Monday, 19 January 2015

Je Suis Hypocrite

After two fanatical gunmen approached the offices of Charlie Hebdo and instigated their killing spree, the world responded with collective support, through the hash tag #jesuischarlie. It was supposed to be a stand for the freedom of speech. Charlie Hebdo and all other forms of journalism should be free to print what they want, without fear of violent recrimination. That is the thought. On the face of it, such a notion is reasonable and it is easy to see why it would stir such strong emotional feeling. Then you have to remember what Charlie Hebdo have been doing.

Charlie Hebdo is a piece of propaganda, disguised as satire. It consistently tries to offend. It preaches hatred towards people of the three major religions, namely Catholics, Jews and Muslims but it seemed to believe that if it was told as a joke, it was a permitted manner to do it. I'm sorry but that is utter hypocrisy. If the KKK started a racist publication that was driven primarily by humour, we would be rightly outraged.

To make things worse, Charlie Hebdo would then be outraged at how other bodies in the press acted. Most TV news broadcasters in the UK took an editorial decision to not show the cover of Charlie Hebdo's defiant response to the shootings. Sky News had to cut an interview short when a member of Charlie Hebdo's staff tried to forcibly show the cover as she answered a question. So they wanted everyone to have freedom of speech but only if we all say what they want to say.

Does this in any way condone the actions of the gunmen? No. Not even close. Violence and murder are never acceptable reactions to offensive cartoons. Yet, what did Charlie Hebdo expect? The reaction from Charlie Hebdo seems to be defiant to some. To me, it's sick. They took those who died and used them like a soapbox to say "Look, we're right to hate Islam." They stood proudly on the graves of their dead to tar a billion Muslims with the same psychotic brush. It is shameful behaviour. It is not noble. It is not reasoned or rationale. It is ultra left wing politics in a journal. It is extremism, no matter how restrained, and it bred an extremist reaction. As a consequence, people died. People who were not even involved in the offensive material were killed.

Maybe Charlie Hebdo would have done better in learning a trait it has never exhibited. Respect. Freedom of speech doesn't mean you can say whatever you want without consequences. Every choice is free to make but not free from an outcome and a reaction. I don't care if you don't like religion. It is not acceptable to broadcast hatred about it. We shouldn't accept it about someone's race, sexuality, age, gender, career choice, musical preference or whatever else. There is something about you, whether you were born with it or a choice, that other people don't like. They should, at least, show you the respect of tolerance.

The freedom of speech should be used to uplift, educate and entertain, not destroy and demean. Because the time we are most deserving of our freedoms is when we are using them in the right way.

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