We're Making a Mistake If We Let a Mass Slaughter Become a Debate about Cartoons
We're Making a Mistake If We Let a Mass Slaughter Become a Debate about Cartoons
By Ezra Klein / vox.com
Jan 8, 2015

Yes, Charlie Hebdo was a magazine that delighted in controversy and provocation. Yes, it skewered religion and took joy in giving offense. Yes, the magazine knowingly antagonized extremists — Charlie Hebdo's web site had been hacked and its offices firebombed before today; French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had asked of its cartoons, "Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?" And yes, Charlie Hebdo's editor said in 2012, prophetically, that "I prefer to die than live like a rat."

But this isn't about Charlie Hebdo's cartoons, any more than a rape is about what the victim is wearing, or a murder is about where the victim was walking.

What happened today, according to current reports, is that two men went on a killing spree. Their killing spree, like most killing sprees, will have some thin rationale. Even the worst villains believe themselves to be heroes. But in truth, it was unprovoked slaughter. The fault lies with no one but them and their accomplices. Their crime isn't explained by cartoons or religion. Plenty of people read Charlie Hebdo's cartoons and managed to avoid responding with mass murder. Plenty of people follow all sorts of religions and somehow get through the day without racking up a body count. The answers to what happened today won't be found in Charlie Hebdo's pages. They can only be found in the murderers' sick minds.

Today is a good day to honor Charlie Hebdo and to share its work. It's a good day to do that because good people died today and we should remember them. It's a good day to do that because much of the work in Charle Hebdo was brilliant and any day is a good day to share it.

Don't allow extremists to set the terms of the conversation

 

 

But we shouldn't buy into the bullshit narrative of a few madmen that their murders were a response to some cartoons. We shouldn't buy into it even if we're saying that murdering in response to cartoons is always wrong. This is related to a point Charlie Hebdo made often and well. As my colleague Max Fisher wrote about the magazine's wonderful cover, "Love is Stronger Than Hate" (pictured above):

Part of Charlie Hebdo's point was that respecting these taboos strengthens their censorial power. Worse, allowing extremists to set the limits of conversation validates and entrenches the extremists' premises: that free speech and religion are inherently at odds (they are not), and that there is some civilizational conflict between Islam and the West (there isn't).

These are also arguments, by the way, made by Islamophobes and racists, particularly in France, where hatred of Muslim immigrants from north and west Africa is a serious problem.

And that is exactly why Charlie Hebdo's "Love is stronger than hate" cover so well captures the magazine's oft-misunderstood mission and message. Yes, the slobbery kiss between two men is surely meant to get under the skin of any conservative Muslims who are also homophobic, but so too is it an attack on the idea that Muslims or Islam are the enemy, rather than extremism and intolerance.

Allowing extremists to set the limits of conversation validates and entrenches the extremists' premises. That was true in the criticism of Charlie Hebdo's covers, and it's even truer in today's crimes.

These murders can't be explained by a close read of an editorial product, and they needn't be condemned on free speech grounds. They can only be explained by the madness of the perpetrators, who did something horrible and evil that almost no human beings anywhere ever do, and the condemnation doesn't need to be any more complex than saying unprovoked mass slaughter is wrong.

This is a tragedy. It is a crime. It is not a statement, or a controversy.

 

3.5 ·
4
Trending Today
Looking Forward to the Day That Nationalism Is as Reviled as Racism
Tim Hjersted · 6,889 views today · Nationalism is a form of geographical racism that makes some lives matter more than others, and explicitly justifies that logic without apology. While today, not even lying...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 5,929 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 4,407 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 3,845 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
Supporters 'Ecstatic' After Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence
Nika Knight · 3,468 views today · Whistleblower to be released from military prison in May
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,791 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 2,033 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 1,814 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 891 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 609 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine · 607 views today · “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771 Our popular economic wisdom says that...
Coping With Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the White House
N Ziehl · 510 views today · I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are...
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 479 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
Before He Was Assassinated, MLK Jr. Was Advocating For An End To Income Inequality
10 min · 443 views today · We can honor MLK Jr. by pursuing the causes he was advocating for before he was killed.  ​​ Part 2: The Basic Income, A New Human Right (3 minutes) MLK's idea of a basic...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 431 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
One "Piece of the Oppressor" That I Have Discovered Within Myself
Tim Hjersted · 389 views today · One "piece of the oppressor" that I have found in myself during my inner activist journeys is my use of shame as a method of engaging with the world's problems. Having learned...
The Greening of the Self: The Most Important Development of Modern Times
Joanna Macy · 378 views today · Something important is happening in our world that you are not going to read about in the newspapers. I consider it the most fascinating and hopeful development of our time...
This Woman Gets No Applause...Why? They Are Too Creeped Out...
7 min · 318 views today · Think you aren't being fooled by advertising tricks? Take a look at this so-called expert revealing food marketing's secret weapon. No amount of marketing makes factory farming...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 296 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Watch How Europeans Carved Up African Land They Never Owned
56 min · 243 views today · Watch how Europeans gave away African land they never owned, then expressed anger when Africans resisted. The film is called Africa: A Voyage of Discovery, Episode 6: The...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
We're Making a Mistake If We Let a Mass Slaughter Become a Debate about Cartoons