Je suis encore Charlie

May 3, 2015 • 8:40 am

by Greg Mayer

Following up on Jerry’s post, I note that in a piece in the New York Times op-ed pages yesterday, Andrew Solomon and Suzanne Stossel, the leaders of American PEN, defend giving an award to Charlie Hebdo, and defend Charlie Hebdo itself. The piece is quite good, suffering only from a bit of accommodationism toward the opponents of Charlie Hebdo, calling them “well-intentioned people with shared values [who] interpret and weigh principles differently.”

I especially like that they defended Hebdo by quoting Christiane Taubira, the French justice minister (the black woman in the monkey cartoon), who rose to their defense. They note:

[Taubira] delivered a poignant elegy at the funeral of one of her supposed tormentors, Bernard Verlhac, known as Tignous, saying that “Tignous and his companions were sentinels, lookouts, those who watched over democracy,” preventing it from being lulled into complacency.

And, Solomon and Stossel added this:

The leading French anti-racism organization, SOS Racisme, has called Charlie Hebdo “the greatest anti-racist weekly in this country.”

In the print version, a subheading reading “It’s an award for courage, not cartoons” is quite misleading. The piece makes it clear that it is not an award for mere courage (you could give that to a German soldier at Stalingrad), and Solomon and Stossel give an explicit endorsement of the cartoons as anti-racist—a necessary defense of the “norms to which free societies subscribe”.

Je suis encore Charlie.

14 thoughts on “Je suis encore Charlie

  1. Thanks for that one. The article in the Times is first class. Only 7 of 523 were about Islam.

  2. Thank d*g Christiane Taubira has empty headed SJWs out there to defend her from satire that they don’t understand!

  3. I hope those opponents are reconsidering their position given this fairly reasonable stream of countering evidence.

    1. I might suggest getting Tesla’s new Powerwall, but it might be a bit of a chore getting around beyond the waiting room.

  4. I thought I must be missing something when I first heard about the boycott, as I assumed — wrongly — that intelligent people wouldn’t take such a stand without any basis. But it’s amazing how utterly counterfactual and facile the arguments against Charlie Hebdo are, and what’s more amazing is that the signatory count on the anti-Charlie letter is now up to 205, even with the facts more easily available than ever.

    I’ve read Francine Prose’s piece. I’ve read Garry Trudeau’s statement. I’ve read half a dozen other anti-Charlie/award essays. But, if you ignore the demonstrably false claims, none of them seem to contain an argument.

    As someone who writes for a living, I’m embarrassed that so many writers and artists, Trudeau in particular, would have so little regard for the principle of free speech. The fact that he can speak against “punching down” while simultaneously implying the dead victims of a terrorist act were “childish and unserious” for taking a stand against those who would silence them with violence is unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine punching much farther down than the grave.

    1. Remember Holmes’ line about eliminating the impossible… The only remaining possibility is that all 205 of those signatories have knives at their throats. Send SWAT teams, now now now!

  5. It’s good to hear such a sane defense of free speech. They point out that the award is first and foremost for Charlie’s courage in writing criticism. Then they point out that the content was not hate speech and thus did not disqualify them for the award. Thus, the quality of the satire was not an important element, or perhaps none at all. The criteria were bravery and that the offence did not go beyond nobly intended satire into support for hatred or violence. That, I find correct and well principled.

  6. Caleb Crain also wrote a nice piece in the L.A. Times. Here’s a taste:

    I strongly doubt that there would have been such a broad outpouring of support for Charlie Hebdo in France if it were a French analog of the Westboro Baptist Church — the group famous for conducting anti-gay protests at military funerals. When it comes to telling whether a French newspaper smells sweet or sour, I think the French are likely to have the more discerning noses.

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