A week ago the Paris correspondent of Time, Bruce Crumley, wrote an article on the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo, saying…that we journalists and beneficiaries of free speech stand shoulder to shoulder with Charlie Hebdo?
No actually. Not that. Something different.
Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts
by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?
Oh gee, I don’t know. I ask myself the same question whenever I have the audacity to write something and then go ahead and click “Publish” so that it appears online. Surely I’m just begging for the very misogynist responses from misogynists that I claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. Amirite? I tempt belligerent reaction several times every day. What do I think I’m doing!?! What does anyone think she’s doing by writing down what she thinks about something when she knows full well that someone somewhere could disagree with it and be tempted into belligerent reaction?! It’s such a petulant, futile thing to do, to say something that somebody might dislike.
The difficulty in answering that question is also what’s making it hard to have
much sympathy for the French satirical newspaper firebombed this morning, after it published another stupid and totally unnecessary edition mocking Islam. The Wednesday morning arson attack destroyed the Paris editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo after the paper published an issue certain to enrage hard-core Islamists (and offend average Muslims) with articles and “funny” cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed—depictions forbidden in Islam to boot.
Stupid and totally unnecessary – so is it Forbidden to publish anything that’s not necessary now? And what are the criteria for “necessary”? And is the fact that something is certain to enrage hard-core Islamists a good reason not to do it? Women going out in public is also certain to enrage hard-core Islamists; should they therefore stay at home? And is “forbidden in Islam” a good reason for the whole world to not do something? Charlie Hebdo isn’t in Islam, so why should it care what is forbidden in Islam? The prohibitions of religions don’t apply to people who don’t adhere to the religions, after all. I know this is old news, as well as obvious, but this Crumley fella seems to have missed the memo.
We, by contrast, have another reaction to the firebombing: Sorry for your loss,
Charlie, and there’s no justification of such an illegitimate response
to your current edition. But do you still think the price you paid for
printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the
logic of “because we can” was so worthwhile? If so, good luck with those
charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring.
Oh good god, what a horrible brainless thug. He’s right up there with Brendan O’Neill. Sorry for your loss, he says sneeringly, and there’s no justification but all the same I will tell you how very bad and wrong you are – you the one who just had your offices and equipment destroyed. It was offensive and shameful so nyah nyah good luck with the charcoal.
…rather than issuing warnings to be careful about what one asks for, the arson
prompted political leaders and pundits across the board to denounce the arson as an attack on freedom of speech, liberty of expression, and other rights central to French and other Western societies.
Oh jeezis mary and joseph, the guy is a journalist and he said that – he wants political leaders and pundits issuing warnings to be careful about what one “asks for” by writing or drawing cartoons! He wants them to do that instead of defending freedom of speech!
In 2007, Charlie Hebdo re-published the infamous (and, let’s face it,
just plain lame) Mohammed caricatures initially printed in 2005 by Danish paper Jyllands-Posten. As intended, those produced outrage–and at times violent reaction–from Muslims around the world (not to mention repeated terror plots to kill illustrators responsible for the drawings). Apart from unconvincing claims of exercising free speech in Western nations where that right no longer needs to be proved, it’s unclear what the objectives of the caricatures were other than to offend Muslims—and provoke hysteria among extremists.
He says the caricatures were intended to produce outrage and violent reaction, and terror plots to kill the very cartoonists who apparently intended all this. He attacks the very idea of free speech in the act of informing us that it no longer needs to be “proved” – well with people like him around it sure as hell does.
…it’s just evident members of those same free societies have to exercise a
minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their
rights and liberties—and that isn’t happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble
statement by gratuitously pissing people off.
A minimum of calculation. We’re allowed to have free speech but we have to exercise a minimum of calculation before we actually use it – so we’re not actually allowed to have it at all. “Let’s see, will this cause Islamists to blow us up? Will this cause misogynists to threaten to rape me? Hmmmmm yes maybe; I’ll just go get drunk, instead.” There’s your free speech.
Excellent post, Ophelia.
Saikat Biswas says
The prohibitions of religions don’t apply to people who don’t adhere to the religions, after all.
Keep saying that. Loudly. Repeatedly.
Seems to me that violent reactions to free speech should be put down by the sect responsible for them, and the free speech should continue again and again until the violent reactions are no longer seen as tolerable.
Great post. I’ll never understand why someone can’t tell the difference between some printed words and pictures and… you know, bombs.
I think we can tell that the writer of that smug little diatribe is so used to always being on the upside of every form of privilege and bias that he cannot grasp what it might be like to be on the downside.
Here’s my favorite part:
Uhhh… except apparently it does need to be proved? Because people in those Western nations are still getting firebombed for exercising that right?
What at annoying git. Based on what he wrote, I guess we could feel fully justified, and wouldn’t expect any complaints if we were to firebomb his apartment…or wherever it is he’s writing his blog.
At the very least, melt his computer.
Do I need a disclaimer?
Another hack, in a whole nother era, put it rather well in the words of some deranged Prince or other. Four hundred years later, I can’t quite remember but IIRC it was something to do with Time being out of a joint? This Bruce hack is not, apparently. But he should be careful with his lighter …
Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto says
I wonder how long it will be before some male supremacist comes by saying that you’re being inconsistent by supporting the free speech of Charlie Hebdo, but condemning and
trying to stoppersecute those using hate speechrude language against women.
To qualify my conclusion as to Mr Crumley’s inferred state of sobriety or otherwise, let me just point out his glaring jump from “lame” cartoons to the obvious violently inflammatory nature of same and trying to blame those who distribute such free speech for the criminal acts of religious lunatics. (Sorry for the partial redundancy.)
Personally, I am outraged over those idiots attempt to quash our hard-won liberties, axe and Molotovs in hand, but even more so over this and other fool helping them vandalise this world.
TIME, go get a LIFE! At least, hire a competent editor and invest in red pencil for same.
Ophelia Benson says
Oh I know, that’s a sure bet. But just as with the right to be pseudonymous on the intertoobz, I’m not talking about an absolute. I don’t think free speech is or should be an absolute; I think details and circumstances are relevant. I think criticism (including mockery) of religious ideas should be wide open. I think identity epithets should be subject to fierce social opprobrium. We already have that situation with racial epithets, to a considerable extent. Gender epithets, not so much.
These Charlie Hebdo covers aren’t “Islamophobic antics”. There are no signs irrational fear of an imminent Muslim take-over here. I say it even shows a lack of fear.
Didn’t take this guy long to drag ‘islamophobia’ into it. I don’t see where satirizing islam is ‘islamophobia’ but satirizing anything else is, well you know, just satire.
And as jtradke points out above, freedom of speech is (always) in danger and needs to be exercised, otherwise it stops being free.
Ms. Benson —
Not to be difficult, nor to parse your words too nicely, but I should think that Muslim and Christian and Jew are certainly “identities”, for a great many. If you believe that race, gender, gender orientation, physical appearance, geography, political leanings, etc., are either more worthwhile or more socially strictured identities, fair enough. And if you feel that some of these others have less choice to them, well, not only is that a slippery slope, but I rather suspect your average Palestinian or Iranian teen (or Arkansas or Georgia teen, for that matter) doesn’t think there’s much choice to their religiosity. Because it’s an identity for all around them.
I side with Charlie Hebdo and you, but to suggest that Islam is less of an identity than woman or gay or black, then either you are being a tad unfair to those raised under its burkhas, or else that womanhood, homosexuality, and race ought be subject to mockery too.
With all good cheer, please tear me a new asshole and explain the difference. You and Ms. McCreight and Ms. Watson and Ms. Marcotte and Ms. Spaulding and Ms. Doyle have done a lot to illuminate men like me. And your not getting firebombed is a very good thing. I look forward to more of your not getting so. And I wish you wouldn’t get e-firebombed so regularly and viciously. I’m just not sure atheism confers a special protection on making fun of others.
David Leech says
Well after a few days at work I was going to continue our discussion on FREE SPEECH with my new found blockquote abilities But after this post I don’t think I need bother:-)
Who where all the other people you where commentating about the other day as the only person to respond to my post was P Z Myers?
Blathering on,by way of clarification of my point: I do understand that women and gays and blacks are satirized constantly in America, much of it unwittingly, part of our corrosive social presumptions. Accordingly, had it been a Turkish or Iranian or Arabic publication speaking out, and getting trounced, I’d have agreed with you wholeheartedly. They wouldbe your equivalent in a world of misogyny, The Advocate’s equivalent in a world of homophobia, AngryBlackBitch’s equivalent in a world of racism.
But for an upscale French publication to make fun of its poorest and most disenfranchised citizens is qualitatively different. That’s closer to an American MRA site making fun of women, or the Freepers making fun of Mexicans. There’s a power inequivalency.
Ought the mocked respond with potentially deadly violence? Of course not. But to suggest “you stupid Muslims deserve mockery, my preferred disenfranchised cohorts do not” is better left to those brave enough to do so in a Muslim environment.
Which Upper Middle Class France is not.
Mark Fournier says
The difference, anbheal, is that race, gender, or sexual orientations are not choices, which is what makes them identities. Ideology or religion is a choice. If I claim that being an abusive sexist asshole is my “identity”, does that make me immune to criticism? No, others would, quite rightly, tell me to grow up and learn to change my ways. The problem with identity politics is that a lot of people are now casting personal opinion as being beyond challenge, simply by insisting “Well, that’s who I am!” Yes, it is tragically obvious that that is who they are, but if this so called identity involves being a asshole, might we suggest that they learn to stop being assholes? Or have we completely given up on the idea that people might actually be capable of learning something?
Ophelia Benson says
anbheal, well I agree with you that religion can be and often is an identity as well as a system of ideas. Reading about stereotype threat has persuaded me that that fact is more salient than I had perhaps realized. (“Perhaps” because I’m not really sure how much of a change it is.)
But it is also a system of ideas, and a peculiarly coercive one. Religion has a special kind of moral authority, and since most of its ideas are shit, that creates real dangers. That’s some of why religion has to be wide-open to criticism and (yes) mockery.
Notice that you said Charlie H was “making fun of its poorest and most disenfranchised citizens.” No it wasn’t – it was making fun of Islamism and sharia. It’s a big mistake to conflate the two.
Ophelia Benson says
David Leech, I can’t make head or tail of your question. What?
My apologies, I missed the subtle political anti-shar’ia and anti-Islamacist characteristics of the Charlie Hebdo cover. Actually, my apologies, that was snarkie. (You baited me, what can I do?)
But, in the interest of jiu-jitsu polemics, may I inquire how sexism and homophobia and racism are not coercive?
Be gentle, please, you’re dealing with an ally here. But seriously….shall we flaunt our certainties among those who haven’t been granted the privilege of learning them?
Ophelia Benson says
I baited you?! How did I bait you? I thought I gave you a perfectly civil answer.
Ophelia Benson says
And why are you asking me how sexism and homophobia and racism are not coercive? I’ve never said they weren’t – I wouldn’t dream of it.
I’m completely lost. But I’m off for the day, so whatever.
I know Ophelia already weighed in on your earlier question, but just thought I’d offer my 2 cents regardless.
For me, I see the conflation of religious identity with gender/race identity as a kind of category error. Gender and race identity are about our perceptions of who we are and how we fit into the world around us.
Religious identity on the other hand, seems more similar to political identity, and has to do with how the world around us works or should work. It is more about what we see as right and wrong. About how we want things to be. It is how we make sense of the world rather than our place in that world. The focus is primarily external.
We don’t treat all “identities” as equally sacrosanct. We don’t give special privilege to those who identify as “White Sox fans”, or “Arsenal supporters”. We feel free to poke fun at “Tories” or “Libertarians” or “Monster Raving Loonies”. While each of these can be identities, we generally recognize that these are all based on opinions and beliefs about things other than ourselves.
Most people have no trouble with political cartoons, even the truly viciously mocking variety. They ignore them, or complain about them, or laugh at them, but can you recall anyone using one as a justification for something this atrocious?
Saying that religion should be exempt (on any grounds) from this kind of criticism/mockery is another example of the undeserved reverence it enjoys.
Tim Martin says
This is an excellent response. This is exactly what I tell people to defend the idea of burning a book that one doesn’t like – to make the point that we have the right to do it, and until there is no threat of people being harmed for doing it, or losing their jobs, then it should be done.
I did have to think about this one before I came up with an answer. I would say the difference is that Ophelia thinks we should have the right to criticize religion or say horrible things about people’s genders or races, but that doesn’t mean we cannot criticize people for saying those horrible things. Dissing Islam is not, on the face of it, a horrible thing. But if you think it is, feel free to say so. The point is we all have the right to say what we think. And others have the right to judge us for it. But we do not have the right to bomb people for it.
Excellent summary, thanks. And I agree that religious identity and political identity are coupled, and that WHEN COUPLED IN THE MAJORITY OPPRESSIVE HIERARCHY (don’t know how to italicize fonts here, so I’m not “shouting”), they are equally odious in their inevitable intent to dominate.
I just sense that there’s a cavalier dismissal in several of these threads of the mutifarious ways in which people are acculturated. It is an extremely common thread among liberal blogs (by the way, I’m left of Mao, an anarcho-syndicalist working with peasant cooperatives)to assert, over and over, that the offendee knowsbetter than the offender as to what constitutes offensive. FoxNews says it’s not racist to portray Obama as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose, or an orangutan scratching his armpits. They are not the best judge.
Do you see where I’m going with this? One should be extremely cautious in apportioning whose hurt feelings are legitimate, especially if one lives in acountry or culture where the people whose feelings are hurt are viewed as sub-human.
Rich Christian white male hets in Dixie? Have at ’em! French Muslims? Give it more thought.
Saikat Biswas says
Rich Christian white male hets in Dixie? Have at ‘em! French Muslims? Give it more thought.
What about Saudi Arabian Muslims? I don’t suppose they are viewed as sub-humans in their own country. Would their hurt feelings be legitimate? Would it be agreeable if cartoons satirizing Islam were published in Riyadh? Because that seems such an obvious possibility.
Adding to what Tim Martin (#24) had already said,
Free speech also has its outer limits, too. There’s some grey area on the periphery, but there are a lot of things that are generally held to be outside the lines. You would not find many who say that lying is, or should be, protected speech. Nor would many people think it extends to making plausible threats of physical or sexual violence against another person. And only the psychopathic believe it should extend to exacting vengeance on someone who has offended you.
If someone on Pharyngula told me to shove a dead porcupine up my ass, I don’t worry that I will suddenly feel compelled to act on their helpful suggestion. And I certainly don’t worry that someone else will feel entitled to do so on my behalf, without my consent.
If someone tells me they wish they could beat me to within an inch of my life, and go into excruciating detail about how they’d do it, I think I might be a little more on edge about it. Especially if it comes many times from the same person, with the kind of obsessive routine one can reasonably expect from potentially dangerous individuals. There’s a bit of a difference between vitriolic derision and personal threats.
If someone tells me I deserve to be treated differently because I was born this way or that, or because I choose to participate in something that has absolutely no measurably negative impact on those around me, they are certainly allowed to say they believe so, but they do not have the right to act against me because of those beliefs. And because such action is often preceded by these kinds of expressions, I choose to contradict their assertions and tell them not only are they wrong, but I also have the enviable position of being able to tell them WHY they are wrong and why they should not say such things.
And if they choose to say these things in a place that I control, that I own, that I am solely responsible for tending to and maintaining, I also have every right to invite them to leave and spread their filth elsewhere, or not at all.
#26 — yes, precisely.
And, not to belabor the obvious, but it was published in France. Which is a considerable distance, in many ways, from Riyadh. So if a Nigerian political magazine portrays the ruling class as dumb chimps, well, that’s one thing. But what if they portray persecuted minority atheists whom their major party politicians villainize as the same?
Saikat Biswas says
@28 – So no Muslim would object if such cartoons are published in Riyadh?
I’m not so sure that this difference is how things actually work. Yes, it’s true that religion has to do with what we see as right and wrong, and how we want things to be. But does this necessarily mean that the focus is primarily external?
I’m a secular humanist. While that’s not a religion, and I would tend to call it a worldview, it still has a lot to do with my perception of who I am, and how I fit into the world. I’m not so sure that’s a primary aspect of it, but I don’t think it’s secondary either.
In terms of things like sexual orientation, my secular humanism frankly seems more important and a bigger part of how I see myself and who I am than my bisexuality does. I’m not sure if that’s relevant, though.
Does this mean that my secular humanist views should be immune from criticism? Absolutely not. On the other hand, I’m not sure that bisexual behavior should be immune to criticism either. Sure, it’s innate, but so is psychopathy (that’s my understanding anyway; I’m sure I’ll get told if I’m wrong). And I certainly hope I can criticize psychopathic behavior.
They absolutely are. And we make fun of those things.
I haven’t read the magazine, so, I’d be glad to shown where instead of mocking Islamism it made fun of French Muslims as a class.
And BTW, no way in hell did Ophelia “bait” you.
#31 — are you a French Muslim? Or are you just ready to be glad at their distress?
As for baiting, well, that’s also in the eye of the baitee, sometimes. Ahem, point chasing point’s tail.
Finally, have you paused consider that FoxNews does NOT make fun of Christianity, heterosexuality, wealth, pale skin, etc.? It DOES make fun of Muslims.
You make fun of FoxNews, and those it does not make fun of. You also make fun of Muslims. I translate most of the thread here as: They are too stupid to realize how stupid it is that they are offended by a ruling French elite class attempt to make fun of them. My saying that you oughtn’t be too quick to judge offends your sensibilities? On behalf of French Muslims, for whom I do not to pretend to speak, forgive me.
And noted, that you didn’t read the article. Neither did I. We were referring to the cover. If I lived in a country where everyone was out to dehumanize people like me, such as, oh, I dunno, Sarkozy’s and LePen’s France, I might find the cover cartoon less than reassuring. Sorta like a Palin website with a rifle scope target of Gabrielle Giffords face on it.
Why would you assume either of those things (which you intriguingly phrased as a false dilemma)?
I do not, and I haven’t seen anyone here do that.
Your translator is broken.
The cover is of “Charlie Hebdo” kissing Mohammed. It makes fun of a religious idea (that depicting Mohammed is forbidden–to everyone, not just Muslims) and a reality (that there are violent Islamists who will attack people for saying stuff they don’t like or for disregarding the abovementioned stricture of Islam).
That does not “translate” to “Muslims are less than people” or “all Muslims are stupid and/or violent”.
What the hell are you talking about?
I’m not judging ordinary Muslims whose feelings might be hurt by people making fun of Mohammed, I just disagree with them. I do judge the people who firebombed Charlie Hebdo.
No, they’re allowed to be offended. It’s stupid to show your dissent by tossing a firebomb into a building and reinforcing a negative stereotype. It’s no different from about a year ago when someone set fire to a mosque in Tennessee. People are allowed to air their grievances, we don’t mind protest, but you’ll be hard pressed to find people here who would condone the intentional destruction of property as a legitimate recourse.
The cover was a drawing of Muhammad saying, “100 lashings if you don’t die from laughing!” I still fail to see how this singles out French Muslims, aside from the fact that Muhammad is speaking in French.
Because subtle implications of violence are exactly the same as a cartoon mocking prescriptions for corporal punishment. How dehumanizing, to satirize such absurd violence. I think you might be overreaching just a tad.
Poo-flinging monkeys, anyone?
Jurjen S. says
Bloody hell, talk about blaming the victim. I love his doublespeak of “there’s no justification of such an illegitimate response, but” whereupon he proceeds to, for all practical purposes, justify that very response.
I think everybody should just keep their petrol bombs in their pants. Right next to their cigarette lighters.
Svlad Cjelli says
I feel angry! So now it’s your fault if I kill you. 😀
Well said, Stacy at 33
The satiric cover isn’t calling all Muslims stupid. No one in this thread has either. As Stacy said, it mocks the idea that non-followers of a faith should follow the dogma of something they do not believe is true. I do not follow Islam, I have no reason not to draw Mo. The fact that some Muslims will respond violently to depictions of Mo needs to be criticized as unacceptable.
I don’t like to offend people without reason, but I am more concerned with fighting oppression than with making nice and never stepping on peoples’ toes.
Wow! Sounds familiar from my schoolyard days. “He must have done *something* to anger the bully. I mean, this sort of behavior isn’t excusable, but why should I step in for someone who provokes the guy?”
There’s shades of “She was asking for it” in this, too.
It’s easy for someone who’s always on the nice end of society to resort to blaming the victim. This guy shows all the hallmarks of habitually writing things that favor the party and religion in power.