Well now we know what Charlie would do. Charlie Hebdo have just published their first post atrocity edition and they have (again) depicted the prophet Muhammed on the cover. Now let’s be clear, in my view they have every right to do what they want. We should also be clear that we all know that the depiction (in any form) of the prophet is deeply concerning to Muslims. This is nothing new. So we have to ask ourselves why did they do this? Did they want to reach out to the Muslim community in an honest gesture of goodwill? Did they hope to open dialogue about religion and its place in a modern secular state? Did they want to honour their dead colleagues and the other victims of the shooting?
If they had truly wanted to do these things they would surely have found away of doing so without insulting and offending the sincere beliefs of Muslim people around the world. They could have done many things that would have achieved these aims without insulting anyone at what is a very sad and difficult time for all involved.
We are also continually assured that Charlie Hebdo is not a racist, anti-Islamic, homophobic, sexist etc publication. We are told repeatedly that it is an ‘equal opportunity’ offender poking fun at the establishment in all its forms. If Charlie Hebdo really was the anti establishment, non racist, truly satirical publication we are continually told it is, they could have published a front page condemning the millions who claim to support Charlie Hebdo, but have in fact never bought a copy. They would have condemned the world leaders who arrived in Paris claiming to support freedom of speech in France but are happy to persecute journalists in their own countries. They could even have been super brave and made fun of their deceased colleagues, that would have shown that truly nobody was beyond their reach and that they really do not care who they offend in their quest to speak freely.
But instead they went for the soft target, again. They published a cartoon that was offensive and insulting and that far from bridging the gap between the ‘us’ and the ‘them’, can only increase antagonism suppress rational discussion and further divide already fractured communities.
Trans people are easy targets. Often we stand out, some of us look frankly ridiculous, we believe we have a right to express ourselves as we wish, whether it be by getting sex reassignment surgery, doing our best to look and behave like a women every so often or wearing stockings while we fantasise about having sex. This right of expression exists and we should be free to pursue whether someone understands us or not. Similarly religious people are free to express themselves whether it be by wearing a crucifix, shaving their heads or wearing a head scarf. No one should be targeted for holding sincere beliefs no one should have their beliefs made fun of. Nobody should interfere with our right to express our beliefs and identities in any way that does not negatively impact on others.
Charlie Hebdo has depicted homosexuals negatively in their publication, as well as taking aim at religious people of all sorts. I do not know whether they have ever poked fun at the trans community but given that we are such an easy target I am sure they will have done so, or will do so in the future. What makes this worse is that they hold themselves out to be intellectual people defending the liberty to express yourself as you wish, but in so doing they make fun of people who are often unable to defend themselves. They presume to have no respect for authority yet do not mock authority figures using Charlie Hebdo for their own ends. They thus mock the weak, defer to the strong. In so doing they help form public opinion and drive prejudice.
I hated play ground bullies (who knew no better) when I was at school I despise them more when they are adults, particularly when they claim to be intelligent, emotionally mature activist publishers. They should know better, they have a powerful role in society that they are abusing. Charlie Hebdo is a playground bully, sadly the playground has just become the world stage.
Once, when I was a police officer, I was called about a would be Klu Klux Klan member staging a one man protest on a corner, at the very edge of a predominantly black neighborhood.
On my arrival, he instantly started talking about his rights, and free speech. He blathered on and on for a while as I stood there, blank expression, hands clasped in front of me, sunglasses hiding my eyes.
Eventually he realized I wasn’t saying anything. Which is always a good tactic for getting somebody who is not inclined to listen, to shut up long enough for you to make a point. But it only works if they would normally be expecting you to speak. Otherwise they think you are there to simply spectate their show or hear their point.
Anyhow, once he realized I had said nothing, he looked at me quizzically, and shut up. He then said, “How can I help you officer?”
I quickly responded by saying, “You sir, cannot help me. I am in the business of helping. I am not here to infringe your rights, or prevent your free speech. I am at present, here to protect them and you. But I am not on special detail to you. If a call comes through, I will no longer be here. I was called because of your presence near this neighborhood, one of the very people you are yelling against called out of concern for your wellbeing. There are members of her community that take a much dimmer view of your antics. I will leave you to your hate speech with this; you may have the right to say damn near anything you like, but that does not absolve you of the consequences of saying it.”
At that I walked back to my cruiser, to the sound of him asking what that meant, asking if I was refusing to protect him. I drove across the highway, where I observed him and typed up my reports. Until a call for service came in. I then drove away, with him staring me down, with a questioning look on his face.
Unbeknownst to him, a crowd of young black men had gathered just out of sight of both he and I. And as soon as I drove away, they confronted him and forced him out of their neighborhood. One of my snitches had been in that crowd. He called my snitch phone, and told me they had shown amazing restraint and hadn’t done anything other than shove him. There had been too many of them for him to feel that being mouthy would have done anything else other than get his arse handed to him. At least he was smart enough to know he was outnumbered.
But what I told him holds true; you may have a right to say it, but by saying it, you thereby take ownership of the consequences of saying it. Charlie Hebdo is no different. They may say what they like, but when things go bad because of what they say or print, I do not wish to hear any woe is me stories or see any pity parties.
You also don’t poke a snake with a short stick and not expect to get bit.
Ever & Always,
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