When Islamist terrorists barged into the offices of the French satirical magazine Charles Hebdo in Paris and murdered 12 people — editors, writers, an economist, a security guard, even the policeman on the sidewalk outside — they wanted to hurt people for what they wrote and the cartoons they drew.
The slogan “The pen is mightier than the sword” is often spoken in a kind of aspirational sense, without too much attention paid to whether it is true or false… But in the days that followed the killings in Paris we have seen thousands upon thousands gather all around the world, in an expression of sorrow and support for the dead journalists.
Thousands, millions of us are gathering, raising pens above our heads and saying, no.
You do not touch the fool. The fool is sacred.
The fool is dead. Long live the fool.
Our Old New Way group sent a bunch of emails back and forth yesterday, as we tried to come to grips with what happened in France. Here they are:
There are those events that seem like something remote… but then you realize they are something else too. Something personal.
The killing of 12 journalists in Paris (11 of them editors and writers and employees of a satirical magazine, 1 an economist and journalist who happened to be visiting) is, for me, one of those events.
Satire goes to the core of civilization. To be able to question, to mock, even to insult, the verities and taboos of your time, is a crucial aspect of being alive. It has a rich tradition. Voltaire. Swift. All the way to Aristophanes. (And surely back to our beloved prehistory.) This is how people call out hypocrisy. This is how people say no to false certainties.
I AM CHARLIE.
Look at the images below in the email forwarded to me by Florence. I love this magazine. I don’t need to agree with it. I love it. There is a difference.
Tonight at the French consulate in San Francisco there will be a gathering in support of this magazine and the brave, and regular, just-like-you, just-like-me people who died.
I’m going. Trying to arrange babysitter now (Coley is at Board Meeting). Flo is going. Anybody else?
Salut cher Amis,
L’année démarre avec un grand coup porté par les cons sur les drôles à neurones. J’ai un peu le moral en berne, une occasion de rire et de réfléchir qui s’envole.
J’ai du mal à savoir si je leur en veux plus d’avoir fermer un robinet à rire et à mauvais esprit ou si c’est pour leur manque de courage et d’intelligence.
Pourvu que le stylo reprenne rapidement le pas sur les balles! Ce serait la meilleure réponse à faire à ces cons.
Raphaelle wrote in response:
I would love to join – will be with you in my thoughts.
Have been tearing up all day.
Not only were they amazing artists, they were icons of our country and what it stands for. We will miss those voices dearly.
Yet, we will not be defeated. We will stand for freedom of expression, liberty and justice.
We will not blame all Islam for this, as it’s less than 2% of extremists who are, as we are now unfortunately used to, the visible & harmful face of an Islam we don’t want – neither the 98% of moderate or liberal Muslims or the rest of us.
We will hopefully find those responsible, bring them to justice and make sure they serve full sentences without possibility of parole.
This is what Charb, Cabu, Wolinski and their colleagues would have wanted.
Setenay sent a link to an article about a Turkish satirical magazine:
As someone who grew up in Turkey which has a very strong satirical magazine tradition I’m appalled and immensely saddened. The below article appeared in today’s Hurriyet Daily News before the incident and I read it with nostalgia, pride, and warm thoughts. How ironic!
I wish I could come. Too last minute to organize kids etc.
I will be there in spirit with you all.
I am so glad you are all going.
Yet again… I can’t understand… In shock.
So sorry to miss it tonight; we had lots of intense discussion at the dinner table about the importance of satire in a healthy democracy, and fears about a backlash from the right over this.
Charles Hebdo seems like a cross between Mad magazine and John Stewart….priceless.
I am with you in spirit. The pen will not be silenced!
I heard it on BBC news just a little while ago!
Shocking and sad.
With you in spirit and conviction. The world must learn tolerance and acceptance of diversity
Of thought as well as how one appears and speaks! words And deeds
Will leave lasting impressions on our souls.
Stay well and in peace.
This photo was taken from Phil’s newsroom of Agence France-Presse.
It was one of the front page photo series used in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/uk
This is an emotional time for all and especially for journalists.
This cowardly act of terrorism target editors, journalists, cartoonists of political satire and all of us who wish to openly discuss issues, seek truth and hold sacred our right to the freedom of speech.
Thank you. I really enjoyed Wolinski and Cabu (his “Beauf” and “Grand Duduche” characters will be so missed in the Wednesday edition of “Le Canard Enchaîné”) , and even Charb’s caricatures.
They were even more representative of what makes French culture and humor unique, more so than Tintin and Asterix’s authors, because they were subversive, terribly incorrect, revolutionary, and terribly funny.
Honestly, it can compare to having Doonesbury, Charles Schultz, the New Yorker’s most famous caricaturist, all slaughtered on the same day.
A video of the former head of the newspaper : http://www.franceinfo.fr/actu/faits-divers/article/philippe-val-l-ancien-directeur-de-charlie-hebdo-vient-d-exterminer-une-facon-de-parler-628167
Thank you Phil and your colleagues!
I remember where I met Charlie Hebdo the first time, in the home of my lefty activist aunt. A pile of magazines was sitting where it belonged. In the toilet.
Last time I visited her 40+ years later, they were still there.
Charlie survived Coluche, Devos, Prévost, Le Luron and so many who demonstrated that nothing and no-one was immune from la “fauche à rire” and least amongst them religion, politic and those who represent them so well. Like Camus before them, they went on to demonstrate that it is not the ridicule that should be ridiculed, but the absurd, and as tragic as these events are, remember how absurd they are by the very reaction they generate in us.
Charlie will survive Charlie.
Thanks for your kind words Etienne.
This cowardly attack touches on something primordial in our culture that is to be cherished and nurtured. I am talking about the right to laugh, poke fun, mock and ridicule. Our society needs the naughty boy at the back of the class throwing bottles and asking difficult questions without fear of reprisals.
We take these values for granted sometimes. I am extremely proud of the work we do here at Agence France Presse, but I am also painfully aware I have also lost two people working for me in the past year to the same bigoted thugs who attacked Charlie Hebo.
Nous Sommes Tous Charlie – it sounds a simplistic social media catchphrase, but in fact it touches beautifully on the core issue. If our society does not believe in the idea, we are surrendering to the hatred.