[Caution: This post contains brain-crunching sentiments like “They asked for an early grave” and “Shooting up the Charlie Hebdo office was understandable.”]
With a tip of the hat to Reason, I’d like to present a little potpourri of, um, interesting responses to Wednesday’s massacre. The authors, to varying degrees, place at least some part of the blame on the victims.
Richard Seymour at Jacobin:
All one can have at this point are the correct but platitudinous points about there being no justification for this, that all attacks on journalists are abhorrent, that freedom of speech must be defended to the last drop of blood, and so on. If you really need that sermon, you’re in the wrong place. … I think there’s a critical difference between solidarity with the journalists who were attacked, refusing to concede anything to the idea that journalists are somehow “legitimate targets,” and solidarity with what is frankly a racist publication.
No, journalists are not legitimate targets for killing. But no, we also shouldn’t line up with the inevitable statist backlash against Muslims, or the ideological charge to defend a fetishized, racialized “secularism,” or concede to the blackmail which forces us into solidarity with a racist institution.
That’s all the more remarkable because Charlie Hebdo has always been a left-leaning, anti-establishment publication that directs its barbs at politicians, the police, bankers, the rich and powerful, and (last but not least) religion. The BBC’s Hugh Schofield even describes the weekly as fitting in a French tradition of “left-wing radicalism.”
No matter, says Jacob Canfield at the Hooded Utilitarian:
I understand that calling someone a ‘racist asshole’ after their murder is a callous thing to do, and I don’t do it lightly. This isn’t ambiguous, though: the editorial staff of Hebdo consistently aimed to provoke Muslims. … The statement, “JE SUIS CHARLIE” works to erase and ignore the magazine’s history of xenophobia, racism, and homophobia.
The way I see it, the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were equal-opportunity offenders who viewed themselves as being in the business of slaying holy cows. When they observed a multitude of nodders — that is, when they saw stifling conformity — they questioned and mocked it, even if that meant offending some subset of Charlie readers with drawings that some (not me) saw as homophobic or racist.
For instance, I wonder if Canfield thinks this is a “racist,” “homophobic” cartoon. (To me, it’s the opposite.)
Granted, he says:
Nobody should have been killed over those cartoons.
Fuck those cartoons.
Hm. I think that should be, “Fuck the people who literally can’t take a joke.”
One of Canfield’s commenters then weighs in with the following:
I think they [Charlie Hebdo] deserved it. … They basically asked for an early grave.
To Canfield’s credit, he parries:
That’s the exact opposite of what I’m arguing in this piece. No drawing is worth murdering someone over, as offensive as it is.
But the horse has already left the gate. Yet another Canfield commenter writes:
Too many people use the excuse that it is “freedom of speech” and they can say whatever they want and there is no consequence. Unfortunately and horrifically in this case the consequence was markedly extreme. I certainly agree with the poster’s point that the mark of good satire is not that you be executed for it, however, you do need to be prepared for the fallout of putting out purposefully inflammatory perspectives.
Let’s move on. Here’s David Freelander at the Daily Beast:
Free speech is about the world of ideas. It doesn’t mean that you’re engaging in that when you’re being deliberately provocative.
Thankfully, there’s nothing in any modern Western constitution that says that “deliberately provocative” content shall not be allowed. And it’s unbelievably disingenuous of Freelander to imply that the content of Charlie Hebdo existed in some insignificant, swampy wasteland far away from “the world of ideas.” In France, on dozens if not hundreds of occasions, Charlie Hebdo helped set the national conversation. That’s more than Freelander — or yours truly — will be able to claim even if we stay active until we’re a hundred years old.
I also note without joy how close the tenor of Freelander’s cri de coeur is to the message of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a coalition of Muslim countries that wants to see “Islamophobia” outlawed internationally.
Then we have “queer pornographer and writer” Kitty Stryker at Purr Versatility:
I’m generally pretty anti-censorship. [But] I do not believe that racist, homophobic language is satire. I think it’s abusive, and I think it punches down, harshly and often. And that was exactly what sold magazines for Charlie Hebdo. … I couldn’t believe it when I found myself agreeing with the Catholic League on anything, but yeah — Muslims have a right to be angry.
Stryker links to Bill Donohue‘s awful rant at that point, and concludes
Reminder, folks — there is no such thing as “just a joke”. Humor impacts how people treat others. … I don’t think that shooting up the Charlie Hebdo office was ethically Right with a capital R, ok?
But I do think it’s understandable.
By now, some Friendly Atheist readers may have gotten their dander up not because of these writers’ victim-blaming, but because I dared point out that the quoted viewpoints come (almost?) entirely from the political left. For them, perhaps my post triggers feelings of annoyance or defensiveness.
If that describes you, I kindly ask you to hold back for a moment. Specifically, I’d like you to ponder this:
If these same statements had been made by religious right-wingers like Bill Donohue (whose anti-Charlie Hebdo editorial we rebutted twice, here and here), would you not have condemned them unequivocally?