Sunday, 11 January 2015
As everyone on the planet seems to know, there was recently a terrorist attack in Paris at the headquarters of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. In this attack, twelve people had their lives stolen; artists, writers and the policemen trying to protect them. Paris, France and the whole world has reacted beautifully. By now, the terrorists who incorrectly call themselves Muslim will have received the message- any attempt to deprive us of our freedom of speech will be immediately denied.
Part of the beauty in living in the countries we do, we being the people who upset the terrorists so much, is the fact that we are allowed to say what we like. If I wanted to declare a celebrity an idiot, if I wanted to say a religion was hypocritical, if I wanted to assert that dogs are the worst pets- I could. Doesn't mean you have to agree. It doesn't mean I have to mean it- I could just be taking the piss. But I am allowed to say it. I am allowed to take the piss.
By this reasoning, everyone can expect to have the piss taken out of them. In asserting your right to speak your mind, you open yourself to have other's minds spoken about you. In some instances, you might not like it. In fact, given the nature of man to be needlessly cruel, you probably won't. But it's going to happen. To speak your mind is to open yourself up to criticism, and boy, what criticism you will receive. Anyone who has spent approximately 5 seconds on the internet will tell you of the vitriol they find in all comment sections, everywhere. If you're new to the internet, just head on over to YouTube and go on any video- you'll find the poison fairly quickly.
Some people on the internet seem to be questioning why exactly it is we're celebrating a magazine such as Charlie Hebdo- a magazine who's primary purpose seems to be insulting people. While it has been described as "xenophobic", I don't think that's strictly true. It took the piss out of everyone. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Politicians (as the French say, et cetera et cetera)- no one was left unscathed. It was an offensively comedic magazine. That's what it was known for.
But those people are missing the point. From reports, I don't think Bernard Holtrop quite gets the point either. All of these people protesting, writing "Je Suis Charlie" and sharing the comics drawn by artists around the world- they're not just doing it in support of a singular magazine. This whole issue has gone so far beyond just one paper.
Yes, the paper was the catalyst that prompted it all. But now it is a demonstration, a vociferation, of our defence of freedom of speech. We will not be silenced. A cruel, tragic and ultimately meaningless act of violence will not quell the flows of satire and vitriol we love so much. If anything, it will make it worse. More and more comic artists are coming out in support, some even coming out of retirement, some previously undiscovered talents- all of them incensed by the notion that anyone should take away another's voice.
And in essence, comics like this should not be silenced. I haven't read all of Charlie Hebdo, being somewhat lacking in the French Speaking Department, but if we put an end to magazines such as this, where does it end? At what point do we stop silencing, figure that no one could be offended any more? The way I see it, we'd wind up with a silent world- no one saying anything for fear of offending someone. And who wants a world like that?