Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

Charlie Hebdo’s Dance Macabre with Freedom of Speech


Can anyone in these United States imagine… if just as a passing thought… what would happen if Mad or the New Yorker had in their magazine front covers drawings mocking Jewish victims of Hitler’s Holocaust? Would American courts, B’nai B’rith, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League or myriad other Jewish-American political organizations tolerate, much less permit, such effrontery to human dignity in the name of satire, and the all-too-often misinterpreted shield that freedom of speech provides? No, that would not be allowed to occur in the US; and if it did, the consequences as an aftermath would be powerful and swift.

What in the US might be considered overt provocation to a minority of 2 to 3 percent of its population (Jewish), French courts have denied such assignation [Grand Mosque vs. UOIF, 2007] to the outrage of 5 to 10 percent of its population (Muslim). It may seem incongruous to obtain such opposite results from two countries, France and the US, where democracy is claimed to have such a prominent role. However, the answer is rather simple: the Jewish minority in the US, barely one-third the percentage of the Muslim minority in France, possesses an institutional influence in America probably a hundred-fold of that which Muslims have in France. For once, let’s dispense of our blindfolds, and see things the way they are without rancor or prejudice.

Enter Charlie Hebdo!

For Americans, the late Charles Schulz’ iconic comic strip, Peanuts, had characters we can love and identify with; particularly meek, unsure and confidence-lacking Charlie Brown; and also the girl cast from his reverse mold: abrasive, irreverent and streetwise, Lucy van Pelt. As much as Americans loved, and pitied, Charlie, it was Lucy who best represented success, even if at someone else’s expense.

Befitting Charlie Brown’s humble simplicity, it was little wonder that Hara-Kiri, a French magazine of satire banned from publication in 1970 would soon be re-launched as Charlie Hebdo, the name Charlie presumably honoring the character in the comic strip carried by the magazine. Never mind that Hara-Kiri had been banned for mocking the death of President Charles de Gaulle; the last laugh by the publishers who had adopted two Charlies (Brown and de Gaulle) to create one refuge for their political satire.

During its first decade of publication (1960-1970), Hara-Kiri had little financial success, and the name change in the decade which followed would not add any magic for them, closing its doors in 1981. A decade later, Charlie Hebdo would be resurrected (1992) with its satire centering far more in politics than in the aspects of popular culture. The demise of the Soviet Union and upsurge of a “terrorist class” resulting in great part from America’s flagrant and ever-increasing forceful intrusion in Middle East affairs, offered fertile ground for Charlie Hebdo to succeed… although the weekly circulation figure would usually stay below the 50,000 mark.

Now, a week after Al-Qaida (Yemen) took justice, or what they determined to be justice, on its own hands, three million copies of Charlie Hebdo are papering the streets of La Belle France. Financial viability for the publication, perhaps; but a sociopolitical major challenge as to how France responds from both Muslim and non-Muslim quarters! “Je suis Charlie” may have become an angry, symbolic response to what we in the West view as abhorrent terrorism… without taking the time and effort to analyze the birth and reason for such terrorism, and the hand we may have in its propagation.

No, we Americans are not Charlie; and most would not wish to appear center stage in Paris and be accused of first-degree hypocrisy. Many world leaders who did show up to fraternize and march in solidarity alongside France’s François Hollande could easily be taken to task on human rights, freedom of speech, war crimes or, at the very least, be branded as followers of America’s “nouveau-warmongering” (war via sanctions).

In her trimestral-fresh capacity as ambassador to France (and Monaco), Jane Hartley, was more than adequate to represent the Lucy in us. Let’s be reasonable: President Obama was still decompressing from his holiday in Hawaii, while America’s high profile diplomat, and French speaker (a language he learned during summer vacations in France as a child… Vive la élite americaine!), Secretary of State John Kerry, had an important engagement with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the “I” in BRICS ménage-a-cinq. But worry not, Kerry will be making nice with Hollande this week.

No, we Americans are not Charlie… ask the Russians; sanctions-givers brandishing a Lucy attitude, that we certainly are.

[Charlie… nous? Jamais de la vie! Nous sommes tous Lucy: la justice americaine.]

© 2015 Ben Tanosborn

blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe via RSS or Email:

MESA; Arab NATO-like Alliance

The major media outlets had to...

Read More

A Tale of Two Massacres

On the morning of 28 October 2...

Read More

The Climate Crisis Is Back In the News

The prospect of drastic climat...

Read More

International Hypocrisy

By now all international media...

Read More

Israel’s ‘Psychological Obstacles to Peace’

There is a difference between ...

Read More

Enemy of Our Future

If you look up the meaning of ...

Read More

Most Read Articles

Most Read News


Thanks to all of our supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press!

Enter Amount:



Login reminder Forgot login?


Subscribe to MWC News Alert

Email Address

Subscribe in a reader Facebok page Twitter page

Israel pounds Gaza

India's Kerala state devastated

Capturing life under apartheid