Charlie Hebdo Massacre

Acclaimed Writer Neil Gaiman Stands Up for Charlie Hebdo and Free Speech

|

On Twitter, the acclaimed writer and graphic novelist Neil Gaiman offers a full-throated defense of free speech in the aftermath of yesterday's terrorist attack on satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo:

The final tweet above links to this 2008 blog post, in which Gaiman lays out his fundamental case for freedom of speech:

The Law is a blunt instrument. It's not a scalpel. It's a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out, you are going to find yourself defending the indefensible….

I loved coming to the US in 1992 [from England], mostly because I loved the idea that freedom of speech was paramount. I still do. With all its faults, the US has Freedom of Speech. The First Amendment states that you can't be arrested for saying things the government doesn't like. You can say what you like, write what you like, and know that the remedy to someone saying or writing or showing something that offends you is not to read it, or to speak out against it. I loved that I could read and make my own mind up about something.

NEXT: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Nanny State) Will Step Down in 2016

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Makes me want to go out and buy the whole Sandman series.

    1. Ugh. Trying to shoehorn the Sandman continuum into Final Crisis nearly ruined it for me.

      1. Not familiar with Final Crisis. Not sure if I want to be, now.

        1. DC’s last crossover anthology. Grant Morrison’s finest work!

          1. You could make sense of that? ‘Props’ to you (and I say that as a Morrison fan, though I’d say his Batman RIP or his reboot of Action was his best work).

    1. In what way is LePen less worse than the Socialists and Gaullists?

        1. I don’t think so. Rorschach Carlyle is one of those “neo-reactionaries”.

          1. Oooh – didn’t see the 1:48pm there.

      1. Because she’ll likely hasten the day I can look out of my window and see an Enlighted corpse swinging from every lamppost. That’s how.

  2. The Law is a blunt instrument. It’s not a scalpel. It’s a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out, you are going to find yourself defending the indefensible….

    That’s really good. Saving that for chance encounters with proggies…

  3. And you can still be held criminally responsible for what you say–so long as what you say is violating someone else’s rights.

    “Empty the register or I’ll blow your head off” is not protected by freedom of speech.

    Some people have a very hard time understanding that.

    It’s bad enough that we have to defend freedom of speech from terrorists; much worse that we have to defend freedom of speech from each other.

    This happened after Obama made his speech about Benghazi, as well. Some of you may remember that once Obama blamed Benghazi on that stupid YouTube video, people started defacing posters that were critical of Islam, and, as I recall, the DC Metro started banning advertising that might offend Muslim sensibilities, as well. As 9/11 gets further and further behind us, I’d hoped people would get their heads screwed back on straight again, but I’m afraid this is the new normal.

    You know how every time there’s a mass shooting, we have to debate the Second Amendment all over again? Well it seems like that’s where we are with terrorist attacks on free speech, too. Every time terrorists kill someone over free speech, are we going to have to debate the First Amendment all over again, too?

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAgLhr6sHtc

      K-K-K-Ken is c-c-c-coming to k-k-k-kill me!

  4. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  5. I’m trying to remember if statements like Gaiman’s were rare or more the norm, or if the equivocating, mewling cowards were more the norm, back at things like Rushdie’s fatwa and other stuff like that. I feel like Gaiman was more the norm back then, but I was a kid and my memories could be totally off.

    Because it sure feels like the Kitty Strykers of the world are MUCH more prevalent now. But maybe it’s just that the internet gives idiots like her a voice.

    1. I think you’re correct that Gaiman was more of the norm back then, or at least they were the norm while the stupid party was in power.

      Now that we have the right Top. Men., the Kitty Strykers of the world rise to the top, while the people who believed in principles over principals back then are a minority voice.

      1. Once the USSR fell and the left decided that the Islamists were oppressed and their allies then things changed.

        1. I think this cuts the other way actually. Conservatives that liked a more vigorous foreign policy were bummed about the fall of Communism, but they quickly moved on to their new crush: Islamo-fascism.

          1. Not a rebuttal…

            1. More of a tangent, yes. In rebuttal I’d say this: I don’t think it’s so much that the Left loves Islam. Rather, for the Left, the Worst Thing Ever By Far is racism, and the Most Noble Thing Ever was the Civil Rights Movement. There’s something to that actually, the first has been a very bad thing and the second was generally a good thing, but the Left is fanatically focused on these things such that everything has to be framed that way. So when this happens instead of being properly horrified at this evil murder their first and strongest reaction is ‘oh no, is this going to feed into anti-Muslim racism?’ They’re nearly incapable of focusing on anything else in any other way I think…

              1. I’d clarify that: the left (the modern left, anyway) is absolutely obsessed with victimization. They will almost mindlessly defend anyone or anything that they think is a victim. I’m still not entirely sure what the root of that desire is. Leverage for taking control seems like a popular explanation, but it seems too subtle to me.

                1. “Standing up” for “victims” makes them noble. They crave this feeling more than anything else, to the point where they don’t even contemplate who they are assigning victim status to (it’s usually based on extremely simplistic historical factors like race and gender and nothing else). It’s kind of like their version of saving souls.

                  They’re just people who want to feel better about themselves by feeling morally superior. They will take the easiest, least difficult or complex route to feeling this way every time.

              2. the Left loves Islam

                Strawman.

                And I don’t see how anything else you wrote really contradicts anything I said. So your point?

              3. Rather, for the Left, the Worst Thing Ever By Far is racism…

                Racism for Progressives does not mean any specific bad act, but thinking wrong thoughts.

                …and the Most Noble Thing Ever was the Civil Rights Movement.

                Which the Progressives again wrongly define as a bunch of people stomping the pavement and carrying signs then the government, in its omnibenevolence, bestowed upon the oppressed rights via the magic of legislation, rather than the truth which was that the NAACP of that era was engaged in judicial trench warfare on as many theories as they could come up with.

          2. It could actually be both. I think that much of the Middle East can fit nicely into the condescending leftist idea that the west has everything figured out (because we have all these smart people in universities and government) and the people herding camels and living in tents are just begging to be enlightened (re-educated).

            And the War on Terror fits nicely into the neo-con idea that we have to have an enemy to fight. In order to defeat the hegemonic USSR, the USA had to become it’s own hegemony. Once the goal was accomplished, no one wanted to dismantle the giant military spending and bureaucratic machine that had been created. So new enemies were found to justify its existence.

            1. The lefties should feel free to go ahead and tell the French that the global jihad is all just a figment of the evil Dick Cheney’s imagination. I’m sure that will be really comforting to the Charlie Hebdo victims.

      2. I bet that the numbers of both principled and unprincipled people have stayed roughly the same (with WAY more unprincipled), but back then the principled had a larger voice, whereas now, the internet and social media have given unprincipled mongoloids everywhere a voice too.

    2. “Because it sure feels like the Kitty Strykers of the world are MUCH more prevalent now.”

      I doubt it. I’ve never heard of her before today. Virtually all the MSM seems to be fairly solidly condemning the act and calling for free speech to be defended.

      1. Funny, isn’t it. Now that it could literally be their necks.

      2. Yeah, it’s the internet. Reason had to dig pretty deep to find this facet of idiocy.

        Or I guess they would’ve had to dig pretty deep had that hoodedutilitarian creeper not been one of their contributors.

        But I mean the guy is a Reason contributor, so it’s obviously an EXTREMELY fringe sentiment…

        1. had that hoodedutilitarian creeper not been one of their contributors.

          Heh? Are you refering to Weigel, or someone else?

          1. Noah Berlatsky, the toad whose website published the idiot who was claiming that any criticism of Islam is racist.

            Berlatsky is also the major intellectual light who takes Anita Sarkeesian at face value and feels her to be a serious cultural critic.

          2. Noah Berlatsky

    3. John Podhoretz’s Post column comments on the evolution of elite opinion regarding free speech. His take is that since the free speech absolutists are now defending low culture instead of high culture, the nomenklatura are not nearly as eager to take up the fight.

      1. I agree completely with him on this.

        They are sad that they must find common ground with someone they find distasteful.

    4. Ugh. I had to go look up Kitty Stryker. Sorry I did. What idiocy.

  6. I’ve long been a fan of Neil Gaiman’s work. It’s nice to hear that he’s got his mind right on this one.

    1. Same here. He’s an excellent and imaginative writer. Unfortunately, in my experience, it’s rare to come across a good artist who isn’t a moron when it comes to politics.

    2. One of the very best. Nobody is better (including King) at taking a nice normal story and casually sliding the thing sideways so smoothly that there is no conscious suspension of disbelief.

      American Gods, Neverwhere, Stardust, and my favorite: “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”

      1. He’s one of the few modern writers with the kind of gift for words that can take my breath away, leave me thinking, “My God, I don’t know how he thought to describe that the way he did, but that’s the most beautiful, true description of it I’ve ever read.” The only other writer I read regularly who equals his beauty of prose is Patricia McKillip.

  7. OT but funny:

    http://www.al.com/opinion/inde…..a_dem.html

    The chairwoman of the Alabama Democratic Party, Nancy Worley, sent a holiday letter to friends and Democrats all over the state describing, among other things, how she got stuck on the toilet and couldn’t get up.

  8. Doesn’t Ron Paul also think the attack was understandable?

    “It doesn’t justify, but it explains it.”

    1. Add that to the list of reasons I don’t like Ron Paul.

      1. That seems like a pretty reasonable conclusion to me.

        The correct explanation for the attack doesn’t have to be ethically correct, and saying that the attack is explained doesn’t require anyone to be any less outraged over it, condone it, or accept it on any level.

        I could be misreading what he’s trying to say, but understanding doesn’t imply acceptance.

        1. Reason condemned Kitty Stryker for calling the attack “understandable” so why should Ron Paul be left off the hook?

          1. Reading Stryker’s comments, I’m getting a sense that her use of “understanding” is implying a bit of sympathy and justification.

            Paul’s comment above seems to be saying that having a valid explanation for an act, doesn’t justify it. Like understanding the motivations of a serial killer doesn’t mean that you sympathize with their particular way of thinking.

    2. Do you not understand the attack?

  9. I wonder if our Founders foresaw that we would win our independence from the British only to have them write all of our comic books…

  10. In 2002, Chen Keinan’s mother and one year old child were killed by a homicide bomber in Petah Tikvah, Israel. With the smug way both Europe and the drive by media deal with the terror against the Jews in Israel (and maybe everywhere else), Chen Keinan gave this warning:

    Chen: I’ll tell you how I see the future: I think Israel is like the canary in the coal mine, and that’s what the Europeans – and I am sorry, I know this goes to Europe, and I said different [more positive] things to America [on CNN-USA] – but we in Israel are dying now. We are slaughtered on a daily basis, but – you’re next! You’re next, buddies. I understand that you have a lot of Muslim minorities. That’s OK, everybody should live where he wants – but you are appeasing terrorism! And you hope that if you tolerate it, and try to understand its motives, and you give it reasons, whatever they are, I ask the Europeans: Do not tolerate murder! I don’t want to use the word terrorism, because it’s banal. Do not tolerate murder, do not appease the terrorists! Not for oil, and not because you’re scared – because the more fear you show, the faster it’s going to be on your doorstep – and then, G-d help you, because you gave it legitimacy. And my baby’s blood is just as precious as any French blood — G-d help these hypocritical people…”

  11. These are great sentiments and I certainly have no argument with any of them. However, they’re not particularly relevant to yesterday’s events.

    What happened yesterday had nothing to do with the law, government censorship, or the related ideals of free speech enshrined in the Constitution. What happened yesterday was entirely about the Islamonazis: their stupid throwback religion, their primtive backwards culture, their inability to “Coexist” (like that favorite lefty blue bumper sticker says), and their deadly rage towards the rest of mankind resulting from all of the above.

    All this “free speech good” stuff is great, but it seems to me like everyone wants to dance around the issue of what the civilized world is going to do about these mad-bombing, throat-cutting fascist Islamonazis.

    1. Maybe we could invade a country or something. Has anyone thought of doing that?

      1. Last night I caught new Senator Tom Cotton on the Hugh Hewitt show and that was pretty much his idea.

        Go into Iraq/Syria and lay waste to ISIS. That would show them.

        Ugh!

        1. Hey, there’s something to that: I don’t think we ever see Afghans or Iraqis involved in these incidents.

          Therefore, I propose that the US lay waste to the majority of the Muslim world, from Algeria to Pakistan, leaving barely functioning kleptocrat democracies with liberal constitutions in our wake. The people will be so busy fighting over the scraps that they won’t think to attack us!

          And as an added measure of security, we can leave a token force to put the screws to any government or movement that acts too uppity towards us. What could go wrong?

      2. I bet you probably have one of those bumper stickers on your Prius or your Volvo.

      3. Why not – its been working so well so far.

        I’m wondering how the total time we’ve spent fucking shit up in the Middle East compares to the total time we’ve spent fucking shit up in the whole rest of the world.

        I’d think by this point it’d be a 50/50 split.

  12. Gaiman also signed onto this:

    http://www.minnpost.com/politi…..s-magazine

    Peaceful coexistence within diverse communities requires a climate of tolerance and an open exchange of views that includes criticism, humor, and hyperbole. The right to satirize, to question, to expose, to mock, even when offensive to some, is a bulwark of a free society. Today’s bloody retribution for the drawing and publishing of cartoons represents a terrifying challenge to these values of tolerance.

    We call upon all governments, religious leaders, and civil society institutions to join us in condemnation of this vicious attack. We ask them to insist that however offensive speech may be to some, it is never a justification for violence.

    I linked to this article in another thread, but it is apropos here. I love the statement because it doesn’t equivocate at all about the fact that the gunmen were wrong.

  13. Thanks Neil!!

    It’s intellectually dishonest to a (now) murderous degree to suggest that Charlie Hebdo was “provoking Muslims”. That’s bullshit. They were provoking readers of Charlie Hebdo, and anyone else who decides to pay attention to people who talk about Charlie Hebdo.

  14. Well, I’m sure that all the opinionators who are saying that Charlie Hebdo should have been more restrained also say that women should dress more modestly to avoid getting raped. I mean, after all, sure you have the freedom and all, but it’s just common sense that you should not do anything provocative and if you do it’s partly your own fault. Right?

    1. Yes, the common sense argument. But there is a big difference. Magazines don’t walk the streets for random passerby to see and get offended by. Only people who care about what CH printed this week are going to learn about what they printed.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.