On earlier this month, terrorists killed 12 people at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical magazine, in Paris, France. In response to that heinous crime, the world has united to condemn those criminals and terrorism, as do I. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of Paris, including dignitaries from all over the world.
In spirit, I marched with them. As a blogger and a civil rights attorney, I support the right to free speech. All people should be able to write and speak freely without having to fear being arrested or killed.
However, I must part company with the demonstrators when they proclaim that they are Charlie Hebdo. I am NOT Charlie Hebdo. Charlie Hebdo is a racist, bigoted, Islamophobic, and hateful magazine. Charlie Hebdo regularly mocks and ridicules Islam, Muslims, Christians, Jews and black people.
As noted in the New Yorker magazine,
The magazine depicted the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in a sexual threesome. Illustrations such as this have been cited as evidence of Charlie Hebdo’s willingness to offend everyone. But in recent years the magazine has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations, and its numerous anti-Islam images have been inventively perverse, featuring hook-nosed Arabs, bullet-ridden Korans, variations on the theme of sodomy, and mockery of the victims of a massacre...Again, I am not Charlie Hebdo. To hell with Charlie Hebdo. Instead of being celebrated and exalted, that despicable publication belongs next to Nazi, Confederate and minstrel memorabilia in a museum somewhere.
Blacks have hardly had it easier in Charlie Hebdo: one of the magazine’s cartoons depicts the Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is of Guianese origin, as a monkey (naturally, the defense is that a violently racist image was being used to satirize racism); another portrays Obama with the black-Sambo imagery familiar from Jim Crow-era illustrations.
Also, to hell with the terrorists for brutality and inhumanity. To hell with terrorists for making that racist publication even more popular. As stated on CNN Money, Charlie Hebdo normally sells 60,000 copies at week. Following the terrorists attack, the magazine sold millions of copies. That recent issue defiantly mocks the Prophet. To hell with the terrorists for doing more to defame Islam and Muslim, through their senseless violence, than Charlie Hebdo ever could. To hell with the terrorists for giving France and other countries an excuse to tramp on our civil liberties.
As France champions Charlie Hebdo's right to free speech, she tramples on others' right to free speech. As Glenn Greenwald reported on the Intercept:
Since that glorious “free speech” march, France has reportedly opened 54 criminal cases for “condoning terrorism.” AP reported this morning that “France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism.”So, to hell with France too, for her hypocrisy.
As pernicious as this arrest and related “crackdown” on some speech obviously is, it provides a critical value: namely, it underscores the utter scam that was this week’s celebration of free speech in the west. The day before the Charlie Hebdo attack, I coincidentally documented the multiple cases in the west – including in the U.S. – where Muslims have been prosecuted and even imprisoned for their political speech. Vanishingly few of this week’s bold free expression mavens have ever uttered a peep of protest about any of those cases – either before the Charlie Hebdo attack or since. That’s because “free speech,” in the hands of many westerners, actually means: it is vital that the ideas I like be protected, and the right to offend groups I dislike be cherished; anything else is fair game.