Writers come out in support of PEN’s award to Charlie Hebdo; Garry Trudeau continues Hebdo-bashing

April 28, 2015 • 9:15 am

After the Shameful Six boycotted PEN International‘s Gala for giving its “Freedom of Expression Courage Award” to Charlie Hebdo, a passel of other writers and activists have implicitly or explicitly criticized their literary confrères for bad judgment, and praised PEN‘s letter explaining the award:

Here are four of the nine people who took their stand on PEN’s “Courage in Continuing” site:

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“Disgusting buts” is dead on, though one could add another “t” to the second word.
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Meanwhile, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau, while walking the cat back a bit on Charlie Hebdo (Trudeau “mourns the group deeply”), still stood his ground in a two-minute Meet the Press segment. He again implies the magazine, through its satire on religion, brought the murders on itself. Click the screenshot to go to his remarks on the magazine; a partial transcript is below.

Note that Trudeau compares Charlie Hebdo’s criticism of religion to racism, a form of “punching down” at the “disempowered and disenfranchised” community of French Muslims. And he makes the bizarre claim that it’s “not really us for to decide. . . . what is sacred and holy for someone else.” Well, he could have said more or less the same thing about Republicans, whom he excoriated mercilessly! Trudeau needs to realize that, to a satirist, nothing is “sacred and holy”. And if something taken to be sacred and holy has detrimental effects on society, like institutionalized Islam, it deserves satire and mockery.

Trudeau, it seems, is very selective in his targets, avoiding the ones who could shoot back at him!

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Trudeau’s interview comments transcribed from The Nib:

I was as outraged as the rest of the word at the time. I mourn them deeply. We’re a very small fraternity of political cartoonists around the globe… What I didn’t do is necessarily agree with the decisions they made that brought a world of pain to France.

I think that in France the wider Muslim community feels disempowered and disenfranchised in way that I’m sure is also true in this country. And that while I would imagine only a tiny fraction were sympathetic to the acts that were carried out and the killings, I think probably the vast majority shared in the outraged. Certainly that seems to be what people are hearing in the schoolyards in France now, is that they’re finding common cause at least with the issue, if not with the action.

I think that’s bad for France, it’s unfortunate, it’s a tragedy that could have been avoided. But every body has to decide where the red lines are for themselves.

44 thoughts on “Writers come out in support of PEN’s award to Charlie Hebdo; Garry Trudeau continues Hebdo-bashing

  1. Yes, “disempowered” [is that even an English word?]: They were so disempowered that they had to murder people over cartoons.

    Good *effing* grief!

    1. This is true Orwellian doublespeak. Disempowered people are people like the Japanese Americans we put in internment camps or all the people murdered in the Holocaust. You know, people with no freedom and no way to fight back, as opposed to well funded terrorist organizations with firepower exceeding that of many national militias.

      1. Exactly. Perfect. Why are people so dumb? Where are they getting this from? Maybe it’s Mrs. Jellaby Syndrome. They want there to be an underclass of screwed over people so that they can be self-righteous about them. Maybe. Anyway beautifully put.

    2. I was just about to make a similar comment.

      There are many supposedly “disempowered” and “disenfranchised” groups around the world, and yet the followers of the Religion of Peace™ seem to be disproportionately represented amongst those who are willing to attack innocent civilians in deliberate acts of terrorism and mass murder (or to support those who do).

      Muslims in Europe generally have a life that is so much better than if they were living in any one of a number of muslim-dominated Middle Eastern of African countries. Why do they feel so “disempowered”?

      I’m sure that there are still real problems with racism and discrimination, but these problems aren’t unique to muslims. I can remember Christopher Hitchens pointing out that the Finsbury Park area of London (home of the infamous Finsbury Park Mosque) had many different ethnic groups living in it – many of whom could have genuinely described themselves as disadvantaged. And yet, it was only members of the muslim community that called for and enacted intolerance and violence.

      It seems that some parts of the muslim community in Europe have completely set themselves against integration into European society, and to embracing the values of the countries they now call home.

  2. I truly wish the powers that be in our Universities and Colleges would read what these authors are saying and grasp the true concept of free speech. Instead, they are, with certain exceptions (thank you MIT)cowering and stifling free discourse. The concept is so basic and fundamental that I continue to be amazed almost on a daily basis.

  3. “And he makes the bizarre claim that it’s “not really us for to decide. . . . what is sacred and holy for someone else.” – Does this mean that the murderers were exempt from this decree. It seems that they decided what should have been sacred and holy for the Charlie Hebdo writers.

      1. Religious belief: Empowering the “disempowered” to become judge, jury, and executioner for over 2000 years!

  4. Really Trudeau, those people were “disempowered and disenfranchised”? So that justifies murder? You’re conveniently ignoring that the killers yelled out not “for all the disempowered and disenfranchised!!” but instead hollared that they were doing this to avenge the profit. What’s that, they did that because they are disempowered and disenfranchised? So, we shouldn’t take them at their word? Isn’t that a little disempowering to do so?

    I wonder how empowered the cartoonists felt or the Jews murdered in the market in France felt when they were gunned down – one for being Jews in a market and the other for expressing free speech.

  5. Trudeau is short sighted on so many levels it is hard to begin. The tragedy is irrelevant if there were no Islam or religion for that matter or only religions like Jainism.

    “everyone has to decide where that red line is” That is what people do each day, defining where the red line is. Poor Trudeau does not like the red line of Hebdo but he is OK with his own red lines…isn’t Trudeau a special snowflake.

  6. What a weasel. ” Muslim community feels disempowered and disenfranchised ”
    From what.
    Are they really.

    So what.
    Lots of other groups may feel this way too.

    So Trudeau says “not really us for to decide. . . . what is sacred and holy for someone else.”
    Weak, pandering the notion religion has special protection status.
    Can we at least get to choose that which may find sacred and holy for ourselves.
    Say, free speech and the ability to criticize other, especially bad ideas.
    without the threat of violence

    1. Yes, as Sam Harris points out very well:

      The CH murderers were disenfranchised? Compared to whom?

      Look at Tibet: A nation systematically rubbed out by the Han Chinese. Are they exploding car bombs, suicide bombs, murdering Chinese newspaper editors?

      Ideas matter. Beliefs matter. Beliefs are the basis of behavior.

      1. (I’m not sympathizing so much with the Tibetan feudal system, pre-1950. But I feel for the people and their culture was more than the feudal system.)

        1. You can sympathesize that they had the choice between the two (and many others) taken away from them, and I think that’s enough. Also, I’m not sure they could have *made* the choice reliably.

          A friend of mine in high school’s father – a man from Vietnam – said that was the tragedy in the conflict there: many peasants would not have understood the sides or what was at stake at all, and to be forced to choose (as basically the American/French and later other great-power meddling did) between great powers and ignoring the local, etc. (or whatever details – it doesn’t matter) is itself tragically unjust.

  7. In all fairness, Trudeau can tell us all exactly how it is to live in France right now and what it must be like to be a Muslim in France because he’s obviously a French native who lives among the people… oh, wait a minute. I think Trudeau just found himself Ameri-splaining the French. Arrogance in a cloak of humility.

    1. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. Really really good words. Yeah, how does he not notice that he’s telling us exactly what people in France are *feeling* right now? Zounds. Whatever that disease is I hope I never catch it.

  8. “Disenfranchised”! That freakin’ word again. Do Trudeau and those who think like him, ever stop to consider what that word means?

    Here’s a quick primer:

    Women in early 20th-century Britain were disenfranchised.

    Black people in apartheid-era South Africa were disenfranchised.

    The entire population of North Korea, barring the ruling clique, is disenfranchised.

    Muslim citizens of France are not disenfranchised. They have exactly the same democratic rights as French citizens of any other religion, or none.

    It’s not really that difficult, is it??

  9. Trudeau is a true hypocrite in this case. How many comic strips has he written that mock Creationists / IDers? I’ve read several by him (all available online too). Are Creationists not a “small minority” that he’s “punching down” at?

  10. he makes the bizarre claim that it’s “not really us for to decide. . . . what is sacred and holy for someone else.”

    True. But it IS really for us to decide whether killing someone for blasphemy counts as a heinous crime or not, and we have.

  11. “…it’s “not really us for [sic] to decide what is sacred and holy for someone else.’”

    That’s exactly right; that’s not for us to decided. What’s for us to decide is whether ideas deserve criticism, poking fun at, even derision.

    In a free, open, democratic society, if the ideas derided are something that someone holds “sacred and holy,” its on them to deal with it. If they disagree with the criticism, then let them take their disagreement to the marketplace of ideas — let them demonstrate why the criticism is misbegotten; let them demonstrate, if they can, why their ideas deserve to be taken as “sacred and holy.”

    That is their right. What is not their right, is to silence the critics — and certainly not by murder, violence, or the express or implied threat thereof.

  12. “disempowered and disenfranchised” – because muslims have only the same rights as everyone else in Secular France.

    1. Come now, it is not unheard of for a minority group having the same de jure rights as the majority to nevertheless be de facto “disempowered and disenfranchised” — and, where they are non-citizen immigrants, they do not even have those same de jure rights, being literally “disenfranchised” by not having the right to vote.

      That has certainly often been the case in the U.S., with the Irish in Boston in the 19th Century; Mexican immigrants in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Asian immigrants in California through the first half of the 20th Century; and black citizens during the Jim Crow-era hardly constituting the only salient examples that could be cited.

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