Je ne suis pas Charlie

14 01 2015

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I am not Charlie Hebdo… for many reasons.

First… I blog. I write about whatever I want, whenever I want. If nothing strikes me as interesting or worthy of opinion, I don’t write. I’ve always said that I write for me, and don’t really care if anyone reads it. But I’d be lying if I didn’t get juiced when people comment on a post. I look at my “view” numbers with interest, but I maintain that this blog is really for my personal growth and education in the medium. So I answer to no one, and I personally determine the level of controversy I could possibly create with a post.

mfew5tp0igaf1ukkanvmI have given my opinion here and people have disagreed. And when I wrote some of those posts, I knew I would receive some flack. That’s okay… a little spirited conversation is good for the mind and soul. I’ve also steered clear of some subjects for a variety of reasons, mostly because I alone choose the battles I want to fight. I believe that purposely inflaming passion about certain volatile issues creates barriers for real communication. I’ve often held back commenting on social media posts because I could predict the response.

Finally, I never use Freedom of Speech as a justification for my behavior, or anyone else’s. I’ve seen that one wielded like sword lately. People need to really understand that right before they say that it protects them. And I certainly can’t say that I am protected by freedom of the press, because that isn’t what I do.

Charlie Hebdo is a business. Like any business, decisions are made with both eyes firmly focused on the bottom line. Unlike me, they care about their numbers. The readership courted by the owners, investors and advertisers is reflected in the cartoons and editorials they publish. Clearly, the financial success of this magazine is largely due to the level of controversy they create.

Again… I am not Charlie.

Terrorists entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo last week with one mission – to silence them. After years of perceived humiliation by the pens of editors and cartoonists, a minute percentage of the insulted acted on their anger. Two men stormed the offices, killing 12 people and wounding 11 others. Among the dead were a maintenance worker, a guest at a meeting, two police officers, and eight columnists/cartoonists – including editor Stéphane Charbonnier.

The cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were frequently off-the-charts inflammatory. They attacked the teachings and icons of all religions, but concentrated heavily on Islam. Even the non-radical Muslim was justifiably insulted by some of the cartoon depictions of their prophet. What the cartoonists called satire, they called blasphemy. The insulted remained insulted as the editors continued to voice opinions they felt were guaranteed by the rights of a free press.

This is the main reason I am not Charlie.

1420733297778I admire a nice piece of satire. I admire using it to take on oppression, and to hopefully right wrongs. I fully support the notion of a free press, but I believe that right requires a certain amount of responsibility. My view of freedom of the press is the right to question and put forth challenging, intelligent opinions without fear of prosecution. But a free press has the responsibility to inspire, not incite. In many ways, Charlie Hebdo promoted as much hate as their targets. Editor Charbonnier gave this interesting quote to Le Monde newspaper in 2012 while discussing threats that had been made to him and the magazine. “What I’m about to say is maybe a little pompous,” he said, “but I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees.” That bravura is fine for him, but others were killed that day. I don’t forget who pulled the triggers, but Charbonnier gave no thought to putting others in harm’s way. He made decisions to go for the jugular when thoughtful, forceful commentary was probably a better course.

But that probably wouldn’t have sold as many magazines.

Of course, there is absolutely no excuse for this kind of retaliation. I’m sure that someday we all will learn that the killing of innocents is not a solution, but how many more have to die until we figure it out? It’s certainly a positive that so many people around the world have joined together to support the families of this tragic event… in peaceful, unifying demonstrations.

There is an extremely fine line between satire and hate. So before you slap that “Je suis Charlie” button on your chest, please take a close look at their cartoons. Real support of the right to a free press would be to denounce violence and killing with truth and inspiration.

Don’t be Charlie, be better than Charlie.

From Jordanian cartoonist Emad Hajjaj – a Muslim.

 

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7 responses

25 01 2015
Connor

HAHA yeah totally man. Its just like those girls who dress provocative. Im not saying they deserve getting raped but they’re asking for it. /s

16 01 2015
John M W Smith

Sorry, that should read “for what they say”.

16 01 2015
Gr8JohnL

I absolutely agree. Thanks!

16 01 2015
John M W Smith

Bottom line: You can’t go killing people for what they saw.

15 01 2015
Rose Marie

John, I want thank you for writing this in an effort to allow me to open my eyes and do some research into Charlie Hebdo. My first instinct was to jump on the “Je suis Charlie” bandwagon as a fellow member of the ‘freedom of speech” fan club. As you know, I am a ‘ranter’. I share my opinion about anything and everything, however I do not set out to disgrace or mock anyone in the process. I simply share my opinion whether it’s agreed upon or not. I welcome the debate which usually enriches my mind to the other side of the story. One of my best qualities is that I play the role of ‘devil’s advocate’ in any conflict that I am asked to be or happen to be a part of. In this situation I jumped the gun, which I usually do not do, and followed the ‘sheeple’ [ugh, I meant, people] without doing my homework.
I don’t want to say the words “they asked for it” because no one asks to be hunted down and killed. I do believe however that they provoked their adversary into reacting on behalf of their beliefs. I don’t condone nor understand why some extremists feel the need to resolve their issues in this manner; but I do agree that poking the proverbial snake will get you bitten.
In light of you very well written blog, I will remove my “Je suis Charlie’ button from my chest because like you, I am NOT Charlie. I do not write for the purpose of belittling or disgracing anyone’s belief system nor do I write for monetary gain [yet]. I write [rant] so that my voice will be heard. I often think that I am the voice of many. I am the voice that speaks the thoughts of those that don’t feel they can. I am NOT the voice for anyone attempting to create, ensue, or provoke fear and terror. Everyone has a right to live as they choose as long as it doesn’t directly affect the well being of others.

I have to disagree with you though on your statement regarding Charbonnier. While his statement may have been as pompous as he anticipated it would be, his staff worked there at their will. They could have chosen another magazine to employ their talent. They were well aware of Charbonnier’s statement and business practices. Like you, I don’t forget who pulled the trigger either but I don’t believe that Charbonnier is solely responsible for putting their lives at risk. After all they were the creators of these provoking cartoon depictions; they knew the risks.

That’s all!
Thank you again for getting me to ‘look up’
Rose

16 01 2015
Gr8JohnL

Thanks, Rosalita… for the thoughtful comments.

To be clear, the guilt in this tragedy lands with the gunmen and their accomplices. No one should be killed for a cartoon. But Charbonnier courted this retaliation, practically begged for it. And while the rest of his staff was aware of what they were doing, the Sodexho maintenance worker killed in the building lobby was not. Yes, the police officers onsite knew the risks every time they put on the uniform, but their deaths are still unnecessary.

Inspire, do not incite.

14 01 2015
Helene Montini

John
You express a different perspective – one I’ve heard occasionally before and during this moment in time. I understand all and agree with some of your thoughts. I expressed the Je suis Charlie sentiment on day one or two knowing full well that I don’t agree with most of what they write and draw – it was a gut reaction to what I was witnessing. I understand what you say about the business side of Charlie Hebdo and actually wouldn’t dispute the fact that the writers and cartoonists may purposefully incite.
Where I diverge is that I’m not sure where to draw the line, how to draw it or even who should draw it. I won’t buy the magazine or support it financially in anyway but I will support those who do.

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