|Today's Front Cover|
Not being a fluent French speaker I can only get the gist of the cartoons I've seen from the magazine and they strike me as being designed to shock and offend, not just the cartoons attacking Islam but those attacking other religions in the magazine too. If cartoons are pithy and make a searing point then that is satire. If they are designed to simply offend then that is not satire but abuse and provocation. Whatever an individual's take on the reasoning for cartoons, the written or spoken word, or film, free speech should be sacrosanct and nobody should be afraid of consequences, especially the evil consequences inflicted on Charlie Hebdo last week.
But let's step back in time a few years. Leading people behind Charlie Hebdo, including 'Charb' Charbonnier who was murdered last week, organised a petition that garnered over 170 000 signatures to have the French National Front banned. This seems at odds with the philosophy that free speech is an inalienable right. You might despise what a party like the National Front stand for, but freedom of speech doesn't include the rider 'as long as I approve'.
Having said that we all know too well how political correctness is undermining free speech. Yesterday in the supermarket I read the front page of The Sun, not my newspaper of choice. It carried the story of former Coronation Street actor Ken Morley being thrown off Celebrity Big Brother for passing on a corny old anecdote that included the word 'negro'. Now forgive me but I'm not sure when the word 'negro' was designated racist, a bit old fashioned maybe, but racist? I'm not comparing being thrown off a dodgy TV show with being murdered in your office but both actions were taken because of the modern day crime of 'causing offence'.
It's interesting that the two British newspapers to show solidarity with Charlie Hebdo yesterday by showing cartoons from the magazine were The Guardian and Independent, not newspapers renowned for supporting free speech but for slavishly following the line of 'free speech, as long as I agree and don't think it offends'. Freedom of speech should be unequivocal, tempered by respect rather than law. Unfortunately the liberal left in Europe demand free speech for themselves, no matter how offensive they want to be, but woebetide anybody who practices free speech that doesn't adhere to their liberal/left agenda.
The left are tediously regular in justifying the curtailment of free speech with the corny old phrase 'free speech doesn't mean you can shout fire in a packed theatre'. Well if you see smoke you should actually.
Maybe putting deliberately offensive and provocative cartoons in a magazine is the liberal left equivalent of shouting fire in a packed theatre. Just a thought.