Charlie Hebdo
November 8, 2011, cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine after the magazine's office was attacked by firebombing. The title reads, "Love is stronger than hate."

So what if Charlie Hebdo *is* racist? I'm still Charlie

Charlie Hebdo

November 8, 2011, cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine after the magazine's office was attacked by firebombing. The title reads, "Love is stronger than hate."

I've spent much of the past three days sifting through op-eds and flipping through talking heads. Everyone's got something to say about Charlie Hebdo. My initial reaction? #JeSuisCharlie. Here's what else I've heard:

On Wednesday, one of the gunmen was heard to shout, "We killed Charlie Hebdo." Yet with help from French and global media groups, Charlie Hebdo will live for at least another week.

Whatever you think of the magazine, this is good news. Wednesday's attack was an assault on freedom of expression. The gunmen intended to silence Charlie Hebdo and its staff.

In his column for RNS, Hussein Rashid writes of Charlie Hebdo’s legacy, “It did not matter if the images were going after Muslims, blacks or Jews; it was always about reinforcing racial and religious hierarchies.”

Charlie Hebdo has always been about satire. “Reinforcing religious hierarchies” is anathema to its mission. Yes, the magazine's caricatures sometimes rely on racist tropes, but that doesn't inherently mean it's “reinforcing racial hierarchies." That's not how satire works.

I do not consider myself racist, homophobic, Islamophobic or misogynistic. "Being Charlie" doesn't mean being any of these things, despite what you think about the magazine’s tact and tone. Neither does republishing the cartoons.

As advocates for freedom of expression we must sometimes defend views we find repulsive. This doesn’t require us to endorse them.

In this case, we must protect what gunmen tried to kill, a satirical magazine some deem offensive.

#JeSuisCharlie simply means, “I defend freedom of expression.” It means showing solidarity with our fellow journalists, columnists, satirists and free speech advocates in Paris and around the world.

Part of me wishes #JeSuisCharlie meant having the bravery to persist after threat or attack without missing a beat, as Charlie Hebdo did post-firebombing in 2011, but it doesn’t. Only Charlie was so brave. That doesn’t mean we must now be cowards.


  1. Well done, Brian.

    “As advocates for freedom of expression we must sometimes defend views we find repulsive.”

    I would go a bit further.
    We should celebrate the fact that someone is doing the repulsive for its own sake.

    Because freedom and civilization requires it.
    No one deserves to be above mockery. Especially ourselves.

  2. Random thoughts:

    1. Everybody always screams “But it’s s.a.t.i.r.e!” when they get called out (or in this case, shot down) for the dog-crap that they’re publishing. Sheesh.

    2. I support freedom of speech. I hope they catch the killers.

    3. I do not broad-brush the Muslim people, and hope nobody else does. It was an individual crime, not a entire people-group.

    4. I also hope ole Charlie H, if he survives, will think a few things over and make a few changes. Apparently it’s WAY past time.

  3. “Charlie Hebdo has always been about satire. “Reinforcing religious hierarchies” is anathema to its mission. Yes, the magazine’s caricatures sometimes rely on racist tropes, but that doesn’t inherently mean it’s “reinforcing racial hierarchies.” That’s not how satire works.”

    I’m not sure that it can hide behind “it’s satire”. Racial stereotypes used in a satirical context are not always racist, but this depends on context. The movie “Team America: World Police” turns the entire Arabic language into “Durka durka Mohammed Allah Jihad”, but because the satire of that movie is directed at American perspectives of the world around them, it is not racist. The satire is mocking the stereotype itself, and that is what makes it satire instead of just a racist caricature.

    I don’t know much about the French culture or Charlie Hebdo, but from what I’ve seen of their work, it doesn’t appear to be satirizing the way French people stereotype others. The cartoons with Jewish caricatures seem to always be mocking the Jews, not mocking French perceptions of Jews. The satire isn’t directed at the stereotype, and thus the stereotype’s use is nothing but a racist caricature, and not biting satire.

    Of course, racism or no, we must defend the rights of racists to say racist things. But just because we should defend their rights doesn’t mean we should delude ourselves into thinking they weren’t racists to begin with. To defend free speech we must defend the assholes of the world. But even though we’re defending their rights to be [expletive deleted], there’s no need to deny that they are indeed [expletive deleted].

  4. “Charlie Hebdo sorta had it coming (Catholic League president Bill Donohue)”

    I think Hussein Rashid’s column could have been folded into this entry. You might even be able to throw in the Stedman/Jones piece, despite their swipe at Donohue. Right-wing God-botherers and left-wing “social justice allies” are in agreement on this one: “Charlie Hebdo was asking for it.”

    Now that I think of it, Radical Islam is really the ideal marriage of Right and Left. “You got your anti-Westernism in my oppressive theocracy!” “No, you got your radical traditionalism in my campaign against Privilege!” “Delicious!”

  5. First the West needs to put you through a wringer before they’ll decide that off-colour jokes about you are off-limits. For example, the west needs to enslave you on cotton farms for 4 centuries first, or send 6 million of your people into gas chambers. Afterwards, they’ll touch with you kid gloves. But only afterwards.

    By these rules, Muslims don’t yet qualify.

  6. Bottom line is that we’re at war and need to fight it on all fronts, including and perhaps especially the idea front…..and that’s where freedom of expression matters, both for its own sake and as a tool against the totalitarian ideology driving the terror.

  7. Just a reminder for any Charlie Hebdo folks who may be reading this thread: Yes, we are glad that the terrorist crooks were killed by French Security; that is indeed an appropriate justice for their murderous evil. Sincere condolences must go to you.

    However, YOU and your Racist Idiot rag, are messed up too. I am NOT Charlie, because Charlie is nearly as sicko as the evil terrorists. You published a bunch of dog-crap (see the dog-vomit RNS example above), then you stuck it in people’s faces, and somebody finally decided to do something about it.

    Lots of people, myself included, support freedom of speech. But in this world, some folks don’t, so let’s face it — YOU sorta kinda invited trouble here. And in France, there exist people who are somewhat primed to, umm, bring it.

    So If ole Charlie Hebdo actually survives this terrorist tragedy and continues publication, you WILL need to clean up your nasty mess and stop putting out all that dog-crap. Otherwise you will attract more dogs, and some will bite.

  8. Doc, Supporting speech that is only speech that you agree with, is not supporting free speech.

  9. There’s nothing wrong with “supporting speech that is only speech that you agree with.”
    As long as you’re not calling for the **government** or **terrorists** (or any crooks) to squelch the speech you happen to disagree with, it’s quite okay — and in Charlie Hebdo’s case, probably a moral obligation — to call on ole Charlie to either change his slimy dog-vomit speech, or else simply go out of business. Preferably the latter !!

  10. See what I mean? Doc is a good old-fashioned right-wing authoritarian, but this particular rant could have just as easily been penned by a particularly fervent “social justice ally” on Tumblr. Tone down the invective just slightly and it could probably even pass for a product of the Chris Stedman/Sarah Jones Dynamic Duo!

  11. I’m still a theocrat, or supporting God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44) as the only hope of government for meek mankind on earth.

    That government will soon put an end to all wicked ones/terrorists (since it can read people’s hearts and man can’t). Showing care and love for our fellowman will then be the norm rather than the exception (Isaiah 11:4).

  12. Saturday, January 10, The Star Ledger newspaper in New Jersey ran an article, “Opinion: Editorial cartoonists’ views of the Charlie Hebdo murders”. I placed the following comment in response to the article. It contains no vulgarity, links or personal attacks, but Star Ledger removed it, anyway. It is so often the case that, when the malignant see the truth, knowing they can’t counter it, often do their best to keep other people from seeing it.

    Among other things, for all the Muslim hating, “freedom of speech” liars invoking this incident, note something crucial.
    There were many, many of these cartoons made, showing Muslims, themselves, being mocked and tromped and chopped up and not one, not a single one, of those cartoons drew any kind of anger or reprisal!
    Not a single one!
    The Muslims are not that thin skinned!
    They don’t mind themselves being made fun of, they don’t even mind depictions of themselves being incinerated by the cowards in Israeli jets dumping burning white phosphorus on orphanages, or the cowards hiding in bunkers in the U.S., guiding Predator drones.
    They have , supposedly, only taken exception to the hateful and deliberately hurtful depiction of their religion.
    Claims of a general thin skin among Muslims is just another of the lies sold by New World Order shills to the slobbering morons who hate Muslims only because they need someone, anyone, to hate, to take their mind off the cesspool of failure they turned their own lives into!
    And, frankly, that is all that the magazine in Paris put out, viciousness aimed at arrested development gutter level maggots. It was no more commentary or satire than obscenity, vulgarity and profanity are information.
    And , yes, they were calculatedly hurtful.
    The incident with the pro Fascist rag, Jyllands Postens, is revealing. The Hitler worshipping fish wrap claimed that it had heard from an artist, or “artist”, who claimed they had wanted to illustrate a story on the life of Mohammed, but had received “death threats”, because they did not permit the graphical depiction of Mohammed. The Nazi rag then declared it was “testing the strength of free speech” by providing a string of cartoons deliberately hate filled, blasphemous and derogatory of Islam.
    They could have “tested free speech” by providing dignified, respectful pictures of Mohammed! Maybe even a respectful biography of The Prophet!
    But “testing free speech” wasn’t what the lying Nazi rag was interested in!
    They wanted to incite violence among Muslims that they could engineer into manufacturing the Final Solution to the Arab Problem!
    The failure of Muslims to actually attack Jyllands Postens and the fact that the events in Paris were not consistent with past “terrorist” incidents, in fact, also argues that the staff of the French magazine engineered the “false flag” events themselves, even going so far as to kill drifters or homeless themselves, using them to stand in for their bodies, then conspiring with French “authorities” and “police” to use this as a pretext for initiating the Final Solution to the Arab Problem.
    It should also be mentioned, the death of anyone, for any reason, is not to be applauded or celebrated, but, suppose someone had a sister with severe mental problems and someone began posting pictures of the girl engaged in any number of loathsome sexual encounters. And suppose the person whose sister was being depicted found who was posting the pictures and killed them. Would they be as hatefully treated as the Muslims? After all the depictions were “freedom of speech”!

  13. “…the staff of the French magazine engineered the ‘false flag’ events themselves…”

    OK, settle down. It’s time for your warm milk and thorazine.

  14. In your case, you seem to be sending out engraved invitations to test your claim.

  15. The great demon Allah has decreed that legally-protected public blasphemy against his so-called “prophet” will no longer be tolerated in France. Going forward, the French will passively submit to Allah and cease their flagrant and egregious blasphemy.

    The French may enjoy their so-called “freedom of speech” but they are unwilling to die for it. Allah will eventually conquer atheistic France.

  16. Oh, I get it, Julian Penrod. You’re okay when others are censored but not when you are.

  17. Jack,

    Don’t forget your “ZOMBIES who walked in Jerusalem” (Matthew 27:52). You have not explained how they functioned, yet.
    You claim to believe in them, but since you say belief is only a ‘choice’ I must conclude you don’t really believe and you are only faking it to make your life easier. Am I right? or not?

  18. bqrq,

    “so-called “freedom of speech” ?

    Do you have any clue how what enormous B**LS it takes to do what Hebdo does? Vive La France!

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