Answering 16 of the Worst #JeSuisCharlie #CharlieHebdo Memes

7.21.08 Blitt Obama.indd

In response to the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices last week, I have read a number of arguments, claims, and memes that I strongly disagree with.

Instead of writing multiple posts covering them all and having my views on one issue distorted by people who would imagine for me the worst of all possible views on all other interrelated issues, I have decided to post sixteen (mostly short) replies covering many nuances of controversy swirling around. Feel free to jump to the topics of greatest controversy to you, but please if you seek to criticize my views on any one controversy take note of other sections where I might address other objections you have further.

1. “Why are people insisting we show the images? We can stand up for free speech without approving of or republishing images we disagree with.”

2. “Charlie Hebdo’s murdered staff aren’t heroes and martyrs. They were just insulting marginalized people and disrespecting religion.”

3. “Freedom of speech shouldn’t give you the right to insult people’s religions.”

4. “Even if we should honor the legal right to blaspheme, it’s still morally inappropriate for being so disrespectful.”

5. “I refuse to say ‘Je Suis Charlie’ because don’t do the offensive things they do.”

6. “How can you be racists to Muslims if they’re not a race?”

7. “The real heroes are the Muslim cops who died defending Charlie Hebdo even though Charlie Hebdo mocked their religion. Charlie Hebdo by contrast weren’t heroes.”

8. “Almost no Muslims support assaults on conscience so it’s unfair to blame Islam itself for theocracy or terrorism.”

9. “But why is it that if a Muslim commits murder an entire religion is blamed, if a black person does an entire race is blamed, but as soon as it’s a white male he’s just a random ‘psycho’? Blaming Islam for the actions of these terrorists is clearly just racism.”

10. “No True Muslim Would Be A Terrorist.” Or, its evil cousin, “Muslim terrorists are the true Muslims.”

11. “Aren’t the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo generally racist, sexist, and homophobic even when not portraying Muslims?”

12. “Are the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo examples of ‘hipster racism‘”?

13. “All good satire punches up, rather than kicks people who are down. Mocking the marginalized is not funny, it’s kicking people who are already down. It’s one thing for French satirists to go after the Pope (he represents the putative majority religion in France, so that’s punching up) but it’s qualitatively different to go after the founder of a minority religion (that’s punching down).”

14. “But Muslims have no choice but to be offended since their religion requires that there be no depictions of Muhammad.”

15. “Is it racist of the media to pay so much more attention to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo than the Nigerian massacre by Boko Haram and the attempted bombing of an NAACP building?”

16. “If the West truly cared about free expression it would be equally up in arms about all its own human rights abuses.”

[Read more...]

On the Ethics of Teasing and Mocking People, in Groups, in Friendships, and in Debates and Satire

One of the difficulties in working out the civility pledge I co-wrote and signed earlier this year was addressing the use of humor and mockery in disagreements. So let me offer a bunch of points of clarification of the use of humor to persuade. I will focus on antagonistic humor—like teasing people for what they [Read More...]


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