Reaction To The Charlie Hebdo Attack

Subject: Reaction To The Charlie Hebdo Attack
From: Paul Honigmann
Date: 19 Jan 2015

The murder of the Charlie Hebdo journalists was shocking and repulsive, and has rightly been condemned. Nevertheless, it is undesirable that this tragedy should be elevated into a heroic defence of freedom of speech.
Such freedom is a privilege which must be exercised responsibly. It is not an absolute human right. The law of civilised nations does not protect defamation, plagiarism, blackmail, harassment and other forms of bullying. There has to be a sense of balance. It is legitimate to lampoon living public figures such as politicians and celebrities for their politics and lifestyle. It is also legitimate to criticise religious leaders for extreme beliefs, pomp and ostentation and perhaps, above all, for child abuse.

This is not the same as lampooning the founders of Islam and Christianity and other world religions. It is simply an insult to millions of sincere devotees, the majority of whom are totally opposed to fanatical terrorism.

All newspapers write about what they think their own audience wish to read. The journalists of Charlie Hebdo chose to write for self-proclaimed intellectuals who believe that their superiority justifies insult of lesser mortals who are seen (by them) as uneducated or unsophisticated. It is, in the case of the particular cartoons, the journalism of the snigger and the sneer.

The murder of the journalists is deplorable, but it is not appropriate to canonise them as martyrs to the cause of free speech.