson, 44. Unable to find a job and with his housing benefit cut forcing him to move, but with nowhere to go. Richard committed suicide.
    Martin Rust, 36 years old. A schizophrenic man who killed himself two months after the government found him fit to work.
    Craig Monk, 43. A vulnerable gentleman and a partial amputee who slipped so far into poverty that he hanged himself.
    Colin Traynor, 29, and suffering from epilepsy was stripped of his benefits. He appealed. Five weeks after his death his family found he had won his appeal.
    Elaine Christian, 57 years old. Worried about her work capability assessment, she was subsequently found at Holderness drain, drowned and with ten self inflicted wrist wounds.
    Christelle and Kayjah Pardoe, 32 years and 5 month old. Pregnant, her benefits stopped, Christelle, clutching her baby son jumped from a third floor balcony.
    Mark Scott, 46. His DLA and housing benefit stopped and sinking into deep depression, Mark died six weeks later.
    Cecilia Burns, 51. Found fit for work while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She died just a few weeks after she won her appeal against the Atos decision.
    Chris Cann, 57 years old. Found dead in his home just months after being told he had to undergo a medical assessment to prove he could not work.
    Peter Hodgson, 49. Called to JCP to see if he was suitable for volunteer work. Peter had suffered a stroke, a brain haemorrhage and had a fused leg. His appointment letter arrived a few days after he took his own life.
    Paul Willcoxsin, 33 years old. Suffered with mental health problems and worried about government cuts. Paul committed suicide by hanging himself.
    Stephanie Bottrill, 53. After paying £80 a month for bedroom tax, Stephanie could not afford heating in the winter, and lived on tinned custard. In desperation, she chose to walk in front of a lorry.
    Larry Newman suffered from a degenerative lung condition, his weight dropping from 10 to 7 stone. Atos awarded him zero points, he died just three months after submitting his appeal.
    Paul Turner, 52 years old. After suffering a heart attack, he was ordered to find a job in February. In April Paul died from ischaemic heart disease.
    Christopher Charles Harkness, 39. After finding out that the funding for his care home was being withdrawn, this man who suffered with mental health issues, took his own life.
    Sandra Louise Moon, 57. Suffering from a degenerative back condition, depression and increasingly worried about losing her incapacity benefit. Sandra committed suicide by taking an overdose.
    Lee Robinson, 39 years old. Took his own life after his housing benefit and council tax were taken away from him.
    David Coupe, 57. A Cancer sufferer found fit for work by Atos in 2012. David lost his sight, then his hearing, then his mobility, and then his life.
    Michael McNicholas, 34. Severely depressed and a recovering alcoholic. Michael committed suicide after being called in for a Work Capability Assessment by Atos.
    Victor Cuff, 59 and suffering from severe depression. Victor hanged himself after the DWP stopped his benefits.
    Charles Barden, 74. Charles committed suicide by hanging due to fears that the Bedroom Tax would leave him destitute and unable to cope.
    Ian Caress, 43. Suffered multiple health issues and deteriorating eyesight. Ian was found fit for work by Atos, he died ten months later having lost so much weight that his family said that he resembled a concentration camp victim.
    Iain hodge, 30. Suffered from the life threatening illness, Hughes Syndrome. Found fit for work by Atos and benefits stopped, Iain took his own life.
    Wayne Grew, 37. Severely depressed due to government cuts and the fear of losing his job, Wayne committed suicide by hanging.
    Kevin Bennett, 40. Kevin a sufferer of schizophrenia and mental illness became so depressed after his JSA was stopped that he became a virtual recluse. Kevin was found dead in his flat several months later.
    David Elwyn Hughs Harries, 48. A disabled man who could no longer cope after his parents died, could find no help from the government via benefits. David took an overdose as a way out of his solitude.
    Denis Jones, 58. A disabled man crushed by the pressures of government cuts, in particular the Bedroom Tax, and unable to survive by himself. Denis was found dead in his flat.
    Shaun Pilkington, 58. Unable to cope any more, Shaun shot himself dead after receiving a letter from the DWP informing him that his ESA was being stopped.
    Paul ?, 51. Died in a freezing cold flat after his ESA was stopped. Paul appealed the decision and won on the day that he lost his battle to live.
    Chris MaGuire, 61. Deeply depressed and incapable of work, Chris was summonsed by Atos for a Work Capability Assessment and deemed fit for work. On appeal, a judge overturned the Atos decision and ordered them to leave him alone for at least a year, which they did not do. In desperation, Chris took his own life, unable to cope anymore.
    Peter Duut, a Dutch national with terminal cancer living in the UK for many years found that he was not entitled to benefits unless he was active in the labour market. Peter died leaving his wife destitute, and unable to pay for his funeral.
    Julian Little, 47. Wheelchair bound and suffering from kidney failure, Julian faced the harsh restrictions of the Bedroom Tax and the loss of his essential dialysis room. He died shortly after being ordered to downgrade.
    Miss DE, Early 50’s. Suffering from mental illness, this lady committed suicide less than a month after an Atos assessor gave her zero points and declared her fit for work.
    Robert Barlow, 47. Suffering from a brain tumour, a heart defect and awaiting a transplant, Robert was deemed fit for work by Atos and his benefits were withdrawn. He died penniless less than two years later.
    Carl Joseph Foster-Brown, 58. As a direct consequence of the wholly unjustifiable actions of the Job centre and DWP, this man took his own life.
    Martin Hadfield, 20 years old. Disillusioned with the lack of jobs available in this country but too proud to claim benefits. Utterly demoralised, Martin took his own life by hanging himself.
    David Clapson, 59 years old. A diabetic ex-soldier deprived of the means to survive by the DWP and the governments harsh welfare reforms, David died all but penniless, starving and alone, his electricity run out.

    • Matthew Blott

      Oh dear you don’t get it do you. It might have been offensive but it wasn’t illegal (nor should it be) and she didn’t pay with her life.

    • Equality 7-2521

      “cull on the unemployed”? Have you been drinking again Angie?
      You do realise that the vast majority, men and women, go out to work day in day out to pay for these people. Where I work we’re desperate to recruit but find me someone with half a brain. Why these beggers can’t stand on their own two feet is beyond me. What sort of man (or woman) would live on their knees, living off the (extorted) crumbs of working people? Like many I grew up in a rough working class area and like many I worked my t!ts off to better myself. If I and millions of others can why not them?
      Reading your long, long ramble it seems to me that the state does a pretty bad job of caring for anyone. Perhaps it would be better sticking to law and policing and leaving the rest to charity and the private sector.
      Have another gin Angie. Chin up.
      x

      • Nick London

        What an awful, nasty post this is. You should be ashamed of yourself.

        • Equality 7-2521

          Why so Nick old chap? Do tell.
          x

          • Nick London

            Well leaving aside the horrible politics, this is a personal attack on the blogger for reasons apparently unrelated to the post.

          • Equality 7-2521

            Horrible politics? So, it’s okay for Cameron, Wallace or the other one to dip into people’s pockets? It’s okay for them to totally b*gger up people’s lives with rotten education, poor healthcare and a welfare state that’s clearly failed so many people?
            Look Nick, I do good things with my money, the state seems to achieve little beyond wasting it. If I prefer to keep my own money why am I so horrible?
            As for unrelated, didn’t Angie hijack an article about this terrible attack in France to rant about the failings of the big state?
            Have a drink yourself and relax old son.

          • Nick London

            As I say, I left aside the horrible politics. What is horrible is your slur on the writer.

          • Equality 7-2521

            Can I let you into a secret Nick? I don’t really think Angie’s been drinking. I do think she’s rather revolting for trying to defend a nasty post by Healy but no, I don’t think she’s really knocking back the gin. Honest.
            As for nasty politics. Well, we’re going to have to agree to disagree there Nick. Personally I think liberty is a wonderful thing but it’s not to everyone’s tastes. Just like gin.
            Chin up.

          • Nick London

            Fair enough.

          • Angela Sullivan

            The reason I’m defending a “nasty” post by Healy is because I think her post is nowhere near as “nasty” as Conservative policies.
            Incidentally, where do you work? I’m looking for a job, although as I have a whole brain, I might be overqualified.

      • Angela Sullivan

        Thanks equality 7-2521. I would be interested to hear your proposals for dealing with useless eaters. Do you think slowly starving them to death is fine, or should we be more pro-active?

    • Nick London

      Angela, I think you are wrong about the insult point in this case, for the reasons stated in my post to mahfuz. I would be interested in your thoughts on that post.

      • Angela Sullivan

        Thanks Nick. You make excellent points well. I’ll leave you agreeing to disagree with Mahuz as to whether the cartoons fed racist stereotyping and propaganda. I’ve not seen them.
        Your other point was well made. It is one thing to choose not to do something out of respect for another person’s sensitivities. It is quite another to have a gun pointed at your head and your life threatened.
        I think a truly brave and principled person would act the same in both situations (possibly at considerable risk to his or her life, possibly just risking appearing to be a coward who could be easily intimidated).
        What is worrying is that a large number of people now feel that in order to show they can’t be intimidated they have to stand up for “free speech”.
        As an argument a dead body is both powerful and irrational. If we let murderers polarise and destabilise our communities they will have won. That is why I feel it is important to temper free speech with respect for other peoples feelings.

    • Jane Manby

      All of the sad happenings to these people are issues that need addressing but they do not have relevance to this event.
      “the Tories “road to economic recovery” ending at Auschwitz.” also unpleasant and offensive but not relevant to this issue either.
      We are all offended at all kinds of things but we do not go round shooting people for it.

      These people went on to kill people in a Jewish supermarket they did not draw cartoons about the prophet. They appear to have been picked because of who they were not because of something they had done.

  • Matthew Blott

    The reaction of the liberal media so far over this affair has not been good. The editor of the Independent was debating on the Today programme with a German tabloid editor – no prises for guessing which one decided to publish the cartoons. The Indie editor blustered but admitted fear for his staff as a reason for holding back. Fair enough – but be honest. Here are a couple of suggestions for what liberal editors could do (Labour List take note):

    1. Publish the cartoons and if you believe they are offensive then write an editorial to accompany the images explaining that although you think they are offensive freedom of expression is more important.

    2. Publish a blank page with a caption as to why the cartoons are absent explaining it is because of security fears and nothing to do with not wishing to cause offense.

    The weasely excuse of “tolerance” won’t wash. Freedom of expression is only ever tested when it causes offense. Tweeting “Je Suis Charlie” means nothing – nobody is “offended” by those three words (although some like Mehdi Hasan couldn’t even bring themselves to do that).

    I would add that I regularly challenge anti-Muslim bigotry (check my comments on Harry’s Place as evidence) but am appalled at the Left’s craven subservience to militant Islam. I am no longer dismayed by the bien pensant progressives that do this. I am utterly disgusted and repelled by them.

    (This was posted on Emma’s Burnell’s thread but the discussion has taken off here and it seems pertinent.)

    • Jane Manby

      “Freedom of expression is only ever tested when it causes offense.” so true so true

  • paulusthewoodgnome

    The bane of the left isn’t absolutism, it’s relativism: making excuses for the inexcusable to the point where the people being supported are indistinguishable from the people being opposed. e.g. Islamism and fascism. They may come from very different places but they are set on remarkably similar destinations. Personally, I’m not keen on being resident in either of them.

  • Nick London

    “First of all it assumes that ‘our’ civilization is a good thing which must be defended at all costs” . Are you having a laugh?
    That Labourlist put out your ridiculous article on a day when these nutcases just shot 6 more people for the equally heinous crime of working in a jewish bakery is a perfect example of how offensive topical publications are entitled to be in the interests of free speech. RWP put it very well.

    A few thoughts:

    1. Have you considered that there are some people who find it as offensive to be told they are cannot make certain references to the diety of a particular faith on pain of death, as there are some people who take offence to those images being shown? Why prefer the sensibilities of the latter in a free society?
    2. The contorted logic that says the “right to offend” ” subjugates our differences to an artificial unity which can only be imposed by an elite or the state – it’s that which makes it right wing” is, after the comment referred to at the top of this post, perhaps the daftest thing I have ever read in this or any blog. The “right to offend” requires no state or elite. On the contrary, states and elites most often curtail it.

  • carlo gambino

    I couldn’t be bothered to read his tripe.

    Could someone confirm it is the bog-standard pretrendy-leftie, click-bait, yoohoo everyone amn’t I a wonderful human being, me me me drivel they pump out every time innocents get murdered anywhere by one of the pretrendy left’s pet client groups.

    Thankyou for your time.

  • guidofawkes

    “Seduced by a right-wing language of absolute moral struggle”, eh? Well it is a moral struggle for freedom. Don’t ever forget that.

    • Matthew Blott

      Not a man I often agree with but you get a rare up vote from me this time.

  • taylor

    This is exactly the type of rubbish that people ridicule Labour and its supporters for. Charlie Hebdo ridiculed everyone – Jews, Catholics and Islam. If cold-blooded murderers of a psychotic nature take offence, it doesn’t mean that they are not coldblooded murderers. If you take offence at anything I say or do, that is your prerogative, it does not give you the right to perpetrate an act of violence against me.
    The “je suis Charlie” campaign is a homage to freedom of speech. Get over it.

  • Tom Sanders

    Meanwhile, in Saudi, a blogger criticising Islam gets 1000 lashes over the next few months plus 10 yrs locked up.

    If this is the sort of article we can expect from the Left then you can all f* ck off

  • Nick London

    Jon wilson, whoever you are, you are a total cvnt. Is that offensive enough for you?

    • Equality 7-2521

      And on this point I agree with you Sir.

  • disqus_gyVdkG6MAh

    “First of all it assumes that ‘our’ civilization is a good thing which must be defended at all costs,”

    Well, I would say it is. The terrorists idea of civilization is that of Islamic State or Saudi Arabia. Yes, we must defend freedom of speech at all costs. I am disappointed that all UK newspapers did not publish those cartoons. The cartoons are part of the story, and no one is able to report the story fully without showing them to us. Our freedoms have been curtailed by Islamists, and this situation cannot be allowed to stand. I believe that we need to address both freedom of speech, and the current and unacceptable state of main streams of Islam.

  • Matthew Blott
    • FMcGonigal

      Is cartoonist Joe Sacco making some ironic point about free speech and the right to be offensive?

      • Matthew Blott

        I guess the “point” he’s making is although some people were killed their cartoons were horrendously offensive so I’ll publish some really offensive cartoons myself (from an Islamist’s point of view). It’s crass on many levels – first (obviously) timing and the other obvious point is that nothing will happen to him for printing a cartoon suggesting there are valid reasons for slitting an infidel’s throat. What a c*nt he is and what an utter bunch of c*nts running the Guardian.

        • disqus_gyVdkG6MAh

          He’s also trying on that old chestnut that criticizing Islam is racism, and equivalent to antisemitism.

    • Tom Sanders

      Standard lefty b0ll0x I’m afraid. Surely we’re all used to it? Just have to carry on calling it out.

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    “Charlie Hebdo wanted to provoke and humiliate Muslims…” Your tripping! Charlie Hebdo was out to provoke and humiliate thin skinned twats like Jon Wilson.

  • Jane Manby

    “First of all it assumes that ‘our’ civilization is a good thing which must be defended at all costs”
    You could consider that most of your blogging would be denied you if you lived in an Islamic State, so yes “our” civilization is a good thing.

    Though I am offended by how your article is tinged with the inference that because we think our civilization is good that somehow we think all others are bad. Some are bad, some are very bad, but it is possible to think ones’ own civilization is good and others’ civilizations are too.

    Maybe this article reflects your own guilt at your own inbuilt feeling of superiority that you feel you have to subjugate.

    • Nick London

      the article reflects the views of someone who appears to be so submerged in academic trees that he no longer notices the wood. Is he saying this crap to 18 year old students? I am almost more offended by the tortuous logic and bogus assumptions as by his conclusion.

  • Michael

    people were killed because their satire offended others, i am charlie is not a stand against islam nor is it a stand with capitalism.
    stop mixing topics together and stay objective, our democratic system is flexible enough to fight discrimination and protect minorities, killing people because they offended you is an barbaric act and should be condemned regardless to their religion.
    this is what i am charlie stands for, no more and no less.
    this whole article is flawed and false, i wish you would have gathered some more information before writing your article.

  • A. Rush

    I don’t think our media is doing a very good job of explaining just how vile Charile Hebdo is. If you don’t care that they mock Islam, how about blacks? Some of their caricatures of blacks look like half-human apes. No one should be killed for what they said, but in our desire to both defend free expression and condemn Islam, we’re standing with a newspaper that you’d probably see white supremacists running if it was headquartered in the USA. If a group of vigilantes opened fire at a KKK rally, I wouldn’t start proclaiming “I am the Klan.” I would mourn the dead and denounce the violence. Period.

    Seriously, a lot of the talk I’m seeing from people who claim to be left-liberal is the same kind of “either with us or against us” talk we heard from GWB and the neocons in the wake of 9/11. It’s disturbing. You can support free expression without standing up for hate speech, which is what Charlie Hebdo is.

    • I wonder how good your French is, how much you understand about French politics, how much you’ve bothered to find out about the work of the dead you say you mourn before you call it “vile”, and what cartoons specifically you’re talking about. I’ve seen a fair bit of bullshit on the web today from people pointing at one CH cartoon in particular that they claimed was “obviously racist” which (once you were curious and fair enough to bother to find out) was obviously anti-racist.

      And whatever you think of their cartoons, to compare Charlie Hebdo to the Klan is an absolute disgrace.

  • Dalibor Fencl

    Stupid article. That’s it.

  • Peggy Pegita

    “I don’t think the murders of 12 journalists in Paris was an attack on free speech.”
    Maybe not, but the attacks were certainly in response to
    the act of free speech. This alonevalidates “Je suis Charlie,” where it stands, purely, for support of free speech; no political agenda, no religious moralization, no acts of condemnation, simply, free SPEECH.

    “The journalists at Charlie Hebdo believed they
    were attacking an assertive global religion. But Charlie Hebdo is not a
    samizdat publication dangerously exposing the brutality of a totalitarian
    state. It did not stand up for freedom or democracy. Satire’s strength comes
    from its capacity to expose the hubris of those who claim to be great. In
    contrast, Charlie Hebdo wanted to provoke and humiliate Muslims who, while in
    some places are powerful, in France feel victimised and powerless. Their
    frenzied violence was a sign of the killers’ belief in their weakness not their
    strength.”

    From discussions:
    Comment 1: “Charlie Hebdo satirised all
    religions equally. That we should be free to hurt people’s feelings is
    precisely the point. There’s no requirement that we should respect people’s
    far-fetched and retrograde beliefs just because they’re in an oppressed group. For
    example, how are we supposed to challenge backwards nonsense like religiously
    motivated homophobia if we give people a free pass that says – I’m oppressed,
    you can’t challenge me! This kind of thinking leaves LGBT people, women etc
    from Muslim backgrounds out in the cold without the support they’d otherwise
    get. The kind of self-sensorship called for here [in this article] is
    another kind of suppression of free speech.”

    Comment 2: “If I may take the sentence beginning the second paragraph,
    “The freedom to ridicule ….,” why “ridicule?” Why not say
    the “freedom to question …,” or “freedom to challenge
    …?” Why do people think that they have a right to actively cause
    offence, or insult people? The English language is sufficient to the
    point of richness that a point of view may be expressed without recourse to
    profanity or insult, and the point of view gains strength as a result, whereas
    as soon as gratuitous insults (in the name of “freedom of
    expression”) are handed out, all it invites is gratuitous insults in
    return and the chance of civilised debate evaporates – and consequently,
    arriving at a state of “we’ll have to agree to disagree” is lost.”

    While commenters continue to debate our right to “ridicule” in
    the name of “free speech”, I believe it is important to distinguish that, in
    the name of “free speech” for the sake of saying whatever the heck you want,
    sure. There should be no surprise that such examples of “free speech” would attract ridicule in kind. But to go back to the purpose of free speech
    at its conception, where it grew out of necessity to counter oppression,
    dictation, etc., the very notion of free speech is to provoke thinking and
    inspire (positive?) change. In that essence, and referring to comment 2 in the above, why must we exercise free speech in a manner of ridicule? Is
    it not far more effective, acceptable, generous, productive, to present a
    thought, even a judgment, through means of uncondescending question or
    challenge? For someone to respond to what you say by feeling ridiculed is that person’s own doing. SHE feels ridiculed because SHE has chosen to
    respond in such a way. The “killers’ belief in their weakness” is, wow, their own belief. Perhaps mental illness is another factor at play, but that’s another huge topic that demands its own army of advocates; anyway. Freedom of speech
    does not mean we should feel justified in ridiculing people. Hum. :/

    The article, at the end of it all, appears to have taken for
    definition a message of anti-Islam and racism in the statement, “Je suis
    Charlie,” for which the author responds, “Je ne suis pas Charlie.” I don’t know, I don’t think that’s what it is about, but perhaps that is what it has morphed into, which, if true, is sad, but understandable.

    Whatever the case, the article’s concluding paragraphs do ring true.

    “We, the left in particular, seem so desperate to prove we’re on
    the side of freedom against tyranny, we confuse what should be legal with what
    is right. We’re told that we need to do everything we are allowed to – however
    offensive it is – otherwise we’re accused of being appeasers (as I will be for
    this article). We forsake our sense of solidarity with those who feel
    victimised for the sake of a wrong-headed moral stridency. Charlie Hebdo’s
    defence was that if could offend, it must. We don’t have the same trouble in
    other spheres of life. I don’t think adultery should be banned, but that
    doesn’t mean I should sleep with someone else’s wife.

    The attack on Charlie Hebdo was a heinous crime, not an act of
    war. The response to it should be to combine good policing with a confident
    civility. Despite occasional moments of terror, we – unlike the people of Syria
    or Afghanistan – should stop pretending we are under attack. Compared with
    other causes of unnecessary mortality, relatively few people die in Europe from
    political violence, Islamist or otherwise. We need to remember that our society
    is not only held together by law and rights. It also depends on practical
    civility, on our willingness to converse with respect with people who don’t
    share all our beliefs. In Europe, free speech is not under threat. Instead of
    championing supposed liberal civilisation against its alleged enemies, we
    should treat those we live amongst with civility. Here, the danger is not Islam
    or Islamism, but the assumption that people who are different from us cannot be
    our friends.”

    • brianbarder

      Ridicule is often an effective response to the pompous, the authoritarian, the repressive, the self-regarding, and the over-bearing — indeed to many kinds of authority or to those claiming authority. Physical attacks on those who employ ridicule are an illegitimate attempt to deter ridicule in the future, a form of censorship that deserves to be condemned.

      >>Why do people think that they have a right to actively cause offence, or insult people?<>Freedom of speech does not mean we should feel justified in ridiculing people.<>We’re told that we need to do everything we are allowed to – however offensive it is – otherwise we’re accused of being appeasers…<>Charlie Hebdo’s defence was that if could offend, it must.<>… our society also depends on practical civility, on our willingness to converse with respect with people who don’t share all our beliefs…<<
      This is a prime example of a flabby aversion to robust controversy and to uninhibited denunciation of the false, the cruel and the dangerous. Why should anyone converse **with respect** with people whose entire value systems are destructive, life-denying, bigoted, inhumane, discriminatory, irrational, and threatening? Such people display no 'respect' for the rest of us or for our own value system — indeed, their avowed aim is to destroy it. There can be no obligation to respect those who neither deserve nor return respect. Even those holding deep-seated religious — or any other — convictions have no claim to immunity from ridicule, insult or condemnation. What they have is an absolute right to respond to such treatment in defence of their beliefs in whatever non-violent way they choose.

      Some of what Charlie Hebdo is reported to have published (how many of those who denounce it here have actually ever read it?) seems to be in bad taste, insulting, provocative (although not necessarily needlessly so) and wounding to its targets. Not all of us, if editing a similar satirical magazine, would have approved all of it for publication. But all of that is completely beside the point. What Voltaire is believed (wrongly, unfortunately) to have said is spot on. A society in which journalists, writers, cartoonists, bloggers, politicians and ordinary Joe Soaps on the Clapham omnibus are so intimidated by fear of violent reprisals or other repression that they dare not attack orthodoxy, religion, power and authority, repression, irrationality, the would-be enforcers of good taste and 'civility', and other such targets, using ridicule and any other effective weapons, can't claim to be free or to enjoy freedom of speech and expression. Moi, je suis Charlie.

  • iCal Sal

    During WWII there were a lot of caricatures of the axis powers and their leaders in western media. The nazis were depicted as ruthless bullies, but also as recognizably europeAn. The Japanese, however, were depicted as slant-eyed yellow sub humans with buck teeth.

    Similarly, while Charlie hebdo mocked all religions, they reserved the hook-nosed, turbaned, swarthy stereotypes for Muslims.

    I’m very tired of the term “equal opportunity offender.” It assumes that the parties are equal, and in France they very much aren’t.

  • Asa

    I totally agree. I would never say I am Charlie because I don’t fancy
    watching grotesque sadomasochistic sex cartoons of naked humiliated
    people from different religions. they are not funny and they are
    racist. The terror act is horrendous ofcourse but to say I am Charlie .
    if you like take pleasure in that kind of stuff you can say you are
    Charlie. Otherwise you can just show sympathy for the victims families
    of those horrendous killings made by some mentally disturbed Algerian
    orphan brothers.

  • Asa

    It is a horrific act of terror ofcourse but it still doesn’t make me want to say “Je suis Charlie” is a bit weird as no-one was even shown those cartoons and I had never heard of them before. That’s why I can’t say I AM Charlie.

  • iCal Sal

    I’ve commented a lot about this in various places, and I’ve avoided talking about the Muhammad cartoons. I don’t find the idea of depicting Muhammad offensive, but I thought the particular cartoons were juvenile and stupid. But there seems to be an undercurrent that Muslims are not just wrong to attack CH for this but that they’re wrong to be offended, period.

    Every year there’s a list of banned or challenged books, and the ones highlighted are always the usual suspects: Judy Blume, huckleberry Finn, and lately harry Potter. In other words, harmless stuff that all good liberals can support.

    The implication is “isn’t it silly that people are offended by this benign stuff?” Very rarely do anti censorship advocates mention the works of De Sade, neo-Nazis or Larry Flynt.

    With CH there’s been a similar reaction, but with an interesting twist. The more foul, explicit and racially charged cartoons (which, let’s face it, most other publications would reject outside of this context) are explained away as “satire.” If, say, a black person objects to a drawing of a black woman as a monkey, they are told condescendingly that this is “satire” and they “just don’t get it.”

    What we need is to defend the right to free speech, but include the right to be offended.

  • James Campbell

    I found the Charlie Hebdo cartoons offensive and I can understand why Muslims would do so, much more keenly. I’d like us to live in a society where the right to offend exists but would naturally be moderated by others, based on a shared set of values and solidarity with others. But the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists didn’t give a fig for solidarity with Muslims in France or elsewhere. They abused their freedom of speech, and could have foreseen violent reprisals against them and others not connected with them. So it’s become a security issue. Until artists re-learn the art of tolerance and self-restraint themselves, we need legal safeguards against this kind of offensive satire for the sake of the innocent people whose lives are now in danger.

    • Jane Manby

      “we need legal safeguards against this kind of offensive satire for the sake of the innocent people whose lives are now in danger”

      you have the right to be offended by the clothes I wear, the colour I make my hair, the words I say and the food I eat.

      you do not have the right to make me change my clothes, change my hair, censor my words or change the food I eat by either threats or acts of violence.

      Every paper in Europe should have printed the cartoons the following day in a show of Sparticus defiance.

      • James Campbell

        So the right to satire has now become an almighty and absolute right. Who cares about racism, anti-Muslim prejudice, even basic human decency – satire’s the new God and it must have its sacrifice. Let’s really show ordinary Muslims we don’t give a stuff about what they think and feel and publish it everywhere. Great idea.

        • Jane Manby

          Being offended does not necessarily mean that the subject in question is offensive, just that someone is offended.
          The cartoons were neither racist nor anti Muslim but they did satire an ideology, Interesting you do not feel affronted on behalf of the Catholics or Marie Le Pen both of which Charlie Hebdo satirized extensively, none of which went round and shot them.

          • James Campbell

            I feel offended on behalf of the 100s of millions of ordinary Muslims who are not terrorists and who will never understand the warped values of satirists who set out to cause offence as some kind of political statement. The fact that CH cartoonists also spewed forth offensive satire against other religions also makes them worse not better. Offensiveness is not purely subjective. If you want to satirise something which another group deeply cherishes, then a minimum of common decency would demand you check out what they consider offensive first. If CH had a serious point to make, then making it seriously would have minimised offence.

          • Jane Manby

            I would have had more respect for your point had you been offended for all the groups satirized and you had demonstrated a past history in defending them, but you don’t.
            Equally by your point the terrorists in question could have objected in a different way that did not include violence and murder.

  • Bassel

    Thank you, Jon, for modelling democratic participation by prompting a new dialogue through your brave, informed and critical reflection.

  • Browngirl

    Hear hear. Absolutely correct. Best article I’ve read on this so far.

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