by Joseph Phelan, CSS Worker Justice Fellow
On January 7th, like many people across the world who receive their news through the magical tubes known as the "internet," I opened my computer and then my browser and was suddenly asking myself "Who the hell is Charlie Hebdo?" As details of the atrocious and horrible attacks on the publication came to light through out the day I started to see people throughout social media posting #JeSuisCharlie. That's when I really started to ask "Who was Charlie? and am I really him?"
Josh Healey, from Movement Generation - a CSS ally, wrote a great piece for Common Dreams about what Charlie Hebdo is, and how it is possible to mourn and condemn the murders while also not aligning yourself with hate. Here is a brief excerpt.
"And that gets to the heart of what makes Charlie Hebdo such a problematic hero. Since the attacks, the American media has taken to calling the French publication a “satirical” magazine. To Americans, satire is something that is fun and harmless that you watch at night on Comedy Central. Here’s the thing, though: Charlie Hebdo isn’t the French version of Jon Stewart. It is closer to the bastard lovechild of Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh, with all of their nastiness and even worse jokes.
In a country (France) and an era (post-9/11) where Muslims face rampant discrimination and often violent exclusion, Charlie Hebdo's cheap shots at Islam added fuel to the racist fire. I understand the desire to make fun of organized religion in all its absurdities, but it's possible to do that without graphic cartoons of Muhammad being sodomized. That's not brilliant satire, that's pornographic hate speech. And I don't know about you, but I prefer my porn without violent hatred.
Of course, the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo didn't deserve to be killed for their drawings. Not in a million years. But that doesn't mean that what they drew or published was worth defending in its own right. I love free speech as much as anyone, but I can separate the right of people to have free speech with my support for their actual speech. When the ACLU supported the right of neo-Nazis to march through the suburban shtetl of Skokie, IL, they didn't go around saying #IAmHitler."