I’m baaaaack!! And today I’m going to teach you how to do stuff.
As I’m sure you’ve all heard, the office of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by two Islamic extremists leaving 12 dead, many wounded, and a majority of the world scared and angry. If you don’t know what I’m talking about please 1) come out of internet hibernation and 2) educate yourself. Since the January 7th attack, the collective internet has (rightfully) been expressing their rage and, with the attack coming on the tail end of the Sony v. The Interview debate, rallying for freedom of speech more than ever. I, too, am both horrified and angry by what has happened and support the various protests, artistic tributes, and twitter hashtags showing hope and solidarity for Paris. But. I will not pretend that Charlie Hebdo is above criticism. And yes, I know it’s satire and understand what satire sets out to achieve but guess what? Satire can still be racist and problematic and just straight up bad. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. I can and will criticize Charlie Hebdo while sharpening my pencil in support. As fully functioning human beings we are capable of understanding the magazine’s existence as simultaneously brave and terrible. I think satire should serve its purpose of pointing out the flaws in the system, whatever that system may be, and cultivating introspection, conversation, and change. Based off of this, CH creates some of the best satire out there. This past September, the magazine released an amazing cartoon showing how little ISIS actually has to do with religion and critiquing its followers for hiding behind their faith. It wasn’t the first time they’d printed Islamic cartoons, nor was it the first time they’d depicted them with enlarged, stereotypical noses. The September cartoon served its purpose, but do they all? At what point does it stop being political criticism and start being racist? At what point does the art work no longer serve its purpose? These are loaded questions and ones I don’t think I have all the answers too. At least not right now. But I won’t stop thinking about and questioning my support and enjoyment of satire. I won’t stop supporting Charlie Hebdo. I won’t stop grieving for the victim’s families. I won’t stop reading story updates. But most importantly, I won’t blindly support the magazine solely on the idea of free speech. In a time where it sometimes feels like Freedom of Speech is more like Freedom of Speech* (*terms and conditions apply), I am cautious as to where I place my unflinching support. As we all should be. So, how do you support Charlie Hebdo? Recognize that not all satire is good satire. Recognize that Charlie Hebdo is not above critique. Recognize that you cannot blame an entire country, race, or religion for what happened. Recognize that innocent people died writing and drawing for what they believed in. Recognize that they did not deserve what happened.Hope that Charlie Hebdo keeps on publishing. But more importantly, recognize that you don’t have to be #JeSuisCharlie.