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Standing With Charlie Hebdo:
The Right and Duty to Offend

| January 8, 2015

Nous sommes tous Charlie.

Nous sommes tous Charlie.

So the bastards have struck again, this time at the heart of free expression and the soul of satire. They won’t win. They never can win. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t lost, either. Two brothers who should offend Muslims everywhere by calling themselves Muslims have slaughtered the leading editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, the sort of exuberantly insulting satirical weekly that puritanism and political correctness on these shores makes too difficult to publish. Vile acts like that are no less effective for being the work of clowns. Lives were lost, irrepressible voices were repressed, and for a moment fanatical Muslims who have little to distinguish them from murderers could say, like Charlie Hebdo’s killers said as they pulled their AK-47 triggers, that the Prophet Muhammad was avenged.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive And why this massacre in the capital of the Enlightenment? Because Charlie Hebdo made fun of the prophet, and because one of Islam’s innumerably dim-witted edicts prohibits depicting the prophet in any form, let alone in fun. (The Koran, like the Bible, has its fish-and-loaves share of dim-witted edicts, but that prohibition is not among them. It’s barely found in a Hadith or two, and even then only by an obtuse misreading of a prohibition on images of all people, not just Muhammad. The Hadiths are the alleged thoughts and sayings of the prophet which, like St. Paul’s copious blabber, have done more to dogmatize belief than the father, the son and Mohammed put together.)

So just as the Ayatollah Khomeini put a price on Salman Rushdie’s head after the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1989 (Khomeini never read the book, of course: he was busy fishing for distractions from the losing slaughters of the Iran-Iraq war), and just as a price was put on the head of Danish cartoonists after they published a dozen or so cartoons portraying Muhammad as a bit of a buffoon—cartoons Charlie Hebdo reprinted—those French terrorists thought it was their due to execute Charlie Hebdo’s writers and cartoonists over a bunch of funny little drawings.

Before exclusively focusing blame on the terrorists, let’s not forget that it was the French prime minister, Laurent Fabius, and Barack Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, who attacked Charlie Hebdo in September 2012 for supposedly throwing fuel on the fire by publishing cartoons of Muhammad in pornographic poses. The cartoons were meant as a satire of a stupid video of Muhammad’s life made in California that stirred up moronic and deadly protests in the Muslim world and was partly blamed on the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. “We’re a newspaper that respects French law,” Gérard Biard, the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo said at the time. “Now, if there’s a law that is different in Kabul or Riyadh, we’re not going to bother ourselves with respecting it.”

Nor should they. That’s something the more idiotic brand of Islamism (which has nothing to do with mainstream Islam) cannot get into its thick and rather hollow skull. One thing you can be sure of with Islamists, as you can be with any radical ideologues, is that they fear humor as much as they do reason, because they understand neither. They are humor and reason’s anti-matter. In that sense, you can no more blame them than you can blame Jerry Falwell when he blamed the 9/11 attacks on gays and abortionists: idiocy is beyond reason, which makes it so dangerous when armed with a Torah, a Testament or a Koran, or any of the books’ current weapons of choice: the Uzi, the M-16 or the AK-47.

Charlie Hebdo, which happily calls itself journal irresponsable (an irresponsible newspaper) is a cross between Voltaire and Screw, the now-defunct Al Goldstein porno weekly that made it its mission to push the bounds of obscenity every chance it got—not because obscenity is either vice or virtue. It is neither. But because it’s expression, it’s harmless expression at that, and because there is no greater obscenity than for anyone to claim jurisdiction over anyone else’s freedom of expression. Charlie Hebdo is in the business of militantly exercising that freedom in a world too easily cowed by repression posing as sensitivity. But sensitivity to whom? The surrender isn’t limited to Muslims. Whether it’s “Piss Christ,” “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” or Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, those works are nowhere near as offensive as the suffering human beings inflict on each other in the name of those religious figures and symbols.

We should celebrate differences of opinion. We have no duty to embrace differences of principles, and in many cases—and this is one of them—we must oppose them, angrily and militantly if need be.

All forms of expression are not equal. No matter what it draws, whether it’s ridiculing Jews, Christians, Muslims, gays, heterosexuals or bad writers, as it does so often, Charlie Hebdo isn’t hurting anyone. It is merely making us laugh, mostly at ourselves. It isn’t keeping anyone from practicing whatever religion they please in any way they please. It isn’t prohibiting anyone from marrying or not marrying whomever they please. It is simply reveling in its freedom to skewer and laugh. It’s very different from expressing an opinion aimed at dictating or limiting other people’s freedoms. It is very different, for example, from the mass demonstration in Dresden a couple of days ago by Germans opposed to Islamic immigration. The demonstration was also a form of expression, but it sought to limit other people’s freedoms. In France, the right-wing National Front, which has its mutants among America’s tea party Republicans,  is profiting from the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo to beat some of the same faintly Nazified drum against all immigrants, not just Muslims. It’s expression in the service of repression. The editors of Charlie Hebdo would be disgusted.

The cover of 'The Life of Mohammed' special edition of Charlie Hebdo. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The cover of ‘The Life of Mohammed’ special edition of Charlie Hebdo. Click on the image for larger view.

“Every difference of opinion, is not a difference of principle,” Thomas Jefferson said in his first inaugural address. We should celebrate differences of opinion. We have no duty to embrace differences of principles, and in many cases—and this is one of them—we must oppose them, angrily and militantly if need be.

Before boarding the plane to return from Paris two years ago I bought a special issue of the magazine that I have cherished since. It’s a cartoon history of the Prophet Muhammad. The drawings of the prophet and his acolytes are ridiculous, brutal, offensive. I loved it. Not because I condone the message, though it’s not necessarily far off the mark—all religious narratives are in one sense or another fundamentally a lampoon of themselves–but because I love Charlie Hebdo’s right to ridicule.

And today, after that vile massacre of its top staff, I’m proud to reprint some of Charlie Hebdo’s most famous, and most offensive, cartoons. And just as all of France said “We Are All Americans” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, I am proud to say, with all people of conscience everywhere, je suis Charlie.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.


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27 Responses for Standing With Charlie Hebdo:
The Right and Duty to Offend”

  1. Realistic says:

    Well said Pierre.

  2. nomad says:

    My first reaction when I the was “is this a false flag or blowback?” Now that the “terrorists” are white and not Muslim that leaves the false flag question. Two very interesting articles worth reading…

    Just As The Islamic State (ISIL) Gets Exposed As A Fake US Enemy, A “Wag the Dog” Terrorist Attack in Paris?

    Muslim Policeman Died Defending the Right of French Cartoonists to Mock His Religion.

  3. Nikia says:

    2014 was perhaps the most deadly year in recent history for Christians but it was at the hand of Athiests just as much as it was at the hands of another religious entity. We seem to forget that Athiests are guilty of bloodshed too in many places around the world. I have to agree that laughing at ourselves is healthy and not the same as limiting freedom. Je Suis Charlie. Peace be with all.

    • John Smallberries says:

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Name one murder in the entire world done for atheism by an atheist.

      • Anonymous says:

        How about the Cambodian genocide? Will that do you?

        • NortonSmitty says:

          Are you talking about Pol Pot? He was a rabid nutcase pushing a twisted version of Communist/Marxist philosophy. The fact that this included a anti-religious bias was incidental. The main reason he forced Cambodia back to a feudal type of agrarian society was to purge it of Capitalism. The millions he killed were for politics, not for or against religion.

    • Pogo says:

      It’s good to see Jeb, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and the rest of their ilk that worship Ayn Rand’s atheism with the same fervor they usually reserve for tax evasion and war profiteering – profiteering generally – being called to account. That is what you meant – no?

      In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.
      – Anatole France

  4. Donna De Poalo says:

    Thank you for this.

  5. Outsider says:

    Ya know, you just may want to reconsider that whole “Islam is a peaceful religion” thing. I’m not buying it, in part because the Koran advocates much ill will towards non-believers, and the vast majority of armed conflicts around the globe involve Islamic militants trying to force Islam onto others. Those are just the facts.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Ya know, you just may want to reconsider that whole “There is such a thing as a peaceful religion” thing. I’m not buying it,

      • Anonymous says:

        And you are perfectly within your right to believe so, Norton, but I really find it difficult to believe you see no difference between the philosophies of Islam and Christianity, as well as other religions. Sure, you can point out specific bad behavior of particular individuals of any or no religion, but the real issue is what a religion or non-religion espouses as good behavior. We can also debate whether God exists, Jesus was the son of God, Mohammad was the prophet, etc.; many religious people have their own doubts at times, which is why it is called “faith.” The issue of whether God exists or not doesn’t even pertain to this discussion, actually, nor does the behavior of people a thousand, or fifty years ago; the present and future is what will affect every one of us, and that is the point. I’ve attended various churches, from Catholic to Baptist to non-denominational, and I can honestly say I’ve never had anyone say I should hate, enslave, tax, or kill non-whatever-they-weres….never. I have seen people trying to improve their own lives, their marriages, and their behavior by studying the word of God. I have seen people leave on missions of charity to impoverished lands. Now, I know not all Muslims promote violent behavior; there are many who practice the “good” side of Islam which promotes helping the poor and such. The problem is the Koran only advocates this charity towards Muslims. It’s attitude towards non-Muslims is not quite so charitable. They must be either converted, taxed, enslaved, or even killed. If you don’t believe me then go read it. For centuries many “devout” Muslims have continued the carnage right up to the present day, and it’s not a difficult feat to find a cleric or Imam who still preaches this stuff, and no shortage of those willing to comply as evidenced by this attack, beheadings and the general slaughter of both Muslims and non-Muslims alike that occur across the Middle East even as we speak. A greater problem is the increased efficiency with which this is being carried out. You could only kill so many people with a rock, a sword, or a knife, but many more with a Kalishnokov, a backpack full of explosives, or a 767, all attacks which occurred in the name of Islam. With the willingness of so many to die to kill as many “non-believers” as possible, what is going to happen when they get their hands on nuclear weapons? The previous president of Iran was quoted a saying he believed he was made president by Allah so he could bring about Armageddon which, according to Islam, is necessary to cause the return to Earth of the prophet Mohammad. Does anyone recall the Pope calling for the destruction of mankind lately? So, regardless of what our leaders tell us, the fact is Islam is not, in my and many others’ opinions a “peaceful religion.” The facts just don’t bear it out, and there are quite a few Muslims who agree.

        • NortonSmitty says:

          Anonymous, ” I really find it difficult to believe you see no difference between the philosophies of Islam and Christianity,” Lets look at the Holy books of the exalted Three Major Religions then and compare which ones are truly peaceful then. First, verbatim quotes from the Jewish Talmud, where a word you may have heard pertaining to you as a Christians and all non-Jews, Goyim, which means Cattle in Hebrew:

          “It is the law to kill anyone who denies the Torah. The Christians belong to the denying ones of the Torah.”
          Coschen hamischpat 425 Hagah 425. 5
          “The Jews are called human beings, but the non-Jews are not humans. They are beasts.”
          Talmud: Baba mezia, 114b
          “If a Jew has a non-Jewish servant or maid who dies, one should not express sympathy to the Jew. You should tell the Jew: “God will replace ‘your loss’, just as if one of his oxen or asses had died”.”
          Jore dea 377, 1
          Sanhedrin 57a . A Jew need not pay a gentile (“Cuthean”) the wages owed him for work.
          Baba Kamma 113a. Jews may use lies (“subterfuges”) to circumvent a Gentile.
          Yebamoth 98a. All gentile children are animals.

          And the Holy Bible? Surely people who worship the Jesus would be peaceful?

          Chapters 17-19 (17-18-19) tells us that David killed 22,000 Syrians and that Abishai killed 18,000 Edomites. No one expresses shame at such slaughters.
          Here in 20:3, we have David, counted as a great leader of the Israelites, slaughtering captives after the cessation of hostilities. From what high moral ground should we admire this action?
          “And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said unto Moses, ‘Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.'” (Numbers 25:3-4)
          “But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses. The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea: That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.” (Psalms 68:21-23)
          “And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God…” (Deuteronomy 13: 5)
          “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers, thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.” (Deuteronomy 13:8-9)
          “Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.” (Deuteronomy 13:15)

          As far as the obscenities of the Koran, they have been well documented by others everywhere you look for propaganda, designed to build your support to continue our wars and insure we keep spending our young soldiers lives and our own tax dollars in support of Big Oil and Israel and against our own best interests.

          So unless you’re a Buddhist, which is more of a Philosophy than a Religion, STFU about how any one religion promotes Peace between themselves more than another.

          Wake up, Cattle!

  6. stand for Jesus says:

    Atheists don’t kill people? Fidel Castro is an atheist and he has killed many. How can I say he is an atheist? He questions children in primary school or elementary school here and asks them “if your God exists He will bring you a treat to prove He exists.” After children say they give up teachers are instructed to give the children ice cream and they are told God does not exist but Fidel does and he is the one who gave you this treat. Keep fooling yourself that atheists don’t kill people. Maybe you should read a history book in Venezuela. You dont know how good you have it here in America that you can even proclaim that you are atheist.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      So, I guess your point is Hesus and Fidel are equals because neither one of them has ever given either of us free ice cream. Brilliant.
      But let’s get back to the original point, which started out as the fact that Atheists have never killed anyone for their religious beliefs or lack thereof, not that they have never killed. George W. Bush was a self-proclaimed Born Again Christian after he was a drug addicted and drunken wife-beating deserter and he killed over a million by the least of estimates with his illegal wars. But that may be just my point of view.
      But what really frosts my nuts is the way you condescend and tell me how lucky I am for you and your ilk to grant me the privilege of not believing in an Invisible Sky God who watches over us 24/7, knows all our thoughts and deeds and judges us constantly, just like you True Believers. How noble of you.

      Let me tell you something. I fought and bled for the Constitution of this country, the only oath I had to swear. And I’ll be damned if let you tell me how good I have it here because you allow me to value rational thought over 6000 year old superstitions spoon fed to me every Sunday by a phoney, greedy right-wing charlatan behind a veneered pulpit You can strut about how proud you are to Stand for Jesus, but don’t you dare have the nerve to tell ME I have to Bend Over for Him or your congregation either.
      Fuck Jesus. Moses can Blow Me, and Bugger Mohammed. Up his holy ass. With a pork chop!
      By your beliefs, the second I hit the return, the lightning will hit me. I’ll bet I’ll be sitting here after another dink laughing at your dumb ass.

  7. Groot says:

    I agree 100%. People should be able to say what they want to say and express their opinion and it should not be omitted, censored or edited by people who do not agree with their point of view. If we don’t have freedom of press and freedom of inidividual expression (both with a hefty does of humor), then we have what transpired in France recently. Wonderfully said Pierre and as we all move foward in life, I hope we can all practice what we preach! Nice article!

  8. ken says:

    This is a very good article. You are so clear minded an articulate. What a shame that you felt compelled to bring your bias against the Tea Party into this.
    Your sentence about “… mutants among America’s tea party Republicans” diminishes you and this otherwise excellent piece of writing.

    • Brian Riehle says:

      Pierre….Great job …and thanks for publishing the pictures. In spite of all the the hand wringing in the press and the TV networks about “Freedom of the press and freedom of expression”, none of the printed or electronic press in the US has the courage to show the pictures. Really gives new meaning to the terms “cowardice” and “hypocrisy”.

    • Bob Fortier says:

      I agree Ken. Good article until he bashed a political party. SHould have just stuck with the story at hand. Bad enough to bring up religion, but then to extend it to politics was a bit off subject.

  9. David B. says:

    Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Lol

  10. Jim R says:

    We may have freedom of the press but that doesn’t mean Wolf Blitzer and Chris Mathews are going to tell the truth. Their salaries depend on satisfying their corporate masters and not reporting on the Empires crimes. So what good is freedom of the press if all you get is propaganda.

  11. Pierre Tristam says:

    Bob and Ken, your comments remind me of something Zola wrote in his Letter to France in January 1898, which I think applies relevantly to the tea party and further explains why I thought their inclusion in this piece especially important: “The Republic is being invaded by reactionaries of all sorts, they worship it with with brutal and disturbing love, they embrace it to choke it.”

  12. m&m says:

    People blame the killings on radical islums. To me they’re all radical.

  13. Sherry Epley says:

    Great piece Pierre!

    To me, the true definition of freedom includes NOT imposing MY values/morals/God on others. Yes, I certainly express my opinion about those things that I think and feel are distasteful, unethical, biased, etc. But, when I consider that everything is relative, we could not have those things that are positive and uplifting without the negative.

    Often times, when I try to see the evolution of our species in the way a “higher power” would perceive our progress, I am sadly disappointed.

  14. Sherry Epley says:

    Great piece Pierre!

    To me, the true definition of freedom includes NOT imposing MY values/morals/God on others. Yes, I certainly express my opinion about those things that I think and feel are distasteful, unethical, biased, etc. But, when I consider that everything is relative, we could not have those things that are positive and uplifting. . . without the negative.

    Often times, when I try to see the evolution of our species in the way a “higher power” would perceive our progress, I am sadly disappointed.

  15. Lancer says:

    Popular speech doesn’t need protection, unpopular speech does.

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