Friday, January 16, 2015


Charlie-Hebdo-2015-11" by Thierry Caro - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Am I Charlie?

Do I have the right to offend?

Do I have the right to write, draw, say.....  offensive things?

Do I have the right to defend your right to write, draw, say...  offensive things?

When do these rights interfere with the rights of others?

Who determines whether there has been an offending word or picture ...and who had been offended?

When is an insult or ridicule or criticism illegal?

When does satire cross the line and become not just bad taste or silliness, but an offense worthy of deadly retaliation?

According to James Scott in Satire: From Horace to Yesterday's Comic Strips
Making fun of other people comes naturally to most of us...Since human beings could talk, they've been using insults to put each other down or build themselves up or both.  But there is a careful  and complex language of ridicule-- a person who does not know where to stop, may earn powerful enemies or lose valuable friends.
So the purpose of satire is to ridicule.

And for the record, I feel that although many of the Charlie Hedbo cartoons I have seen are funny and make points that I may (or may not agree with), they were always offensive on some level to some person or group.

Also for the record, I support and defend their right to challenge  the establishment and  the traditions, the  practices and values-- of the government- their own and others--  of religions--their own or lack of, and others, and so forth, in this satiric manner.

Did they cross the lines of good taste? Definitely. Is that their right?

Pope Francis weighed on this question indicating that lines were crossed, that there are limits in freedom of expression  in terms of ridiculing the religion or faith  of others, but  he unequivocally  opposed the attack.

Hana Shafi, a Canadian journalist goes a step further, indicating that the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo are not satire at all, just racist, and that neither racism, sexism nor homophobic expression should be protected as freedom of expression.

Did the cartoons in Charlie Hedbo cross the line?
Daily Kos published a sampling from over the years by one of its foremost cartoonists?
Judge for yourself. What do you think?

Charlie Hedbo offices were bombed in Paris, not the United States, yet at the same time it is an international issue, this is a very American issue, .

Our First Amendment gives us the right to express ourselves individually and collectively, in writing and in speech, in our homes and in public assemblies. We are free to believe in our God, your God, their God, or no God.

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 Again,  according to  Scott in Satire: From Horace to Yesterday's Comic Strips
The First Amendment... protects the  satirist's right to freedom of speech in the US as long as  the satire does not deteriorate into punishable crimes of  slander or libel.  Slander is the act of intentionally telling lies that  injure a person's reputation.  Libel is the  writing and publishing of these lies.

Ironically our Second Amendment grants the right to bear arms,  although not to be used in retaliation for or avenging of  perceived First Amendment opportunities or breaches.

Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
To read the entire US Bill of Rights click here.

A new issue of Charlie Hedbo was on newsstands Wednesday and sold out in record time. More copies were immediately printed.  Click here to read about this issue and see the cover which is, as we would predict, both clever and offensive.

How would this all have been handled in the US?

Would we have marched 3.5 million strong?

When the World Trade Center was bombed, three days later in record numbers we went to church at the National Cathedral.  We, like the people of  Paris, like the publishers of  Charlie Hebdo, did bow down nor hide from "offended" terrorists.

Where would we have met, marched, orated, and protested in the US over cartoons that resulted in deaths?

 Are we all Charlie?

The last French policeman to be killed in the Paris attack was a Muslim named Ahmed Merabet.  He was killed as the gunmen were escaping.

 Am I Ahmed?

The world has ralllied around Paris and the attack on Charlie .

Why are we not seeing the same coverage of the recent attack at Baga in Borno, Nigeria?
And why have we forgotten all about the kidnapped girls in that same country?

This thought-provoking  commentary by Charlotte Alter for Time Ideas at asks that same question.

The people under attack in Nigeria and other recent terrorist attacks are not offending anyone. They have not drawn intentionally offensive material,  but  are simply seeking to exist  in their own country.

Am I Baga?

Just who am  I?

 Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Reflect on the recent Paris attack on Charlie Hedbo.

Make a list of your own questions concerning this  event and its related and implied issues.

Make a list of thoughts and beliefs related to this event, to freedom of speech and expression,  and to censorship and terrorism.

Write an essay exploring your ideas.

Examine satirical cartoons.  One source for satiric cartoons that can be used as mentor texts is The Onion.

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