Je suis Charlie (Screw ’em if they can’t take a joke)

Imagine the offices of Mad Magazine or The Onion being stormed by gunmen, killing off many of their most biting satirists. This is effectively what happened in France this week, when the popular comedy newspaper, Charlie Hebdo lost many of their top cartoonists, in such an attack.

An excellent primer on Charlie Hebdo, and its criticism of Islamic extremism, has been published at Vox. It is a must read to understand what’s going on.

Links to other coverage:

I find the following excerpt of commentary at the Independent by Mike Harris to be especially important:

 Cartoon by The Independent's Dave Brown

Cartoon by The Independent’s Dave Brown

Time and time again in the coverage of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, words have prefaced the description of the magazine: “controversial”, “poisonous”, “offensive”. It’s as if to say, if only their cartoonists had held their pens and their writers had held their tongues. If only they’d been a bit more cautious this may not have happened. Perhaps. Few have put their neck out and said – I defend the right to insult. We want the illusion of freedom, but many are all too willing to cast aside those who push at its boundaries.

In a globalised world, where ideas can be distributed from Paris to Fallujah in real-time, we can no longer protect people from ideas they do not like, even if we wanted to. We cannot but help insult the religious. Our way of life is an insult. Should gay couples not Instagram their wedding in case it insults those wed to religious orthodoxy? Should atheists hold their tongue to avoid insulting religious prophets? Do I have to be polite to the English Defence League or the vile Al Muhajiroun? Take a step back. There is no way way you can avoid offending those who wish to develop a global caliphate.

There can be no negotiation between liberal democracy and totalitarian theocracy. It does Europe’s beleaguered minorities no favours to suggest there is. We cannot filter out every offensive tweet, or insulting Facebook post. To suggest we can merely inflames the sense that free speech is always to the detriment of minority groups.