I was, and I remain, indignant at the Islamist attack on Charlie Hebdo. It was a criminal outrage. An obscenity.
I’m moved by the defiant statement attributed to the magazine’s publisher, Stephane Charbonnier, who, with others of his colleagues, was murdered earlier this week: “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” (The statement actually goes back at least to Emiliano Zapata, and maybe even to the classical Greek playwright Euripides.)
I believe in freedom of speech and of the press.
But, now that some time has passed and the murderers have been dispatched to their eternal reward, I also want this on record and understood:
Charlie Hebdo can be, and often is, crude, juvenile, contemptible, vulgar, insulting, and vile. I’ve seen it a few times on the stands in Paris, and I don’t like it at all. It goes out of its way to offend and to trample upon the sensibilities of (among others) religious believers, and not only Muslims. I would never subscribe to it, I would never myself publish anything remotely like the mean-spirited and offensive material in which it trafficks, and I would be perfectly happy if it were to go bankrupt. Just not right now. Right now, I myself would buy a copy. I probably wouldn’t read it, but I would buy it.
People have a right to be wrong. They have a right, within very broad limits, to be crude, juvenile, irritating, and disrespectful. I don’t approve of such behavior, but I also don’t want to live in a tyrannical society in which an oppressive government — whether theocratic or secular-fascist — decides what I can and can’t say or read or hear.
That’s my position. It doesn’t entail endorsing Charlie Hebdo. It has nothing to do with liking Charlie Hebdo.
Here are a couple of responses to the Paris massacre that, while still condemning the Islamofascist thugs who committed it, are not entirely on board with declaring the magazine holy writ and its editors saints, making them better than they actually were: