More than two dozen writers including Junot Díaz, Joyce Carol Oates and Lorrie Moore have joined a protest against a freedom of expression award for Charlie Hebdo, signing a letter taking issue with what they see as a “reward” for the magazine’s controversial cartoons.
A protest. A fucking protest against giving an award to a strongly anti-racist and left wing magazine because they think in their ignorance that it’s racist.
In their letter the writers protest against the award from PEN America, the prominent literary organization of which most of the signatories are members, accusing the French satirical magazine of mocking a “section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized”.
That’s an ignorant uninformed mistaken accusation.
“There is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression,” the letter reads.
“The magazine seems to be entirely sincere in its anarchic expressions of disdain toward organized religion. But in an unequal society, equal opportunity offense does not have an equal effect.
“Power and prestige are elements that must be recognized in considering almost any form of discourse, including satire.”
The writers go on to say that to the certain segments of French society – “a population that is shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises, and that contains a large percentage of devout Muslims” – Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the prophet “must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering”.
Must be? Must be? Must according to whom?
In a statement, PEN said it will hold a “public dialogue” on Tuesday at New York University, with a panel that will include an NYU professor, PEN’s executive director and two Charlie Hebdo staffers.
Novelist Salman Rushdie, who hid for years after Iran’s highest religious leader issued a fatwa against him, upbraided his peers. On Twitter, Rushdie called the six other writers “just six pussies. Six Authors in Search of a bit of Character.” (He later said he should not have reused the word “pussies” from another’s tweet.) Ina letter to PEN, he accused them of having “made themselves the fellow travellers” of extremists who seek to censor writers “into a cowed silence”.
I’m sure he’ll be delighted that 29 more Soft-heads have joined the pioneer six.
Journalist Amitava Kumar, a signatory to the letter, told the Guardian that he knows “a bunch of overdressed writers in a large room getting up to applaud or, for that matter, not applaud an award isn’t going to change much in the world. Not the number of people getting killed by drones, or getting drowned in the Mediterranean, or dying at the hands of the police in the US.
“That said, one of the things that folks like Salman Rushdie taught me when I was coming of age as a writer was that you have to take sides. On the Charlie Hebdo question, I wish I had the triumphant certainty of those who are all gung-ho about the award. I mean, fuck the killers who gunned down the cartoonists.
“But as I think of the wars unleashed upon whole peoples and the brutal realities of occupation as well as theocratic rule in the Middle East, you have to ask yourself if one shouldn’t instead be championing those who see the greater violence and who rebel against our own cravenness and our complicities.”
What utter garbage. Don’t give Charlie Hebdo an award because of wars unleashed upon whole peoples and the brutal realities of occupation as well as theocratic rule in the Middle East – what sense does that make??
Philip Gourevitch, a staff writer for the New Yorker and PEN host, said he thought the protest ill-founded and part of a debate that had “lost track of the reality of how Charlie Hebdo functioned in French society.” He said that in France, the paper “was not seen as a racist paper or as an enforcer to the French establishment hegemony.”
“The real test of support for free speech is not whether it’s speech that you approve of,” Gourevitch said, noting the magazine’s “puerile, gross, often offensive” style. “It’s whether it’s speech that has faced a crushing threat.”
He said he finds it “very sad” that the protest “seems now to be turning into a broader rift that’s very reminiscent of the way that some people basically said Salman Rushdie shouldn’t be killed, but he never should’ve written the Satanic Verses.”
Well at least we’ll know who the assholes are.