Love is stronger than hate
November 8, 2011 5:33 AM   Subscribe

After an Islamist party won * the first post-revolutionary election in Tunisia, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo* ran a 'Sharia Hebdo' issue lampooning the result. The prophet Mohammed was named 'guest editor' of the issue and put on the cover proclaiming '100 lashes if you're not dying of laughter'. In response, their offices were promptly firebombed, destroying all their equipment. A week later, from its temporary home in the offices of the daily newspaper Libération, what is Charlie Hebdo's message? Love is stronger than hate. (Guardian story)
posted by Anything (374 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Separation of Church and State FTW!!!
posted by mikelieman at 5:41 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since we're setting them up all over the place, can't we just limit the publication of these magazines to Free Speech Zones?
posted by klue at 5:51 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Treading the fine line between satire and perceived disrespect, what?

Yes, freedom of speech, modern era, its all fun and jokes bla bla bla Denmark's cartoonists, dairy product sanctions et al on one side of this European boxing ring.

On the other a religion, whose tenets include no human figures to be drawn, sculpted, cartooned or whatnot with reference to their religion/beliefs/key figures.

Danes, French, lets see who does what next but the essence, imho, will continue to be rinse, repeat, lather, seethe against the European, rinse, repeat, lather ad infinitum.

How about substituting perceived signals of respect for differences rather than emphasizing freedom of speech and "its just a joke" ha ha *punch* for a change?

/end incoherent opinion/rant
posted by infini at 5:52 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Good for them. The media needs to stop walking on eggshells and jumping through hoops to pass the extremist Muslim’s "Should we firebomb or kill people because of this?" test. Time to take back free speech peoples.
posted by amazingstill at 5:54 AM on November 8, 2011 [36 favorites]


J'adore Charlie Hebdo. And I love their response! lol

Just fyi, Charlie Hebdo is certainly not right-wing, more left-wing anarchist.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:57 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tunisian constitution will make no place for faith
The government, due to be announced next week, will not introduce sharia or other Islamic concepts to alter the secular nature of the constitution in force when Tunisia's Arab Spring revolution ousted autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January.

"We are against trying to impose a particular way of life," Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi, 70, a lifelong Islamist activist jailed and exiled under previous regimes, told Reuters.
posted by Abiezer at 6:02 AM on November 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


How about a simple solution?

People stop firebombing.
People stop insulting other cultures.

I'm all for satire and free speech, just as much as I support people's right to protest. But there ought to be a limit once you start taking one or the other to an extreme.
posted by Petrot at 6:02 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, I bought the "offending" "Charia Hebdo" issue last week (keeping it as a collector's item). As a matter of fact, it's pretty tame material (much more so than the Danish caricatures, which "Charlie Hebdo" already published), and it's difficult to disagree with the magazine's editor own appraisal that the arson was probably carried out by "a couple of neighbourhood idiots". Search 'em, find 'em, prosecute 'em and throw 'em into the slammer. Period.

BTW, in the wake of the arson attack, Facebook blocked Charlie Hebdo's "personal" and corporate profiles.
posted by Skeptic at 6:04 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Has anyone set up a way to donate to these people? I would like to help them rebuild their office.
posted by Tarumba at 6:04 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


People stop firebombing.
People stop insulting other cultures.


Not remotely equivalent. Speech should only be "limited" if it directly incites violence, or places people in personal danger. And even then, it doesn't necessarily always sit well with me.
posted by Ted Maul at 6:08 AM on November 8, 2011 [52 favorites]


and then you would have to go through the horrible task of defining what is insulting to 7 billion different people. It looks like this magazine also uses satire against the Catholics, but you didn't see them bomb anyone.

And honestly, if you think you're right I don't understand why you have to use violence against everyone who disagrees with you.
posted by Tarumba at 6:10 AM on November 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


People stop firebombing.
People stop insulting other cultures.


"Charia Hebdo" also poked fun at Christian fundamentalists, and "Charlie Hebdo" mostly lampoons French politics. Is one still allowed to insult one's own culture, at least?
posted by Skeptic at 6:12 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


People stop firebombing.
People stop insulting other cultures.


An outsider failing to obey the rules of a culture != insulting that culture
posted by DU at 6:14 AM on November 8, 2011 [27 favorites]


Is a religiously-inspired firebombing legal in Michigan?
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:14 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


What 'other' culture?
posted by topynate at 6:17 AM on November 8, 2011


I think a lot of people misunderstand the way that sacred norms are established and policed. You see pretty similar behavior when atheists steal communion wafers. This is just another firefight in the never-ending war between idolators and iconoclasts. Maybe the map is not the territory, but the sad fact is that we live on the map. The faithful signal their devotion by protecting or avenging an image, while others signal their indifference by defacing it: at the end of the day, it's all about signaling in-group loyalty, whether to a religious community or a community of "free-thinkers."

Even this comment is just me signaling that I'm above it all. Fuck the territory: we live on the map.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:19 AM on November 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Whoa, thought it was a Tunisian paper that got firebombed, not a French one. Sorry.
posted by topynate at 6:19 AM on November 8, 2011


People stop firebombing.
People stop insulting other cultures.


Not saying that it's the case here, but some cultures need to be insulted.
posted by empath at 6:22 AM on November 8, 2011 [16 favorites]


Okay, I absolutely deplore firebombing people because they disrespect your religion. But honestly, I think it's an asshole move - and given French colonial history, a racist one - to lead with "let's lead off by disrespecting your religion in a way that we know will totally piss you off, and in a situation laden with huge racial and post-colonial meaning".

Love is stronger than hate, bullshit. Stop acting like an asshole, then lay on the love and see where it gets you.

Also, in a climate of huge racism against Muslims (hello, Northern Europe!) it's doubly an asshole move to do something completely unnecessary that will almost certainly provoke the fire-bombing extremists who will then be treated as if they stand for all Muslims everywhere and for Islam, making racism against Muslims even worse and guaranteeing a vicious circle of asshole actions forever.
posted by Frowner at 6:27 AM on November 8, 2011 [28 favorites]


empath: Not saying that it's the case here, but some cultures need to be insulted.

That's ridiculous. How could that possibly help anything?
posted by gman at 6:32 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, in a climate of huge racism against Muslims (hello, Northern Europe!)

Hello? Why did you call me? You want the organ–grinder, not the monkey.
posted by Jehan at 6:33 AM on November 8, 2011


I'm for free speech, and I don't think we should make a law restricting satire of religion. But I also think, to paraphrase some of the comments above "Don't be a dick" is a bit of a supreme commandment.

As I like to say about things that are legal, but still dickish:

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

This topic can go down a rabbithole of thought, and I gotta head to work, so I'll leave it at that.
posted by symbioid at 6:39 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


> some cultures need to be insulted.

Especially ravers.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:39 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


This magazine is not satirical, as it is not examining and satirizing the established power structure in France, which is, at this time, fiercely anti-Muslim. Instead, this magazine is really helping add fuel to a wave of intolerance in that country.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:40 AM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:46 AM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Whereas my greatest sin (in this thread) is mixing metaphors.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:46 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Umm, satire is satire, infini, et al. Ain't no fine lines here. Good satire is A OK, always.

There is a spectacular tendency for political humor to advance the human condition vastly more than it detracts, especially humor targeted against ideologies.

All cultures need to be insulted, frequently. All world religions need ample highly visible disrespect.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:46 AM on November 8, 2011 [17 favorites]


Not saying that it's the case here, but some cultures need to be insulted.

I was thinking more like white supremacists, people who do honor killings, etc, or hell, even America's bullshit gung-ho nationalism.

Aspects of society need to be criticized and mocked, and mocking and criticism can often lead to changes in culture. Violence is never a valid response to any insult, in any case. Sticks and stones and all that.
posted by empath at 6:48 AM on November 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Absolutely. I've been very surprised at the way much of the response to this incident seems to be based on the belief that suggesting that people not always follow through on their urge to be offensive for the sake of it is the same as calling for their right to freedom of speech to be curtailed.

Much of the fury has been directed at this TIME magazine column, which basically says that baiting violent extremists isn't something to be proud of — but which emphatically does not say that people who do so deserve to be the victims of violence. I don't love that column myself, but it's not the column most of its critics seem to believe.
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:49 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


This magazine is not satirical, as it is not examining and satirizing the established power structure in France, which is, at this time, fiercely anti-Muslim.

I don't think you know what satire means.
posted by empath at 6:49 AM on November 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Come on empath, just use your words. I know you can.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:51 AM on November 8, 2011


Much like the brouhaha/backlash against the Danish cartoons, the violent reactions of religious extremists allow the editors of the magazine to cast themselves as free speech heros and noble standard-bearers of Western civilization for taking a few cheap shots at a religious minority.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:52 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Right, this isn't satire because it's not in dactylic hexameter verse!
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:52 AM on November 8, 2011


I don't know what's difficult to understand. Satire isn't defined by its target.
posted by empath at 6:52 AM on November 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Sorry- I meant "allows." That's what you get for typing on a phone.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:53 AM on November 8, 2011


This was the first I'd heard of this magazine and issue, but, really, I don't care if you show the Prophet enjoying a ham sandwich chased down by a beer, unless you explicitly incite to violence, there is absolutely no equivalence between a verbal/written (perceived) slur and firebombing a periodical.

Is it an "asshole move" to lampoon Muslims' faith, or even to make light of certain aspects of it? I don't know: is it an asshole move to insult Catholic clerics (which this periodical does all the time)? Just because some Muslims feel that firebombing/attacking/murdering satirists/critics is completely equivalent to, and justified by, those parties satirizing/criticizing their religion doesn't mean we can say, "Well, yeah, I mean, they asked for it, didn't they?"
posted by the sobsister at 6:54 AM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've been very surprised at the way much of the response to this incident seems to be based on the belief that suggesting that people not always follow through on their urge to be offensive for the sake of it is the same as calling for their right to freedom of speech to be curtailed.

It's true, we can still say pretty much whatever we want to, as long as we don't mind a little risk of firebombing.
posted by Jpfed at 6:54 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know what's difficult to understand. Satire isn't defined by its target.

Satire should be aimed at deflating those in power. In France, Muslims are powerless compared to the state. The magazine is not located in Tunisia.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:54 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Much like the brouhaha/backlash against the Danish cartoons, the violent reactions of religious extremists allow the editors of the magazine to cast themselves as free speech heros and noble standard-bearers of Western civilization for taking a few cheap shots at a religious minority.

I don't know if they're heros. But they have a right as human beings to take cheap-shots at whoever they like, and they aren't responsible for the violent reactions to it.
posted by empath at 6:55 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, in a climate of huge racism against Muslims (hello, Northern Europe!) it's doubly an asshole move to do something completely unnecessary that will almost certainly provoke the fire-bombing extremists who will then be treated as if they stand for all Muslims everywhere and for Islam, making racism against Muslims even worse and guaranteeing a vicious circle of asshole actions forever.

Huh? I am the first to criticise gratuitous shit-stirring, in particular when it's a transparent ploy to provoke a minority. I loathe the likes of Geert Wilders, who use anti-Islam rhetoric as a dog-whistle for racist and xenophobic voters. But "Charia Hebdo"? Have you had a look at it? You are judging merely on the basis that it appears to have provoked a violent reaction from a notoriously thin-skinned group.

As for attacking "other" cultures, guess what? In France, Islam is not "another" culture. Much as the likes of Le Pen may dislike it, "Beur" culture, including Islam, is pretty much in the mainstream. As such, it is an equally valid target for satire as any other culture (and even self-satire: there is a flourishing field of beur comedians, with a particularly self-deprecating sense of humour). Treating Islam with more respect or care than Christianity or any other religion would not just be completely at odds with the professed principles of the French republic, it would be self-defeating and counterproductive.
posted by Skeptic at 6:55 AM on November 8, 2011 [15 favorites]


These guys are about as funny as Dennis Miller or Mallard Fillmore.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:55 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know Charlie Hebdo, but if he's good at satire, I wouldn't be surprised if the firebombing was his second act, and the third (to come) being him exposing French racism and islamofobia under the guise of "free speech", "women's rights" etc.
posted by klue at 6:56 AM on November 8, 2011


I don't know if they're heros. But they have a right as human beings to take cheap-shots at whoever they like, and they aren't responsible for the violent reactions to it.

I agree, but cheap shots are not "satire".
posted by KokuRyu at 6:56 AM on November 8, 2011


Satire should be aimed at deflating those in power.

That's an opinion that not everyone shares. Sometimes satire needs to be aimed at those that seek to gain power.
posted by empath at 6:56 AM on November 8, 2011 [17 favorites]


I agree, but cheap shots are not "satire".

Again, this is an opinion which isn't born out by the historical record. Most satire is cheap shots. Not everyone is Jonathan Swift. (who also wasn't above taking cheap shots).
posted by empath at 6:58 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


You haven't even addressed the issue of how Muslims are treated in France, empath, and the role this magazine is playing in what is essentially oppression of a minority.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:58 AM on November 8, 2011


Did someone say Jonathon Swift? Mmmmm, Muslims. Tasty, tasty muslims.
posted by Xoebe at 7:00 AM on November 8, 2011


This magazine is not satirical, as it is not examining and satirizing the established power structure in France, which is, at this time, fiercely anti-Muslim.

Huh? I currently live in France, and I don't see this "fiercely anti-Muslim" power structure you are talking about. There's certainly individual prejudice, but French Muslims and Arabs aren't actually doing so badly. Compared, with Holland, where I also lived, or even Spain, where I'm from, anti-Muslim feelings are rather muted.
posted by Skeptic at 7:00 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think both Hebdo and the people who firebombed them are assholes. I also think that, if one must pass judgment on others, then even if you're not in a position to follow through on that judgment, you should still prioritize: firebombing is worse than bad tone-deaf comedy, so it deserves first billing when you're voicing your disapproval.

Assuming you're in the business of voicing your disapproval.

Which we seem to be, around here.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:00 AM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


The French government isn't going to firebomb the office if they publish something unflattering about Sarkozy. Islamic radicals are. The Islamists are therefore in power - they are claiming political control over a publication, and punishing it for not adhering to their will. This must be contested by any political magazine, left right or center.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:01 AM on November 8, 2011 [23 favorites]


and then I put Hebdo first, in contravention of my own advice, because it made the grammar simpler. foo.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:02 AM on November 8, 2011


the role this magazine is playing in what is essentially oppression of a minority.

Have you actually read the magazine? Or are you following the lead of, say, Christine O'Donnell, in criticising works you haven't actually read?
posted by Skeptic at 7:03 AM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


/end incoherent opinion/rant

Well, you got that part right, infini.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:03 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone who finds themselves on the same side of an argument as anyone who firebombed a magazine should probably rethink their position, because that's the wrong side.
posted by dickasso at 7:03 AM on November 8, 2011 [27 favorites]


Just an FYI, I will firebomb the next person here that disagrees with something that I say.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:05 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


> Anyone who finds themselves on the same side of an argument as anyone who firebombed a magazine should probably rethink their position, because that's the wrong side.

What do you mean? I can agree that a publication is producing shitty flamebait but disagree with violent response.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:05 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anyone who finds themselves on the same side of an argument as anyone who firebombed a magazine should probably rethink their position, because that's the wrong side.

Well, that certainly put all the people here who are arguing that the firebombing was a fabulous thing in their place.
posted by oliverburkeman at 7:05 AM on November 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


I can agree that a publication is producing shitty flamebait but disagree with violent response.

Without setting eyes on the publication? Merely on the basis that it rubbed somebody the wrong way?

(Also, extra points for the most inappropriate use of the neologism "flamebait".)
posted by Skeptic at 7:07 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can agree that a publication is producing shitty flamebait but disagree with violent response.

Has anyone here actually read the magazine they're criticizing?
posted by empath at 7:07 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Most satire is cheap shots.

Without humor, satire is invective; without literary form, it is mere clownish jeering.

I generally side with the free-speech folks, but let's not pretend what they're doing is funny or literary. The whole point of these cartoons is to insult: they're neither comedic nor well-made. Plus, this is the worst kind of competition for victimhood status: the cartoonists sets out to provoke a reaction, to cast themselves as victims and even as heroic victims who "love" their bullies, while the local hooligans gain the assurance they need that their culture is under attack and must be defended.

If "the purpose of the system is what it does" than the purpose of anti-Muslim invective is to cement sides in a culture war. In the US the Supreme Court has long held that "fighting words" are not protected speech, because they don't actually inform. There's nothing political useful about jeering: the marketplace of ideas is not enriched by bad drawings or desecrated communion wafers.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:07 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


yeah, I think it's obvious nobody here supports the bombing, but people are divided when it comes to the publication being dickish or not.
posted by Tarumba at 7:08 AM on November 8, 2011


dickasso: "Anyone who finds themselves on the same side of an argument as anyone who firebombed a magazine should probably rethink their position, because that's the wrong side."

This is the real problem with religious and political violence. It doesn't matter if the dude started out as an asshole or a saint - hit him and he becomes a martyr.
posted by vanar sena at 7:08 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone who finds themselves on the same side of an argument as anyone who firebombed a magazine should probably rethink their position, because that's the wrong side.

...but....but....but....but....but...
posted by Brian B. at 7:08 AM on November 8, 2011


That cover was shitty flamebait. Perhaps the content of the magazine was not. I don't know.

Sure, don't judge by the cover, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't judge the cover.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:08 AM on November 8, 2011


For the record, I was not suggesting that firebombing a magazine was justified (not much to discuss, really), only that the magazine is not satire and instead helped to discriminate against a visible and cultural minority in France.

However, apparently there are no problems with discrimination against Muslims in France. It's a great country.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:09 AM on November 8, 2011


people are divided when it comes to the publication being dickish or not.

Oh, I'm sure the publication was dickish. But they have a right to do it. And people being dicks in print has a long and storied history. If you don't like it, don't buy it. You have to stand up for people's right to be assholes and unfunny in print, if you don't want the target turned on you and people you support next.
posted by empath at 7:11 AM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


All religions have power over their followers and deserve deflation, KokuRyu.

The great Turkish humorist Aziz Nesin once said that 60% of Turks are stupid for their Islamic beliefs. After some huge uproar, some reporter asked if he wished to retract his statement. He said yes, he should've said 95%, presumably referring to all Turkish Muslims. Later, some Islamic mod torched his hotel in Sivas, killing hundreds of people.

Imho, westerners humorists have an obligation to set a good example by insulting and deflating the religions that oppress so much of this world. Yes, westerners are especially obligated to insult Christianity, doubly especially Catholicism, which they have installed so many places, but Islam must come up for dishonorable mention frequently too.

I should probably have linked the saga of drunk and bitter jesus too. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 7:12 AM on November 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


I actually liked it, empath
posted by Tarumba at 7:15 AM on November 8, 2011


Imho, westerners humorists have an obligation to set a good example by insulting and deflating the religions that oppress so much of this world.

Sounds like cultural imperialism if you ask me. Look, sure you have the right to do it, but don't pretend you're being noble when you insult another culture (outside of the West, there is often no distinction between religion and culture). You're just being a jerk.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


At the risk of futilely trying to steer other people's conversations, can't we just assume that we all (or almost all) agree on these things?

1. That the firebombing was morally reprehensible
2. That the right to publish this kind of material must be defended
3. That the magazine might well have been dickish, but that doesn't affect its free speech rights
4. That the magazine bears no moral responsibility for being firebombed.

The question that remains after all this is surely whether the magazine did a good thing or not in exercising its right to publish that material, and whether there are grounds for criticizing it for having published it. Or, conversely, whether its right to do so, and its right not to be attacked for doing so, means that any criticism of its actions is unjustifiable and obnoxious by definition.
posted by oliverburkeman at 7:18 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Look, sure you have the right to do it, but don't pretend you're being noble when you insult another culture (outside of the West, there is often no distinction between religion and culture). You're just being a jerk.

Do other cultures have a right to insult 'the West'? Or Christianity? I think anything is fair game.
posted by empath at 7:21 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


unless you explicitly incite to violence, there is absolutely no equivalence between a verbal/written (perceived) slur and firebombing a periodical.

Yet another incoherent rant to cater to the LCD

How different is this argument from that made within domestic violence cases - its a documented form of emotional and psychological abuse to come off as smug and self satisfied victim while your barbs and stings in the undertones leave your victim in the incoherent ranting stage unable to quite pinpoint where the buttons were pushed again.

This is cowardly jeering of the very worst sort. Its poking the injured bear in the corner or the rabid dog with a tiny pebble and then screaming Wolf when it does exactly what prior evidence has shown it will do.

Then, you get to sit and play the innocent victim with half the internet defending your actions and your actions alone.

[I refuse to stoop to the point of disclaiming whether it matters whether they spit on the offices or firebombed them, that is the not the point here. As Vanar Sena has said, it doesn't matter if you're asshole or a saint the minute you get hit, you get to be the hero]
posted by infini at 7:22 AM on November 8, 2011


How does one distinguish between "insulting a culture" (Islam is a religion) and printed satire?
Can I satirize what i want to or is there a list of off limit stuff?
posted by Postroad at 7:24 AM on November 8, 2011


can't we just assume that we all (or almost all) agree on these things?

1. That the firebombing was morally reprehensible
2. That the right to publish this kind of material must be defended
3. That the magazine might well have been dickish, but that doesn't affect its free speech rights
4. That the magazine bears no moral responsibility for being firebombed.


NO.

To quote that great master of the Western World, define "we"
posted by infini at 7:24 AM on November 8, 2011


There's nothing political useful about jeering: the marketplace of ideas is not enriched by bad drawings or desecrated communion wafers.

I think it is. And by burning flags. And any other form of iconoclasm. Symbols are not magical. They are not human beings. They are just inanimate things. Even provoking violent reaction by attacking a symbol or an idea is important, because it exposes the moral bankruptcy of caring about symbols more than human beings.
posted by empath at 7:25 AM on November 8, 2011 [21 favorites]


How does one distinguish between "insulting a culture" (Islam is a religion) and printed satire? Can I satirize what i want to or is there a list of off limit stuff?

Have you lived in a different country? In many places, religion and culture are deeply intertwined. Plus, you can "satirize" whatever you want. It's just that you won't always hold the moral high ground.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:27 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


gah, jeez, look, let's just ban cartoons, k? its not like any of them are any good anyway
posted by fetamelter at 7:28 AM on November 8, 2011


In many places, religion and culture are deeply intertwined.

This is a problem. And it's something that satire can and should address.
posted by empath at 7:28 AM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


You ever lived in an Islamic country, KokuRyu? I've many Turkish friends who regularly confront this bullshit. Satire helps enormously.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:30 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


To quote that great master of the Western World, define "we"

"We" = the people in this thread, who until your post I had assumed would not include anyone who actually believed that violence might sometimes be a justifiable response to speech. Guess I was mistaken.
posted by oliverburkeman at 7:35 AM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Satire is much more effective (politically) when it comes from within its own community. I find, for instance, European satire of the U.S. often boorish, obtuse and ineffective. Where are all of the Muslim satirists?
posted by jabberjaw at 7:36 AM on November 8, 2011


So if Muslims were deeply and irrationally offended by this magazine cover, where the hell were the rest of them?

There are 5.8 million Muslims in France. Surely they could have managed some sort of rioting or marching on the offices or something?

Firebombing requires one guy and a molotov cocktail. The remaining 5,799,999 Muslims have got to be some serious slackers.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:36 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Personally, I have a lot more sympathy (I hope we're allowed degrees of sympathy?) for Judge Pervez Ali Shah than I do for the kind of directed pokery of the likes of this guy, Fred Phelps or your generic blackface minstrel. People use their rights to all sorts of ends, and the laws protect them for good reason, but there's no point pretending there aren't people whose application of the right is just better.
posted by vanar sena at 7:38 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alternately, you can satirize whatever you want, but don't come running to mummy when whatever bites you after its fed up of this kind of bullshit masquerading under free speech rights which btw aren't quite the same as they are in the United States.

Here is an entirely different case in point, True Finns MPs being told off for a variety of anti Islamic and anti immigrant racist slurs, some obvious and some - hey, they were just exercising their right to be free, even when their party aide was found have applied to a neo Nazi organization - like dude, deal with it kind of constant nonsense that goes on up and down Europe. (so suomi)

Tell me empath, what role does respect play in society while you educate us on the role that satire plays...

yes, I've lived in an Islamic country that isn't trying to get EU membership
posted by infini at 7:39 AM on November 8, 2011


"We" = the people in this thread, who until your post I had assumed would not include anyone who actually believed that violence might sometimes be a justifiable response to speech. Guess I was mistaken.

Well, I've always known that there's a great weakness in education regarding critical thinking and reading comprehension - kindly find where in what I've bolded is a support to violence rather than arguing that that response should not have been a surprise? Kind of like going "Oh the police office I punched just tazered me, waaa" innit?
posted by infini at 7:41 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


... don't come running to mummy when whatever bites you after its fed up of this kind of bullshit masquerading under free speech rights which btw aren't quite the same as they are in the United States.

This really, really sounds like victim blaming.
posted by Tarumba at 7:41 AM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Innocent victim blaming or idiot who poked match in fireplace type of victim blaming?
posted by infini at 7:43 AM on November 8, 2011


Paper who drew a cartoon and got bombed blaming.
posted by Tarumba at 7:44 AM on November 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


free speech rights which btw aren't quite the same as they are in the United States.

Americans don't have a right to free speech because they're Americans. They have a right to free speech because they're human beings.

The answer to speech you don't like is more speech. Not shutting them down, and certainly not firebombing them.
posted by empath at 7:47 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


It might be more sensible to simply say that the publishers of such material shouldn't have been surprised by that kind of backlash given ample precedent. That doesn't make it remotely right, but it was what it was, and not unlike poking a hornet's nest.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:48 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


> They have a right to free speech because they're human beings.

This is a cultural value that is deserving of satire.

See what I did?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:49 AM on November 8, 2011


This is a cultural value that is deserving of satire.

I don't know about it being a cultural value, but people often satire it, and that's fine.
posted by empath at 7:50 AM on November 8, 2011


> In many places, religion and culture are deeply intertwined.

This is a problem. And it's something that satire can and should address.


This sounds simple, but it's not. You're talking about basic identity here, and concepts of self. Perhaps it would be better to say that it's better to address (and neutralize) extremism or authoritarianism in religion.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:51 AM on November 8, 2011


However, apparently there are no problems with discrimination against Muslims in France. It's a great country.

No, it is as flawed a country as any other. And there is discrimination against Muslims as well as other minorities, sometimes even by public authorities like the police.

However, it is also a country with a vibrant Muslim, Arab and Berber cultures (the three not always overlapping), including their fair share of intolerant bastards, even powerful ones, as deserving of satire as anyone else. As I said, this particular magazine centered on religious intolerance in general and dedicated a significant portion of its pages to this attack by Catholic fundamentalists on a "blasphemous" theatre. In France, such Catholic fundamentalists are arguably as small a minority as their Muslim brethren. Should they be protected from satire too?
posted by Skeptic at 7:51 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Symbols are not magical. They are not human beings. They are just inanimate things.

Of course I agree! I'm on your side. But iconoclasm doesn't really successfully argue for this: people feel injured when their symbols are injured. Just think of the way that you yourself are defending free speech! Improper symbolic respect for free speech feels wrong, doesn't it? It feels insulting. Yet nothing we say here matters in the world beyond the symbols on our screens.

And in these matters it's hard to see how we're doing anything other than taunting each other in an effort to force a choice: "With us or against us?" We're lining up friends and enemies, insiders and outsiders, and in the service of what? Does an agreement here change attitudes in France, among cartoonists, among French-Muslims? Or does it only serve to cement our group identity? We're tough-minded and troll-proof free thinkers whose only loyalty is to the truth! Right? Right!

Just because we share a commitment to living in a reality-based community doesn't mean we will succeed.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:52 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It might be more sensible to simply say that the publishers of such material shouldn't have been surprised by that kind of backlash given ample precedent. That doesn't make it remotely right, but it was what it was, and not unlike poking a hornet's nest.

Yeah, this exactly, far better than my inarticulate incoherence and immediate walk taking.

But I do want to add, to those going on about people's rights or US citizen's rights to free speech - is it okay to firebomb them when the free speeching citizen is muslim?
posted by infini at 7:53 AM on November 8, 2011


You ever lived in an Islamic country, KokuRyu? I've many Turkish friends who regularly confront this bullshit. Satire helps enormously.

I was talking about France. But, look, what do I know about France. Nothing. I'm just irritated that there are people here defended a magazine's right to depict Muslims as hook-nosed ragheads on their cover.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:54 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I do want to add, to those going on about people's rights or US citizen's rights to free speech - is it okay to firebomb them when the free speeching citizen is muslim?

What a ridiculous thing to ask. I don't care if it's NAMBLA or neo-nazis. Firebombing is not an appropriate response to speech ever. And if it ever happens, the person doing the firebombing is at fault.
posted by empath at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Good for them. This is how you respond to bigots and terrorists. You refuse to stop doing what they hate.

Not saying that it's the case here, but some cultures need to be insulted

Absolutely. And I am saying this is the case here. You attack bad cultural practices for the same reason you attack any other bad idea or practice. Because they're bad and they need to be stopped. And hell yes, that is a value judgement but unlike some moral relativists I'm not actually afraid to use my judgement - hopefully when sufficiently armed with reasonable arguments and evidence. But ridicule is a powerful weapon in this fight. Anyone who doesn't understand that needs to pay more attention to how life works.

They have a right to free speech because they're human beings.

This is a cultural value that is deserving of satire.

See what I did?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:49 PM on November 8


Seems to me you simply illustrated the point that freedom of speech should apply to everyone and anyone. Or am I missing something?
posted by Decani at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sounds like cultural imperialism if you ask me. Look, sure you have the right to do it, but don't pretend you're being noble when you insult another culture (outside of the West, there is often no distinction between religion and culture). You're just being a jerk.

Well, if one wishes to continue to take part in the modern world and reap the benefits of liberalized communication and education one must then be willing to be challenged and insulted.

Otherwise, why bother to take part at all?
posted by NiteMayr at 7:57 AM on November 8, 2011


Well, there's no denying that the magazine was poking at people. But, and here's the important thing, being poked at doesn't justify firebombing. Or violence of any sort.

More to the point, I mock Christianity and support the mockery of Christianity. I thought, for example, that Fuck the Motherfucker (AKA The Pope Song) was funny and useful in puncturing the inflated sense of self entitlement that the Church has.

I also think that Islam has a staggeringly huge sense of self entitlement and it also needs to be punctured. They have rules against pictures of Mohammad, good for them. That some Muslims expect others to follow those rules is a prime example of an enormous sense of self entitlement. That there is an expectation among some Muslims that non-Muslims must obey their rules about Mohammad is, to me, a very good reason to violate those rules in a public display of defiance to remind them that they don't, in fact, get to dictate that others follow their religious rules.

So, yeah. Dickish, but understandable. And apparently not motivated by the sort of crazy right wing BS we saw with the Danish cartoons.
posted by sotonohito at 7:58 AM on November 8, 2011 [18 favorites]


That the magazine bears no moral responsibility for being firebombed

I guess it depends on what you mean by moral responsibility. If you as an individual person purposely say offensive things to another person in order to provoke them, and that person responds with violence (such as by punching you in the face), obviously that response is illegal and wrong. But purposely upsetting someone enough that they respond with violence is not exactly an innocent act. While the actual laws around free speech and violence are usually quite clear, I think it gets murkier if you start trying to talk about the ethics around provoking people and whether it is morally right to do so.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:58 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tell me empath, what role does respect play in society

Do you know who invokes "respect" most frequently? Thuggish shitheads.

"She didn't respect me, so I hit her."

"He dissed me, so I got out my gat."

"You disrespected our prophet, so we burned down your offices/stabbed you in the street/etc."

People who want respect can earn it; nobody is entitled to respect on the basis of attempting to intimidate others.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:59 AM on November 8, 2011 [22 favorites]


I have to go with the least-harm angle on this one; while it might be insulting, a cartoon is not physically dangerous (assuming it isn't being used to directly insight violence). People don't have a right to not be offended, they do have a right to not have to worry about being burned alive.

I can see circumstances where a violent reaction is needed to hate speech, but in those circumstances, the perpetrators of the violence, however justified, are wholly responsible for their actions, and fully deserve every bit of punishment available under the law. That being said, this isn't that.
posted by quin at 8:00 AM on November 8, 2011


But purposely upsetting someone enough that they respond with violence is not exactly an innocent act.

I think you need to walk that back a bit. What if the person threatening violence is making unreasonable demands? You can't back down in every case that someone threatens you.
posted by empath at 8:01 AM on November 8, 2011


> Or am I missing something?

Yes, I was poking at the idea that free speech is innate. I don't necessarily disagree with that idea, but it is definitely something that one picks up from culture.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:01 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It might be more sensible to simply say that the publishers of such material shouldn't have been surprised by that kind of backlash given ample precedent.

I'm sure they weren't surprised. I don't imagine anyone is surprised by this sort of violent reaction now. So why is it important to point out that they shouldn't be surprised?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 8:03 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Firebombing requires one guy and a molotov cocktail.

Following up on this, what if the firebombing was carried out by someone who wasn't Muslim? A satire magazine collects quite a few enemies.

The number of assumptions in this thread is quite breathtaking.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:04 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> So why is it important to point out that they shouldn't be surprised?

I was helping to clarify infini's comments.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:05 AM on November 8, 2011


From the Guardian article linked in the FPP aka straight from the horse's mouth:

After the firebombing, French Muslim groups who had been highly critical of Charlie Hebdo, condemned the destruction of its offices. Dalil Boubakeur head of the Paris Mosque, told journalists: "I am extremely attached to the freedom of the press, even if the press is not always tender with Muslims, Islam or the Paris Mosque".
posted by infini at 8:06 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


But I do want to add, to those going on about people's rights or US citizen's rights to free speech - is it okay to firebomb them when the free speeching citizen is muslim?

There's been a lot of straw men on all sides here but this is a straw mountain.
posted by kmz at 8:10 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Insight = incite, I can only blame my own inability to think when typing fast.
posted by quin at 8:11 AM on November 8, 2011


unless you explicitly incite to violence, there is absolutely no equivalence between a verbal/written (perceived) slur and firebombing a periodical.

Yet another incoherent rant to cater to the LCD

Hey, Norman Vincent Peale inna house!

How different is this argument from that made within domestic violence cases - its a documented form of emotional and psychological abuse to come off as smug and self satisfied victim while your barbs and stings in the undertones leave your victim in the incoherent ranting stage unable to quite pinpoint where the buttons were pushed again.

Yes, sweetie, you are in what appears to be the "incoherent ranting stage." Not sure why, but you may want to explore some of the issues you describe with a licensed counselor.

This is cowardly jeering of the very worst sort. Its poking the injured bear in the corner or the rabid dog with a tiny pebble and then screaming Wolf when it does exactly what prior evidence has shown it will do.

Umm..."cowardly jeering"? I prefer "lily-livered japery," thanks. At any rate, according to you, Muslims are either the injured bear or the rabid dog? Not sure Muslims would take well to those odd characterizations. Not sure either makes sense here unless you hold to the view that Islam is so widely defamed that the entire religion and all its adherents are as sensitive as a cornered, wounded/mad animal. But you seem to be one with the grotesquely OTT statement-Force, so spew on, Macduff.

[I refuse to stoop to the point of disclaiming whether it matters whether they spit on the offices or firebombed them, that is the not the point here. As Vanar Sena has said, it doesn't matter if you're asshole or a saint the minute you get hit, you get to be the hero]

Yes, do "refuse to stoop" to addressing the actual point I made by conveniently saying it's not the point. My G*d, but you are a skilled rhetorician!
posted by the sobsister at 8:12 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


When those Sikhs were killed after 9/11 because they were mistaken for muslims, the newspapers here were full of the expected "Americans are violent racists" crap. Again when the Indian students were attacked in Australia, I found myself defending Aussies from random friends and acquaintances - guys, there are 18 million Australians who haven't attacked an Indian person ever, stop making ridiculous generalizations.

Threads like this remind me that, for better or worse, people are basically the same everywhere.
posted by vanar sena at 8:14 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd clarify that satire is most effective when it comes from those most effected by and knowledgeable about the community, jabberjaw. Aziz Nesin was atheist obviously. Salman Rushdie is pretty amusing too. Do you know a better actually-Christian satirists than Kevin Smith?

Amen Inspector.Gadget! Respect is most often discussed by people who don't deserve it.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:15 AM on November 8, 2011


Innocent victim blaming or idiot who poked match in fireplace type of victim blaming?

>and not unlike poking a hornet's nest.


Muslims have agency, unlike hornets or the chemical reaction of a match in fireplace. And as the Grauniad article shows, the head of the mosque was quite reasonable (like the overwhelming majority of Muslims in France).
posted by ersatz at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


My very first instinct when reading this was something about calling for respect for religious icons and symbols -- even when you don't ascribe to the religion yourself -- because that's just all the more likely to piss people off.

But then what brought me up short was: "wait, what about Serrano's Piss Christ or Chris Ofili's Holy Virgin Mary?"

And even after thinking about it, I still think there's a difference. Serrano and Ofili both knew the reverence with which those symbols are held, and the things they did were a commentary on that reverence. On the other hand, the creators of Charlie Hebdo, if they put any thought at all into the Muslim tradition regarding not drawing pictures of Muhammed, it was probably nothing more than "pfffft, who cares."

Engage in satire if you like, and disagree with a religion's traditions if you like. But at least learn what the hell those traditions are first.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Muslims have agency, unlike hornets or the chemical reaction of a match in fireplace.

Have you ever seen extremists? They've lost any such agency. Most Muslims don't really care and follow the examples of Mohammed who ignored such personal attacks.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:17 AM on November 8, 2011


Do you know who invokes "respect" most frequently? Thuggish shitheads.

I can't remember the term that it was used to describe this (I want to say 'honor society'), but I don't think it has to do with people being thugs -- it has to do with living in a society that doesn't have a strong central government to enforce laws and settle disputes -- you saw it in the Wild West, in the middle ages in europe, you see it on 'the corner' in inner cities. All you have is personal reputation to go by to protect yourself and your family. Duels, vendettas and so on are common.

It's not really an indictment of the culture, more an indictment of a government that's failing to protect people, so they need to protect themselves however they can.
posted by empath at 8:18 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Muslims have agency, unlike hornets or the chemical reaction of a match in fireplace.

Infini seems to think that muslims are animals who have no control over their own actions.
posted by empath at 8:23 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think you need to walk that back a bit. What if the person threatening violence is making unreasonable demands? You can't back down in every case that someone threatens you.

Obviously the idea of what is offensive varies a lot from person to person, and it's not reasonable for everyone to expect everyone else to conform to their idea of what is acceptable. But I was specifically talking about cases where someone goes out of their way to provoke someone else by being offensive, rather than cases where someone does something reasonable that happens to be offensive. Which is clearly the case with the magazine cover, they obviously know that depictions of Mohammed are extremely offensive to Muslims and that is the whole reason for the cover.

If it had been done on the Internet, it would be called trolling. In my opinion one of the big reasons why trolling is less prevalent in real life than it is on the Internet is that there are consequences, sometimes violent, for trolling in real life that don't exist online. If you go to a random bar and say the sorts of things that people say in a random YouTube comments thread, you'll either get thrown out or get punched in the face. It's not right that people respond with violence when provoked, but it's definitely a part of human nature. And although I think strong free speech rights are necessary for a free society, trolling is not exactly a completely ethical behavior.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:24 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a mess history, religion, and racism has made of our ability to react sensibly to violence.
posted by jsturgill at 8:24 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


See Tim Minchin's Ten Foot Cock And A Few Hundred Virgins and Pope Song, although Fuck The Poor is better really.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:26 AM on November 8, 2011


Not saying that it's the case here, but some cultures need to be insulted.

That's ridiculous. How could that possibly help anything?


FLDS, Opus Dei, Taliban, Dominionists, Meir Kahane followers, Ron Paul supporters, Two and a Half Men fans. I think they could all use a bit of insulting.

What an awesome coinky-dink! I was going to start off my comment with a reference to the fact that your response to my posting was so far up Ad Hominem's butt that it could see his back molars! Thanks, shug, I have a screen name. But do feel free to try "random_potshots" on for yourself. It's off-the-rack, but I think it'll fit you like bespoke.

Stuff like this, on the other hand, really doesn't help anything.
posted by kmz at 8:27 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


[A few comments removed; the sobsister, cool it.]
posted by cortex at 8:35 AM on November 8, 2011


@EmpressCallipygos I see, to an extent, what you're getting at, but it seems close to, or related to, saying that only people from X can criticize X.

Also close to the Courtier's Reply.

I also have my doubts that many Muslims are all that educated on why depicting Mohammad is forbidden. Most Christians don't really have a deep or intellectual understanding of the intricacies of their faith and I have little reason to think the average Muslim is that much more religiously educated than the average Christian.

I do agree that Piss Christ is different from the magazine cover in question, you're almost certainly right that the magazine editors are nearly completely ignorant of the whys behind the forbiddance on images of Mohammad. I don't agree that the difference merits much different treatment of or defense of either.
posted by sotonohito at 8:41 AM on November 8, 2011


Infini seems to think that muslims are animals who have no control over their own actions.
posted by empath at 8:23 AM on November 8 [+] [!]


What the hell is wrong with you?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:41 AM on November 8, 2011


What the hell is wrong with you?

I'm not the one that compared them to a nest of hornets, an injured bear or a rabid dog. Ask her why she did it.

I also have my doubts that many Muslims are all that educated on why depicting Mohammad is forbidden.

From what I understand, it was originally for the rather commendable purpose of discouraging idolatry. It seems that's been rather lost on the folks that are getting all worked up over some drawings.
posted by empath at 8:44 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


> I also have my doubts that many Muslims are all that educated on why depicting Mohammad is forbidden.

It's pretty basic Islam 101 stuff that images were forbidden so as to prevent idolatry or attachment to imagery and symbolism. The misunderstanding comes into place when Muslims think that non-Muslims are beholden to the same rules or that violence is a valid response.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:45 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


see, to an extent, what you're getting at, but it seems close to, or related to, saying that only people from X can criticize X.

It's not, actually. There's nothing preventing a non-Muslim from criticizing Islam. But it would just behoove them to check "so, for the record, what's behind that 'don't draw pictures of Muhammed' thing anyway?....Oh, THAT'S the reason? Oh, okay, that doesn't have anything to do with what I'm criticizing anyway, so I just won't draw a picture, that's fine then."

I also have my doubts that many Muslims are all that educated on why depicting Mohammad is forbidden. Most Christians don't really have a deep or intellectual understanding of the intricacies of their faith and I have little reason to think the average Muslim is that much more religiously educated than the average Christian.

All the more reason why, if you're not criticizing the iconoclasm of Islam SPECIFICALLY, flaunting it may not be a good idea, no?

I do agree that Piss Christ is different from the magazine cover in question, you're almost certainly right that the magazine editors are nearly completely ignorant of the whys behind the forbiddance on images of Mohammad. I don't agree that the difference merits much different treatment of or defense of either.

Well, one approach makes the person doing the criticizing look like a dick, and the other doesn't. And I sure know whose critique I'm going to take more seriously.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:46 AM on November 8, 2011


It's kind of appalling that people would suggest we limit the satirical offensiveness of publications, especially in response to intimidation and threats of violence. It's exactly why Freedom of the Press exists.
posted by stroke_count at 8:54 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


@EmpressCallipygos Actually, I think the "don't draw Mohammad" thing has, in a weird kind of way come around to being if not actually idolatrous at least being something so closely related there isn't much difference. An anti-idol idol if you will.

Just as Christianity has, much to the horror of many Christians, become the in US the anti-gay religion, Islam has become the religion obsessed with it's own anti-idol idol, and I'm sure there are Muslims out there quite distressed by that. The obsession with pictures of Mohammad is so great that it's doing pretty much exactly what having revered pictures would, that can't be a good thing from an Orthodox Islamic perspective. From a rabble rousing perspective it's great of course, same as the obsession with homosexuality in American Christianity is great from a rabble rousing perspective and troubling to actual religious concerns.

As for dickery, I don't know. Piss Christ has a pretty large element of dickery itself.

Ultimately I think it's like the question of good art, and in any event violence (as was perpetuated against museums displaying Piss Christ, though not quite as successful as the firebombing of this magazine) isn't acceptable as a response to dickery.

@stroke_count As it happens, the leaders of one of France's larger Muslim organizations agrees with you.
posted by sotonohito at 8:56 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not familiar with Charlie Hebdo, but I'm willing to assume they engage in genuine satire. They appear to regularly run political satire and they've poked fun at the Catholic church as well. Islam does not appear to be a regular tartget. Plus, somebody has to think they're funny for the magazine to be as popular as it seems to be.

There was an earlier controversy in 2006 when they republished cartoons of Mohammed that appeared in jyllands-Posten. Jul, one of the magazine's regular cartoonists remarked after that kerfluffle:
"It's much easier to do comics attacking Christians than other religions. Without a doubt because we're in a Catholic country. You can't crack on a minority religion like you can a majority religion. The hysteria provoked by these comics is a strong as it because there's anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism in Europe,"
It sounds like he gets it. (I'd also point out that another of their regular cartoonists, Riad Sattouf is French-Arab, though I don't know if he's Muslim. There's a review here in English with a couple samples of his strip.)

The 2006 issue in question featured a cover depicting Mohammed in tears complaining "It's rough being loved by idiots." (There was no firebombing that time, just an unsuccessful lawsuit.)

I'm not willing assume the magazine was engaged in mindless racism without having read it. The people who associated with it sound a bit more thoughtful that.
posted by nangar at 8:59 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


stroke, there's a difference between government policing of speech, and self policing of speech.

The Freedom of the Press protects the press from having the government come in and say "you are not allowed to print X, Y, and Z."

However, it does NOT protect the press from having its customers say, "wow, that was a dick move to print that. I'm not gonna buy your paper any more." It also does not protect the press from having someone say "you printed a lie about me, I'm going to sue." Nor does it prevent a religous group from saying "You've offended our religion and we demand an apology." (Mind you, this is NOT a defense of firebombing being the way you EXPRESS your displeasure with the paper. That should, of course, be punished in and of itself.)

I think the critique of the paper people are doing is not an attempt to "restrict free speech," it's more a series of variations on "that was a dick move to print that."

Actually, I think the "don't draw Mohammad" thing has, in a weird kind of way come around to being if not actually idolatrous at least being something so closely related there isn't much difference. An anti-idol idol if you will.

....I'm not sure I understand quite what you mean by this. Can you explain?

in any event violence (as was perpetuated against museums displaying Piss Christ, though not quite as successful as the firebombing of this magazine) isn't acceptable as a response to dickery.

I agree with you there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I'm not sure I understand quite what you mean by this. Can you explain?

I took it to mean that the near fetishization of the proscription on making images of Mohammed has itself become a kind of idol, with the deleterious effects that you see on those who should be steadfast in their religion instead.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:02 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the hell is wrong with you?

I'm not the one that compared them to a nest of hornets, an injured bear or a rabid dog. Ask her why she did it


Let's see if I can make sense of this. I've been pondering my reaction/response and wondering about it - since I'm neither European or American on one side or Muslim or Christian on the other. So what's my horse in this race (or whatever the current sporting metaphor for such things are)

Personally for me, I agree with the contention that violence is not the response to ignorance nor to a cartoon in a magazine. I also understand and appreciate the value of satire, the role that court jesters and small boys play when asking where the Emperor's clothes might be and certainly, humour as a means of communicating the darker truths of society.

However, I've also seen a massive wall of unrelenting prejudice build up against Islam and Muslims, the broad brushes that paint fundamentalists as representative of the millions of followers - whether brought out by those such as Fareed Zakaria or debated in coffee shops and, I try to put myself (not difficult thanks to racial profiling in the global security systems) in the place of the recipients.

Even the Guardian snippet I linked to above, carries in the words of the Paris Mosque leader, the sense of "yeah, even though you guys aren't tender (!) with us, we believe in free speech and condemn violence" - a sense of but if you guys do this non stop with your unrecognized and unrelenting embedded sense of [superiority? patronization? come, the French are not the most melting pot race are they?] then we can see why a couple of young idiots from our banlieus might want to do this out of sheer impotent frustration at a dominant culture that wields the law to force our women to stop wearing their scarves just because they're French.

And maybe my understanding of the word 'respect' for other cultures and their beliefs is different from that of the others here - we spring up from different societies, different cultural influences and different teachings - but to me it simply means being sensitive, humour or no humour.

I acknowledge that the majority in this thread would consider the hate speech laws of Singapore or Malaysia as amusing - but sometimes, these are necessarily when there are tensions under the lid that could boil over at the slightest match.

It was in this context that I made references to wounded animals, impotent helpless wounded animals for whom the only power in the dominant power structure may indeed be violence.

Does this imply that I condone violence as a valid response? Not at all, but it does imply that I am willing to take a larger perspective beyond the immediate cause and effect of one incidence in this regard.
posted by infini at 9:03 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope it's not out of line for me to point out: you're really a lot better at this when you take the time to compose yourself.
posted by vanar sena at 9:10 AM on November 8, 2011


Terry Jones all over again.
posted by amazingstill at 9:13 AM on November 8, 2011


It was the vodka in my Vitamin C tonic, tbh
posted by infini at 9:17 AM on November 8, 2011


@EmpressCallipygos Mostly what Horselover Phattie said.

The problem, in theory, with idols is that they detract from the "genuine" religious experience. People focus more on the idol than the god or the teachings of the religion. The idol and the easy reverence for it becomes a substitute for the more difficult reverence and religious practice.

Many Christians in America do the same sort of thing with the Bible. You'll see them, betimes, lugging around large and ornately decorated Bibles, occasionally making a big show of reading a passage or two at various random public locations. They don't actually read the whole thing, they don't understand their religion, they only pray when in public and they can make a show of it. But, in their minds, they've got a big Bible so they must be super religious and good Christians.

Or, to use the more common instance, we see the same with many American Christians and homosexuality and evolution. They don't pray, they don't often think about their religion, they don't study or meditate on God or the mystery of the Trinity, but they hate fags and they know they didn't come from monkeys and they're sure to say so often so in their minds that's sufficient. The actual religious experience has been substituted for an idol of sorts.

I see much the same thing happening with the fetishization of not having pictures of Mohammad. Random Muslim A isn't a good Muslim by many measures, perhaps they drink occasionally, or skip some prayers, but they really really obsess over any infidel drawing Mohammad, or depicting Mohammad in any way, or even speaking slightingly about Mohammad so, in their minds, they're good Muslims. Like a person with an idol that they worry about and use as a substitute for actual difficult and deeply felt religious faith and practice, the anti-idol of obsessing about pictures of Mohammad acts in much the same way.

From the standpoint of Islam as a religion, rather than Islam as a political or social force, that's got to be a very worrying development. On the surface it looks like deeply felt Islam, but underneath it's hollow. From the standpoint of an Imam worried mainly about power it's no biggie. But from the standpoint of an Imam worried about genuine, heartfelt, real, Islamic beliefs I'd imagine it would be distressingly like idolatry.
posted by sotonohito at 9:28 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that if today instead some Christie fundie bombed an abortion clinic no one would be on here saying, well the clinic "did insult their culture by killing babies," so maybe you should just step back with the rhetoric a little bit and have some sensitivity. Not that bombing an abortion clinic is wrong, per se, but you know, let's all just hug, it is their culture after all.
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Would the Christie fundie be a minority in the space where they would find that abortion clinic to bomb or would the analogy be more apt if they bombed a Marie Stopes in Calcutta?
posted by infini at 9:34 AM on November 8, 2011


Would the Christie fundie be a minority in the space where they would find that abortion clinic to bomb or would the analogy be more apt if they bombed a Marie Stopes in Calcutta?

The context for these violent crimes seem to be rather important to you. Do you have some sort of sliding scale of sympathy for the victims depending on how "surprised" they should have been to get blown to pieces?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 9:42 AM on November 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Would the Christie fundie be a minority in the space where they would find that abortion clinic to bomb or would the analogy be more apt if they bombed a Marie Stopes in Calcutta?

The fact that you think it matters whether a bomber is a "minority" is... disturbing.

Also: maybe. Depends where the clinic is. What of it?
posted by eugenen at 9:44 AM on November 8, 2011


infini, am I understanding you correctly as defending the physically violent abusers in spousal abuse situations?
posted by prefpara at 9:49 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I took it to mean that the near fetishization of the proscription on making images of Mohammed has itself become a kind of idol, with the deleterious effects that you see on those who should be steadfast in their religion instead.

See, I take that reaction as a cross between fundamentalism, and "oh, god, the only reason they're doing it is because they know it's against our religion, what DICKS." If you consider that "fetishism", then there are tenets of Christianity that get similarly "fetishized" by very literalist Christians.

Random Muslim A isn't a good Muslim by many measures, perhaps they drink occasionally, or skip some prayers, but they really really obsess over any infidel drawing Mohammad, or depicting Mohammad in any way, or even speaking slightingly about Mohammad so, in their minds, they're good Muslims.

See, this is what I mean -- this is like "Random Christian B isn't a good Christian by many measures, maybe they drink occasionally or skip some prayers, but they really really obsess over tithing, so in their minds, they're a good Christian." We don't speak of tithing as something that Christians fetishize, so that's not an example of such-and-so being fetishized, it's an example of this one guy being kind of weird. So I kind of get your point, but I am wondering if thinking like that doesn't compartmentalize things unnecessarily.

And I have a feeling your next question is going to be "well then why is the drawing-pictures-of-Mohammed the only thing we see people get up in arms about," and I would answer that that's probably more a matter of "drawing pictures of Muhammed" being the thing we just happen to encounter most often, and it's the biggest difference between cultures so there's a greater opportunity for inadvertent (or intentional) clashes.

I'm pretty sure that if today instead some Christie fundie bombed an abortion clinic no one would be on here saying, well the clinic "did insult their culture by killing babies," so maybe you should just step back with the rhetoric a little bit and have some sensitivity. Not that bombing an abortion clinic is wrong, per se, but you know, let's all just hug, it is their culture after all.

Don't be obtuse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:59 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that if today instead some Christie fundie bombed an abortion clinic no one would be on here saying, well the clinic "did insult their culture by killing babies," so maybe you should just step back with the rhetoric a little bit and have some sensitivity.

These two scenarios are completely different in ways that are relevant to the discussion. In the case of an abortion clinic, the conflict comes from the clinic providing services that are in no way related to the anti-abortion people. In the case of the magazine cover, the conflict comes from the magazine directly provoking the people who find such a cover offensive, for no reason other than to offend those people. Obviously violence and destruction of property is wrong in both cases, but there are clear differences in the intent behind the original actions.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:59 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the case of an abortion clinic, the conflict comes from the clinic providing services that are in no way related to the anti-abortion people. In the case of the magazine cover, the conflict comes from the magazine directly provoking the people who find such a cover offensive, for no reason other than to offend those people.

That's awfully tendentious. How about this: the pro-lifers believe -- sincerely and, if wrongheadedly, not irrationally -- that murder is being committed at the clinic many times a day. The Muslims are just peeved that someone is making fun of them and/or their idols.
posted by eugenen at 10:04 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone want a screwdriver? Over ice?
posted by infini at 10:05 AM on November 8, 2011


In the case of an abortion clinic, the conflict comes from the clinic providing services that are in no way related to the anti-abortion people.

As a Christian fundamentalist extremist, I believe that (1) the United States is a Christian nation (2) abortion clinics are an abomination and (3) tolerating their presence is effectively condoning them and will bring down the wrath of the almighty. How is it "in no way related" to me?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 10:09 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charlie Hebdo has been irrespectful of religion (NSFW Charlie covers), among other things, for the past 40 years. They're hopelessly crude, often use scatological or pornographic humour to make a point, but all and all they've been the good guys, at least from a French left-wing perspective, and have nothing in common with the usual right-wing islamophobes, who are one of their usual targets. Charlie ridicules religious Muslim extremists because they've always been ridiculing religious extremists as well as oppressive religious institutions and values, in the grand tradition of French anticlericalism. And they've been mocking mercilessly and offensively a lot of things over the years (most images NSFW): the pre-1976 anti-abortion law, the vacuity of French press, France's recent immigration policies (also and also), sports etc.
posted by elgilito at 10:13 AM on November 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


I have no qualms stating that anyone who espouses or tolerates violence in return for an insult of any type is a vile speck of human scum that the world would be better off without. May they all blow a cerebral artery next time they take a shit, and fall face-first into their most holy relics.

So yeah, fuck their culture. And fuck your culture. And fuck my culture. Fuck any culture who believes violence in return for non-violence is acceptable, ever.
posted by chimaera at 10:16 AM on November 8, 2011


golf clap
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:17 AM on November 8, 2011


Fuck any culture who believes violence in return for non-violence is acceptable, ever.

Thank Hanuman, I'm a good bania like Gandhiji was
posted by infini at 10:19 AM on November 8, 2011


So yeah, fuck their culture. And fuck your culture. And fuck my culture. Fuck any culture who believes violence in return for non-violence is acceptable, ever.

Is anyone here arguing that believes violence (in this case the fire-bombing of a magazine publisher) is acceptable?

I thought the argument here was whether or not these guys are heroes, or are merely racist jerks taking advantage of an obvious target.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:21 AM on November 8, 2011


I thought the argument here was whether or not these guys are heroes, or are merely racist jerks taking advantage of an obvious target.

I thought we were arguing about false dilemmas.
posted by empath at 10:23 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's awfully tendentious. How about this: the pro-lifers believe -- sincerely and, if wrongheadedly, not irrationally -- that murder is being committed at the clinic many times a day. The Muslims are just peeved that someone is making fun of them and/or their idols.

This seems to be an argument that pro-lifers are more morally justified in taking offense at abortion clinics than Muslims are in taking offense at satirical cartoons. I'm not actually making any point about there being differences between the people being offended in either case, my comment was pointing out the differences between the intent behind the actions that provoke the unwarranted and unjustified attacks.

As a Christian fundamentalist extremist, I believe that (1) the United States is a Christian nation (2) abortion clinics are an abomination and (3) tolerating their presence is effectively condoning them and will bring down the wrath of the almighty. How is it "in no way related" to me?

What I mean is that from the perspective of a medical service provider, providing medical services is not related to people who for whatever reason don't like those services. For someone working at an abortion clinic, their intent is to facilitate in the process of running the clinic, which is orthogonal to the question of what religious beliefs exist about abortion. Whereas from the perspective of a satirical magazine, the intent behind displaying an offensive illustration of a religious figure is directly related to people who hold religious beliefs about the religious figure, and such an illustration would most likely only exist because of the fact that it offends those people. I think that this difference is one of the reasons why the magazine editors are being criticized in this thread in ways that would not be relevant in a thread about a firebombing of an abortion clinic.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2011


If you think Charlie Hebdo is racist, then you lose any credibility in appeals to the treatment of Islamic minorities in France.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:28 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no qualms stating that anyone who espouses or tolerates violence in return for an insult of any type is a vile speck of human scum that the world would be better off without. May they all blow a cerebral artery next time they take a shit, and fall face-first into their most holy relics. So yeah, fuck their culture. And fuck your culture. And fuck my culture. Fuck any culture who believes violence in return for non-violence is acceptable, ever.

Before I decide whether I agree with you -- when you say "fuck that culture", is the culture you object to "people who believe violence is acceptable," or do you object to "Muslims"?

Because the Venn diagram for those two may look different than you think it does.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Before I decide whether I agree with you -- when you say "fuck that culture", is the culture you object to "people who believe violence is acceptable," or do you object to "Muslims"?

I am decidedly not objecting to Muslims. I object to any individual, group, subculture, club, gang, or ad hoc collection of people wherein they mutually agree that violence in response to an insult is acceptable -- regardless of how persistent or offensive the insult may be. Put that mindset in the brains of a minority group and you get terrorist. Put that mindset in the brains of a government and you get thoughtcrime.
posted by chimaera at 10:38 AM on November 8, 2011


For what it's worth, that's why I also specifically included "fuck my culture" because we have more than a few people here in America who seem to enjoy making threats of violence when their sacred cows are insulted.
posted by chimaera at 10:40 AM on November 8, 2011


I object to any individual, group, subculture, club, gang, or ad hoc collection of people wherein they mutually agree that violence in response to an insult is acceptable -- regardless of how persistent or offensive the insult may be.

Then why, if the violence is what you are objecting to, do you say something that slags a different culture in the process and runs the risk of offending people who AREN'T the ones you're complaining about?

What I mean is, what's wrong with saying "fuck violence" instead of "fuck that culture"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Empress, do you or do you not agree that some cultures, religions and societies as a whole are deserving of criticism?
posted by empath at 10:50 AM on November 8, 2011


Islamophobia in Europe is not limited to the right wing; there are islamophobes of every and any political persuasion. As far as I can comprehend the reasoning of left-wing islamophobes, they seem to confuse the broader discussion about religion in the public sphere with their own experiences of leaving a (provincial) Christian culture for a more liberal urban culture. And they might have several points. Except that there is a huge difference between personally chosing to change and imposing that change on others. The thing is, I think many of them never experienced it as a personal choice, but rather had it imposed on them by left-wing elders....
posted by mumimor at 10:52 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you think Charlie Hebdo is racist, then you lose any credibility in appeals to the treatment of Islamic minorities in France.

Have you taken a look at the cover of the magazine?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:57 AM on November 8, 2011


What I mean is, what's wrong with saying "fuck violence" instead of "fuck that culture"?

I say, specifically "fuck that culture" because it's not the violence that is the problem. One hallmark of culture is what happens when people get together and agree on norms. When one of those norms agreed upon is that violence in response to insult is acceptable, that is a facet of the culture, not a happenstance. It is a specific mindset that is rooted in the notion that imposing one's will upon others by violent means is acceptable -- even when one's will is that someone not insult you. It's thin-skinned, reactionary, and barbaric.

I'm aware that many of these terms I used have been co-opted by racists as dog-whistles for "all Muslims are barbaric" but that makes firebombing someone who publishes an image in violation of your sacred cow no less barbaric. It makes death threats against atheist billboard renters no less barbaric. It makes violence, when promulgated by any group in majority or minority, no less barbaric.
posted by chimaera at 11:01 AM on November 8, 2011


Empress, do you or do you not agree that some cultures, religions and societies as a whole are deserving of criticism?

Nope, I don't.

And I've more than explained why in earlier posts, so no need to re-hash it here.

I say, specifically "fuck that culture" because it's not the violence that is the problem. One hallmark of culture is what happens when people get together and agree on norms. When one of those norms agreed upon is that violence in response to insult is acceptable, that is a facet of the culture, not a happenstance.

Are you sure that every Muslim "agrees that violence in response to an insult is acceptable", though? ....I mean, there's a lot of them out there, maybe you missed asking a couple.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:04 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did you look at any of their other covers linked by elgilito?
posted by jeffburdges at 11:04 AM on November 8, 2011


Are you sure that every Muslim "agrees that violence in response to an insult is acceptable", though? ....I mean, there's a lot of them out there, maybe you missed asking a couple.

I not only never said that, but I specifically disclaimed it in my responses to you.
posted by chimaera at 11:08 AM on November 8, 2011


> Are you sure that every Muslim "agrees that violence in response to an insult is acceptable", though? ....I mean, there's a lot of them out there, maybe you missed asking a couple.

I not only never said that, but I specifically disclaimed it in my responses to you.


Then you turned around and implied it that "one hallmark of a culture is what happens when people get together and agree on norms". You said that when I asked "then why not say "fuck violence".

So if not Islam, what "culture" are you referring to in that sentence?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


chimaera: "I not only never said that, but I specifically disclaimed it in my responses to you."

It's very likely that I parsed it incorrectly, but it seemed to me that while you said you were aware that it was a dog-whistle, you went ahead and used it anyway. Is there anyone at all in this thread who claimed that violence and death threats are not barbaric? If not, to whom are you referring?
posted by vanar sena at 11:12 AM on November 8, 2011


Did you look at any of their other covers linked by elgilito?

I see a bunch of racist and sexist tropes. Yeah, sure, I sound like Captain PC Man here, but yeah, I agree that firebombing a magazine is wrong, and that they have the right to free speech (I can't believe I have to preface my comment with no-brainer comments like that), but Charlie Hebdo barely qualifies as humour, let alone satire.

To be satire you have to stand up for justice and search out for the truth, and making racist, sexist caricatures that dehumanize ethnic groups is hardly just or truthful.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:21 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The context for these violent crimes seem to be rather important to you. Do you have some sort of sliding scale of sympathy for the victims depending on how "surprised" they should have been to get blown to pieces?

The concept of context is indeed extremely important to me and the cornerstone of my work.

Victims, violence, a magazine cover or rural Africans, mobile phones and downloadable apps - these are elements of what I observe and then attempt to place in context, in order to increase my understanding of what I have seen.

That's my horse in this race, that we see each of these events, or any event, for that matter, in isolation of the background, context, culture and situation in which they may have occurred. This then leads us to often unrecognized yet implicit assumptions we make when attempting to interpret in the context of our frame of reference. Grievious errors have been made due to this as have millions of dollars lost in the context of the commercial world. Either way, increasing awareness of this aspect goes a long way towards improving my understanding of the why and how behind the what and when.

My interpretation may be incorrect in this specific case, but I am committed to attempting this approach to increase my understanding of the world in which we all live in.
posted by infini at 11:21 AM on November 8, 2011


So if not Islam, what "culture" are you referring to in that sentence?

Islam is not one culture. It never was. Islam as it is practiced in Morocco is different from that in Kazakhstan is different from that in Indonesia. Culture is what arises when a group of people (or a sub-group of people) cultivate general norms of discourse and morality. A religion can have certain general aspects of culture, but culture is much more easily defined at the smaller group level. If it's better to say sub-culture that's fine. As a matter of fact, Islam as it is practiced has more to do with previously established cultural tendencies in various places than on Islam itself. Mystic Sufism is very different from the much more hostile Qutbism, though Wahhabism has aspects of both. In some Islamic countries you have high majorities of citizens (likely influenced by the political danger in taking a different stance) who claim that apostasy should be punished by death. In others, you have countries that have abolished the death penalty entirely.

So yeah, I'm not saying "those people" to mean all Muslims, but there is absolutely some very influential sub-groups who have a culture of violence, oppression of women, and the mortification of the body. I reject those cultures without claiming that it is endemic to Islam.
posted by chimaera at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Empress, do you or do you not agree that some cultures, religions and societies as a whole are deserving of criticism?

Female genital mutilation? Honor killings? Slavery? Genocide? Apartheid? None of that up for discussion?
posted by empath at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be satire you have to stand up for justice and search out for the truth

You keep asserting that, but it's not true.
posted by empath at 11:24 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I feel no particular need to satirize Islam or Muslims, because I don't see them as being in a power position in the West. While I do fully support and encourage satirizing Christianity, because it's the evil that has the power where I live. I'm quite sure I'd be a relentless anti-Islam agitator, if I lived in a Islam dominated culture. Just as I was a relentless critic of Swedish culture when I lived there.

But I would make an exception in supporting satirizing Islam in this particular case precisely because of the firebombing reaction. I think the moment anyone feels justified in engaging in violence, we need to assert the right of free speech by challenging them. I would call for relentless mass satirizing of any religion or culture that provokes such reactions (firebombing), until they stop such actions.

A right that is never asserted, especially one which we fear to exercise due to inappropriate and illegal consequences, is a right that's dead - it is incumbent on us to exercise these rights, lest they become lost. It's exactly the same reasoning as in cases of asserting your right to remain silent - the 5th amendment. Many people - especially authoritarians - say "why take the 5th if you are innocent? That's proof you are guilty and hiding something". And the answer, by a famed jurist was "you should always exercise your 5th amendment rights, especially when you are innocent, because otherwise, it would become what the critics accuse it of: something that's used only by the guilty."

So too here - we should regularly test the right of freedom of speech precisely against the targets most likely to attempt to deny us this right. In this case - the Muslims who react to speech with firebombing. There is value in asserting this right in the face of these thugs. In fact, we have an obligation to assert and exercise this right in direct proportion to the strength of the actions to deny us this right. You firebomb - we'll redouble our satirizing.

Which is clearly the case with the magazine cover, they obviously know that depictions of Mohammed are extremely offensive to Muslims and that is the whole reason for the cover.

To me that's a feature, not a bug. Because I would support them in this - not in the act of offending Muslims for the value of "hurt feelings", but for the right to administer that test, because it is likely to provoke an inappropriate reaction. If the reaction weren't there, there would be less need to do so. Like in any disease, we test for the presence of germs - we get the reaction, we administer the cure. Tests are valuable. The moment the reaction is like the one cited above "we don't like it, but we acknowledge your right to free speech", I personally would back off. But as long as anyone reacts inappropriately, the assertions of the right of free speech must go on.
posted by VikingSword at 11:32 AM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


So yeah, I'm not saying "those people" to mean all Muslims, but there is absolutely some very influential sub-groups who have a culture of violence, oppression of women, and the mortification of the body. I reject those cultures without claiming that it is endemic to Islam.

Thank you for clarifying that. Perhaps it could have been made clear earlier, is all.

Female genital mutilation? Honor killings? Slavery? Genocide? Apartheid? None of that up for discussion?

Those are actions.

Why did you ask me whether I thought "cultures" could be critiqued, only to list off a series of actions? Maybe you need to clarify your own terminology.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:33 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Viking Sword, I am reading what you're saying and yes it makes excellent sense to me.

I would just make an observation on this however, referencing your own metaphor

If the reaction weren't there, there would be less need to do so. Like in any disease, we test for the presence of germs - we get the reaction, we administer the cure. Tests are valuable. The moment the reaction is like the one cited above "we don't like it, but we acknowledge your right to free speech", I personally would back off.

What if the skin test for TB germs say was conducted on someone who had been previously exposed yet their immune system had encysted the infection (the germs as you say) - the test itself could result in just enough extra germs to kickstart a TB infection.

Yes, the test is necessary but knowing the existing conditions in which the test would be conducted and thus evaluating the best way forward might also be required in order to elicit the least harmful outcome.

And one wishes that everyone in the world, much less unemployed youths fired up by propaganda, could be trusted to back off with the same maturity and responsibility.
posted by infini at 11:41 AM on November 8, 2011


>To be satire you have to stand up for justice and search out for the truth

You keep asserting that, but it's not true.


I don't know, maybe it's because you're an American and I am not that we have this difference in a point of view, but satire without truth is propaganda.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 AM on November 8, 2011


A culture is what the people who are part of it do. That's all culture is. If it's part of the culture that slavery is accepted, then the culture needs to be criticized. If it's part of the culture that women who are raped needed to be stoned to death, then the culture needs to be criticized. If it's part of the culture that the concerns of the wealthy are more attended to than the plight of the poor, then that is a culture that needs to be criticized.
posted by empath at 11:42 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anything that seeks to exert power over others is a more than acceptable target for satire. When Religion X states that it is against their religion for me, a non-adherant, to do something otherwise perfectly benign, that counts, and should be satirized.

And to claim that they should have seen it coming is the most insulting thing to me. The grand, grand majority of Muslims, even fundamentalist Muslims, would I imagine have never considered firebombing Charlie Hebdo over this.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:43 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know, maybe it's because you're an American and I am not that we have this difference in a point of view, but satire without truth is propaganda.

Interestingly enough, propaganda can be perfectly true and still be propaganda.
posted by empath at 11:43 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


A culture is what the people who are part of it do. That's all culture is.

Then you don't get to pick and choose the parts of the culture you want to write off. If you're going ot critique a whole culture just because you don't like honor killings, you'd better be ready to write off the Scientific Method as well.

Because THAT comes from Islam TOO, you know.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:48 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're criticizing a culture, you're not saying the whole culture is shit and everything about it is shit.
posted by empath at 11:53 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why did you ask me whether I thought "cultures" could be critiqued, only to list off a series of actions? Maybe you need to clarify your own terminology.

Don't be obtuse. Those are cultural practices.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:53 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't be obtuse. Those are cultural practices.

The fact that they are culture practices is precisely my point.

Criticize PRACTICES all you like, be they cultural or otherwise. That way the only people you target WITH that critique are people who engage IN those practices.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're criticizing a culture, you're not saying the whole culture is shit and everything about it is shit.

Really? It sure sounds like you are. Seems like it'd be easy for people to make that mistake.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on November 8, 2011


Criticize PRACTICES all you like, be they cultural or otherwise. That way the only people you target WITH that critique are people who engage IN those practices.

But if the practice is engaged in or are fundamental to the entire culture, then you are criticizing the entire culture. There's no way around it, and there's no way to do it in a way that isn't going to be offensive to a large number of people. And moreover, it's cowardly to not do it because people would be offended or would threaten violence over it.

If you want to criticize, for example, the veneration of saints by Catholics or papal infallibility, you're going to offend a lot of Catholics. You can't criticize it without criticizing Catholicism or being seen as criticizing Catholicism.
posted by empath at 12:12 PM on November 8, 2011


(see, for example: The War on Christmas bullshit from Fox)
posted by empath at 12:14 PM on November 8, 2011


Have you ever seen extremists? They've lost any such agency.

I disagree with that. Humans retain their agency and the urge to dehumanise or otherise extremists (be they Nazis, suicide bombers, terrorists, BNP or the like) robs us of the chance to examine the environment they flourish and operate in, and try to identify possible causes and solutions to their actions.
posted by ersatz at 12:15 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


But if the practice is engaged in or are fundamental to the entire culture, then you are criticizing the entire culture.

So you're saying that "violent responses to critique" is intrinsically fundamental to the whole of Islam?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2011


Really? It sure sounds like you are.

EC, I think you're reading some things into people's comments that isn't really there. For instance:

Thank you for clarifying that. Perhaps it could have been made clear earlier, is all.

It was pretty clear to me from the beginning. Chimaera's original comments were directed at "anyone who espouses or tolerates violence in return for an insult of any type," not at "every Muslim." He supported this in his first response to you, and you were still asking why he was insulting non-violent people who don't agree.

I'm not trying to be critical, I just think this is an interesting discussion and don't want it to get derailed because people are talking past each other.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 12:19 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Criticize PRACTICES all you like, be they cultural or otherwise. That way the only people you target WITH that critique are people who engage IN those practices.

I can see the nuance in this and appreciate it. One can decry female genital mutilation et al as a practice instead of decrying the whole culture (as numerous NGOs and women's organizations are doing around the world) - but how would we (as a society) pick through this delicate minefield if the situation were taken to the next step?

For example, how do you assess using the threat of economic sanctions against the cultural practice of not accepting homosexuality? With satire?
posted by infini at 12:19 PM on November 8, 2011


Chimaera's original comments were directed at "anyone who espouses or tolerates violence in return for an insult of any type," not at "every Muslim." He supported this in his first response to you, and you were still asking why he was insulting non-violent people who don't agree.

cobra, the fact that he said
May they all blow a cerebral artery next time they take a shit, and fall face-first into their most holy relics [emphasis mine].
...seemed to indicate a bit of a wider brush with his first comments than you're seeing. That could have easily been cleared up with "yeah, you're right, that was a dumb knee-jerky way of putting it", that's all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on November 8, 2011


So you're saying that "violent responses to critique" is intrinsically fundamental to the whole of Islam?

For a certain subculture of Muslims, absolutely. Islam is too big to make those kinds of generalizations.

But I was referring to things like bans on the depictions of Mohamed, forcing women to wear veils, and so on. There are many aspects of Islam that are worth of discussion if not outright damnation, but everything is out of bounds because a vocal and sometimes-violent minority of muslims attempts to shut down conversation. And wishy-washy liberals enable it by drawing false equivalences between magazines and bombs.

There are principles that are more important than politeness.
posted by empath at 12:25 PM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


I can see the nuance in this and appreciate it. One can decry female genital mutilation et al as a practice instead of decrying the whole culture (as numerous NGOs and women's organizations are doing around the world) - but how would we (as a society) pick through this delicate minefield if the situation were taken to the next step?

I have no idea. I'm only talking about "what is or isn't dickish for one person to SAY," rather than "what is or isn't politically expedient for a country that isn't mine to DO".

I'll freely admit that I'm nowhere near knowledgeable enough about political theory in general, or UK political practices in the specific, to pass judgement on the cases you've linked to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on November 8, 2011


Love is stronger than hate.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:29 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> So you're saying that "violent responses to critique" is intrinsically fundamental to the whole of Islam?

For a certain subculture of Muslims, absolutely. Islam is too big to make those kinds of generalizations.


It strikes me that we might have been able to avoid this entire back-and-forth if you'd made it clear that you were referring to "a certain subculture of Islam" from the first. Because "Islam is too big to make those kinds of generalizations" was kind of my entire point to begin with.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:30 PM on November 8, 2011


forcing women to wear veils, and so on.

Who in France is forcing women to wear veils, empath. Can you prove this?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:30 PM on November 8, 2011


Who in France is forcing women to wear veils, empath. Can you prove this?

What does France have to do with it?
posted by empath at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2011


But if the practice is engaged in or are fundamental to the entire culture, then you are criticizing the entire culture. There's no way around it, and there's no way to do it in a way that isn't going to be offensive to a large number of people. And moreover, it's cowardly to not do it because people would be offended or would threaten violence over it.

Do you even understand the concept of culture? Have you ever lived in a different culture? Learned a different language, and used that language for everyday life?

I don't think you understand how different cultures work, and you seem to be suggesting that there is only one "right" culture - American culture.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2011


...seemed to indicate a bit of a wider brush with his first comments than you're seeing.

I just didn't take it that way. The people s/he was referring to may share a religion with others who disagree with their actions, but condemning the former does not automatically condemn the latter
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 12:33 PM on November 8, 2011


Because "Islam is too big to make those kinds of generalizations" was kind of my entire point to begin with.

Yes, but there are aspects of Islam that are near universal that are still worth talking about and criticizing (just like every other religion).
posted by empath at 12:33 PM on November 8, 2011


I don't think you understand how different cultures work, and you seem to be suggesting that there is only one "right" culture - American culture.

I'm pretty open minded about cultural differences, but I'm going to go ahead and say that female genital mutilation and stoning gay people is wrong everywhere. Which is what I mean about criticizing culture.

And, btw, I'm no fan of mainstream American culture.
posted by empath at 12:35 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty open minded about cultural differences, but I'm going to go ahead and say that female genital mutilation and stoning gay people is wrong everywhere.

Way to go nuclear!
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 PM on November 8, 2011


Way to go nuclear!

You're the one that keeps making absolutist statements that don't stand up to five seconds of thought.
posted by empath at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, but there are aspects of Islam that are near universal that are still worth talking about and criticizing (just like every other religion).

....Such as?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2011


Do you really want me to detail about all the thing I think is wrong about Islam? It would start with a belief in god and go on from there. (And I could create a similar list about every other religion). All of it is fair game for discussion, criticism and satire.
posted by empath at 12:41 PM on November 8, 2011


some cultures need to be insulted.

ALL cultures need to be insulted occasionally. It helps prevent them from taking over everything. Seriously.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:43 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck. Stick to the issue at hand and stop presuming to be an enlightened social critic, empath.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:44 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


(too many comments, didn't read).

I believe this cover is partly inspired by a famous New Yorker cover by Art Spiegelman, 1993, showing a black woman kissing a Hasidic man - at a time of inter-ethnic tension/rioting in NYC.

Just noting the pedigree.
posted by plep at 12:46 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Do you really want me to detail about all the thing I think is wrong about Islam? It would start with a belief in god and go on from there. (And I could create a similar list about every other religion).

So what you're saying is that you just want to criticize Islam simply because it's a religion.

Well, we're never going to get anywhere further with this discussion, then. Thanks, it was interesting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:46 PM on November 8, 2011


I'm not criticizing anything. I don't even have anything against Islam in particular. I'm just standing up for the right of people to criticize in the face of violent threats, which I'm having a difficult time believing that anyone even has to do here.
posted by empath at 12:46 PM on November 8, 2011


So what you're saying is that you just want to criticize Islam simply because it's a religion.

No. I want to be able to criticize Islam, because I want to be able to criticize anything. Because it's my right as a human being, and your right to. And if you give up that right, you have no rights at all.
posted by empath at 12:47 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not criticizing anything. I don't even have anything against Islam in particular.

You certainly came up with a few things pretty quickly, though...

I'm just standing up for the right of people to criticize in the face of violent threats, which I'm having a difficult time believing that anyone even has to do here.

Ah, I see what's happening -- you're mistaking "you can't criticize at all" with "there's a difference between 'critique' and 'being a dick'".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:47 PM on November 8, 2011


There's a lot of silly comments in here. I believe in all of the following:

1) Freedom of the press,
2) Freedom of religion,
3) Democracy,
4) Islamist parties as not inherently bad,
5) Charlie Hebdo was within its rights to publish this,
AND 6) I can't help but feel they got the outcome they expected.


The differences between criticizing Catholicism and criticizing Muslims in the context of France are so obvious it shouldn't require explanation, but I guess it does. The Catholic Church has been a dominant power structure in France for almost two millenia and remains the majority religion of the country, while Muslims are historically and still currently an actively oppressed minority. Tunisia, let's remember, was occupied by the French in the late 19th century and annexed as a protectorate, totally trashed in WW2, regaining independence a decade later but not achieving a democratic state until just this year, the outcome of which is now the target of French satire.

The whole thing stinks to high heaven. Whatever Charlie Hebdo is engaged in, responsible journalism it is not.
posted by mek at 12:52 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Whatever Charlie Hebdo is engaged in, responsible journalism it is not.

and....? There's no litmus test for "responsibility" that governs whether or not somebody should be able to speak, particularly when the enforcement mechanism proposed by the censors is arson. Mocking Islam does not equate to "oppress[ing]" Muslims; by that logic, making fun of any made-up story is a form of oppression.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:55 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


You certainly came up with a few things pretty quickly, though...

You're projecting a lot. I've defended Islam (and Catholicism and Mormonism--hell-- I even defended the guy that thought the rapture was coming) many times in other threads. I'm anti-religion in general, not anti-any particular one, but that's not really relevant to the discussion, except that you keep trying to force me into your 'bigot' category.

The point I'm trying to make is that religious people should not be able to define the boundaries of acceptable public discussion, and should definitely not be able to define through violent threats, and that no one should back down in the face of it.
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm just gonna quote mek and then jump up and down and point and nod:

I believe in all of the following:

1) Freedom of the press,
2) Freedom of religion,
3) Democracy,
4) Islamist parties as not inherently bad,
5) Charlie Hebdo was within its rights to publish this....


Only my point 6 is "and other people are within their rights to think Charlie Hebdo was a dick to do so." Not a law breaker, just....a dick.

And my point 7: The thing that makes Charlie Hebdo a dick isn't "because of who they were targeting". It's because there's a difference between "satire" and "lulz".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:00 PM on November 8, 2011


I didn't say they weren't within their rights to speak, Inspector.Gadget, quite the opposite. But I'm even more entitled to criticize the form and function of their speech, which can easily perpetuate oppression within a legal framework, much like white supremacists in America.
posted by mek at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The point I'm trying to make is that religious people should not be able to define the boundaries of acceptable public discussion, and should definitely not be able to define through violent threats, and that no one should back down in the face of it.

And I apologize that I misunderstood that this was your point. I think the disconnect, instead, isn't that this is a case of "religous people being able to define the boundaries of acceptable public discussion". I haven't really seen that in this thread so much (I'll admit I was saying something that sounded like, but I was assessing what I thought YOU were saying when speaking about serious critique).

The things people are saying in this case, instead, aren't "you shouldn't criticize Islam", necessarily, that I saw. More like, "the guy was trying to pass lulz off as social commentary and that was dickish."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:04 PM on November 8, 2011


MeTa
posted by gman at 1:05 PM on November 8, 2011


Well, we're never going to get anywhere further with this discussion, then. Thanks, it was interesting.

How obnoxious!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:14 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


How obnoxious!

....Lemme let you catch up to where I apologize and see what you say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:15 PM on November 8, 2011


The whole thing stinks to high heaven. Whatever Charlie Hebdo is engaged in, responsible journalism it is not.

And per my earlier comment, I think Charlie Hebdo is doing a thankless public service. It's valuable, because it asserts the supremacy of the right of freedom of speech, which is valuable precisely when it is opposed or not popular with somebody; the right of freedom of speech is tested not when we agree with the speech, but precisely when we disagree. In asserting this right, through being willing to offend Muslims, Christians, Atheists, X (it is my understanding that Hebdo was always pretty eclectic in his targets), he is finding problem areas and exposing them. Firebombing by perpetrators X - whoever they may be - is a problem area. Thank you, Charlie Hebdo for this.

Nobody, whether in a powerful position, or as a member of an oppressed minority is entitled to suppress free speech through violence. In this case, it's a tiny number of Muslims, but it could be a any number of Jews, Swedes, or whoever. Irrelevant.

FWIW, I'm an optimist. I think with time, you will be able to publish whatever you wish, and face no danger - that's what the mainstreaming of Muslims in the West will do. But if we want to quicken this process, we must make sure that indeed Muslims face no discrimination, and are given a full chance to join the mainstream like countless groups before them. I have no doubt whatsoever that it's what will happen in time - there is nothing different about Muslims.
posted by VikingSword at 1:16 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


it asserts the supremacy

I side with mek on this.
posted by infini at 1:29 PM on November 8, 2011


Just another tidbit about Charlie Hebdo. The first iteration of the magazine (then called l'Hebdo bête et méchant = The stupid and nasty weekly) was shut down in 1970 by the government, allegedly because it contained porn (actually a couple of crudely drawn penises), though the real cause was that it had made fun of the death of that great French prophet, de Gaulle himself. Charlie was (re)born a week later, with the headline "There is no censorship in France".
To be frank, the Mohammed cover is pretty tame by Charlie's standards. In fact, image of the Prophet notwithstanding, it is tame enough to be reproduced by the online Tunisian media.
posted by elgilito at 1:56 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sigh.

Another long thread, largely stuffed with:

Idiots proclaiming their own private definitions of commonly-used words, shortcutting explanation and logic in making their points,

AND

A lot of back-and-forth, until the debaters can no longer tell who is on their side, or The Other Side, largely because everything has gotten so emotional.

--

The cover was intentionally offensive. That may or may not be sinful/bad/dickish/morally acceptable to you.

Firebombing the offices was reprehensible, sociopathic, and indefensible. The culprits deserve lengthy prison sentences.

Responding to that homocidal act (for there's no way to truly tell if someone is working late or not, when firebombs are used) by posting more offensive material was courageous, and many would say an essential step in standing up to the freakish bullies who committed the arson, saying, "We will not be intimidated into silence by your violence!".
posted by IAmBroom at 2:08 PM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


The first iteration of the magazine (then called l'Hebdo bête et méchant = The stupid and nasty weekly) was shut down in 1970 by the government, allegedly because it contained porn (actually a couple of crudely drawn penises), though the real cause was that it had made fun of the death of that great French prophet, de Gaulle himself.

It's funny that way. We're all for free speech, as long as it's not our ox that's being gored. Satirize and criticize that guy over there, and you're a hero of free speech. But as soon as the object changes - you're a dick who is engaged in irresponsible journalism, you're this, that and the third... most likely a stupid and nasty weekly.

And that's why freedom of speech cannot be conditional upon who the target is: the powerful, oppressed minority, somebody's sacred cow, whatever. A lesson we seem to have to re-learn over, and over, and over again.

So no, Charlie Hebdo is not a dick, not irresponsible, not stupid and nasty. Rather, he's providing a valuable public service - poking into whatever quarter, without regard to political or social position and sacred cows, and when the poking evokes a violent reaction, he's done his job exposing a problem area. He's done so here, and I salute him for that.
posted by VikingSword at 2:10 PM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Who in France is forcing women to wear veils, empath. Can you prove this?

According to these women, somebody is.
posted by Skeptic at 2:25 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


You keep asserting that, but it's not true.

Actually, it kind of is.

"The Italian satirical playwright Dario Fo points out the difference between satire and good-humoured teasing, or sfottò, which is an ancient form of buffoonery. According to Fo, satire has a subversive character; it is directed against oppression, and has a moral dimension. On the other hand sfottò (simple poking fun, benign spoof, light parodying and mockery) is a form of comedy without satire's subversive edge. Historically, people in positions of power have tried to censor and repress satire, but have often welcomed good-humoured buffoonery.[6][7] From this, Fo draws criteria to tell real satire from sfottò, saying that one can tell real satire from the reaction it arouses in the powerful.[8] Sfottò on a powerful individual, by focusing on superficial matters such as personal appearance, may actually draw sympathy towards its target;[9] Hermann Göring propagated jests and jokes against himself, with the aim of humanizing his image.[10][11]

I'm not saying that's the only possible definition (or that this particular instance isn't satire), but it's certainly the one I learned when I was studying this stuff. If the target's not powerful, it's longer satire, just bullying. That's why modern American right-wing "humor" generally isn't.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:30 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also (and I realize this is dying down now, so I'll address this in only generally), if you meant:

The point I'm trying to make is that religious people should not be able to define the boundaries of acceptable public discussion, and should definitely not be able to define through violent threats, and that no one should back down in the face of it.

then that's a fine point, but

Not saying that it's the case here, but some cultures need to be insulted.

and

Empress, do you or do you not agree that some cultures, religions and societies as a whole are deserving of criticism?

are a very broad way of expressing it.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:30 PM on November 8, 2011


If the target's not powerful, it's longer satire, just bullying.

Who is to say who is powerful? It's a relative thing, isn't it? Right-wing Christians in the US, for example, have a huge persecution complex and might say that any satire of them is off-limits because they're under attack by secularists, etc... Islam, as a religion, has a tremendous hold over billions of people. Imams are powerful people. Islamic governments like Iran's and Saudi Arabia's are powerful and so on. Now are they as powerful as the United States Military, or The Catholic Church, or "The West?" Probably not. Are they more powerful than a tiny French humor magazine? Sure. Are Muslims in France powerful compared to christians in France? Almost certainly not in the country as a whole, but maybe in certain neighborhoods or regions, they are. It's kind of a fluid thing with no hard-and-fast lines. You can't say that anyone is off limits. Satire is either funny or it isn't. It either hits the mark or it doesn't. Who is writing the satire and who is on the receiving end of it shouldn't really matter. And the great thing is that the writers of satire can be satirized and lampooned themselves, in a free society. What goes around comes around.
posted by empath at 2:44 PM on November 8, 2011


And thus, is there a role for racist stereotypes or mockery in satire in today's day and age?
posted by infini at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2011


Just fyi, Charlie Hebdo is a magazine, not a person, Hebdo means weekly. Carry on.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:57 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


And thus, is there a role for racist stereotypes or mockery in satire in today's day and age?

Absolutely - there is a role for free speech in any day and age, and that includes racist stereotypes and mockery, because it's all speech. Free speech is not only speech which we agree with, but also speech we don't agree with. Thankfully, because of free speech, we are free to voice our disagreement with racist stereotypes, and we do so utilizing free speech. We need more, not less free speech.
posted by VikingSword at 3:03 PM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


So we need to regularly engage in racial stereotyping and mockery, just to ensure we still can? The more incendiary and inflammatory the speech, the better for the health of free speech protections? I think something's missing from that account.
posted by mek at 3:08 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also have my doubts that many Muslims are all that educated on why depicting Mohammad is forbidden. Most Christians don't really have a deep or intellectual understanding of the intricacies of their faith and I have little reason to think the average Muslim is that much more religiously educated than the average Christian.

Why Muslims forbid images of Mohammad is an extremely interesting question which might be answered on many levels, not necessarily all entirely within the faith.

I'm interested in how religions work, in the sense that if you view them as living organisms, how they work is the physiology that allows them to survive and reproduce.

From that point of view, I think forbidding images of Mohammad essentially draws a veil across his face.

Then, by insisting women be veiled, an identification between Mohammad and women as a whole is achieved, and Islam is thereby able to take for itself some of the adoration that ordinarily would go toward women exclusively, an end Christianity is able to accomplish only by virtually deifying the Virgin Mary, which only allows it to partake in the love of mothers.

Islam, by contrast, dips into mother love, sister love, daughter love, and sexual love appropriate to wives and mistresses all at once-- a magnificently impressive feat!
posted by jamjam at 3:12 PM on November 8, 2011


So no, Charlie Hebdo is not a dick, not irresponsible, not stupid and nasty. Rather, he's providing a valuable public service - poking into whatever quarter, without regard to political or social position and sacred cows, and when the poking evokes a violent reaction, he's done his job exposing a problem area. He's done so here, and I salute him for that.

With all due respect -- and with full and free exercising of my free speech -- VikingSword, this is poppycock.

Charlie Hebdo's article was not a noble martyr striking a Quixotic blow for unfettered and impartial free expression. It was the equivalent a little kid making fart noises under his armpit with a towel wrapped around his head and saying "lookit me! I'm an Islam person! Ha-ha!" And if that if that kid is stomping around doing that next to some other kids trying to do their on thing, and those kids yell at him to "stop bothering us," it looks really lame for them to go crying to their mommy, all "waaaaaaaaahhhhhhh they won't let me do what I waaaaaaant!"

Now, no one is saying that they don't have the RIGHT to act like this. And similarly, firebombing their offices is like the bully who punches them and steals their lunch money. But no one is saying that the bully was right to steal their lunch money in the first place.

But let's be honest about what their real role in this game is, though. And it certainly isn't the role of Free Speech Champion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:29 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


So we need to regularly engage in racial stereotyping and mockery, just to ensure we still can? The more incendiary and inflammatory the speech, the better for the health of free speech protections? I think something's missing from that account.

We need to allow any speech, for the health of free speech, including objectionable/incendiary speech. This is something so important, that we have enshrined it as part of our constitution. The constitution places no limit on the quantity or frequency of such speech. There's your answer.

As to why it's important in practice? It's important, because it frequently brings out issues which can be dealt with. Take stereotyping. We could ban such speech, but that does not remove the doubts and suspicions of people who may not have enough information. So it's best to let it come out into the open, which gives us a chance to counter such stereotypes. Sunlight and openness is always preferable to repression and hiding. As the saying goes, the cure is more speech, not less.

But why speak theoretically. Take this very example. CH publishes a controversial (incendiary, objectionable, pick your term) cover. Reaction I'd like to see: people, including Muslims shrugging their shoulders and saying "that wasn't very accurate", "that's pretty dumb", "that was utterly lacking in wit", whatever, or as was indeed the reaction of "Dalil Boubakeur head of the Paris Mosque, told journalists: "I am extremely attached to the freedom of the press, even if the press is not always tender with Muslims, Islam or the Paris Mosque". Brilliant! If that's all that happened, I'd call it a grand success. It would mean that the society is mature, that nobody is going to raise to the bait, and that any racist propagandists, should they appear on the scene, will fail. It's a reaction of a society at ease with itself and secure in its self-confidence about their culture and their tolerance. CH would move on to another target, the society passed the test. Instead, the test revealed a problem area. Time to tackle the problem, not attack the test.
posted by VikingSword at 3:32 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Absolutely - there is a role for free speech in any day and age, and that includes racist stereotypes and mockery, because it's all speech.

She did ask about satire, though: not all speech or even humor is satire.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:44 PM on November 8, 2011


Charlie Hebdo's article was not a noble martyr striking a Quixotic blow for unfettered and impartial free expression.

How so? You claim there is a right to free speech. I test it by doing something objectionable (insert whatever example, including yours). If I am then attacked illegally, I can say: here's a problem. I have done something to expose the problem which would not otherwise be seen. I did a social good.

Blaming CH for the bombing or criticizing him in any way is like saying "she asked for it by walking in a short skirt", or "while we don't endorse the attack, we do agree that short skirts are provocative".

What's the point of SlutWalks? They're not walking because they need to get from point A to point B. They're walking to assert their right to wear whatever the fuck it is they want to wear, without anyone excusing attacks against them on grounds of what they wear.

CH may publish a poster not because it provides deep insight, but solely as an expression of his right to do so, however silly, stupid and objectionably by anyone - and if he's attacked, it exposes the need for such actions. He's done a service for the cause, just as SlutWalk does. The proof of the need for his action is in the firebombing reaction.

CH should have the right to free speech regardless of what you or anyone else thinks of that speech.
posted by VikingSword at 3:45 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


there is a role for free speech in any day and age, and that includes racist stereotypes and mockery, because it's all speech.

Says who? Hate speech is illegal in Canada and Germany, among other places.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:49 PM on November 8, 2011


Hate speech is illegal in Canada and Germany, among other places.

Your response to the quoted argument does not contain a counterargument.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:53 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


CH should have the right to free speech regardless of what you or anyone else thinks of that speech.

I never said they didn't have that right. I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that I am saying that.

However, you seem to be taking the positions that one of the protections granted by free speech is "freedom from having people tell you 'dude, you're acting like a dick'." And that's simply not the case.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:53 PM on November 8, 2011


Says who? Hate speech is illegal in Canada and Germany, among other places.

Yep. And I heartily disagree with that as an American. Just as I disagree with the veil bans in France - I see it springing from the same flaw; once you start banning objectionable speech on grounds of social good, you open religious freedom to the same objections and bans . Every country is free to govern itself as it sees fit, and I'm free to have an opinion on that.
posted by VikingSword at 3:55 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, but there are aspects of Islam that are near universal that are still worth talking about and criticizing (just like every other religion).

No offense, dude, but I really think you're unjustified in holding forth about Islam; judging by your comments directly concerning it in this and other threads, you don't seem very knowledgeable about it.
posted by smoke at 3:55 PM on November 8, 2011


However, you seem to be taking the positions that one of the protections granted by free speech is "freedom from having people tell you 'dude, you're acting like a dick'." And that's simply not the case.

Nope. You're taking the position that he's a dick. You have the right to that position. I'm taking the position that he's not a dick. In response to my position, you claim that he's not striking a blow for freedom of speech. I'm pointing out that he most certainly is and the reaction to his speech provides the very proof of that - and therefore someone who provides a valuable social service is not a dick in my book.
posted by VikingSword at 3:57 PM on November 8, 2011


However, you seem to be taking the positions that one of the protections granted by free speech is "freedom from having people tell you 'dude, you're acting like a dick'." And that's simply not the case.

To me it is also strange how the nature Hebdo's actions are changed by the act of the bomber.

If we assume that the moment the first comic rolled off the press (or the equivalent digital version) he was a dick. OK, dude is a dick.

But then someone bombs the paper, putting firm ground underneath "the dick." His actions led to a demonstration of why being able to critique these things is not dickish.
posted by rosswald at 4:07 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we assume that the moment the first comic rolled off the press (or the equivalent digital version) he was a dick. OK, dude is a dick.

Why? In that case every undercover cop is a dick. Every provocateur intent on exposing illegality or hypocrisy is a dick. How do you know what motivated CH?

This is not so simple. Take the example of the Danish cartoons. It is my opinion - maybe I'm wrong - that these people had ulterior motives, based on their history. If right-wing, race-baiting, fascist propagandists etc. put out racially/religiously offensive cartoons, yeah, I'm gonna think, jerks. I looked at the Danish publication, and my verdict was - dicks. Maybe I'm wrong, but that was my take.

CH on the other hand does not have a particular axe to grind that anyone can claim - they've been pretty broad in their mockery, anyone and anything (as best I can tell). My verdict - not dicks. They don't have it in for Muslims specifically. I can see this as a way of exposing problems wherever the problems may be - in this case a tiny, tiny minority of fundamentalist Muslims, tomorrow somewhere else, maybe even the government, should it shut them down as they did in the wake of the de Gaulle situation.

Note also that even in the case of the Danish cartoons - in which I personally can find no redeeming value of any kind - the subsequent reaction of reprinting the cartoons cannot be laid down to the other publications "being dicks", because they were indeed asserting the right to free speech, perhaps they did it holding their noses, but that doesn't make them dicks (not sure about all of them, I think there were some rabble-rousing right-wing rags from Norway that go in on the action).

Therefore it continues to be my position that calling CH "dicks" is not accurate in this case.
posted by VikingSword at 4:28 PM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


And similarly, firebombing their offices is like the bully who punches them and steals their lunch money.

..... I am speechless. I cannot believe you just compared a fucking firebombing to getting your lunch money stolen because you were asking for it. This thread is chock full of super-offensive victim blaming.
posted by dialetheia at 5:12 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ya, I wasn't actually calling the publication a dick. I haven't seen the comic as I have been at work all day.

I was more just saying that even if we take for granted that the person's intentions were less than honorable, its context is changed by the bombing.
posted by rosswald at 5:25 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since this is the only Tunisia and comics related thread around today, I'm putting my link to secular leaning Tunisian political cartoons right here.

(warning, French and Facebook)
posted by Winnemac at 6:41 PM on November 8, 2011


Metafilter skews American and Western, but in most of the places where Islam exists, it is the dominant cultural force and the mullahs set the agenda. It is, as I have witnessed first hand over the last 10 or 15 years, a force for oppression of women and religious minorities and the continued dominance of the Islamic male elies.

These campaigns against those who insult Islam are a tool for rallying and controlling those in the fold. Without the bogeyman of an evil west trying to destroy Islam, these mullahs would lose a lot of their power.

They need to be offended, and if they can't find it they make it up. There was a recent flurry of Facebook outrage against Nike - apparently they insulted Allah by putting his name on shoes. Turns out it was a mistake by a graphic designer who couldn't read Arabic - an honest albeit idiotic bungle a la the Chevy Nova. It also turns out that the issue is years old, and has recently been cleared up by Nike's public apology and donation to Islamic charities. Of course, I was the one to actually research this and post links, the people who wanted to be outraged were content with sharing the four year old story.

My point is this: in the larger world, it isn't a question of minority Muslims being repressed, it is the story of political Islam finding fuel for the fire wherever they can. They'll find injury whether or not assholes write satirical pieces.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:46 PM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


This thread is chock full of super-offensive victim blaming.

I agree. And there's also that major problem in thinking that just because something is foreign and fundamentalist, that it suddenly deserves superior respect than we commonly afford the Christian fundamentalism many of us have learned to despise as an incurable mental illness. I always wonder how many are fooled by into becoming anti-western by succumbing to ultra-cheesy postmodern.
posted by Brian B. at 6:46 PM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


VikingSword, you're repeatedly arguing past everyone in this thread. The right to free speech is not a shield from criticism. We can accept that holocaust deniers and white supremacists and rabidly anti-Mulsim racists are all contemptible people who espouse generally reprehensible views without denying them the right to speak. You're repeatedly confusing morality with legality in your replies to myself and others. Comparing this to SlutWalks is aboslutely absurd because as I argued above context is everything, and the context of this publication is what makes it so reprehensible in my view. Reprehensible mind you, not illegal.
posted by mek at 6:47 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't want to derail this into a discussion of victim blaming, but to be clear this is absoutely not an example of victim blaming. Victim blaming is an ideology used in service of the maintenance of ongoing systemic oppression, in which the targets of oppression are blamed for their own misfortune. This is obviously not applicable unless you believe the French hate satirical newspapers, in which case you are entitled to your opinion, I suppose.
posted by mek at 6:53 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're taking the position that he's a dick. You have the right to that position. I'm taking the position that he's not a dick.

But my thinking he's a dick doesn't infringe upon his free speech. It only makes you angry, apparently, and I'm willing to run the risk of that.

But then someone bombs the paper, putting firm ground underneath "the dick." His actions led to a demonstration of why being able to critique these things is not dickish.

How so?

I am speechless. I cannot believe you just compared a fucking firebombing to getting your lunch money stolen because you were asking for it. This thread is chock full of super-offensive victim blaming.

....Do you really not understand the metaphor I was making?

Alright, let me clear some things up.

I actually do NOT believe bullies who steal lunch money should get away with it -- they deserve to be punished. Nor do I believe that obnoxious kids on the playground deserve to get their lunch money stolen, nor do I believe they were "asking for it."

Similarly, I do not believe that this newspaper deserved to be firebombed. Nor do I believe they were "asking for it." I also believe the people who firebombed them should be punished.

The point I was attempting to make, though, was solely that -- the fact that this paper was firebombed does not grant any sort of after-the-fact nobility to the things it was trying to say. Yes, it is horrible that it got firebombed. That is a separate issue from the fact that they said obnoxious things.

And "they said some obnoxious things, and my calling the things they said 'obnoxious' is not a censor's act" is really all I was trying to say.

Got it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Therefore it continues to be my position that calling CH "dicks" is not accurate in this case.

Dude, we've gotten that memo. You've made your position on that point abundantly clear.

I still think they're dicks, though, and my expressing that opinion is not censorship.

....However, I'm starting to wonder if you aren't trying to censor my expression of MY opinion. I thought you believed in free speech, what about mine?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2011


Victim blaming is an ideology used in service of the maintenance of ongoing systemic oppression, in which the targets of oppression are blamed for their own misfortune.

Victim blaming is whenever stupid people blame the victim.
posted by Brian B. at 7:51 PM on November 8, 2011


No, it's a technical term which you are misappropriating to give a weak argument an illegitimate authority.
posted by mek at 7:59 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is zero hate speech here guys, trust me. I'm fairly confident that French hate speech laws are stronger than your countries' versions, well unless you're German probably.

Example : Jean-Marie Le Pen has been fined several hundred thousands euros over the years for various comments designed to insight racial conflict. Jean-Marie Le Pen has roughly the power of say Newt Gingrich, adjusted for national size, i.e. he'll never be president, but his fans try.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:14 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still think they're dicks, though, and my expressing that opinion is not censorship.

....However, I'm starting to wonder if you aren't trying to censor my expression of MY opinion. I thought you believed in free speech, what about mine?


Is there any more straw left where you're at, or did you use it all?

Where did I ever say or imply that saying CH are dicks is "censorship" or that you are not completely entitled to your opinion? In fact, I explicitly say otherwise. I'll bold it for you this time - here's the direct quote:

"You're taking the position that he's a dick. You have the right to that position. I'm taking the position that he's not a dick."

You objected to my position. I responded explaining why I don't think CH are dicks - but, at no point did I say anything about censorship or how anyone should in any way be restrained from saying anything they may wish about CH or anything else. We're exchanging views and opinions.

VikingSword, you're repeatedly arguing past everyone in this thread. The right to free speech is not a shield from criticism.

Err, where did I say the right to free speech is a shield from criticism? Citation please. There's none. What I did say, is that in my opinion - an opinion I give extensive grounds for - the criticism of CH in this instance misses the mark - but there is no shield from criticism of CH or anyone or anything else, criticize away to your heart's content.

You think CH are dicks. I think they provided a valuable public service in this instance and are not dicks from my point of view. Which point of view comes closer to reality, everyone will have to decide for themselves.
posted by VikingSword at 8:43 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The very first sentence of that wikipedia article says, "Victim blaming occurs when the victim(s) of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment are held entirely or partially responsible for the transgressions committed against them." Period, nothing in the definition about systemic oppression (though it does factor into the origins of the term, as the article goes on to explain). I am pretty surprised that you'd call the idea that they didn't deserve to be firebombed a "weak argument," though.

....However, I'm starting to wonder if you aren't trying to censor my expression of MY opinion. I thought you believed in free speech, what about mine?

Silenced all your life. I think everyone is super clear that you think they're dicks, though, thanks. Besides, nobody is denying you the right to say that, people are just saying we don't really care if they're dicks, that the firebombing part is simply a much bigger deal than the being a dick part. The idea is that continuing to obsess over what dicks they are is sort of missing the point, given the whole firebombing thing. And I still think your asinine metaphor offensively minimized the violence of the response and implicitly blamed the victim of a violent crime, so I guess we can agree to disagree.
posted by dialetheia at 8:46 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am pretty surprised that you'd call the idea that they didn't deserve to be firebombed a "weak argument," though.

I'm not at all surprised that you would falsely claim that anyone in this thread is arguing they deserved to be firebombed, as that straw man has already been trotted out several times before and is as worthy of ridicule now as it is then. As Metafilter discussions go, I expect a little better than this.
posted by mek at 8:48 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The firebombing was meant to terrorize. I don't see how anyone can justify this violent crime as a reasonable response to someone making fun of your religion. Why don't you hold Muslims to an equal standard?
posted by autoclavicle at 9:03 PM on November 8, 2011


Why did you ask me whether I thought "cultures" could be critiqued, only to list off a series of actions? Maybe you need to clarify your own terminology.

Earlier in this thread you chastised someone for being "obtuse", and now you're going to pretend there is no relationship between actions and culture? Give me a break.

the fact that this paper was firebombed does not grant any sort of after-the-fact nobility to the things it was trying to say.

If this was the first time anything like this had happened, you may have had a point there. The reality of the situation provides for a more meaningful context. People have been murdered and papers have been attacked in Europe over similar issues. This work was published in that environment, not the platonic ideal you're discussing.

And thus, is there a role for racist stereotypes or mockery in satire in today's day and age?

What "role"? Free speech doesn't fit into an orderly package for state or society. It doesn't need to be "useful". Free speech is speech that does not have to be justified. This is a question that belies a lack of understanding, or support of, free speech.

This gets at the heart of the matter. A lot of people in this thread- many of whom would say they support free speech- actually are only for "good" speech. They cannot recognize their authoritarian impulse because surely, they are on the "right" side.

outside of the West, there is often no distinction between religion and culture)

Nothing is riper for satire than that lack of distinction.
posted by spaltavian at 9:48 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


The firebombing was meant to terrorize. I don't see how anyone can justify this violent crime as a reasonable response to someone making fun of your religion. Why don't you hold Muslims to an equal standard?

Depends. When did you stop beating your wife?
posted by Amanojaku at 10:27 PM on November 8, 2011


If this was the first time anything like this had happened, you may have had a point there. The reality of the situation provides for a more meaningful context. People have been murdered and papers have been attacked in Europe over similar issues. This work was published in that environment, not the platonic ideal you're discussing.

I agree and the specific historical environment I outlined in my earlier comments makes the case that a French publication mocking Tunisian democracy at this specific date is especially disturbing; however, the material reality of the situation seems to be happily dismissed in favour of discussions of these platonic ideals. eg. autoclavicle above.
posted by mek at 11:02 PM on November 8, 2011


Otoh, its protecting freedom and lives when the firebombing/droning/whatnot is that of a US citizen who happens to be muslim speaking out in his rights of free speech, yes?

Just making sure I understand these arguments correctly.
posted by infini at 11:31 PM on November 8, 2011


The very first sentence of that wikipedia article says,

You will do better in life if you make it a habit of reading past the very first sentence.
posted by mek at 11:35 PM on November 8, 2011


You will do better in life if you make it a habit of reading past the very first sentence.

Likewise - if you could read past the first half of my sentence, you'd see that I did that, and it doesn't say what you claim it does. The systemic oppression relates to the origin of the term, but is not a stated requirement anywhere within your citation (or anywhere else I can find, for that matter). If you have a better citation, please share. As it stands, I don't agree with your narrow, jargonized interpretation of the term; people use "blaming the victim" in reference to mugging, for example, and there is no systemic oppression there. Thanks for the selective quote and the condescending attitude, though!
posted by dialetheia at 11:57 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sentence 2 and 3 belie your antagonism. If that's too ambiguous for you, every single result on the front page of the Google search for "victim blaming" provides further information for you to peruse.

But like I said, a derail on why victim blaming doesn't apply here is stupid. French newspapers are not being oppressed by internet commentators. The end.
posted by mek at 12:04 AM on November 9, 2011


I really, truly, don't understand the "Charlie Hebdo should have expected this" crowd. Because that's fucking nuts.

There are plenty of religious practices that have not been able to withstand contemporary social mores and have fallen by the wayside. No one would ever make a similar argument about firebombing a publication like The Advocate because it offends the delicate sensibilities of religious homophobes everywhere. If there was even a whiff of "they should have known better" in a circumstance like that, every mefite's face would melt off from rage like the neutron bomb had just dropped.

The question of whether this counts as satire or vulgarity, whether it's low hanging fruit or the burden of a couple of righteous left-wing intellectuals is totally beside the point. Your argument is fucking reprehensible. No one should have the expectation that they are going to be attacked for expressing an opinion or making fun of someone or something. Ever. No exceptions. It doesn't matter if they're speaking truth to power or just being dickheads.

Free speech doesn't fit into an orderly package for state or society. It doesn't need to be "useful". Free speech is speech that does not have to be justified. This is a question that belies a lack of understanding, or support of, free speech.

Amen, brother.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 12:05 AM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


Although the fact of French imperialist gallivanting in Tunisia does of course mean that French people/organisations poking fun at Tunisian people/organisations is taking place in a rather touchy context, I don't think that it means that such satire ought not to take place; analogously, for instance, I also don't think that British folk/papers should shy from satirising Mugabe, or Americans from satirising Fidel Castro.

In this case, though, since Ennahda have announced they will not introduce religious content to the Tunisian constitution (as Abiezer pointed out upthread), the original Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cover seems to me more mean-spirited than incisive. On the other hand, a wee bit poking about the internet has turned up at least one person (writing in a pan-Arab rather than specifically Tunisian context) who thinks that Ennahda & Ghannushi's moderate positions are some flavour of sham, but I don't know enough about the party to make a judgement myself.
posted by Dim Siawns at 12:33 AM on November 9, 2011


Although the fact of French imperialist gallivanting in Tunisia does of course mean that French people/organisations poking fun at Tunisian people/organisations is taking place in a rather touchy context, I don't think that it means that such satire ought not to take place; analogously, for instance, I also don't think that British folk/papers should shy from satirising Mugabe, or Americans from satirising Fidel Castro.

It's important to note the Charlie Hebdo was one of the publications that were specifically banned by the Ben Ali regime, because it was among the loudest critics of its corruption (and of the complicit French politicians and businessmen). It was also one of the first to greet the revolution and return to Tunisia after Ben Ali's fall (to great sales success), and to denounce the creeping return of censorship, this time under "religious" guise. The whole point of the "Charia Hebdo" issue was to denounce such censorship, whether in France or Tunisia, which makes the self-righteous hand-wringing from a bunch of uninformed ethical couch quarterbacks here in Metafilter rather misplaced.
posted by Skeptic at 1:54 AM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


As pointed out by people who are on the ground and have half an idea of what is going on in France right now, (Skeptic, elgilito), Charlie Hebdo is a weekly magazine (just — it only barely escapes zine territory). Its mission is to stick a finger in the eye of hypocrites everywhere. This is certainly not an example of the Big Bad French Publishing Establishment Systematically Punishing Formerly Colonised Tunisians. What it *is* is an example of some questionable topical humour, which really is la spécialité de la maison. Et la maison est toute petite. I mean, really, you walk around Paris on Wednesdays and there's a new flyer on the newsagent saying, for example (real example linked upthread!) "Interview -- God exists -- 'I fucked the Pope up the arse'." This doesn't cheer you up one tiny bit on the daily grind?
posted by Wolof at 2:02 AM on November 9, 2011


What it *is* is an example of some questionable topical humour, which really is la spécialité de la maison.

Exactly. To make the whole story understandable to US contributors, this is similar to "The Onion" (which is frigging Time Warner compared to much smaller, meaner "Charlie Hebdo") being firebombed after this article or this article or this article.
posted by Skeptic at 2:18 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, a wee bit poking about the internet has turned up at least one person (writing in a pan-Arab rather than specifically Tunisian context) who thinks that Ennahda & Ghannushi's moderate positions are some flavour of sham, but I don't know enough about the party to make a judgement myself.
The take I got from the better-informed commentary I've seen is that there will be plenty in Ennahda who'd like to go further, but are constrained by the post-revolutionary atmosphere, i.e. they wouldn't have achieved even the minority plurality they did without a commitment to secularism. So they'd have to engineer constitutional change by stealth until they arrived at a point where they could impose their will without seeking a democratic mandate for it. That doesn't sound like the sort of thing that's outside the bounds of possibility, but given the heightened awareness of the issues in Tunisia, not necessarily easy to pull off either. But I'm in the same position as you, reading things from afar.
posted by Abiezer at 2:42 AM on November 9, 2011


there will be plenty in Ennahda who'd like to go further, but are constrained by the post-revolutionary atmosphere

Which is exactly why a healthy freedom of speech is more necessary than ever in post-revolutionary Arab countries. The cover of "Charlie Hebdo" was purposedly "dickish" to test this freedom of speech. Cf. "The People vs. Larry Flint".
posted by Skeptic at 2:56 AM on November 9, 2011


Or, as "Charlie Hebdo"'s fellow French satirical mag "Le Canard Enchaîné" puts on its cover every week: " La liberté de la presse ne s’use que quand on ne s’en sert pas." ("Press freedom of speech gets worn only when it isn't used.")
posted by Skeptic at 3:01 AM on November 9, 2011


Yes; there's clearly a bottom line and that's it.
I am left feeling it smacks a bit of metropolitan hubris to take up cudgels on behalf of secular Tunisians in a way that might not be much help to them; not saying I know that's the case here, more that obviously the most important arena for that debate will be within Tunisia itself. But that's a second-order issue, tactical as it were; Charlie Hebdo can obviously publish what the fuck they like.
posted by Abiezer at 4:00 AM on November 9, 2011


where did I say the right to free speech is a shield from criticism?

You didn't say it specifically, but then you said this:

Charlie Hebdo is not a dick, not irresponsible, not stupid and nasty. Rather, he's providing a valuable public service - poking into whatever quarter, without regard to political or social position and sacred cows, and when the poking evokes a violent reaction, he's done his job exposing a problem area. He's done so here, and I salute him for that.

If you truly didn't have a problem with the fact that people were calling him dicks, you wouldn't be so clearly upset by people calling him thus. So if you don't believe that people saying he's a dick is censorship, and you don't want to restrict people from saying he's a dick, then why on earth has this upset you so much?

Silenced all your life. I think everyone is super clear that you think they're dicks, though, thanks. Besides, nobody is denying you the right to say that, people are just saying we don't really care if they're dicks, that the firebombing part is simply a much bigger deal than the being a dick part.

And if you weren't so busy scolding me for attacking your favorite fart-joke provider, you'd have noticed that I AGREE WITH YOU ON THAT.

But hey, if you want to make him a victim for the cause and join him in feeling persecuted for your noble right to make fun of others don't let me stop you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 AM on November 9, 2011


But hey, if you want to make him a victim for the cause and join him in feeling persecuted for your noble right to make fun of others don't let me stop you.

27 comments and you've yet to recognise that Charlie Hebdo is not a him, it's a magazine. You're not even reading the thread.
posted by Wolof at 4:23 AM on November 9, 2011


I agree and the specific historical environment I outlined in my earlier comments makes the case that a French publication mocking Tunisian democracy at this specific date is especially disturbing; however, the material reality of the situation seems to be happily dismissed in favour of discussions of these platonic ideals. eg. autoclavicle above.

Tunisian "democracy" wasn't mocked; the outcome of the election was. Just like the outcome of all elections everywhere will be mocked by someone. Welcome to freedom, Tunisia.

The firebombing is what's disturbing.
posted by spaltavian at 5:00 AM on November 9, 2011


Just fyi, I avoided correcting their grammar earlier, Wolof, because hebdomadaire (hebdo) is actually masculine, making it funny that people referred to it as a he in English. Also, Inspector.Gadget won the thread way back. ;)
posted by jeffburdges at 5:21 AM on November 9, 2011


The firebombing is what's disturbing.

Exactly. And that's why turning this into a free-speech issue is nonsense.

Charlie Hebdo (and for the record, Wolof, others have been referring to the magazine as "Him", so I was lapsing into that for convenience's sake) was the victim of a crime - period. That crime was not government censorship -- therefore this was not a free speech issue in the first place. And their victimhood does not render their prior actions any more noble or brave.

And for them to turn around and paint it as such, and for others in here to agree with that depiction, displays a lack of full understanding of what free speech actually entails, what it actually protects, and who is actually capable of comitting free speech crimes.

And pointing out that "but Charlie Hebdo didn't say anything noble or brave" does not make a person an opponent of free speech, and it also does not make them a supporter of the firebombers.

And the fact that the firebombers did so in repsonse to what Charlie Hebdo printed them does not make them agents of censorship. And pointing out that fact does not make one a supporter of censorship.

At the end of the day: Charlie Hebdo said some obnoxious and cowardly things. Other people committed a violent act upon them. The violent act should be punished. But no one's free speech was ever at risk, and freedom of the press is not threatened by this act, and Charlie Hebdo is not a brave and noble crusader for the Rights Of Man, nor are they good satirists.

Charlie Hebdo and its owners are nothing more than victims of property damage, and they deserve only to be repaid for damages. And the perpetrators of the firebombing are nothing more than private citizens with poor impulse control who should be persecuted. And free speech was never at risk because of this incident.

Period.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:26 AM on November 9, 2011


Well, that settles it then. Judgement has been handed down.

Investigate the freedom to not comment on shit you don't understand. It's liberating.
posted by Wolof at 5:45 AM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Investigate the freedom to not comment on shit you don't understand. It's liberating.

You mean, like people failing to understand that only governments can censor speech?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 AM on November 9, 2011


Charlie Hebdo and its owners are nothing more than victims of property damage, and they deserve only to be repaid for damages. And the perpetrators of the firebombing are nothing more than private citizens with poor impulse control who should be persecuted. And free speech was never at risk because of this incident.

Could you be any more disingenuous? Or is Wolof correct in assuming that you really just can't parse this situation at all?

This is not just property damage. This is intimidation meant to quiet speech that someone disagrees with. How can you be so willfully blind to that?

The perpetrators are not just private citizens with poor impulse control. A firebombing can very easily - usually by design - result in deaths. Deaths. How can you be so willfully blind to that?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:48 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Guys, I'm not saying that the firebombing was not a crime, and I'm not saying it shouldn't be punished. Because it should be. Severely.

But it is not a censor's act. Unless you can prove to me that the people who committed the firebombing were ordered to do so by the government of France, this is not a censor's act, and this is not a free speech issue.

Yes, the goal was to make the other person shut up, but one person telling another person "shut up" is not censorship. It's one person being an an asshole to another.

And lest anyone misrepresent me again -- I'm not trying to lighten the crimes of the firebombers by saying "oh they were just being an asshole". They absolutely should be punished for their crimes. But for the love of God don't make "censorship" one of those crimes you accuse them of because it wasn't. "Harrassment"? yeah. "Censorship?" No.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 AM on November 9, 2011


You're making a meaningless semantic argument.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:05 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


But it is not a censor's act. Unless you can prove to me that the people who committed the firebombing were ordered to do so by the government of France, this is not a censor's act, and this is not a free speech issue.

Gah, I so wanted to not comment in this thread any more, but seriously???????

It might not be censorship precisely defined, but people smashing printing presses is 100% a free speech issue.
posted by empath at 6:06 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's not even like burning books which is generally a voluntary act on your own property.
posted by empath at 6:07 AM on November 9, 2011


It might not be censorship precisely defined, but people smashing printing presses is 100% a free speech issue. It's not even like burning books which is generally a voluntary act on your own property.

Do you also think that it's "censorship" when Jessamyn deletes a comment in here or bans someone?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:11 AM on November 9, 2011


EmpressCallipygos so, apparently, in your opinion it's only censorship or a "free speech issue" when the intimidation is perpetrated by the incumbent government?

So, when a criminal enterprise silences a whistleblower, it isn't a "free speech issue"?

When the brownshirts were still a private party militia and attacked their opponents, it wasn't a "free speech issue"?

You see, it's this sort of attitude that really annoys me in certain brands of "libertarian". According to them, only "government action" (now matter how powerless the government, and how powerful some individual interests) can infringe upon personal freedoms. This simply overlooks the fact that "government" is just an abstract entity. It is other individuals who infringe our freedoms when they abuse their power, regardless whether this power is conferred by them being in government, in the management of a corporation, or simply self-conferred by threats or violence. This is why the authors of crimes against humanity are prosecuted as individuals, not "governments".
posted by Skeptic at 6:12 AM on November 9, 2011


Do you also think that it's "censorship" when Jessamyn deletes a comment in here or bans someone?

Nice attempt, but a red herring. The Metafilter team puts this platform at our disposal to communicate, in exchange of $5 and respecting the terms and conditions of the site. Metafilter is theirs, and nothing obliges you to express your opinion through Metafilter.

If Jessamyn went after you and smashed your computer after another idiotic comment, yes, it would be censorship. The banhammer? Not so much.
posted by Skeptic at 6:16 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a libertarian, actually.

I am, however, getting sick of people claiming "free speech violation!" for things that aren't free speech violations. When people accuse Internet mods of censorship, that's just ridiculous.

And I realize that that is a more extreme example. But so is comparing the firebombers to the Nazis.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:16 AM on November 9, 2011


Intimidation is a common tactic for shutting down free speech.
posted by rosswald at 6:19 AM on November 9, 2011


But so is comparing the firebombers to the Nazis.

Why? As I wrote in my first comment in this thread, quoting the magazine's own editor, the firebombers were probably just "a couple of neighbourhood idiots". But destroying property and threatening human lives in order to suppress dissenting views is just what totalitarian thugs, Nazis included, do, and it's a far, far cry from moderating an Internet thread.
posted by Skeptic at 6:20 AM on November 9, 2011


Nice attempt, but a red herring. The Metafilter team puts this platform at our disposal to communicate, in exchange of $5 and respecting the terms and conditions of the site. Metafilter is theirs, and nothing obliges you to express your opinion through Metafilter.

And I agree with you, and that's precisely why I'm making the point I'm trying to make. Because there are those who WOULD complain that it is indeed censorship.

And it isn't, for precisely the same reason that THIS incident isn't. "Harrasment," absolujtely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on November 9, 2011


As I wrote in my first comment in this thread, quoting the magazine's own editor, the firebombers were probably just "a couple of neighbourhood idiots".

If the magazine's own editor isn't calling this censorship, then why is everyone else so compelled to do so? Why are people attempting to build the perpetrators up into a more powerful boogeyman than they actually are?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on November 9, 2011


Because there are those who WOULD complain that it is indeed censorship.

"Those" are nowhere near this thread. Stop beating that strawman.

And it isn't, for precisely the same reason that THIS incident isn't. "Harrasment," absolujtely.

The offices of "Charlie Hebdo" were destroyed. Its website was simultaneously hacked, and even its Facebook profiles came under fire. Without the active support of fellow journalists, and without the staff's own courage, "Charlie Hebdo" would have been silenced. That, dear Empress, is censorship.
posted by Skeptic at 6:25 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the magazine's own editor isn't calling this censorship, then why is everyone else so compelled to do so?

Even a "couple of neighbourhood idiots" can effectively act as censors.
posted by Skeptic at 6:26 AM on November 9, 2011


The offices of "Charlie Hebdo" were destroyed. Its website was simultaneously hacked, and even its Facebook profiles came under fire. Without the active support of fellow journalists, and without the staff's own courage, "Charlie Hebdo" would have been silenced.

And by your own observation, the editor is saying this was the work of "a couple of neighborhood idiots". That's a far cry from saying it was the work of "a movement determined to silence us forever woe and welladay".

Even a "couple of neighbourhood idiots" can effectively act as censors.

Only if you want to treat them like censors. Sounds like the editor of CH doesn't want to. Why do you?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 AM on November 9, 2011


I am, however, getting sick of people claiming "free speech violation!" for things that aren't free speech violations. When people accuse Internet mods of censorship, that's just ridiculous.

That's so not even in the same league. Deleting comments on your own website is exercising your own right to free speech. It's your property and your printing press. It's no different than choosing not to print a letter to the editor. Economic boycotts are the same -- you're exercising your right not to support someone else's speech.

If you smash a printing press, you've removed someone's ability to speak entirely, and you've likely intimidated others into silence. It's a dangerous, totalitarian tactic, even if it's just a lone bunch of thugs. Because if left unchecked -- if it becomes an effective tactic for silencing speech you disagree with, the thugs that do that kind of thing will use it again and again.
posted by empath at 6:32 AM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you smash a printing press, you've removed someone's ability to speak entirely, and you've likely intimidated others into silence.

Then that's harrassment.

It's a dangerous, totalitarian tactic, even if it's just a lone bunch of thugs. Because if left unchecked -- if it becomes an effective tactic for silencing speech you disagree with, the thugs that do that kind of thing will use it again and again.

Still sounds like harrassment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on November 9, 2011


EmpressCallipygos I don't see why, in your eyes, harassment (in particular the sort of "harassment" that involves arson in a densely populated neighbourhood) can't amount to censorship. But, fuck, who cares?! I leave you to your semantic hobby horse.
posted by Skeptic at 6:39 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


And a thought -- why would you want to dignify the actions of thugs BY classifying their actions as something more poweful than they actually are?

Calling their actions "censorship" gives them a power they don't have. They're not censors. Their actions are not supported by the government. They are cowards who are turning to violence because that's one of the few tools in their arsenal. Would you really want to dignify their actions by saying that censorship was even what they were trying to do, and would you even consider buckling in to that?

I know I wouldn't. I'd call them thugs, which is what they are, and call what they did criminal, which is what it is, and I wouldn't let it stop me, which is what the editor of CH appears to be doing too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, if a couple of neighbourhood idiots one day decides to burn down your home, I hope you'll also see it as merely harassing.
posted by Skeptic at 6:41 AM on November 9, 2011


Also, if a couple of neighbourhood idiots one day decides to burn down your home, I hope you'll also see it as merely harassing.

No, it's arson. Just like the firebombing of the CH offices is.

It's arson, it's property damage, it's attempted murder, it's a lot of other things. Censorship, however, is NOT one of those things, no matter how much you stomp your little feeties and insist it is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on November 9, 2011


And burning a cross on someone's front lawn is what, littering?
posted by empath at 6:59 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are frequent cases of non-government attempts at censorship through intimidation or violence, especially by religious ideologies and organizations. Isn't that the whole origin of the Internet vs. Scientology for example? Such extra-governmental censorship is quite common in the Muslim world. I cited the attack on Aziz Nesin's hotel upthread for example.

I've many friends from Islamic countries who deal with this religiously sanctioned censorship through intimidation and harassment regularly, especially the women. You aren't helping Islamic cultures by defending violent religious psychopaths, like whoever committed this bombing. Instead, you're arming the thugs that oppress intellectuals, feminists, gays, etc.

Just fyi, harassment doesn't technically apply in the Charlie Hebdo case because harassment requires repetitive behavior. There is a reasonable chance the bombing charges could be augmented by a hate crime charge, but probably the "neighborhood idiots" would face a terrorism charge, adding vastly more jail time. Intimidation must be taken seriously.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:59 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that the fundamental disagreement in this exchange is whether it is only when governments curtail speech, or attempt to curtail speech, that we can use the word censorship. I see no reason to say that censorship is purely the purview of government; for instance, the RCC's historical attempts to suppress certain printed works, or Ayatollah Khomeini's pronouncement of fatwa on Salman Rushdie are indisputably attempts to make use of non-governmental power and influence to control speech. I think it is eminently reasonable to consider these censorship and, given that the firebombers of the Charlie Hebdo offices used what is arguably the most prototypical form of non-governmental power (i.e., naked violence), to consider the firebombing an act, or attempted act, of censorship
posted by Dim Siawns at 7:07 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The difference between censorship and not-censorship has to do with using force or violence or the threat of force or violence, imo, and not whether the government does it. Because there can still be censorship in a lawless state.
posted by empath at 7:13 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Tunisian-French blogger Jolanare doesn't seem too impressed with Charlie Hebdo. She calls their special issue on Ennahda a collection of cliches lacking a sense of humor, and says it should be condemned for stupidity rather than heresy.

I'll quote a bit:
What bothers me the most are Muslims who are caught in the trap of their own religious chauvinism and can't step back enough to consider that this satirical magazine is worthy of little of artistic or comic interest. And I confess I was disappointed. I was hoping for some spark, some acuteness of sarcastic genius. Instead of that, I'm aware of how distant it is from minds like Voltaire making me laugh treacherously at my own religion ... [you could] start by learning Arabic and come read some of the tanbirat on our dear compatriots' FBs. We don't have great resources, just the ability to laugh and transfigure our own reality, whether sad or joyous.
Sorry for the really poor translation. I know it's somewhat garbled, but hopefully not too far off.
posted by nangar at 8:02 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


@EmpressCallipygos I must admit I'm puzzled by your insistence that censorship is exclusively the realm of government.

Censorship is a matter of power, not government. Any agency with the power to silence is capiable of censorship.

And yes, it is censorship when a mod deletes a post. It may be justifiable censorship (around here I think the mods exercise their powers of censorship wisely and in an admirably limited fashion, and I tend to agree that a degree of censorship is necessary for an online forum like this to avoid degrading into endless flamwars and spamming), and it isn't prohibited by the First Amendment (which does apply only to the US government), but it is undeniably censorship. Wikipedia's definition is pretty good:
Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.
But check any definition you like and you won't find that censorship is ever defined as being the exclusive property of governments.

In the case of the arsonists attacking Charlie Hebdo, I think it's very likely that they were motivated by an urge to censor. That they were attempting to use physical intimidation to cause the magazine to alter it's editorial stance or shut down publication. That's not a crime, not as far as I know anyway, but it's the most likely motive for the crime. It's also one reason why in America we sometimes tack on extra penalties for hate crimes, because some crimes are motivated by an urge to silence LGBT or other minority voices and that's something the government thinks is worth discouraging.

To take an example of non-governmental censorship in a different context, look at the Catholic League for Decency in the USA and it's long history of acting as a censor board for movies. Sometimes they were aided in their censorious efforts by government agencies [1], but mostly they relied on non-governmental power and influence in order to achieve their ends.

"The violent act should be punished. But no one's free speech was ever at risk, and freedom of the press is not threatened by this act, and Charlie Hebdo is not a brave and noble crusader for the Rights Of Man, nor are they good satirists."

The last two points I don't know enough to address. But as for the rest I must strongly disagree.

If a publisher avoids publishing anti-X pieces because they fear violence from pro-X people, then that publisher's free speech is not merely at risk but has been quashed; as is the freedom of the press. Because censorship is not limited to governments. If random ideological thugs can successfully intimidate publishers and prevent them from publishing something than those thugs self evidently have the power of censorship.

To take another example, look at Japan during the late Meiji and early Taisho periods (roughly 1908 - 1920). While the government at that time did exercise considerable censorship, more censorship was exercised by nationalist thugs who took to assassinating authors, speechmakers, politicians, publishers, etc who spoke against the imperialism that Japan was undertaking at that time.

We know from diaries, private letters, etc that several prominent people in Japan stopped speaking their minds not for fear of government censorship but from the censorship that results from fear of being killed by nationalists if they said things the nationalists didn't like.

If Charlie Hebdo ceased publication due to this attack it would have been a successful act of censorship by the (presumably) Islamist thugs who firebombed the place.

[1] And suffered setbacks due to using government power due to First Amendment defenses. They actually had more ability to censor when they were not using government power as an aid.
posted by sotonohito at 8:06 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


And burning a cross on someone's front lawn is what, littering?

No, it's arson and harrasment.

Again, I wasn't saying it wasn't SERIOUS, just that I doubted it was CENSORSHIP.

sotonohito, thank you for the info (that is a sincere thanks, by the way). Although, I have a new question based upon that - I note that the wikipedia definition states that censorship is the purview of "a government, media outlet, or other controlling body." I'll grant that this "controlling body" doesn't necessarly have to be a government, and for that, thanks for that correction.

However -- who is the "controlling body" in this particular instance? That to me states that said "controlling body" is someone in a position of authority, as opposed to someone trying a guerilla tactic. So I'm still not seeing why you'd want to grant the perpetrators of this instance a power that they simply don't have.

And to the rest of you -- firstly, my insistence upon this point doesn't also mean that I don't consider this crime TO be a crime, or that it is a serious one. But secondly - and more importantly -- it strikes me that the best way to resist intimidation like this is to be dismissive about it. And calling it censorship, GIVING the perpetrators that control, makes it all the harder to stand up TO it. The people who commit intimidation tactics like this are not "the controlling body," so far as I can see -- they only WANT to be. But the fact that they are not means that they can be prosecuted, and means that the law is on Charlie Hebdo's side, not theirs. Just as it has always been. I just fear that accusing the perpetrators of attempted censorship grants them a power that was never theirs in the first place, which makes it all the harder for others to feel they can stand up to them as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2011


Well, censorship is a process where an individual or agency takes on the role of a censor - a role charged with maintaining public standards through policing behaviour. Classically - both in the sense of in Republican Rome when the office of censor was created and in the sense of in traditional usage - censorship is something done intra-societally. So, it doesn't have to be done by the government, but the censor and the censored need to have a clear relationship in which the censor has a position of authority to censor the censored.

Obviously, this relationship exists most often when the government acts, because pretty much everything else in a country is in some way in the government's wheelhouse. As a metaphorical usage, censorship is applied to self-censorship, to social pressure not to mention an awkward topic, to financial pressure.

There are grey areas - the British Board of Film Censors was an industry body, but it was heavily beholden to the British government in terms of its political censorship, and during WW2 the Ministry of Information effectively insourced that censorship function. Whereas the Lord Chamberlain's Office directly censored theatrical performance in Britain until 1968 - as uncomplicated a brand of censorship as you'd like to see. Without the Lord Chamberlain's permission, the play would not be put on at any reputable theatre.

The Legion of Decency was a slightly different thing - a private organisation which organised boycotts of films it found unacceptable: its aims were certainly censorious, but the studios generally had the option of refusing to make the cuts and taking the financial hit from the boycotts. As sotonohito says, where it enlisted the support of governmental agencies it was a two-edged sword - culminating in the Supreme Court's decision in favor of Joseph Burstyn, Inc in 1952, which has POed religious guardians of American morals ever since.

[Put in more recent terms, it was argued that not buying the game Shadow Complex on the grounds of the writer Orson Scott Card's homophobia would be censorship. I don't think this is censorship, just as an advertiser ceasing to advertise during Glenn Beck's show is censorship - it's the application of free choice within a free market.]

So, a government banning The Satanic Verses is censorship. A publisher deciding not to publish The Satanic Verses is not censorship. Private citizens burning copies of The Satanic Verse in the street is not censorship, although if they don't own the copies it's theft and criminal damage and even if they do it might fall under various other criminal codes including vandalism, defacement of a public space, disruption of the peace and public disorder, incitement to violence and so on. I don't think we have a legal or public order reason to object to somebody buying a copy of The Satanic Verses, taking it home and quietly burning it in their own fireplace, although we might find it revolting or upsetting because we like books.

However, if publishers are given the clear impression that publishing The Satanic Verses will lead to their offices being firebombed or their employees attacked, whether as a result of an edict from a foreign government or non-governmental organisation, or just as a grass-roots response, that's criminal activity which is clearly intended to have a chilling effect on free expression - with censorious intent, but without the formal mechanisms of censorship. Whether you want to call it censorship or not is somewhat academic - it isn't censorship from a legal perspective, but it has censorious intent so the metaphorical description might be useful to describe an emotional or ethical response to it - i.e. that it is a very bad thing, and a worse thing than the mechanical assessment of the property damage involved would suggest.

At heart, that issue of Charlie Hebdo's publication was not a criminal act. And, even if it was unfunny, offensive and generally douchey, there is no current prohibition on douchey speech. The firebombing was a criminal act, and should be prosecuted as such, with any aggravating factors taken into account. If there is somebody telling "neighborhood idiots" to firebomb buildings, that person is committing a criminal act, and should be prosecuted. If there's a wider social issue which is giving rise to this sort of criminal activity, it should be addressed, although there may be better ways to do it than by further prosecutions.

Workable compromise?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Not just a workable compromise - that's actually the very thing I've been trying to say all along.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:50 AM on November 9, 2011


(Yeah, I should have previewed, really.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:54 AM on November 9, 2011


Nah, it's cool -- I see that you've gotten votes of confidence from the other participants, so clearly you've just got the eloquence that I was lacking, so yay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 AM on November 9, 2011


@EmpressCallipygos I think the "controlling body" is in reference any body with the power to exercise control.

To pick a very minor example, I censor what my son sees. He's five and I consider that to be one of my parental responsibilities; one I'll gladly surrender when he gets old enough to make his own decisions about whether to watch scary movies or whatnot. Which makes me (and my partner) the controlling body in that case.

If the arsonists had managed to compel Charlie Hebdo to stop publishing I'd say that made them a de feaco controlling body. If they exercise control, even if anonymously and from the shadows, they're a controlling body.

Moreover, I'd say that while I like the Wikipedia definition, I do think it got a bit too narrow in its language there.

Definition 2 of "censor" from Dictionary.com is: any person who supervises the manners or morality of others. Which is perhaps a touch overly broad, but captures much of what I'm trying to say.
posted by sotonohito at 9:10 AM on November 9, 2011


Me:

Charlie Hebdo is not a dick, not irresponsible, not stupid and nasty. Rather, he's providing a valuable public service - poking into whatever quarter, without regard to political or social position and sacred cows, and when the poking evokes a violent reaction, he's done his job exposing a problem area. He's done so here, and I salute him for that.

EmpressCallipygos:

If you truly didn't have a problem with the fact that people were calling him dicks, you wouldn't be so clearly upset by people calling him thus. So if you don't believe that people saying he's a dick is censorship, and you don't want to restrict people from saying he's a dick, then why on earth has this upset you so much?

Can you be any more absurd than this? On what reading, is what I wrote evidence of "being upset so much", let alone of my wanting to censor anyone? It's an expression of an opinion, in a matter of fact tone, with no animosity whatsoever toward any differing opinion - just a plain disagreement. Anyone can read that and see it. And you use that laughable absurdity as proof that somehow I want to restrict people from saying anything they want, despite my having said from the very beginning, and repeating it with bolding for your benefit that you have the right to your opinion? Direct contradiction of your assertion! And even if someone were to be upset - what does that have to do with censorship, as long as that person not only doesn't attempt to prevent anyone from speaking freely, but indeed explicitly confirms their right to do so?

This is utterly pathetic. You made absurd accusations, supported by absolutely nothing, and as a result you are forced into making ever more absurd assertions to defend them. You don't appear to understand that digging yourself in deeper does nothing for your credibility - just read the reactions to your assertions here. It's quite some spectacle you're providing.

And speaking of "censorship", what a wonderful contrast we have from you - comedy gold. On the one hand, in face of my "you have the right to your position", you wrote this:

"However, I'm starting to wonder if you aren't trying to censor my expression of MY opinion. I thought you believed in free speech, what about mine?"

And on the other hand you wrote this about the freakin' firebombing of a magazine(!):

"But it is not a censor's act. Unless you can prove to me that the people who committed the firebombing were ordered to do so by the government of France, this is not a censor's act, and this is not a free speech issue."

Just wow. This contrast in "censorship" assertions really shows us a lot about your debating tactics and skills, EmpressCallipygos. Embarrassing. Carry on! I can't wait for the next installment - I want more free speech from you!
posted by VikingSword at 9:15 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


If the arsonists had managed to compel Charlie Hebdo to stop publishing I'd say that made them a de feaco controlling body. If they exercise control, even if anonymously and from the shadows, they're a controlling body.

Right, but that only works if Charlie Hebdo GRANTED them that power by yielding to that control. And....they didn't. Instead, they chose to fight back via prosecuting the crime of firebombing.

And running order squabble fest's final paragraph really is everything I was trying to say only he said it way better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on November 9, 2011


*sigh* Oh, we were doing so well....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:16 AM on November 9, 2011


Right, but that only works if Charlie Hebdo GRANTED them that power by yielding to that control.

You're coming dangerously close to victim-blaming there. Nobody was obliged to lend their presses to Charlie Hebdo. They happened to be lucky enough to have the option of continuing publication; of this, there was no guarantee.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:26 AM on November 9, 2011


To pick a very minor example, I censor what my son sees. He's five and I consider that to be one of my parental responsibilities; one I'll gladly surrender when he gets old enough to make his own decisions about whether to watch scary movies or whatnot. Which makes me (and my partner) the controlling body in that case.

If the arsonists had managed to compel Charlie Hebdo to stop publishing I'd say that made them a de feaco controlling body. If they exercise control, even if anonymously and from the shadows, they're a controlling body.


I think those aren't comparable, though: the relationship between a parent and a child and the relationship between the victim and perpetrator of a crime is very different. Your child is effectively your subordinate. You actually have a (moral and legal) duty to make sure that he is not exposed to stimuli likely to damage him.

The equivalent to the firebombing would, rather, be a stranger seeing a child drawing a picture, snapping all his crayons and running off. That has the intention of stopping a child from drawing any more pictures (although, as we've seen, it's harder to stop a magazine from being published than you think, and to extend the metaphor a kindly family friend would probably buy him new crayons), and to have a chilling effect on the child drawing pictures in the future.

That man is clearly not a nice person, and needs a good talking to and to make restitution. He's trying to make it physically impossible for the child to draw more pictures, and possibly trying to frighten the child into no longer drawing. It's control in a "let no man live rent free in your head" kind of way, and it's censorship in the same way that, as a teenager, your son will say that not being allowed to go to an all-night cyberrave (or whatever young people are doing in 2021) is censorship. It's a metaphorical use of the term.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2011


... they chose to fight back via prosecuting the crime of firebombing.

I don't think anybody's been caught yet, Did I miss something?
posted by nangar at 9:36 AM on November 9, 2011


> Right, but that only works if Charlie Hebdo GRANTED them that power by yielding to that control.

You're coming dangerously close to victim-blaming there.


?? In all honestly, how so? I don't feel that if people do decide to lay low after intimidation tactics, that they "deserved" their attacks or anything. (I still also don't think it's censorship, but let's not start THAT argument again ;-> ) If a person told me of such an attack, and confessed they were thinking of responding by laying low, I'd encourage them to go to the police, but I'd also respect their right to not do so. I also DEFINITELY would not "blame" them for their attack by any means.

Nobody was obliged to lend their presses to Charlie Hebdo. They happened to be lucky enough to have the option of continuing publication; of this, there was no guarantee.

Right, but the editor also categorized them as "neighborhood thugs" rather than "an oppressive force". There's more than one way in which the editor sounded like he'd decided he wasn't gonna take any bullshit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on November 9, 2011


Charlie Hebdo was apparently one of the magazines that reprinted the Dutch Mohammed cartoons, and they were well aware of how that went. They knew what they were getting into with this, and I can't see it as anything other than an attempt to stir up that controversy again. That controversy was a boon for magazines and newspapers, and look at us all talking about this little-known magazine now. There's no excuse for the thugs that firebombed their offices, but there's also no question the magazine was deliberately stirring up controversy in an area it was well aware has had violent consequences in the recent past. I have to wonder if they couldn't have put out the same issue without baiting a violent Muslim minority, by doing something as simple as not putting a jokey depiction of Mohammed on the cover.
posted by Hoopo at 10:09 AM on November 9, 2011


Right, but the editor also categorized them as "neighborhood thugs" rather than "an oppressive force". There's more than one way in which the editor sounded like he'd decided he wasn't gonna take any bullshit.

Neighborhood thugs are an oppressive force. Usually not an organized one, which I suppose is why you don't think they're capable of censoring people. In any case, I disagree with the editor's characterization of the attackers. Charlie Hebdo's website was taken down simultaneously. That sure makes it look like there was an organized and deliberate attempt to silence Charlie Hebdo. I can understand why the editor would prefer to ignore that, though. He wants to keep running his silly satire rag, and starting a potentially very long fight against an oppressor would change the character.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:15 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


there's also no question the magazine was deliberately stirring up controversy in an area it was well aware has had violent consequences in the recent past.

Now, THIS sounds a little close to blaming-the-victim.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well it's not.
posted by Hoopo at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2011


Charlie Hebdo was apparently one of the magazines that reprinted the Dutch Mohammed cartoons

At least they should be aware that those cartoons were Danish, not Dutch.
posted by Skeptic at 10:24 AM on November 9, 2011


oops
posted by Hoopo at 10:26 AM on November 9, 2011


Neighborhood thugs are an oppressive force. Usually not an organized one, which I suppose is why you don't think they're capable of censoring people.

Well, hell, by this logic "the computer that goes on the fritz and keeps us from getting the issue out on time" is also an opppressive force, then, since it's something that keeps the paper from happening.

That's clearly not what you mean, though, so I'm just wondering why you're drawing the line where you are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on November 9, 2011


The censorship thing isn't, incidentally, an attempt to downplay the severity of the action. I actually think that calling it censorship in a way makes it seem less dangerous, because it suggests a level of social influence that usually operates with a keyboard rather than a firebomb. I don't really think it's a very big deal if a couple of young hotheads think that someone shouldn't be allowed to say x. Sucks to be them, but there you go. It's when they decide - or are told - that their personal convictions justify criminal acts that things get serious, precisely because they don't have any societal power to influence. The French government isn't going to look at this and think "Oh, well, we'd better ban all satire, then". They might look at it and think "We should probably let the gendarmerie take the gloves off a bit when dealing with investigating this sort of crime."

Society as it currently exists is not going to adapt to their desires. So the only thing they can do is to keep on committing criminal acts, raising tensions all the time and punishing innocents on all sides, until eventually somebody gets hurt or killed.

Criminality? Yes. Terrorism? In a mean, inchoate way. Censorship? If that works for you, but I see it as a separate issue. Basically.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:29 AM on November 9, 2011


Charlie Hebdo was apparently one of the magazines that reprinted the Dutch Mohammed cartoons, and they were well aware of how that went.

Danish, not Dutch. They took a stand that violence shall not silence anyone's free speech? Bravo.

I have to wonder if they couldn't have put out the same issue without baiting a violent Muslim minority, [...]

They should submit to the sensibilities of violent groups by altering their own speech? How wonderful for the future of free speech. Really would discourage violent groups from using tactics that apparently work. How about this response instead: not only will we not stop, but we'll continue to assert our inviolable rights and we'll do it for longer than you can attempt to deny us these rights. News alert: the onus for the violence is not on CH, but on those who perpetrate it. Period, end of story.

Well it's not. [blaming the victim]

Nobody has the right to be "baited" into illegal acts such as violence in response to free speech.

Well, "there's no excuse" for him beating the shit out of her, but let's face it, the bitch was mouthing off, baiting him, provoking him.

And that's even assuming we accept that CH was being deliberately provocative - which would still have been their absolute right. But frankly, I don't believe that - and I base that on the context in which this appeared. It's funny how that lines up - so very often in domestic violence some bring up the alleged provocative behavior of the victim, which upon closer examination shows not to have been deliberately provocative at all except possibly in the sick mind of the perpetrator.
posted by VikingSword at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, "there's no excuse" for him beating the shit out of her, but let's face it, the bitch was mouthing off, baiting him, provoking him.


Domestic violence against women does not exist to provide you with handy rhetorical flourishes in the quest to win fights on the Internet. Please don't do this.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:38 AM on November 9, 2011


Domestic violence against women does not exist to provide you with handy rhetorical flourishes in the quest to win fights on the Internet. Please don't do this.

Domestic violence is a fact of life. Domestic violence - or anything at all - is not somehow exempt from being used as an analogy. Please don't be fatuous.
posted by VikingSword at 10:42 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Using the domestic violence card here is totally a rhetorical flourish and ignores the particulars of the situation. It's not a helpful analogy since no one here is saying that the magazine deserved it.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:45 AM on November 9, 2011


Using the domestic violence card here is totally a rhetorical flourish and ignores the particulars of the situation. It's not a helpful analogy since no one here is saying that the magazine deserved it.

I disagree. I think it fits extremely well. Just as when somebody says - the very example I gave - that "she [magazine] didn't deserve it", but then following it up with "she [magazine] was being provocative". Fits perfectly. To show why it sounds wrong, I used an analogy of how we recognize it sounds wrong in another context. The parts which are relevant to the analogy function exactly as intended. Very appropriate.
posted by VikingSword at 10:49 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, bringing up domestic violence. Classy, Vikingsword.

News alert: the onus for the violence is not on CH, but on those who perpetrate it. Period, end of story.

Never said otherwise. I'm saying that Charlie Hebdo are kinda dicks, and I don't find it funny or necessary to openly mock a religious minority in a way that is known to be highly offensive. Perhaps you are aware that France has had a great deal of friction with its Muslim minority recently. Unlike your domestic violence analogy, neither French society in general nor the French press is at at any kind of disadvantage in this relationship. In fact their right to print these sorts of cartoons was challenged and upheld. The fact there's a right to be a provocative asshole and bait people does not mean you should be a provocative asshole and bait people. I can't see how the original Mohammed cover was anything other than a lazy way to exploit controversy and piss a minority off. The response of violent thugs does not in my mind make Charlie Hebdo a better publication or elevate it to anything other than a magazine that takes unfunny cheap shots and exploits controversy to sell papers.

That said the cartoon in response to the violence was actually pretty funny IMO.

Domestic violence is a fact of life. Domestic violence - or anything at all - is not somehow exempt from being used as an analogy. Please don't be fatuous.

IT'S MY FREE SPEECH, JERKS! AMERICA LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT
posted by Hoopo at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2011


I wasn't actually disagreeing with you there, Empress. It's as reasonable a place to draw the line as any. So, OK: only an organized attempt to stop a person from communicating constitutes censorship. You believed these "neighborhood thugs" were disorganized and therefore not censorious, just violent. But I think they were organized, because someone just happened to take down Charlie Hebdo's site at the same time.

I suppose it could have been separate groups who happened to both get mortally offended at the same cover image, but if you have violent subculture that reliably trashes people's shit when they get out of line... that's suspiciously close to organization.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2011


Using the domestic violence card here is totally a rhetorical flourish and ignores the particulars of the situation. It's not a helpful analogy since no one here is saying that the magazine deserved it.


No, he might be right. I mean, I don't love it when people copy and paste a paragraph and replace the word "men" with the word "blacks" to show T3h DUBLE STANDARDS, or for that matter when people N-bomb a thread to express how much they disagree with another person's choice of words.

I may just be too weak for this world. Because the thought of Vikingsword buffing and polishing his best wife-beater narrative voice while imagining how his choice of analogy will put those who are mouthing off to him in their place is kind of icky to me.

And that must be getting well past 10%, so I'm out.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:58 AM on November 9, 2011


To show why it sounds wrong, I used an analogy of how we recognize it sounds wrong in another context. The parts which are relevant to the analogy function exactly as intended.

....As a straw man.

(Hey, that's what you accused me of doing when I made an analogy of my own.)



You believed these "neighborhood thugs" were disorganized and therefore not censorious, just violent. But I think they were organized, because someone just happened to take down Charlie Hebdo's site at the same time. I suppose it could have been separate groups who happened to both get mortally offended at the same cover image, but if you have violent subculture that reliably trashes people's shit when they get out of line... that's suspiciously close to organization.

See, it's that "violent subculture that reliably trashes people's shit" classification that has me uncomfortable; I know the group you're hinting at here, and I just get afraid this group gets blamed for enough "oh noez organized terrorist cell" bullshit as it is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on November 9, 2011


Wow, bringing up domestic violence. Classy, Vikingsword.

IT'S MY FREE SPEECH, JERKS! AMERICA LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT

Apart from sarcastic personal insults "classy Vikingsword", I don't see you making any kind of argument here, so there's nothing for me to address.

I'm saying that Charlie Hebdo are kinda dicks,

Your opinion. To which you are entitled. I have the opposite opinion: they did a social good - why I think that, see my previous posts.

Perhaps you are aware that France has had a great deal of friction with its Muslim minority recently. Unlike your domestic violence analogy, neither French society in general nor the French press is at at any kind of disadvantage in this relationship.

The power is in a group of thugs ready to kill and burn - that's what's at issue. To bring it into the domestic violence context you are disputing, it would be like saying "the power is all on her side, since she has the power of the law and state on her side, while he's just an individual". The power that matter is the one which is exerted at the shortest distance. He's powerful enough to deal violence to her. The thugs are powerful enough to mete violence out to CH. Therefore the press - specifically CH - is at a disadvantage vs violent thugs who are willing to inflict murder (as one possible result of arson), while staying in the shadows. It doesn't matter if the whole state and the force of the law is against the abusive husband or the thugs in question. You are saying:

"I have to wonder if they couldn't have put out the same issue without baiting a violent Muslim minority,"

To me that's like saying "I wonder if she couldn't have said the same things without baiting a violent husband".

She should not have to walk on eggshells to avoid his violent nature, nor should CH have to put out a "walking on eggshells magazine issue" to avoid violence from thugs.
posted by VikingSword at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Shouldn't" is a really useless argument here. Extremism exists and there is ample precedent that says they will respond violently to publications that they feel violate their narrow standard of religious propriety. No amount of internet whinging will alter that. I'm not even sure why this is being debated in that manner.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2011


nor should CH have to put out a "walking on eggshells magazine issue" to avoid violence from thugs

Actually that would be a far more effective form of satire about this situation than what they did. Anyways, if you're going to continue with this ridiculous domestic violence tangent I'm done.
posted by Hoopo at 11:19 AM on November 9, 2011


See, it's that "violent subculture that reliably trashes people's shit" classification that has me uncomfortable; I know the group you're hinting at here

Actually, I was speaking in the abstract. There seemed to be a disagreement as to what censorship was--right? And I posited that when any given violent subculture uses violence to intimidate people into silence, that constitutes censorship. I doubt that this particular violent subculture represents Islam as a whole, if that's what you're implying I'm implying (seriously I can't tell). But I think it is a violent subculture, it is using violence to intimidate people into silence, and it does constitute censorship.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2011


Anyways, if you're going to continue with this ridiculous domestic violence tangent I'm done.

You're welcome to quit anytime, whether you run out of arguments or for any other reason.

The problem is quite clear. There should be NO linking of CH's behavior with the firebombing. And yet this is exactly what we're talking about:

"There's no excuse for the thugs that firebombed their offices, but there is also no question the magazine was deliberately stirring up controversy in an area it was well aware has had violent consequences in the recent past."

I bolded the linking words. Why are you linking these at all? If there is ZERO onus on CH, there should be no "but there is also" - why use a qualifier like that to color CH actions with the firebombers at all? Or in the excellent analogy "there's no excuse for the violent husband, but there is also no question she was deliberately stirring and well aware it has had violent consequences in the recent past". There should be no "but". It should be "violence is wrong". "Period", not "But". That there was violence in the past, makes the thugs all the worse and more reprehensible.
posted by VikingSword at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, I was speaking in the abstract. There seemed to be a disagreement as to what censorship was--right? And I posited that when any given violent subculture uses violence to intimidate people into silence, that constitutes censorship.

I see where you're getting at.

Although, I'd personally go with the Wikipeida definition of a group that has some kind of controlling influence -- except then we get back to the question of "what does 'controlling influence' mean." And since it doesn't sound like the perpetrators are having much "controlling influence" over the magazine, I'm not certain it'd be accurate for it to be censorship in this case. As for the web site coming down at the same time -- well, hell, whether it was or wasn't part of the same attack, it's something that they seem to have bounced back from pretty quickly, so I'm not sure it's as relevant or damaging as the firebombing.

I doubt that this particular violent subculture represents Islam as a whole, if that's what you're implying I'm implying (seriously I can't tell). But I think it is a violent subculture, it is using violence to intimidate people into silence, and it does constitute censorship.

That is what i was getting at, yes. And I'm afraid that categorizing this as an example of "that violent subculture" may inadvertently feed Islamophobia and I've seen enough of that in one lifetime.

Also, I'm not seeing much evidence to link the two. Yeah, the kids who did this may have been on some kind of a self-appointed crusade of their own making, but I don't see that that's cause to link them to any kind of coordinated event.

By way of analogy -- if some kid in my neighborhood didn't like the decorations I put up in my front lawn and he burned them in my yard, and then I found out that the kid was of Basque descent, I wouldn't therefore assume that his burning my lawn ornaments was an action on the part of the Basque Separatist Movement. Even if the kid said that my ornaments had offended him AS a Basque person. He's still just a kid who did something dumb and dangerous and damaging, and should be punished for that, and that's how I'd treat him, rather than accusing him of attempting to censor me.

And yes, I know that "burning lawn ornaments" is on a different scale from "firebombing a magazine" - I am speaking strictly to the "how much organization did the people who committed this act actually have". Because we don't know.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:34 AM on November 9, 2011


By way of analogy -- if some kid in my neighborhood didn't like the decorations I put up in my front lawn and he burned them in my yard, and then I found out that the kid was of Basque descent, I wouldn't therefore assume that his burning my lawn ornaments was an action on the part of the Basque Separatist Movement

I sure didn't say that the censorship was done on anybody's part. I don't think anyone else here has said that, either. Censorship can exist in the absence of any organization exercising it, provided that the action of censorship is coordinated. This is why, when misogynist trolls methodically harass women who bring up feminist issues on the internet, and most of those women leave, that constitutes censorship--although there's no individual person I could identify as doing the censoring, since each troll is just getting his jollies; although there's nothing physically preventing those women from bringing their issues up wherever.

What else am I to call that? It's a big problem in lots of places.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2011


I sure didn't say that the censorship was done on anybody's part. I don't think anyone else here has said that, either. Censorship can exist in the absence of any organization exercising it, provided that the action of censorship is coordinated.

But here, we come back to the "but who's doing the coordinating" question. I'm not as convinced anyone was coordinating it, at least in the sense that there was one Big Giant Head guy who sent a group of lackeys to do something. More likely it was a bunch of guys who decided themselves to do this, and the "coordination" was just amongst themselves that "okay, I'll bring the matches and you bring the gas and sid will watch for the cops" or whatever.

This is why, when misogynist trolls methodically harass women who bring up feminist issues on the internet, and most of those women leave, that constitutes censorship--although there's no individual person I could identify as doing the censoring, since each troll is just getting his jollies; although there's nothing physically preventing those women from bringing their issues up wherever. What else am I to call that? It's a big problem in lots of places.

"Intimidation" or "harrasment" work just fine for me when I see that, personally.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm frankly stunned that people keep bringing up the domestic violence analogy. It's not only offensive, it's puerile, manipulative, and a shitty analogy. All we need is a men's rights activist in here and I can finish my derail bingo card.
posted by mek at 12:15 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another couple names for the ganging-up: "vigilantism," or just "ganging-up".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


What about "bullying"?
posted by mumimor at 1:17 PM on November 9, 2011


None of those words really work for me, because they don't capture the intent to silence. Bullying comes the closest, but uh, if you actually kill someone while trying to shut down a group, do you still call it bullying? I think bullying is mainly reserved for when you're trying to get people to bend to your will and stay under your control.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:52 PM on November 9, 2011


Bullying comes the closest, but uh, if you actually kill someone while trying to shut down a group, do you still call it bullying?

*shrug* That's what they call it when kids in high schools do it to each other, why not?

I think bullying is mainly reserved for when you're trying to get people to bend to your will and stay under your control.

Isn't "silencing them" part of that?.....

At the risk of further semantic hair-splitting, I don't think "is it or is it not bullying" is ascertained by WHAT they do, I think it's ascertained by WHO'S doing it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on November 9, 2011


I've gone a little nuts with the whole debate-team tactics myself when I've been emotionally involved in the subject of a thread. I'm making an attempt to stay away from issues that are hot-button issues to me personally.

Now, I'm noticing some users who seem to end up arguing in a LOT of threads, so here's what I've learned, FWIW: When you find yourself repeatedly debating others in a thread, when your comments have long since stopped being favorited by anyone else, when you start to feel like you are being piled on? All signs that you need to take a break.

infini: "Otoh, its protecting freedom and lives when the firebombing/droning/whatnot is that of a US citizen who happens to be muslim speaking out in his rights of free speech, yes?"

infini, no, fire-bombing is not free speech or freedom of expression, no matter who does it, and I'm sure you are aware of that. No one here is condoning criminal activity, even the so-called semantic hobbyhorsers (nice turn of phrase, btw) in the thread.
posted by misha at 2:10 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is quite clear. There should be NO linking of CH's behavior with the firebombing.

OK, I'll assume the two events are completely unrelated and the timing was a coincidence.

I bolded the linking words. Why are you linking these at all? If there is ZERO onus on CH, there should be no "but there is also" - why use a qualifier like that to color CH actions with the firebombers at all

Because of the causal relationship?
posted by Hoopo at 2:27 PM on November 9, 2011


This is why, when misogynist trolls methodically harass women who bring up feminist issues on the internet, and most of those women leave, that constitutes censorship--although there's no individual person I could identify as doing the censoring, since each troll is just getting his jollies; although there's nothing physically preventing those women from bringing their issues up wherever.

It turns up a lot in Internet humor, but actually "silencing" or "shouting down", or any of EC's or muminor's suggestions, really. I mean, there's no reason not to call it censorship, if that's a thing that would be fun to do, but it dilutes the idea of censorship down from something that people with institutional power do to people without institutional power to just something douches do to people in a kind of chaotic, bottom-up fashion. If I were an organization that actually did systematically involve itself in formal, according-to-Hoyle censorship, I would be delighted at that dilution.

Bullying comes the closest, but uh, if you actually kill someone while trying to shut down a group, do you still call it bullying?

Interesting question - but if you kill someone, it's not really censorship, either. It's killing. Unless we are extending the term "censorship" to mean "anything done by anyone to anyone else as a result of an ideological disagreement". Which can be done, but again renders it kind of lexicographically inutile.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:54 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


VikingSword: I bolded the linking words. Why are you linking these at all? If there is ZERO onus on CH, there should be no "but there is also" - why use a qualifier like that to color CH actions with the firebombers at all

Hoopo: Because of the causal relationship?

NOW you are definitely venturing into "blame the victim" territory, Hoopo.

The arsonists' intolerance and violent disregard for others were causal. No effect was forced by the publication, any more than any other violence is caused by rude or outrageous or insulting or sexual or any other non-violent behavior.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:40 AM on November 10, 2011


On the subject of "Can violence itself be considered a form of censorship?", I present instances where it is described as such:

A European human rights watchdog has described the death of Ukrainian opposition journalist, Georgiy Gongadze, as a presumed case of "censorship by killing".


The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Freimut Duve, pays special attention to journalists who were harassed or censored. Speaking at a press conference in Vienna on 14 February 2001, he focused on the 'ultimate form of media censorship' - the killing of journalists for what they report.

The fact is, intolerant belief systems constantly find it necessary to impose censorship through violence, because they would simply shrivel up and die under the sunlight of an open discourse.

Freedom of expression and information in the media continues to be violated throughout Europe. Censorship is exercised through violence, trial and imprisonment, or economic harassment. New threats arise from globalisation of the media market and commercial challenges to media pluralism.


--

This term, however, waters it down in today's climate. The act was clearly, inarguably one of terrorism, and it's interesting to me that this Metafilter debate has almost entirely avoided using this term.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:59 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Iambroom: Worth noting, however, that those cites refer to violence by agencies with significant legal or extralegal force and resources (government, police, organised crime, quasi-governmental militias, well-supported national or transnational terrorist organisations) in most cases operating either as, in collusion with or undeterred by government and law enforcement. In particular, note your last cite, which specifically says in the section you quoted:
Censorship is still practised and in its most appalling form, violence and murder. Journalists continue to die, not only when covering events on the battlefield, but mainly because of their profession when they try to throw light on darker sides of the society such as corruption, financial abuse, drug trafficking, terrorism or ethnic conflict. Most perpetrators of such crimes have not been caught and brought to justice, which casts serious doubts as to the independence of the judiciary and as to the real willingness of the authorities to disclose the truth.
And then adds:
Attacks against freedom of expression can take many other forms, such as threats, intimidation, arbitrary closure of media outlets, power cuts, bomb alerts, police searches and confiscation of material, damage of printing facilities or television and radio transmitters, heavy taxes, monopolies on paper and distribution, unequal conditions for state media as opposed to other media and pressure on advertisers.
The absence of the concept of terrorism is something that struck me as odd (I mentioned the term terrorism above - this is not very good terrorism, however). Fundamentally, though, this was arson - it's a felony. That's more pressing on a juridical and investigative level than whether or not it conforms to a strong or weak idea of censorship. "Terrorists" or "censors" are good labels for tablets or broadsheets (respectively) to put on the perpetrators, but the gendarmerie will be investigating a crime, not a scary word.

(Incidentally, I imagine they will also probably be investigating the far right, some of whom I guess would be pretty happy to get what looks like a free pass on firebombing Charlie Hebdoh's offices. Which sounds a little Parallax View, but the European far right is getting pretty lulzy; there was a recent attempt to organise a gay pride parade through a largely Muslim area of London which fell apart when it turned out that one of the organisers was a member of the far right English Defence League.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:59 AM on November 10, 2011


running order squabble fest, I concede your earlier point about the difference between this instance and those of my links.

Fundamentally, though, this was arson - it's a felony.

I disagree. It is certainly felony, just as assassinating a family member of a politician is murder, but the fundamental purpose of the action was clearly "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes", not to create fire for insurance payoffs, pyrophiliac satisfaction, to hide evidence, or any of the more mundane reasons for arson.

(Upon looking up the dictionary definition of "censorship", I find that my assumed concept is not supported: the definitions uniformly require that censorship be an act of a ruling body. Ergo, I could burn books, firebomb newspapers, or kidnap reporters, but only the government can censor. Whatever.)

However, as we are politely and respectfully arguing, and trying to understand each other's viewpoint, I formally suggest that our conversation is inherently best handled elsewhere. Out of appreciation for Metafilter, I have reported both of us to the Mods.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:06 AM on November 10, 2011


NOW you are definitely venturing into "blame the victim" territory, Hoopo.

Perhaps I'm not using "causal relationship" correctly? I do not believe that term implies firebombing was the only possible effect of publishing the cartoon, let alone a justified one. But it was presumably a response to the publication of that issue, and ultimately an effect of the publication of that issue. Presumably the publication of that issue was the motivating factor behind the attacks. Why wouldn't you "link" these things? They are clearly directly related and I don't believe you can separate the publication of provocative material with the firebombing. It's not to say the response was appropriate, or putting any blame the victim for that matter. Firebombing an office because someone offended you is ridiculous and dangerous, and as I have said repeatedly I have no sympathy for the people that did this. It is not blaming the victim to say that by confronting an armed robber you risk getting shot. It is not blaming the victim to point out that by exposing mafia crimes you risk violence or death at their hands. Either of these things leading to such consequences would be terrible, but they would indeed be consequences of those actions and not random events, arising as a result of good deeds of the victim, and to no fault of their own.

But no, I'm not willing to overlook what Charlie Hebdo was doing with that cover. I will not hold Charlie Hebdo up as some example of brave free-speech heroes for publishing that cartoon. It was stale and tacky as satire at best, and pandering to ugly and harmful prejudice. The firebombing does not change the fact that they took lazy, cheap shots to exploit controversy and further marginalize a Muslim minority. That's a shitty thing to do and I don't support their decision to do it. I see the publication of that cover cartoon as a deliberate attempt to provoke, to exploit the Mohammed cartoon controversy that had previously got them a lot of publicity, and exploit anti-Muslim sentiment in a context where there appears to be increasing hostility towards them as a group within French society.

The post-firebomb follow-up cartoon was pretty good though.
posted by Hoopo at 11:15 AM on November 10, 2011


I take your point, iambroom. So, taxonomically, I guess we're looking at (deep breath): a case of felony arson performed in conjunction with cyber-crime with terroristic intent (whether or not by a recognised terrorist organisation) and with the the intention of having a direct impact on the ability of Charlie Hebdo to publish but also a chilling effect on the willingness of other creators and publishers to create and publish certain information.

Incidentally, mainstream Muslim groups in France seem to be saying roughly what I think Hoopo is saying - that CH has the right to print content of its choosing, but that this content is likely to provoke extremist elements, while making the mainstream feel that the French establishment is determined to mock and exclude them. The French Council of the Muslim Faith, which was one of the plaintiffs in the slander case against CH in 2006 for reprinting and adding to the Jyllands-Posten caricatures, has said:
For Muslims, the caricature of the prophet is unacceptable and offensive. We understand that this view is not universal, however.

We believe that freedom of expression applies to artists, but also to those who disagree with the art, as long as the disagreement is expressed in accordance with the laws and the integrity of people and property. There is no reason to act outside the law.

That said, we will continue to denounce drawings of the prophet, because they are not acceptable to Muslims. But at the same time Muslims must acknowledge that in our society the sacred is not the same for everyone.
So - it's not illegal, and they support the right to do it, they think it is clearly done for the purpose of upsetting and alienating Muslims but they don't think anyone should break the law in response to that.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:47 AM on November 10, 2011


roughly what I think Hoopo is saying

nonono, I'm blaming victims of domestic violence.
posted by Hoopo at 1:03 PM on November 10, 2011


"Censorship" is not the only free speech issue. The firebombing was not "censorship" because it was not the act of the state; but that doesn't mean it was "solely" property damage. Lynchings were not "solely" murder because the actors were (sometimes) not agents of the state. This was about freedom of speech, and it was absolutely an attempt to restrain it.

The phrase everyone is looking for is "chilling effect".
posted by spaltavian at 2:48 PM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Try ctrl-f "chilling effect", dude.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:39 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


spaltavian: or "hate crime"? (against non-Muslims)
posted by IAmBroom at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2011


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