I’m a big supporter of free speech, anyone’s free speech, and I abhor anyone who would take the life of another person, just because they were offended by them in someway. I condemn the murders, and hope each and everyone of them are brought to trial, and given the harshest penalty available under French law. In no way should those maniacs be allowed to intimate us into silence, because they think they have a right to silence those critical of their religion, in any way. Religion, along with any ideology, needs to be criticized. However, as Katherine Cross points out, the religious fanatics who murdered those in the name of “defending” Islam, and Muhammad, aren’t the only aspect to this story. Although I won’t support anyone who would suggest we give into the demands of those terrorists, many of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are nothing if not extremely offensive and racist. Plus, there’s another group of extremists out there that are using the Charlie Hebdo massacre as a rallying cry for their evil cause.
What happened to the staff of Charlie Hebdo yesterday sent a chill down my spine, as I imagine it must have to anyone who makes a living on the world’s opinion pages.
The outpouring of grief over the senseless slaughter of twelve people, gunned down as they worked, seems to have brought a vast, diverse public together, united in condemnation of violence let loose over words and images. These murders are understandably being seen as an attack on free expression; if nothing else, this tragedy is considerably more serious than the last free speech martyr we collectively anointed, in the form of a dreadful Seth Rogen film.
But the ever lingering threat, already rapidly swelling up in commentary online around the world, is that of an equally violent reactionary backlash that — unlike Islamic extremists — cloaks itself in the lofty rhetoric of democracy and liberty. #KillAllMuslims trended on Twitter as people clamored to spread and defend Charlie Hebdo’s many inarguably racist caricatures of Muslims, as well as its often puerile humor — in one case depicting the schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram as welfare queens (see below) — while braying for the death, deportation, and bombing of anyone perceived to be Muslim; as we go to press, mosques in France have been attacked, likely in retaliation. All this screaming beneath a banner of “Free Speech.”