Saturday 1334 – 10.01.15
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Like many other people around the world I have been thinking a lot about the shocking murders, in Paris, of the cartoonists and others who worked for Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper with a circulation of around 60,000.
I have been moved by the tremendous outpouring of support from around the world, facilitated by social media. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie is estimated to have been shared on twitter nearly 4 million times in 5 days which is extraordinary. I shared it myself.
Throughout this piece I will also share some of the responses to the killings, from other cartoonists.
I have read a great deal of cynical comment, in papers, and on Facebook, about “the masses” being used for political gain and the whole response to the killings being orchestrated but I do not believe that; certainly not in the first few days. That opinion belittles the individuals, such as myself , who spontaneously felt this killing was an assault on our own freedom of expression and wanted to show that.
From what I know of Charlie Hebdo, which was nothing before the attacks on Weds, it is a satirical magazine that is very irreverent, bordering on cruel, in its degree of biting mockery of a wide range of establishment, religious and others figures and organisations; almost certainly not the kind of publication I would buy ( even if I could read French ! ) . Of course I am free to choose whether I read it or not and that’s the crux of the matter isn’t it? No-one HAS to buy it or read it and that includes those extremists who carried out this terrible act.
I am very much in favour of a degree of free expression which is surely one of the cornerstones of a civilised world, ( I know that whether ANY of the world is very civilised is open to debate but let’s not be too pedantic ). The place of satire in the world has been established for centuries and if we look at the definition of it we will see how it can have a very useful purpose.
“Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.”
So bearing that definition in mind we can see that inevitably someone is going to be offended by whatever a satirist writes or in this case draws. Charlie Hebdo was well-known for offending many religions not just Islam; indeed I believe the Catholic Church sued Hebdo several times.
Whilst an individual has the inalienable right to be offended by what a satirist produces what they do NOT have is the right to insist that the satirist, or any one else for that matter, stops producing material that might offend that particular individual.
Of course with freedom of expression comes responsibility and I would certainly not see hate speech or speech which incites violence as being acceptable. In this country, and I’m sure in France too, there are laws which publishers have to follow to protect against those worst excesses and that is as it should be because it certainly would not be safe for everyone to say just exactly what they wanted.
So it is right that there should be limitations but publishers should not be put in a position where they feel unable to publish something because of fear that they or their staff will be killed if they do.
To me the outpouring of support was about just this point, showing that people are not afraid and will stand against censorship by extremists.
Satire must survive these killings because it is a powerful tool for scrutinizing organizations, countries and religions , and this is essential to shine a light into the darkest recesses and show injustices that still prevail.
Islam is not and should not be above this scrutiny because of political correctness or fear, if for no other reason than there are still injustices carried out in many Islamic countries, for example against homosexuals, which make these countries worthy of scrutiny. Did you know, for example, that apostasy ( declaring self non-muslim in this case) is a crime in 23 out of 49 Muslim majority countries? with varied punishments, from child-custody loss, annulment of marriage or fines, through imprisonment or flogging , to the death penalty.
Issues surely worthy of scrutiny?
Having said that what I definitely do NOT want to see is a backlash against Muslims because of the actions of those murderous extremists. This tweet I saw a few days ago about sums up the injustice in that :-
Muslim shooter = entire religion guilty
Black shooter = entire race guilty
White shooter = mentally troubled lone wolf
One final thought which I know seems to go against everything I have said above but which is personally very important to me is about kindness.
Many of you who have been following this blog for some time will know that I think this world needs more kindness not less.
So I have to question how useful unkindness, in the form of vicious mocking of others, really is, in moving humanity forward? Can you have kind satire? Probably not and it seems the unkind variety has been shown to produce societal change throughout the centuries so I will just have to live with it and not read it !
As ever I welcome your thoughts.
Saturday girl signing off ’til whenever.
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