Words can hardly convey the grief and disgust felt at Wednesday's executions of the editor, cartoonists, and others — 10 people in all — at France's satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. Two policemen also were killed, and 11 other people were wounded by the three fanatics who reportedly declared they were avenging the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam. Nothing can justify attacks on people whose only offense lay in their use of words and drawings to mock religion and politics. Charlie Hebdo freely satirized all three Abrahamic religions, as well as politicians of various stripes. No source of power was immune from the cartoonists' and writer's pens — which is not to imply that had Islam been the magazine's only target, the murders would have been less monstrous. And neither were the powerless, such as France's Muslims, immune. The satirists' profession should not be dangerou, no matter how much its practitioners offend other people's feelings. While the old saying "words can never hurt me" may be an overstatement, no physical reprisals for mere words and pictures can be tolerated. All is fair game, writes Sheldon Richman. There should be no "fighting words" doctrine.
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