Vox posted an arcade of Charlie Hebdo covers that makes clear nothing, and nobody, was sacred. The one I reproduce below makes an important point: no prophet's message is unambiguous and received identically by everybody.
"I am the Prophet, a**hole!" "Shut up, infidel!"
I'm looking for some general principles to frame the responses today. First, let's apply the Enlightenment principle of not generalizing. Khalid Albaih, a working cartoonist in the Middle East (that job description itself is noteworthy) struggles with that principle.
I'm going to have to return to the message again, as there's a generalization to more specifically North American phenomena I wish to explore. For today, let's take Mr Albaih's intellectual struggle at face value.
It's no easy feat to come up with a cartoon that can pass all levels of censorship - starting with self-censorship then government-imposed "coronership", which in many countries in this region, is actually somebody's job - to pick apart and find potentially offensive meanings.It's the bicentennial of the Congress of Vienna; Napoleon plotting his return from Elba, and Metternich's spies are everywhere. Two hundred years ago in Austria it was a crime to deviate from the published libretto of the opera. So yes, freedom of artistic expression is hard-won, and it's incumbent on Moslems of good faith to try it sometime.
That's why I understand why the west is fighting so hard to keep that freedom of speech as free as it should be. In the wake of the deplorable attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, I wholeheartedly join the rest of the world in condemning the actions of those three young men.
I condemn the attacks on the cartoonists even though I don't agree with the publication’s editorial slant, which I have often found to be hurtful and racist. Nevertheless, I would continue to stand for their freedom of speech.
I believe that the assailants' religion or ideology is irrelevant; I believe they were simply looking to wage an attack; they would have attacked something else if they didn't attack Charlie Hebdo.
Muslims seem to lose either way. They are constantly asked to apologise for crimes they neither committed, nor support. They, too, are victims of the violence of extremists. Still, they are asked to apologise and somehow atone for these crimes that were committed in the name of their religion. Then they must face the wrath of extremists who attack them for refusing to approve of the methods they view as the only way to defend Islam.
Ross Douthat extends the argument.
If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.True in Birmingham in 1963. True in Paris in 2015. In the era of the Civil Rights reforms, some of the murderers looked into their own hearts and rethought their premises. The same is required of Moslems.
[Egypt's president Abdel Fattah] Al-Sisi is doing exactly what Westerners have been crying out for since at least Sept. 11, 2001, if not before that. And yet his speech has been almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media.But until that day comes, perhaps we must dish out the one medicine the Sillies cannot take.
Martin Rowson elaborates.
This universal capacity to use mockery as a form of social control is one of the main things that makes us human. Crucially, it’s also in defiance of the primary need of the powerful to be taken seriously, often against all the external evidence of their innate absurdity.He concludes, "Which is why, now more than ever, we mustn’t stop laughing this latest bunch of murderous clowns to scorn."
In fact I suspect that throughout history that’s how political and religious power gained its original heft, by terrorising everyone else to suppress their giggles at the endless cavalcade of priest-kings, emperors, thrones, courts, burning bushes, virgin births, hidden imams, flying horses and all the rest of it.
But even then there appears to be something exquisitely intolerable to the serious mind about mockery when it is visual. Largely this is due to the way the visual is consumed: rather than nibbling your way through text, however incendiary, a cartoon floods the eyes and gets swallowed whole – and often makes the recipient choke. Worse, cartoons should be seen more as a kind of sympathetic magic than anything else: we steal our subjects’ souls by recreating them through caricature and then mock them in narratives of our own devising. Worst of all, we then pretend that it’s all just a good-natured laugh: it is a laugh, but it’s also assassination without the blood.
His colleague Steve Bell finds a way, even in tragedy.
Steve Bell cartoon courtesy Guardian Online.
And Epic Times might be anticipating the Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney fantasy to come.
The revenge ambush occurred less than a day after the murders at Charlie Hebdo, which had previously been fire bombed for publishing satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Screaming his trademark battle cry “Aaugh!”, [Charlie] Brown ambushed the remote camp, along with Mike Doonesbury, Mallard Fillmore, and others, erasing Zawahiri and his fellow terrorists from existence.Now, if any of you feel offended,
Are you feeling lucky, punk?