Civil Liberties

Financial Times Writer Says Charlie Hebdo 'Just Being Stupid,' 'Not the Most Convincing Champion' of Free Speech

With friends like these...


Here's how Tony Barber of the Financial Times reacted to this morning's massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo:

Apparently, "common sense" now means "censoring yourself for fear of being murdered."

Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims. If the magazine stops just short of outright insults, it is nevertheless not the most convincing champion of the principle of freedom of speech. France is the land of Voltaire, but too often editorial foolishness has prevailed at Charlie Hebdo.

This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extend to satirical portrayals of religion. It is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark's Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.

If there is an unconvincing champion here, it is not Charlie Hebdo. It's Mr. Barber, a man who seems to think "the principle of freedom of speech" is best represented by speakers with views so inoffensive that no one would want to censor them in the first place.

Update: The Financial Times has replaced Barber's original post with an "expanded and updated version" of the article; in the new version, the phrases "just being stupid" and "not the most convincing champion of the principle of freedom of speech" have been removed. Fortunately, I took a picture before the whitewash:

Here is how it looks now: