Charlie Hedbo and the Martyrdom of Western Values

by ericaeller

While the absurdity of the violence upon Charlie Hedbo is shocking and calls for a period of mourning, the resulting public statements from various news outlets on this incident leave me in a state of dissatisfaction. Let’s face it, the “Western” value of “freedom of speech” chooses its martyrs carefully; it was a much more equivocal phrase in the news coverage on Bradley Manning. What I mean is that the resulting defense of the “Western” freedom of speech suggests that the press can and should practice religious mockery, but when it comes to upholding political transparency, that value becomes much more ambiguous. The polarizing effect of this event in the media has resulted in two main interpretive variants: the hypocritical ideological defense of Western values and speculation about an islamophobic backlash. Certainly many non-western people likewise support the freedom of speech, and for that matter, they support it under much more repressive regimes than France and Germany, for example. Terrorists and governments alike disenfranchise journalists, so it shouldn’t become a diplomatic ploy for the West to claim Charlie Hedbo as a martyr, which will have no effect whatsoever on realistically supporting the freedom of speech. I’m still waiting for new sides to emerge. After all what actually did happen?

Did Islamist extremists murder innocent defenders of free speech? or…

Did marginal terrorists target a provocative racist cartoon magazine? or…

Did pretend-Islamic extremists create martyrs to exacerbate islamophobia? or…

Did barbarians inflict carnage in a popularly beloved French-Western cultural institution? or…

Did anti-humorists kill adamant satirists? or…

Was this a case of iconoclasm for an era in which the icons poke fun at religious figures, thereby upholding the oppressive power of secularism? or…

Was this a successful slaughter of working journalist-artist-satirists who should have respected their own lives rather than their ideology, which was what exactly? or…

Was this the strength of real violence punishing weak creators of provocative imagery? or…

Who were these ideological masterminds who used weapons to raise such thought-provoking, boundary-defining questions? Who staged this polarizing media ploy? What do they want to prove with their violence? The imbalance and non-equivalence of opposing sides makes the incident as perplexing as it is sad.

Here are a few other (conflicting) responses:

“On Charlie Hedbo” published in Jacobin

“The Attack on Charlie Hedbo” published in The New Yorker

“Paris Attack is Europe’s 9/11” published in The Hurriyet Daily News

“The Guardian View of Charlie Hedbo: Those Guns were Trained on Free Speech” published in The Guardian

“Humorists react to Charlie Hedbo Attack” published in Aljazeera

 Here’s one that I particularly agree with:

“Unmournable Bodies” published in The New Yorker

Advertisements