i am charlie hebdo gwendal le bec
IMAGE SOURCE: Gwendal Le Bec

I support the right to Free Speech.

Hell, I support the Ku Klux Klan’s right to say stupid stuff just as much as I support my right to call them stupid.

Allow me to go one step further—I even support racists posting ridiculous comments on my blog, even though no legal provisions exist for me to do so. I think the world should know how other people think, but the racists shouldn’t be surprised if they find their comments are not accepted well.

I am horrified by the deaths of the Charlie Hebdo staff members, police officers, and other civilians in France this week. NO ONE should be killed for drawing a cartoon, or shopping.

So, am I Charlie Hebdo? It depends. I think the answer is more complicated than yet another “Either you’re for us, or against us” moment.

I dig satire. The Onion’s 2008 branding of presidential candidate Barack Obama’s Change campaign as a Black, outspoken, trans-continental panhandler who’s raising the anxiety level of others—is satire. The story was enlightening, points out the irony—if not the stupidity—of prevailing ideas, and was funny.

The Colbert Report is satire.

But I can’t say that many of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are satire. Most of the covers I looked at are not even funny.

charlie hebdo muslim shot le coran c'est de la merde egypt

Tell me what’s so funny about the July 2013 Charlie Hebdo cartoon of a Muslim being shot several times with a headline that reads “THE KORAN IS S**T,” accompanied by a text box which, loosely translated, says “[Your Koran] can’t stop bullets”?

Would the Charlie Hebdo editors be able to sit in a room with the Nigerian parents of the girls who were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists, and comfortably explain the reasoning behind the cartoon of the kidnapped girls—depicted as pregnant—admonishing the government not to take away their welfare benefits? I don’t see a bit of satire here. In fact, I see no one laughing at this cartoon except for racists. If the point of the cartoon is to entertain racists while promoting the hidden goal of showcasing how no one but racists will laugh at it—thus highlighting the stupidity of it all…well…I’m not going to overthink this since I can’t imagine that any level of cerebral effort went into the creation of the cartoon…

charlie hebo cartoon nigerian girls kidnapped by boko haram

Sure, I understand how the cartoon of the girls plays with the “Blacks are moochers” stereotypes held by many Europeans and Americans, but I still wonder if the magazine editors can explain this to the abducted girls’ parents in a room—and feel good about doing it.

Still, I support Charlie Hebdo’s right to be stupid, and I feel grief for the families of the murdered magazine staff members.

So I guess this means we can expect 20 more offensive Charlie Hebdo cartoons?

Followed by 20 more acts of terror?

Followed by nationwide police raids where anyone who said as much as “Good morning” to the terrorists will have their doors kicked in, and taken to unknown places for questioning and detention?

Followed by repeating this cycle 30, 40, or 50 more times? That’s a high level of bodycount.

This is the price of freedom, I guess…

Here’s a suggestion—take away three of the main recruitment tools of terrorists: the lack of social and economic opportunities, combined with the political spin generated as a result of the West’s involvement in the Middle East. I wouldn’t think that citizens of Yemen, Afghanistan or other places in the region would mind having the West around, if it meant gainful employment and an improved quality of life.

Teenagers and adults with nothing to do and even less to hope for could be ripe for joining an Islamic terrorist organization. The propaganda created locally is then used to recruit others around the world—even those who are middle class and college-educated.

This is why you defenders of freedom at home should promote true freedom overseas—and this can be done with some of the same money used to buy and distribute bullets.

But the work completed by the West in the Middle East to date tells me we will see additional threats to freedom everywhere…

Song currently stuck in my head: “i want you for myself” – george duke


  1. I enjoyed this post, agree with you, and am happy somebody said it. The fact that the publication is being romanticized like it is in the wake of the tragedy, has been one of the most annoying and disappointing things for me to watch. I feel like your stance will become more prominent after the dust settles and the grief and tensions die down. Generally people only remember the good about a thing when it’s gone, but the critical thinkers are going to start coming out the closet once the tears are wiped. Freedom of speech isn’t just about poking fun, it’s about being able to say when the “joke” was never that funny to began with.

    Btw, you are so on-point right here: “I wouldn’t think that citizens of Yemen, Afghanistan or other places in the region would mind having the West around, if it meant gainful employment and an improved quality of life. Teenagers and adults with nothing to do and even less to hope for could be ripe for joining an Islamic terrorist organization.”

    1. Thanks, Linda. I wonder what Charlie Hebdo’s next editorial meeting is going to look like now that they are armed with the understanding that decisions can have good and bad implications. I think their cartoons are more hateful than satire, but I also support their right to publish them…

      song currently stuck in my head: “music is my way of life” – patti labelle

  2. Hi. Here what I wrote to a friend who shared your article, I hope it shade some lights in the discussion:

    Most of those articles show CH as only making fun of Islam, while in fact, they are making fun of all religions, and mainly of the Catholic faith over the years. I will even say that most of the “organizations” or “groups” caricatured in CH since 1969 are the Catholic Church, the different French governments over the years and the extreme right French party the Front National (pretty much the Tea Party here). CH has been standing for free speech and against racism for a long time now. The very specific American notion of Political Correctness makes it difficult for a lots of people to differentiate Satire to Insult in the intent and even more, it makes it look like racism. If CH was a racist publication, it would then be a racist magazine against white people as well I guess, with all the not-too-subtle white christian caricatures they did over the year, right, by following the same logic… The problem of articles expressing this point of view, on top of showing very little knowledge of Charlie Hebdo’s history and understanding of French relationship with religion, is that they associate people of a certain faith with people of a certain ethnicity… Isn’t it the exact definition of racism in USA, under the “Political Correctness ” standards? Ironic, isn’t it… However, after living here for 12 years now, I can understand the confusion. Regardless, the worldwide response, the American response and friends support has been amazing. Just my 2 cents on what CH really is. It certainly can be find tasteless sometimes, but certainly not racist. That would be a mistake as well as a dangerous amalgam for the future of our societies.

    That being said, I share your stance on the implication of the West in Middle East and other countries. I will even say that the only way to eradicate fundamentalism of ALL religions is thru education and wealth. The day we, as a society, can achieve something like that, will be the day maybe less people will need to be offended by magazine like Charlie Hebdo.

    1. I appreciate your comments, Higgins. I’ve seen a number of non-Muslim Charlie Hebdo cartoons, and they did not strike me as satire either.

      I also wonder how far CH is willing to distribute it’s “Offend All” message since it fired one of its staff members for writing that the son of Nicolas Sarkozy became engaged to a Jewish woman, and will subsequently convert to Judaism for financial gain. The magazine called the column, written by CH employee Sine, anti-Semitic. Yes, Jews have been featured in CH cartoons in the past.

      But I keep thinking about the CH cartoon of those bullets going through that Muslim and his Koran, while remembering how CH employee Sine was fired for anti-Semitism…

      I also believe increased opportunities for social mobility will take the sting out of these cartoons…

      song currently stuck in my head: “love from the sun” – norman connors

    2. If you think Tea Party and Front National have anything in common, you’re heavily mistaken. Tea Parly is globally for decisions taken at the individual level, meaning less state. Front National is for a strong and heavy state (meaning less decisions taken at the individual level, joining in that goal all mainstream political parties in France).

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