Charlie Hebdo Massacre

The Charlie Hebdo Massacre: One Year Later, Still Misunderstood

Were the murdered journalists "free speech martyrs" or "hipster racists"?

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Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the massacre

Surely, this is punching up.
Charlie Hebdo

at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, but official remembrances have already begun, as have the condemnations over the fact that the surviving writers, editors and cartoonists continue to savagely mock religion, government, and other perches of power. 

Christine Boutin, the head of France's conservative Christian Democrat Party felt "this tragedy deserved better" than to be sullied by Charlie Hebdo's current cover art depicting an old, bearded white guy (supposedly depicting the Euro-centric representation of God) strapped with a Kalashnikov rifle, blood on his hands and clothes, crouching beneath the words "One year on: The assassin is still out there." Boutin wrote that Hebdo's hostility to religion is "becoming an obsession."

But Charlie Hebdo's militant secularism is not a bug, it's a feature, stated plainly in its mission statement on its website:

CHARLIE DEFENDS

Secularism pure and simple, « yes » without « buts », a society free of racism but not segmented into ethnic groups, the environment without political turf wars, universalism without crying peace doves, gender equality without Nadine Morano, animal rights without tofu and cultural diversity without snobs.

CHARLIE FIGHTS

Religions which inspire swarms of fools, Rednecks who can't see further than the tip of their nose, the dotcom billionaires googlelising the world, bankers who gamble away our money, manufacturers who would make us live with a gas mask, footballers with more ego than talent, hunters who shoot us while mushroom picking and dictators who force us to agree with Bernard-Henri Levy.

CHARLIE IS FOR

All men are brothers in the sky with diamonds.

CHARLIE IS AGAINST

War that destroys cute little flowers.

In both the immediate aftermath of the massacre and throughout the year, the slain journalists were both lionized as free speech martyrs and also vilified as racists and Islamophobes because of their usage of crude and ribald imagery, particularly when it came to the Prophet Muhammad.

Pope Francis said one should expect violence as a resonable response if a person "insults" or "makes fun of faith." US Secretary of State John Kerry juxtaposed the Charlie Hebdo massacre with the slaughter of 130 people in Paris last November, stating that the former atrocity was endowed with some "legitimacy" because psychopaths felt the need to "avenge" the offense of satirical cartoons suffered by a man who died in the year 632 AD.

The murdered journalists were also accused of "baiting" their killers, lacking common sense, being a "white power mag" led by a "racist asshole," and that their cartoons were analogous to "stealing land, and raping women" because they were created exclusively by white men. Former Reasoner Michael Moynihan correctly notes that the last point would "not contested by [Charlie Hebdo] editor Moustapha Ourrad because he had annoyingly just been murdered by religious psychopaths."

Some critics took to conflating the quality of Charlie Hebdo's artwork with the legitimacy of its political expression. In the fact-challenged documentary Je ne suis pas Charlie, filmmaker Max Blumenthal wonders in a voiceover, "Is it possible for a Muslim to identify with a publication that demonized the Prophet Muhammad, in almost pornographic fashion?" Such an infantilizing question assumes that Muslims have no mental autonomy and couldn't possibly be offended by a cartoon without being able to "identify" with the right to publish such a cartoon. 

In one sentence, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau managed to verbalize possibly the most tone deaf post-massacre take on Charlie Hebdo:

By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech.

If Charlie Hebdo's cartoons were as sophisticated as this early Trudeau masterpiece, perhaps he might have found them outside of "the realm of hate speech." I would be curious to know if Trudeau finds the unflattering depiction of a white "God" on the current Charlie Hebdo cover (which surely offends some "powerless, disenfranchised" people) to be punching in a sufficiently upward direction.

The politics of the magazine could only be described by American standards as hard-left (though, obviously without the fealty to offense-criminalizing speech codes), its targets were more likely to be far-right political parties like the Front National, Israel's bombing of Gaza, anti-immigrant xenophobes, and the Catholic church than any oppressed minority groups.

Even among those willing to concede that Charlie Hebdo's journalists sometimes possessed good intentions, the fact that they "didn't mean to be bigoted but smugly thought that they were so progressive that nothing they did could be racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc., even if it actually was (either in intents or effects)" meant they were guilty of hipster racism

Last May, after 145 writers boycotted a PEN American award ceremony where Charlie Hebdo was honored for bravery in free expression, Moynihan also noted in the Wall Street Journal that the misconceptions about the magazine were being cemented into the consciousness of many:

The relentless campaign against Charlie Hebdo by those accusing it of "racism" or "punching down" has had an effect. Because once deployed, as the surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo discovered, the racism charge sticks to the accused's skin like napalm. And no one is immune — even murdered cartoonists — because there are no penalties for filing a false report.

One of the dissenting PEN American authors, Jennifer Cody Epstein, later admitted she failed to conduct "diligent and careful research" before committing to the boycott of the PEN award. In a letter recanting her earlier support of the boycott, she made sure to point out that Charlie Hebdo's work was "arguably tasteless, offensive and not even particularly well-drawn" but that it "sprang from satire, not hate."

In an article published in Politico this morning, former Charlie Hebdo staffer Caroline Fourest writes, "The despicable accusation that Charlie was 'Islamophobic' was not only wrong, it had killed and continued to put its survivors in danger."

Fourest also discusses how the withering criticism endured by the survivors in the post-massacre aftermath, and the continued willful misrepresentation of their style of take-no-prisoners left-wing satire, tested their commitment to free expression: 

Our colleagues were losing their minds. Unwilling to acknowledge their crippling fear, they stopped defending the free press, they deformed the facts, and censured themselves. They lectured us on journalistic "responsibility." And we still haven't woken up from this nightmare: Today, Charlie's cartoons are repeatedly taken out of context, their message utterly distorted. Most recently, this happened with the drawing of the little Syrian boy, Aylan, found dead at the foot of McDonald's golden arches, an image that denounced Western indifference to the plight of the refugees. Others attacked the National Front. As for the cover of the commemorative edition, it takes issue with the sacred and shows God as a form of irrationality that incites people to kill in the name of religion. Of course, the God depicted is the God of the attackers, not of the pacifists. A caricature can't do everything — and readers need to use their heads. That, too, has always been Charlie's message.

In his posthumously released book, Open Letter: On Blasphemy, Islamophobia, and the True Enemies of Free ExpressionCharlie Hebdo's slain former Editor-in-Chief Charb writes, "one day, just for laughs, I should publish all the threat letters that I received at Charlie Hebdo from Catholic fascists and Muslim fascists." 

The Associated Press wrote that book's intro "targets preconceived notions," attacking American drone policy as a far greater threat to Muslim lives than "caricaturing a jihadist in a ridiculous position." Charb also writes about what he perceives as the inherent racism and xenophobia in French culture which he called "Muslim-o-phobia" because it is directed at actual people, rather than the institution of Islam.

Two days after completing his work on the book, Charb and six members of his staff were slaughtered in their office while planning an anti-racism event. Had he survived the attack, a typically dark and cheeky response might have been to publish the aforementioned threats from various fascists, but to also share the vicious invective directed at his fallen comrades by Western liberals for insufficient sensitivity while working at a magazine which SOS Racisme, the most prominent anti-racism organization in France, called "the greatest anti-racist weekly in the country." 

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81 responses to “The Charlie Hebdo Massacre: One Year Later, Still Misunderstood

  1. “Religions which inspire swarms of fools, Rednecks who can’t see further than the tip of their nose, the dotcom billionaires googlelising the world, bankers who gamble away our money, manufacturers who would make us live with a gas mask, footballers with more ego than talent, hunters who shoot us while mushroom picking and dictators who force us to agree with Bernard-Henri Levy.”

    Yeah, I can clearly see why Glenn Greenwald determined they’re bigoted closet right-wingers.

    1. What dreck. But that is their right.

      And the concept of “punching down” is absurd when applied to people who murder you.

      1. I had more cause to dislike these people than the leftists who attacked them, but I supported them anyway because I am not an imbecile.

        1. They should certainly not be supported, given their incessant recourse to offensive trigger-speech that damages the reputations of millions of believers world-wide. Indeed, their “satire” is not clear enough, and should accordingly be suppressed as quickly as possible, so as to avoid more of the violence they trigger. Here in the United States, we know how to deal with course individuals of the sort, who use inappropriate “parodies” to convey their so-called “free speech” and damage the reputations of others. Consider how we dealt with the author of that anti-Mohammed film in California (so harmful to the interests of our former Secretary of State and of our ambassadors abroad), and see the documentation of our great nation’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

          https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

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            1. This is what happens when some of us try to have a serious conversation about the issues that affect the future of our nation. Where criminality and provocation are denounced (and deep down we all know they are equivalent, don’t we), others will always attempt to profit commercially.

      2. And the concept of “punching down” is absurd when applied to people who murder you.

        You could have stopped right there. While right doesn’t make right, neither does impotence.

    2. Yeah, I can clearly see why Glenn Greenwald determined they’re bigoted closet right-wingers.

      How could he determine anything else when you read:

      dictators who force us to agree with Bernard-Henri Levy.

      Seriously, thinking ill of Putin, Saddam, Chavez, MIlosevic? Of course Greenwald sees right through them.

    3. Glenn Greenwald’s issue is that they were, or some of them were living breathing Jews.

  2. So we’ve learned nothing, basically?

    1. Nothing, absolutely nothing.

    1. I’m still gonna vote for Pat Monty Paulsen.

      1. I am writing in Zombie Nixon

  3. “””arguably tasteless, offensive and not even particularly well-drawn” but that it “sprang from satire, not hate.”””

    Which is relevant for absolutely no reason. This justification actually makes me think less of her.

    1. Eh. I’m not going to an awards ceremony honoring the Daily Stormer.

    2. Same here. And can’t hatred of something ever be justified? Maybe I hate the fact that I can’t lampoon someone’s religion (or whatever belief system) without fearing for my life? Maybe I have every right to hate those people who would do violence on me for the mere act of speaking?

    3. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with hating the hateful. Just like some people need killing, some people need hating. In fact, not hating the hateful strikes me as a bit of a moral failure.

      1. In fact, not hating the hateful strikes me as a bit of a moral failure.

        Correct.

        The world is full of bad people. Ignoring bad people does not inhibit them from doing bad things.

  4. By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech.

    “Powerless.” I wonder if, a year on, Trudeau embarrassed at all.

    1. I’m sure he feels justified by subsequent events.

  5. Charlie Hebdo no longer draws Mohammed.

    Islam won.

    1. And that looks more like the Christian God than that weird Islamic one, so they’re still in the clear.

      1. They’ve learned it’s safer to insult the people who aren’t likely to try to kill you.

  6. The Charlie Hebdo Massacre: One Year Later, Still Misunderstood
    Were the murdered journalists “free speech martyrs” or “hipster racists”?

    I started with another comment, erased it, and I’m left with:

    Why is it racism if you make fun of Mohammed, but not if you make fun of Jesus Christ?

    1. Because Christian is not a race? Oh, wait, neither is Muslim. FYTW?

    2. Free speech is content neutral, so a free speech martyr should also be content neutral, judged on whether they are a (1) martyr for (2) free speech, no?

      So a hipster racist can absolutely be a free speech martyr.

    3. Being Muslim gets you 10 victim points. Being a Christian is -5 (though you can earn 5 back and come out even if you use Christianity to hypocritically call out conservatives and justify progressive ideology).

    4. Because progs are racist, basically. Christians are all white and therefore racist (even though most of them are not white) Most Muslims are not white and therefore making fun of them is racist (because they want to protect the poor little brown people with their quaint beliefs) It never occurs to them that it’s insulting to only see someone’s race when assessing their belief system, even if your intentions are good.

      1. Blah the pronouns are all f’ed up in that last sentence. Basically progs are jerks.

      2. Progressives aren’t really racist against whites , they just recognize the culture of whites worldwide as their main opposition to their totalitarianism.

  7. I’m not quite sure how being against religion rules them out as being Islamaphobic. Nor do I get how them being “hipster racists” is in opposition to being martyrs for free speech.

    1. I’m not quite sure how being against religion rules them out as being Islamaphobic.

      Because they didn’t show appropriate respect?

  8. Were the murdered journalists “free speech martyrs” or “hipster racists”?

    Oh, FFS! Neither neither nor both.

    1. I’d vote for martyr simply because they stood for the right to offend people and got killed over it.

      1. Absolutely. I don’t seem to get a lot of their weird French humor and, from what I’ve read, the people involved seem like intolerable jackasses, but that’s beside the point. As soon as someone starts shooting people for publishing a satirical magazine, questions about the quality of the magazine’s content become irrelevant.

  9. When the headline mentioned that the attack was still misunderstood, I was hoping that the article would mention that the terrorists primarily attacked (according to the terrorists) because the West killed one of their leaders instead of freedom of speech issues. The offensive (to Muslims) cartoon was only the reason that they picked the target.

    1. The offensive (to Muslims) cartoon was only the reason that they picked the target.

      And the offensive (to non-Muslims) picking of the target based only on the offensive (to Muslims) cartoon was only the reason that they were targeted.

      It’s offense and targeting all the way down!

  10. “Were the murdered journalists “free speech martyrs” or “hipster racists”?”

    Can they not be both?

    1. Not in the simplistic black-and-white worldview of the progtards.

  11. christian god has an SBR? that’s so American.

  12. It’s an American progressive ideal, imagining that our causes need heroes that are above reproach.

    But racist, homophobic, puerile, hipsters have a right to express themselves, too.

    I don’t need a big eyed bunny to feel sorry for to know how I feel and what I think. But progressives do. That’s what makes them so easily manipulated, why they imagine it’s okay to call for drone striking the protesters in Oregon (they don’t feel sorry for white ranchers), and generally what makes progressives America’s most horrible people.

  13. “Some critics took to conflating the quality of Charlie Hebdo’s artwork with the legitimacy of its political expression. In the fact-challenged documentary Je ne suis pas Charlie, filmmaker Max Blumenthal wonders in a voiceover, “Is it possible for a Muslim to identify with a publication that demonized the Prophet Muhammad, in almost pornographic fashion?” Such an infantilizing question assumes that Muslims have no mental autonomy and couldn’t possibly be offended by a cartoon without being able to “identify” with the right to publish such a cartoon. ”

    Jesus fucking Christ, why doesn’t Max Blumenthal just convert to Islam at this point?

    1. That would be punching down Islam itself?

    2. Because it would be cultural appropriation?

  14. “Is it possible for a Muslim to identify with a publication that demonized the Prophet Muhammad, in almost pornographic fashion?”

    Who gives a shit if Muslims identify with (whatever that means) any publication? What difference does it make? They still don’t have the right to butcher the people who work there.

    1. And I don’t identify with Charlie Hebdo but still support them. Blumenthal’s argument is that Muslims shouldn’t necessarily support victims of religious murder because they didn’t like them personally. An awfully negative view of Muslims coming from a supposed ally.

    2. And more than that, if they cannot identify with such a publication, (I don’t mean approve or like but identify with and understand such), they are unworthy of being called human beings. One of the things that makes us human is the ability to reason and understand opposing viewpoints

  15. a society free of racism but not segmented into ethnic groups, the environment without political turf wars, universalism without crying peace doves, gender equality without Nadine Morano, animal rights without tofu and cultural diversity without snobs.

    Whelp, you just lost America’s progressive movement.

    1. the dotcom billionaires googlelising the world

      And yet they remain so very, very French. How’s France’s National Search Engine going, by the way?

      1. Priorities, eh.

        But I can’t really blame them for staging literary auto de f? in an attempt to get back into polite society. After all, a bunch of their colleagues had their brains spattered around an office and the hue and cry among their peers was a sound condemnation of the victims, so why bother fighting for France or Europe? What is left to fight for? Just publish the crap the idiots will lap up and quit trying.

  16. In one sentence, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau managed to verbalize possibly the most tone deaf post-massacre take on Charlie Hebdo:

    One does one’s self a disservice when one listens to anything Garry Trudeau says.

    1. ^This. He was actually relevant and funny, but that was decades ago. He’s just an embarrassment now.

  17. because there are no penalties for filing a false report.

    Not only are there no penalties, it’s often rewarded.

  18. How does Charlie Hebdo make their point that they’re still valiantly secular while at the same time condemning the violence perpetrated against their fellow cartoonists by the hands of Muslim extremists?

    Why, by being politically correct, of course! Thus showing a generic “god” image as the “killer” instead of the true culprits: Islamic extremism.

    1. Way to miss the point, or pretend to.

    2. “Remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” So, you know, we’re really no better when you think about it.

  19. Unwilling to acknowledge their crippling fear, they stopped defending the free press, they deformed the facts, and censured themselves. They lectured us on journalistic “responsibility.”

    Funny how that works, don’t it?

  20. The headline of this article is appalling. The formulation of the question assumes that if they were racists they could not be free speech martyrs. Those people were murdered because of what they were saying. That makes them free speech martyrs full stop. It doesn’t matter what they were saying. No one deserves to be murdered because of what they say, regardless of what it is.

    I don’t read French and I know little about what the magazine actually published or who the people that were murdered were. And I don’t want or need to know any of that. And I refuse to let people obscure the larger issue of the threat of radical Islam to our freedoms by engaging various apologists in a debate about whether these people were or were not “racists” whatever that means.

    1. ^This. I said pretty much the same upthread. I don’t know much about the magazine and, based on the little I have seen, don’t really get their weird French humor, but that’s all irrelevant. When someone murders a person over speech, it is wrong no matter what that speech was.

  21. Charb also writes about what he perceives as the inherent racism and xenophobia in French culture which he called “Muslim-o-phobia” because it is directed at actual people, rather than the institution of Islam.

    I’m not sure how to take this. If I claim I’m directing my ire not at Muslims but at the Institution of Islam, at what am I directing my ire? A book lying on a table? A mosque and all of its foundations, bricks and ceiling joists?

    1. It is nonsense Diane. It is like saying you hate Communism but have nothing against communists. If you are disgusted by an ideology you are necessarily disgusted by its practitioners.

      1. Of course, one does need to have some perspective. Trotsky deserved a bullet. Chomsky deserves scorn.

        1. True. You judge people’s actions much more harshly than you judge their thoughts. But you still can judge their thoughts and beliefs.

      2. And yet, while libertarians usually have no trouble condemning anti-libertarian ideologies, many also think it’s somehow wrong to stop anti-libertarians from immigrating. They’ll oppose sharia law, but think they have to allow immigration by sharia law supporters, cuz “freedom of movement.”

        1. OPEN BORDERZ!

          For many libertarians politics is an opportunity to display their Libertarian piety. The real world effects of the policies they advocate are entirely beside the point.

  22. Here’s a little hate speech for anyone criticizing Hebdo’s “hate speech”: it should have been you in those offices, you pusillanimous, liberty-trading, ankle-clutching opportunists. Maybe the world doesn’t need more Hebdo cartoonists, but it certainly needs fewer apologists for antiliberalism.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      If you think that what these people said in anyway justifies or excuse their murder, you are a piece of shit unworthy of freedom.

    2. I like” pusillanimous pretend friends of freedom”, but I’ll have to see about working ankle clutching in there too.

  23. If thine eye offends thee then by all means cut it out, but that liberty should never extend to another’s tongue. Nobody is forced to read or view that which offends them and they are not allowed to prevent someone else from that activity. This is basic and at the core of Western civilization, such as it is. Defending or attempting to rationalize the actions of the terrorists is to accept the premise that Sharia law is superior. I fervently wish that those espousing that belief would just move their sorry butts to the Caliphate and be done with it. Then they can avoid the hypocrisy of hiding behind the right to freedom of speech that they so obviously detest.

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  25. If you end up being gun down by Islamic psychopaths trying to protect Islam, in what way can any fear of Islam you might have be accurately described as a phobia?

  26. Charlie Hebdo is repeatedly prosecuted by the French government for ‘hate speech’ and they were threatened because of the image of the Syrian boy for some unimaginable reason. They should be satirizing their own government. Instead they are angry at God. Ostensibly for sending out his minions to kill them. But I suspect it’s really because He created them to suffer. Haha that’s what God does. Welcome to the real world.

  27. I wrote a post about Islamicate blasphemy laws and Charlie Hebdo last year that may be relevant to his discussion:
    http://brownpundits.blogspot.c…..l?spref=tw

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  29. My first job out of High School was at St Paul and over the next 5 years Iearned so very much. Seeing the hospital torn down tears a small piece of my heart out. The Daughters of Charity and the doctors and staff of St Paul Hospital will always be with me.
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