Before I get to the main point of this blog post, I want to establish something. I like so many others, found the events that took place in Paris a few weeks ago shocking, and I do not condone any form of violence or hate crime, there’s always another way of resolving things.
‘Freedom of Speech’
A phrase that has been repeated in news articles, blog posts, tweets, and A-listers’ mouths the world over, and made particularly poignant with this particular news event.
But how free are we in what we say?
If there is one thing that this news story has revealed, it’s the double-standards we tend to accept without really questioning them. As I said before, the repetition of ‘freedom of speech’ and our right to express our opinions has been reinforced, with enormous meet-ups around the world where people have held up pens, global leaders joining together to ‘stand against the terrorist’. That’s all well and good, and I do support them in that, but let is just think about what caused this in the first place.
Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon satirising the Prophet Mohammad, something the magazine have done more than once before, inspiring marches against them in 2006 and an attack in 2011. Like I said before, I DO NOT condone any of these events, but at the same time, I don’t agree with a publication publishing something that already has inspired a great deal of controversy. Yes, I understand it’s a satirical magazine, and yes it’s likely to ruffle a few feathers, but surely there are limits as to how extremely one ruffles another person’s feathers?
Controversially, one could argue that organisations such as ISIS, the EDL, Boko Haram and Westboro Baptist Church are all equally entitled to ‘Freedom of Speech’, though they tend to horrify, outrage and offend a LOT of people across all faiths with their propaganda (and more), they still withhold the right to share it. Something the world media appears to have used to defend the actions of Charlie Hebdo.
As I write this I’m watching ‘The Last Leg’, who are talking about many other examples of absolutely stupid uses of ‘freedom of speech’, like David Starkey who suggested nothing ‘significant’ has been written in Arabic for years, or Rupert Murdoch who tweeted that all Muslims must be held accountable for the acts of terrorists. All brought on by the events in Paris last week and all stirring even more outrage.
What does all that say about us as a society?
Does it mean that we’re allowed ‘freedom of speech’, but only when it conforms to our global ideology, meaning it’s perfectly acceptable to continually satirise, offend, alienate and stereotype a certain faith because it is ‘just satire’, and then quickly attack others, who are technically utilising their own ‘freedom of speech’, because are saying things that we as a society don’t agree with.
After everything that has gone on these past few weeks, how does Charlie Hebdo respond? By publishing yet another cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with the caption ‘All is forgiven’ next to it and distributing copies of the magazine worldwide, causing a flurry of desperation to buy the magazine and ‘show support’ on one side of the world, and mass protests and rioting against the publication on another.
All this to support…
A disregard for tolerance?
Is that what ‘Je Suis Charlie’ has taught the world?
Maybe for some, but for me, it has highlighted the fact that there is a very fine line between having the right to express our opinions freely, and simply publishing unadulterated, offensive, provocative material.