#jesuischarlie

Yesterday left me tired of the world in a way I haven’t been tired in a long time. I didn’t think I would say any more about it because what’s one more voice in a sea of voices. There are always more voices. But then sometimes there aren’t. And isn’t that what this is about, too. Silencing voices; forcing voices. Co-opting voices.

I have a fondness for provocateurs. People should be provoked. They should have their hypocrisies and prejudices and sacred cows spread out in the light. We all have them, and it does us good to see them as others see them. To be consciously and deliberately controversial–provocative–is to make us think.

There are legitimate criticisms of material Charlie Hebdo publishes; Charlie Hebdo knows this as well as anyone, and the same principles that protect the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish controversial, offensive, provocative material allow for the criticism of that material. Some of their cartoons are ugly. So is the world.

Some are true.

The 9 February 2006 cover of Charlie Hebdo depicting the prophet Muhammad weeping. The headline reads: ‘Mahomet débordé par les intégristes’ — in English: ‘Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists’

Their images make us flinch, they make us angry, they make us deeply uncomfortable. They make us laugh. And sometimes, sometimes they make us look more deeply, more clearly, at ourselves. This is the value of Charlie Hebdo.[1]11 January 2015 ETA:Olivier Tonneau explains the left-wing ethos of Charlie Hebdo and its context in French society: ‘On Charlie Hebdo: A letter to my British friends‘. And if you will not listen, will not engage, will not be provoked, you turn the page. You change the channel. You walk away.

There exists another kind of provocation, though. A self-serving, manipulative kind designed not to elicit examination, comment, and criticism, but hate and fear. The attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices, the murderer of cartoonists and journalists and policemen, was this kind of provocation. A calculated incitement to violence. Not against the people responsible, but violence against our own people: our friends and neighbors and coworkers, against immigrants and refugees who sought a home in our communities. This act is intended to drive a wedge between us, to divide us.

This is the difference: Charlie Hebdo speaks to provoke more speech. Extremists commit acts of hate and violence to provoke more hate and violence. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was not a response to provocation. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is intended to provoke us into becoming them.[2]9 January 2015 ETA: The New Statesman has a thoughtful article on the attack on Charlie Hebdo as a deliberate act of polarization, a recruitment strategy for militant extremists. I strongly recommend reading ‘Is the Charlie Hebdo attack really a struggle over European values?

 

Additonal reading   [ + ]

1. 11 January 2015 ETA:Olivier Tonneau explains the left-wing ethos of Charlie Hebdo and its context in French society: ‘On Charlie Hebdo: A letter to my British friends‘.
2. 9 January 2015 ETA: The New Statesman has a thoughtful article on the attack on Charlie Hebdo as a deliberate act of polarization, a recruitment strategy for militant extremists. I strongly recommend reading ‘Is the Charlie Hebdo attack really a struggle over European values?