Today is a year since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris and the murder of some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, as well as related attacks on a kosher supermarket. A year down the line it seems to me impossible to conclude anything but that the attack was a roaring success and that the terrorists have, by any metric you choose, won. I’m not going to really say anything which other people haven’t already said better, but the claim of “Je Suis Charlie” was weak from the start with few people or publications actually prepared to show pictures from the magazine, lest it cause offense choosing instead the far safer option symbol of a pencil. Not exactly standing shoulder to shoulder. There where of course also at the time all the cries from the usual suspects that this had nothing to do with Islam, that the terrorists shouldn’t have been provoked, that the west deserved it and that unless action was taken the masses would fall under the spell of terrible racists and start attacking Muslims left right and center. Really we’d lost before the fight had even started.
Since then, we’ve seen ever-increasing numbers of calls for things to be banned in case they cause offense to someone. From comedians, to politicians to clapping all have faced calls to be banned, that they were beyond the limits of free speech as they might in some way upset someone. Just like the initial attack on the Kosher supermarket the increasing violence against Jews in Europe goes unreported, whilst the media and out leaders continue to fret about the risk of an increase in violence against Muslims. We’ve not been exactly free from terrorist attacks over the last year either, though of course we are assured that our security forces have stopped many, many many attacks which they can’t tell us about but which utterly justify giving up our freedoms of speech, thought, association and privacy. This fear of offense, this refusal to fight for free speech without any restriction cedes the battle to the terrorists and other that would ultimately take our freedoms away and by and large we collaborate with them. Outside of the insanity of the regressive types walking the halls of our universities, twitter is policed by relentless hoards of social justice warriors hunting out the slight hint of offense (from the wrong types of people), political debate is shut down by threats of violence resulting in “shy Tories”. If we don’t curtail our speech from fear of causing offense, then we may well do so from the fear of being accused of causing offense (which can swiftly end a career) as there are legions of people out there ready to signal their virtue by hunting out offense speech in others. Like a modern-day witch hunt the best way to avoid suspicion is by denouncement of others. so slowly and surely the values and achievements of the enlightenment will be dismantled and cast aside.
Anyway here are some links to people who have better things to say than I do:
Charlie Hebdo editor: No one questions when Jews are killed
A year of fighting for the right to offend
Charlie Hebdo: ‘Protecting the right to blaspheme protects everyone’
We know they’re not Charlie now
The Ghosts of Charlie Hebdo
Charlie Hebdo one year on
Finally to ask the question Who is Charlie Hebdo?
” if you’re Not drawing Mohammad, then you’re not Charlie Hebdo, and you can’t say “Je Suis Charlie”. As a friend of mine put it, maybe a slogan for the anti-jihad movement can be “Je dessine Mohamad” (I draw Mohammad)”
So I shall this year strive to not worry about offending, to exercise my free speech and damn the consequences and defend those whose speech is threatened, no matter how foolish, trite or disagreeable it is. After all if we don’t let the idiots and those we disgaree with talk how can we laugh at them and consign their arguments to the spoil heap?