“Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie” or Two Reasons We Should Reject Polarization

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(Le Huffington Post Quebec Graphic)

Today, at least two masked gunman stormed the offices of the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, killing 10 employees and two police officers in an apparently sophisticated act of terrorism performed by likely veteran fighters.

The reaction from the West has been enormous. Large protests against the brutal attack have sprung up in Paris, Berlin, New york, Amsterdam, Madrid, Rome, and Moscow among others. The rallying cry at these protests and on Twitter is “Je suis Charlie” or #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) expressing unity with the victims of this murderous attack.

I understand the sentiment and the urge to unify in the wake of tragedy. Let me make it clear that I unequivocally condemn the murders of these ten citizens and the two police officers heroically attempting to protect them. However, I find the #JeSuisCharlie reaction wrong for two reasons: Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are racist and I refuse to reflexively accept a false dichotomy fallacy.

Charlie Hebdo is purposely offensive and publishes blatantly racist, anti-religous, crudely drawn cartoons in the name of “satire”. Many of these cartoons show images of the prophet Muhammad that many Muslims find offensive because their religious beliefs prevent them from depicting people, especially the prophet. At this point I do not doubt some of my readers might be thinking to themselves, “So what? Those aren’t my beliefs. They should get over it.” Well, that’s an entirely different kind of post, but if you are okay with offending other human beings simply because they do not share your cultural values, then I think you could use some remedial training in empathy. I recommend this not to insult you but as sincere advice, because undoubtedly as globalization continues and younger generations come to age you will be left behind.

But even if you think it’s okay to purposely antagonize people on the basis of their religion, I do not think most Americans think it’s okay to promote racist stereotypes. Culturally, we have been conditioned a little better to identify these and reject them. Most Americans would not be comfortable publicly labeling themselves racist. And yet this was in a way the overwhelming reaction to today’s events. Charlie Hebdo‘s depiction of Muhammad and other Muslims (which I have decided not to republish out of principle) are very similar to Nazi Germany and modern White Nationalist depictions of Jews. They both have exaggerated noses and are illustrated as ugly by a Western cultural standpoint. These types of images promote negative visual stereotypes and are meant to dehumanize the subject being represented. Americans can easily spot and decry these types of caricatures of black people both at home and abroad, but today it seems like the racist depictions of Muslims and/or Arabs were nearly universally overlooked by the Je suis Charlie movement, including prominent, usually sensible, liberal journalists such as Vox’s Max Fisher.

“But it’s satire,” some might say. I won’t get into a definition of humor because that too is another topic entirely, but let me suggest that there’s a difference between laughing with and laughing at. Furthermore, antagonizing and dehumanizing the members of an entire religion for the acts of a few extremists, who have (needlessly) denounced those extremists—and who have been the greatest victims of those extremists—is indefensible.

So, for the simple reason that I am not a racist who makes a habit of purposely harassing, humiliating, and dehumanizing entire religions, I am not Charlie. Je ne suis pas Charlie.

That should be enough, shouldn’t it? But in times like these it never is. By saying, “I am not Charlie,” some might take that as a tacit endorsement of mass murder or censorship. And herein lies the greater problem: polarization. As simple and satisfying as it is to reduce this to an us versus them issue, the fact that the “us” in this case is a company that makes a profit promoting hate in the form of tasteless, racist cartoons should make us take pause and reassess the purported sides. We do not have to support the lesser evil. Just because a group of ignorant cartoonists who made a living promoting stereotypes were attacked by those we perceive to be our enemy doesn’t mean they are our allies. I am not “victim blaming” or an apologist simply because I refuse to glorify or honor Charlie Hebdo.

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Max Fisher, usually right, is wrong.

The reaction to today’s act of terrorism is in this way similar to the reaction to North Korea’s hack of Sony and the threats over the release of The Interview. People went out of their way to buy a movie they might not have normally been interested in because of an imagined free speech issue and/or patriotism. But if these recent attacks have made you for the first time in your life defend terrible comedy films and racist cartoons, perhaps it would be wise to step back and reassess your belief system.

The teachable moment here is that you do not have to allow cyberwar or terrorism to force you to choose a side. You can refuse to be polarized. By choosing a side you only benefit the interests of the people, groups, and corporations that side represents—not yourself. Choosing to make a statement against North Korea’s attack on the sovereignty of the United States by spending your money on a garbage film in no way benefits you. It supports a (foreign) corporation whose sole aim is to make a profit. Likewise, making a stand against terrorism on a Western country by advertising a company that makes money selling purposely inflammatory, racist cartoons aimed at inciting people against religion does not benefit you. Again, you are simply giving free advertising to a company that couldn’t care less about your well-being.

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“I am a billboard for a company that brought Syria-style warfare to my city.” (AP Photo)

What has amazed me by today’s events is how journalists have rallied around Charlie Hebdo in solidarity. The impressive thing about terrorism is how effectively it can change the behavior of people either through fear, bravado, or simple human tribalism. My Twitter feed today was filled with journalists who would never publish a Charlie Hebdo-like cartoon under their own name acting like the weekly newspaper was bravely defending freedom. Similarly, many people I have great respect for reposted the famous Voltaire quote, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” What I am left wondering is who they are defending against. The French government protects the free speech of Charlie Hebdo and undoubtedly every conceivable effort is being made to bring the murderers to justice. Free speech was not under attack today. It was the rule of law and the safety and security of people that was under attack.

So again, who in this instance is being defended against? And how are they prepared to give their life in this defense? As of this moment the identities and affiliations of the murderers have not been confirmed. But when they eventually are confirmed, will these people join in battling against them—going as far as sacrificing their lives? Will they join the French military, who is simultaneously deploying soldiers both to Paris and a carrier to the Indian Ocean to potentially join operations against Islamic State? The answers here are probably, “No.” But by allowing ourselves to be polarized and using emotional, violent language as a response to violence that is being nearly universally condemned, we almost certainly improve nothing.

71 thoughts on ““Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie” or Two Reasons We Should Reject Polarization

    • i am french I LIVE IN WEST PARIS ( white rich area )
      10 reasons
      1 THE NEW BILL GATES CENTER FOR ISLAM AND MULTICULTURAL CRAPS
      2 THE NEW GEORGE SOROS ISLAMIC CENTER IN MARSEILLE !!!!
      3 THE AMERICAN AMBASSY WHO PAY DIRECTLY SOCIALIST STUDENT AND ANTIFASCHIST TEENAGERS TO FIGHT IN MY STREET
      4 THE AMERICAN AMBASSY PAY TOO THE RIGHT WING AND CREATE IT ALL THE NEGOCIATION IS THE MEMORIES OF THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE USA UNDER NIXON MANDATURE WHO CREATE WITH THE SOCIALIST MITTERAND ( super right wing socialist lol ) THIS PARTY TO FUCK REAL FRENCH PEOPLE
      5 THIS GOVERNEMTN IS TOTALLY JEWISH ,,,, DO U KNOW THE NAME OF THE DOMINIQUE STRAUSS KHAN TUTOR IN STANFORD IN 1974 ? CONDOLEEZA RICE HAHAHA SOCIALIST ???
      6 ALREADY ASSOCIATION FOR DEFENSE OF BLACK PEOPLE IS CREATED BY JEWISH IN FRANCE that why all the black people are with us hahaha !!!
      7 THE DIRECTOR FUR MUSLIM CULT IS ELECTED BY THE JEWISH CONCIL IN PARIS !!!!
      8 EVERY SOCIALIST ARE CIA JEWISH TROTSKYST FORMATED BY IRWING BROWN FOR THE FIRST ONES U CAN READ HIS MEMORIES IN USA HE SAY EVERYTHING
      9 TRADITIONALLY WE ARE CALLING IN FRANCE SINCE MORE 150 YEARS THE SIONNIST THE HATING PARTY IT THE NAME USED MY GRAND PARENTS !!!! that why they care a lot to use themself lol
      10 VAL THE OLD DIRECTOR IS A JEWISH FRIEND OF THE SON OF SARKOZY AND TAKE THIS NEW PAPERS TO MAKE JEWISH PROPAGAND ,,,SINCE HE IS THE DIRECTOR ,,,,3 BOMBS IN THE BUILDING ALREADY !!! THIS PEOPLE ARE THE MOST BIG JEWISH LIERS OF ALL FRANCE ALREADY DENONCE BY JEWISH PEOPLE WHO ARE 90 PER CENTS TO NOT BE REPRESENTED BY THIS AIPAC CRIMINALS
      11 THERE IS GUYS WHO DIE FROM THE CENTRAL BANK AND SERVICE WHO WAS INSIDE ???
      wake up american
      YOU HAVE REALLY ANY IDEA ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT AND WHAT HAPPENS IN THE SUPER RICH PEOPLE BUILDINGS OF MY AREA

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    • LISTEN VERY WELL WHAT SAY FRENCH PEOPLE
      THERE ANY POLITICAL PARTY NOT UNDER CONTROL BY THE CIA
      AND IT TURNING WRONG
      FRENCH WANT STOP THE AMERICAN DICTATURE
      WAKE UP PRESIDENT HOLLAND FORMATED IN THE AMERICAN FOUNDATION OF PARIS ( cia formation )
      have MORE 90 PER CENTS OF PEOPLE AGAINST HIM ,,,LAST WEEK ,,,,94 PER CENTS !!!
      NEVER SEE THAT IN ALL THE FRENCH HISTORY
      FOR SURE KIM JUNG UN IS MORE POPULAR IN TEXAS THAN THIS AMERICAN AGENT WHO CONTROL THIS DICTATURE

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  1. You are Charlie. You think you are not Charlie because you don’t understand what is Charlie Hebdo and was is its purpose. You don’t understand who is Charlie today and who are the thousands of Charlie. But no matter what you think, you are Charlie. Actually.

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  2. Reblogged this on Two Words: Notes and Observations and commented:
    Amid the avalanche of commentary on Charlie Hebdo, here’s a thought provoking piece on the ‘false dichotomy fallacy.’

    Like Richard White, I’ve been alarmed by many of the responses to the Charlie Hebdo attack. It should go without saying (but doesn’t, judging by Twitter and the media at large) that what happened in Paris is horrific, but my shock and horror have done nothing to slake my visceral and well-documented loathing of hypocrisy. Our government easily forsakes the ‘absolute’ value of free speech when al Sisi, our man in Egypt, chucks journalists in jail by the baker’s dozen, just as the West kept its eyes squeezed shut when the US bombed two Al Jazeera bureaux during the Iraq war. No talk of free speech then.

    So while villagers in Afghanistan, and Pakistan and Yemen have their heads sliced off by unmanned drones operated from the Nevada desert, hunger striking Guantanamo detainees long declared innocent are force fed for objecting to their ongoing detention, and the bile that rose in our throats over the CIA Torture Report settles back in our cast iron guts, I find it difficult to hold hands in smug grief over a putative clash of civilisations. If we’re going to weep, let’s all weep for each other and not just for ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: La Trahison des Images | A Wilderness of Peace

  4. I am not Charlie. Is it sad that those people were killed? Yes. Were they targets partly because they constantly produced viciously racist and contemptuous material? Also yes. This wasn’t a publication poking gentle fun at people like Punch magazine. They did their best to enrage their targets. How much sympathy should we have for them when they have clearly succeeded? Maybe they thought that it could be done with impunity. However, if they really thought so, then they are as stupid as the people who attacked them.

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    • So, your argument is essentially they had it coming? Every feminist in existence just flinched at this statement.

      Everything is worth and should be made fun of. The problem is that no one has a sense of humour anymore and are constantly waiting to get pissed off. I read some of Charlie Hebdo’s illustrations and a few of them are far too ridiculous to actually be taken seriously.

      The fact that people are making the argument that you can’t support “Je Suis Charlie” because you don’t like their work misses the entire point of the slogan and is trying far too hard to be politically correct.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I am not Charlie.

    I disapprove the violent acts that happened on January 7th. However, it doesn’t mean that I encourage Charlie Hebdo’s publications based on stereotypes. I can see many people affected by this tragedy and I feel sorry for the relatives and friends of the victims. The attack was clearly the result of a savage and incomprehensible choice. Violence is never the answer, but I would certainly not say that the newspapers made a good use of what is called “freedom of expression”. I can also see many individuals mention the term “art” in order to associate it with Charlie Hebdo’s publications. In my opinion, it would be better to use this art and talent in order to be able to think fairly and logically. Gender, religious and other stereotypes won’t help us break the common amalgams on these specific topics.

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    • But the jihadists use stereotypes themselves; they are totally brainwashed by stereotypes. And that is exactly what cartoonists get better than others — they can deconstruct stereotypes by clashing them with other stereotypes. Consider the latest cartoon by Steve Bell (The Guardian).

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  6. Great article. I feel exactly as the author does. Those cartoonists did not deserve to die, but their cartoons were just awful.

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  7. Hi there! I am French and I just wanted to tell you that you clearly have not understood at all what is Charlie Hebdo and I think you wrote this article without researching anything about it to be honest. I grew up with Charlie Hebdo and it hurts me to see that you are are judging without even knowing what you are talking about. Charlie Hebdo is everything BUT racist. It is not neither an anti-muslim magazine nor an anti-christian magazine. There are satires of everyone: Christians, Jewish, Muslims, Protestants, left-wing politicians, right-wing politicians, far-right wing politicians, some French comedians..EVERYONE. They do not denounce the fact of BEING Christian or Muslim, they denounce integrism, fascism, non-sense in general, alienation of religions, rights of women not being respected and most of all HYPOCRISY, and this is what some people are struggling with because they say out loud what you do not want to hear but know inside you that it is true. I suggest that you go and check these front pages to know more about Charlie Hebdo because you could not be more wrong. We are a secular and democratic country and we will fight to keep this freedom of speech.

    http://www.20minutes.fr/medias/diaporama-6910-photo-836874-charlie-hebdo-unes-celebres

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    • explain them insulting children who were kidnapped but he Boko Haram then? Oh yea making fun of little girls getting raped is not a problem at all is it?

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    • What about the right to wear a veil?
      If you’re too deeply engrossed in a certain ideology, it’s difficult to see where it may be wrong or hurtful to others because it’s not hurtful to you.

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      • Its also difficult to comment on a country and culture you know very little about. What tells you Alice is for or against wearing veils? There are discourses and arguments in France you know. Same with Charlie hebdo. You don’t have to be a fan, you can be against the magazine. The problem I have as a French person is seeing people be so judgemental when they clearly don’t understand the magazine, it’s position, it’s history, role in French discourse etc. People saying CH is racist and anti- Muslim clearly don’t understand what they are talking about. It’s important to understand a culture first, I’m not going to see events happening in china or Bolivia and try to judge and extrapolate my values, especially if I haven’t done any prior research and just based my knowledge on a few news headlines and social media. If people who know the subject well want to debate with me, I’m very open to all criticism against CB, French secularism, freedom of expression etc

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  8. You are not Charlie? Rather you are not a good journalist because you clearly do not understand the newspaper. Had you read it or even heard about it before the attack? You’ve informed yourself with a few photos ever since?

    As Alice said, Charlie is not racist, it’s a far left newspaper making fun of EVERYONE in France. If you accuse them of racism you clearly don’t know the subject you are arguing on. There’s a freedom of satire, not freedom of satire *except prophet Mohamed.

    Charlie hebdo and France is much more complex than you seem to understand. Here’s the Wikipedia page to get you started- http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hebdo I hope you can atleast take the time to read this

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  9. “…They both have exaggerated noses and are illustrated as ugly by a Western cultural standpoint…”

    Take a look at CH cartoons depicting other, non-muslim characters – they all have exaggerated noses and are ugly (IMO from any cultural standpoint).

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  10. When determining whether something is racist or not racist one should ask those that are the victims of the attack, whether direct or indirect, rather than the white men supporters of such a (alleged) attack, who will naturally say no it is not racist to post a monkey image of an identifiable black person – Christiane Taubira – justice minister of France …

    http://avantblargh.tumblr.com/post/107422672105

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    • Ps The labelling of something as terrorism as opposed to crime – is a political decision. In the public dialogue there is very little evidence of socialists and cultural studies experts being listened to. Terrorism is when you have random acts in centres of population such as market places, crowded buses, trains …

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    • If you spoke french you could read above the cartoon :
      “racist blue union” (blue because the name of french right-winged group front national)
      This cartoon satirized people that were calling Mme Taubira an ape, and saying that even if these people defended them from being racist, their speach was really much so.

      And what Charb, who drew this cartoon, said :
      «À force d’associer le nom de Mme Taubira aux mots “banane“ et “singe“, l’extrême droite raciste espère faire passer un slogan raciste, une insulte colonialiste pour une blague populaire.»

      “While associating the name of mme Taubira to the word banana and ape, the racist right-winged people try to make us believe that their racist statement, a colonialist insult, is in fact popular joke”

      It is very ironic, that horrified commentors all around the world would now think this particular picture is racist.

      But I agree it is not very easy to understand that this picture critisize racism,

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      • Hi Julie, thanks for the explanation. I begin to realise that the claimed racism (etc) tag associated with Charlie Hebdo (linked to the Je ne suis pas Charlie response to je suis Charlie) is not as straight forward as I had initially imagined. I still believe there are issues (as images themselves take on an independent existence from their initial context – as someone who studies art and communication would know) – but it is less obvious than I had at first imagined.

        What seems clear however was that even moderate muslims and others (including non muslims) took offence at the magazine – perhaps perceiving the magazine to be islamophobic, although maybe as you suggest the targets were more subtle. The circulation of the magazine was quite low and it was perhaps not making much of a “nuisance” of itself apart from the French political scene which perhaps was its true and intended target audience.

        What seems clear over the past few days – there is a lot of tension and fear within French society, with Muslim extremists killing cartoonists as well as people in a Kosher supermarket. There is comment of french muslim’s fearful of reprisal attacks and french jew’s fearful of muslim extremists.

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  11. I agree with Alice and Jean, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists were no racist people at all.

    Fist of all, you should look up the definition of ‘race’. I read in many comments that the cartoons of the prophet are ‘racist’. Charlie Hebdo was being satirical about all kinds of religions and since when is religion a ‘race’? They were (and hopefully continue to be) satirical about EVERYONE: black, white, christian, muslim, handicapped, non handicapped, left wing, right wing … So you can be satirical about all religions except Islam? What kind of freedom of speech is that? When you have a look at the ‘Islamic’ cartoons (and understand them in the context of the moment they were published), you will understand that most of the cartoons only targeted at the evils of Islam, not at the religion itself. Depicting prophet Muhammad can be called blasphemy if you want, but definitely not racism.

    Secondly, when you look only at a cartoon itself and take it totally out the political context of that moment, without knowing anything about French politics, yes, I must agree they can be very provocative and sadly enough some people might interpret them wrongly. But I feel your view of the cartoons is a simplification. It does not take into consideration the context of the secular laws in France and how fiercely they were fought for against the Church, and how fiercely they have been defended over the past 100 years. And your view does not take into consideration the context of the date of publishing etc.

    To give some examples: the cover of the 2 men kissing (Arab terrorist and cartoonist) was published a few days after their offices got bombed in 2011. They reacted to deadly force and terror with … a picture. “Love [is] stronger than hate,” it says. The image and the sentiment are strong and given the context (and context matters), show the most bravery. Some other examples I found on the internet: Christiane Taubira (French minister of Justice and black) with a monkey’s body is an attack on the Front National’s pretensions that it’s not a racist party, the “2 Moms, 1 sextoy” is about religion (here catholicism) uniting that same FN and the supposedly center-right UMP against gay marriage… “The Qu’ran is shit, it doesn’t stop bullet.” is about muslim-on-muslim violence, and the “Quenelle” is a “f*ck you” gesture towards anti-Semites.

    Bottomline: don’t interprete without knowing the whole context.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Are the CH cartoons tasteless, anti-religious, racist and generally offensive? Probably they are. And if they are then there are perfectly legal ways of dealing with that: the courts. Once somebody wants to achieve ‘justice’ for himself by means of violence there is a greater problem … we don’t accept that. That … is why we become CH. Because when anyone can claim ‘justice’ through the violent force of his armed guns, then all those who believe in real justice can only side with the victim of that ‘violent justice’. That is why we should all be CH … not because of their cartoons, but because we cannot accept people taking the law into their own hands.

    When the two brothers-in-arms would have gone to court no one would have come out to say ‘I am CH’ … except possibly some direct friends of the cartoonists. If you are so sure the cartoons are racist … did you sue them? Or are you suggesting that racists cannot be brought to justice in France? That there is no point is taking producers of racist cartoons to court because biased judges will never rule against that racism? But even if you believe that, then there are still civil liberties groups that would take up the fight to right such a legal wrong. Or do you believe the political system in France is simply not open to such action? Are you saying that those who are the victims of racism promoted through racist and derogatory cartoons have no way of seeking and finding justice is the french legal and political system?

    Because if you are suggesting (without saying it of course) that there is no way of righting such a wrong in France without resorting to taking the law into your own hands by way of violence … then possibly you are indeed not CH. I never liked CH and I still don’t like CH. But what I cannot accept is that two adults living in France thought it was justified to be judge, jury and executioner not only of the editors of a journal they disliked, but also of police officers guarding the building. And if we show understanding for that point of view on justice …then today or tomorrow any one of us, for any offense considered criminal by someone could be faced with judge, jury and executioner in one. And that would make us just another CH.

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    • I feel sorry for your shortsightedness.

      Surely, I strongly disapprove the killing, but enough is enough. CH has been doing it for a well long time. And the Muslims in this case (it could be anything: Hindus, Buddhists, etc) had to protest. But then, just because of 2 extremists, you’ll target the whole race? “Vous êtes Charlie , mais je ne suis pas.” You are Charlie, but I am not. Because of this sole this reason.

      An Indian example:
      PK is a movie released on 19/12/14. It’s still running ultra successfully. It’s a comedy. But a ban was once called on it due to it targets religion. Just search PK on Wikipedia and you’ll get the answer.

      Moral of the story: Never target religion for humour.

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  13. Voltaire’s quote summarizes what I will take as the bottom line of this article: You don’t need to sympathize with CH in order to accept and defend their right to say whatever they wanted. Interpretation of “Je suis Charlie”, as a hypocrite and ignorant mass of people feeling identified with CH thoughts and political opinions, may be taking it too far, but not necessarily an unfair description of how society usually gets polarized in front of these awful events.

    Are people really honoring their own liberty and freedom when holding up those signs?

    Je ne suis pas Charlie, Je suis Juan, an individual with my own perception about politics, religion and every aspect of life with equally rights to express them as any other inhabitant on earth. In my opinion, “Je suis Charlie” consign goes straight against one of the principles CH proclaimed the most: Individualism.

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  14. The minute you started this article with “Let me make it clear”, something most people with your stance seem to be doing, I knew I wouldn’t agree…

    In the name of comedy everything should be made of. The problem this displays is that no one has a sense of humour anymore. I’ve read some of Charlie Hebdo’s work and they literally make fun of EVERYONE. Let’s not ignore the fact that some of the illustrations are simply too ridiculous to be considered racist (anyone who takes them serious is a ridiculous person), but people seem to only be bringing up the ones relating to Muslims. This publication has existed for over 20 years and has basically taken the South Park method of insulting everything and everyone. It’s the mindset that we aren’t racist because we insult everyone equally. I get that it might not be your cup of tea, but the slogan that’s being promoted is trying to support freedom of expression. I was actually shocked when I started seeing people put “Je ne suis pas Charlie”, because the only true justification I can see for this is that you are looking to be argumentative or intentionally trying to go against the grain. New Flash: you don’t need to support Charlie Hebdo to agree with what this phrase represents. All this is supposed to mean is that you are for freedom of expression and on my end for comedy itself.

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  15. “Those insistent on taking a “third front”, a “ne suis pas”, an idiomatic excess, a “dialectic” negation of a certain auxiliary “truth” (suis-am; suivre; etre) that seems to re-appropriate (and yes, the proper of their propriety, their “I” which stands steadfastly, “properly” without co-agulating into the satiric, “terroristic” mess) both a correlative corrective to the politics of Charlie Hebdo (anti-Feminist, anti-Islam, and so on; therefore “je ne suis pas”) as well as a rigid, “bullet-proof” condemnation of the act of violence are inherently attempting to juggle an impossible premise, which takes the property and propriety of their subjective positions, and position-as-subject way too seriously (and properly).

    Granted, propriety and correctness are futurical imperatives which we “must” (where does ethics end, and necessity begin?) all strive toward, but this counter-discursive “realization” of “not being Charlie” is, to me, at best, an insistence, too forced, and too co-dependent on redundant (attempts of) unicity, singularity, faux-idealism and (unwarranted) propriety.”

    – A friend, when I shared the post with him. Basically, he finds the counter-rhetoric of “je ne suis pas” ridiculously insufficient in what it tries to perpetuate: a universal, politically correct corrective instead of a “blind support” a la “je suis charlie”.

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  16. You have obviously not read much of Charlie Hebdo, apart perhaps of what you read in other publications referring to it.

    Ever heard of freedom of expression? Put simply, we all have the right to express our thoughts and beliefs, even if they offend another person or group of people.

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  17. Richard, I understand your point of view, but I do not share it at all. It is an American point of view! Yes, if these cartoons had been published in the US, they would be considered racist, unacceptable, etc. The Charlie Hebdo cartoons were published by French cartoonists in France for French people, not for Americans or – even – for other Europeans. The French have a long tradition of satiric cartoons (les “BD”) going back to Louis XVI, that would clearly be censured and sued out of existence in the US. Frankly, over the last 30 years a large majority of their cartoons were satires on at the Catholic Church, the Pope, nuns, Christians, politicians, left and right. They took it for it was: vulgar satire, not racism!

    Let me draw a parallel for you: we in Europe (and the rest of the world!) find the US applying the death penalty abhorrent and against Human Rights! You will agree with me that a large majority of Americans (maybe not you, I don’t know!) find the death penalty perfectly acceptable! Not in Europe! Other country, other mores!

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  18. Je ne suis pas que Charlie.

    My take as a French atheist and son of an immigrant :

    Free speech and laughter can be the jewel of mankind… or be turned into one of its strongest weapons.
    Whatever Charlie Hebdo was, I can’t say that the ressemblance with Nazi propaganda never stroke me, which I find even more interesting than the author. The over-mediatization and mass emotivness of the last two days already caused, as it so often had, denial of responsibility and primal reactivity. Which, in time leads to – I’m glad i’m not the only one who didn’t forgot about it – what happened 70 years ago.
    But today it’s not exactly like that, it’s more insidious, it’s in the 1,250000 € gifted by our government and Google to Charlie Hebdo that weren’t spent into the French Orphanage, Schools and Prisons that the Murderers ended up in, in the French diplomatic legacy who couldn’t move one more step towards peace in the Midlle-East, it’s in each and every single member of our society and our world who thinks he is only Charlie and not those guys at the other end of the gun too.
    And if, you are not convinced, let me give you a single reason why we are them too. It’s the same fact that made me ill-at-ease everytime I heard about Islam in the news for the last 13 years since the 09/11. Even though I am an Atheist, even though i embraced every French values and flaws growing up. It’s because I knew I was going to hear jokes about it, and at the other end of the laugh i would always end up recognizing the fade of a murder intent based on upon skin color.
    In front of the stranger you have only two choices, accept or deny, but do not be too quick on hostilities. Who knows? Maybe everyone could have a chance at being himself?

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  19. Thesis: Je Suis Charlie
    Antithesis: Je ne Suis Pas Charlie
    Synthesis … If these apparently offensive cartoons are claimed not to be offensive by French nationals – saying that they are being misunderstood by outsiders because these outsiders don’t understand the cultural context and specific set of circumstances these cartoons were responding to (such as specific French news at the time) …. then imagine how everyone including French nationals can misunderstand the sentiments and responses of others including those in the banlieues of Paris.

    Whatever. I think we all agree that everything should be done to prevent such murderous acts that occurred at Charlie Hebdo and at the Kosher Supermarket from happening again.

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    • I am neither Charlie nor not Charlie. I am a Roman Catholic and I have seen films like “The Life of Brian”, The Da Vinci Code” etc. that could be seen to be offensive to Christ, I hear jokes about Jesus, some can be quite funny because that’s what humour is about, not taking life too seriously, but it does not make me want to gun down these people!!! After all nobody has come back from the dead to confirm either way whether there is life after death or whether there is actually a God of any type…… It’s just the beliefs that people have and if it makes them a better person then it’s a good thing. If your faith is fickle enough to be offended by a cartoon, film or joke to the point that it turns you into a murderer then there is either something wrong with you or your faith.

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  20. With regard the Je Suis Charlie campaign as a campaign of defiance against the murder of cartoonists and as a campaign for the right to draw such cartoons … should there also be a similar campaign of Je Suis Kosher as a campaign of defiance against the murder of people shopping in a kosher supermarket and as a campaign for the right to kosher shop?

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    • There were also present in the manifestations-

      Je suis juif (Jewish)
      Je suis flic (cop)
      Je suis musulman (Muslim)
      Je suis Ahmed (Muslim worker who saves people in the kosher shop)

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  21. Pingback: PPQ: Wir sind nicht Charlie

  22. Whose minds were the cartoonists at CH trying to change or influence? French apologists assert that Americans and other non-French people can’t understand the subtleties of French political satire. That would seem to show that CH was not interested in influencing anybody who is Islamic, is not white, and is not steeped in a narrow genre of Western culture. That largely de-legitimizes their reason for claiming to offer anything of value regarding the issue of Islamic extremism.

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    • Wow. Your underlying theory starts in my opinion from a very racist viewpoint. You seem to believe that French people are only white people. CH itself was already a mix of people, white and Arabic. You seem to say that black, Arabic, Chinese, etc. people in France cannot be French? I know myself people with North African and Middle Eastern roots in France, who feel next to being Arabic or Afghani also French, and who DO NOT see the cartoons as racist.

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      • Thanks for assuring me that France doesn’t have a serious problem with religious, racial, or cultural assimilation of its Algerian and Moroccan immigrants. So, you believe that CH is changing their heartsand minds with those playful cartoons. I think they were making a living by amusing everybody else (I mean the French intelligencia who get it)

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    • I am black French and I understand CB.. You don’t need to be anything special to understand, you should follow French politics and have a vague understand of the newspapers ideology- something which is lost on most commenters here. The issue is that the author of this peice and some people commenting don’t have the slightest understanding of the newspaper. As in it seems they haven’t even Wikipediad it, instead they are judging it by looking at some caricatures they don’t understand. For example when CB parody the views of the French right, some people here thinks it’s CB’s view- eg welfare queen caricature. Bbc website have very informative peices on the newspaper in English if people want to inform themselves more.

      Some facts-

      Charlie hebdo is far left politically.

      It makes fun of all subjects, without holding back.

      It is not anti-Arab or Muslim.

      CB is not trying to change the world and destroy Islamist extremism by themselves. It is just a satirical magazine.

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      • The fact that the ideology of Charlie is lost on most commenters is exactly the point. Freedom of speech is assumed, and is not disputed by any commenter. Charlie knew that the ideology of the message was not widely understood, and deliberately offended Muslims (and others) for the amusement of the relative few who did understand. They are not heroes. They are not martyrs for free speech if they knew their message was widely misunderstood. They might be martyrs for the right to offend without restraint or conscience, but they are not heroes. They were just cartoonists for a satirical magazine.

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  23. I tried commenting elsewhere, on another forum the hooded utilitarian. But threads keep on getting shut down because some people are getting highly emotional over the subject. It seems to me that a few people are making value judgements on Je Suis Charlie – Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie

    It seems that maybe a few people believe if I chose to be “Je Suis Charlie”, then that makes me an Islamophobe …

    It seems that maybe a few people believe if I chose “Je ne Suis Pas Charlie” then that makes me a Supporter of Islamic Extremism … or if I remain quiet then that is a tacit endorsement of Islamic Extremism …

    Now the Je ne suis pas Charlie campaigners have made a claim that perhaps Charlie Hebdo was insensitive, offensive, racist, islamophobic. I have looked into it now and I think it is not obvious that they were racist and islamophobic. Insensitive perhaps, offensive perhaps but overall I don’t think they were islamophobic or racist beyond a pointing out of contradictions general satire. Would I buy Charlie Hebdo if this hadn’t have happened, probably not. Do some people on the Je ne Suis Pas Charlie campaign have an agenda – probably. Does my opinion matter – probably not.

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  24. I have thought about the accusation, read what has been said on both sides, looked at the cartoons, tried to understand them, and looked at other cartoons of Charlie hebdo. I am satisfied that Richard White’s article was produced in good faith and I believe in free speech such that the racist and islamophobe claim can be made. I also believe in free choice such that a person can be a Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie without being censured. However, the claim of racism and islamophobia is fair game to be criticises.

    Overall I think although Charlie Hebdo, is rough, insensitive and offensive, it is not racist and it is not islamophobic. It is tough satire on everything. Islam seems to get a share of it but overall it seems to be a small share of it – and its all to with current affairs and news. Looking at the Je ne Suis Pas Charlie, although I am satisfied Richard White has no hidden agenda (I think he is a well meaning good guy), I think their are other pieces that clearly have a hidden agenda, and are not 100% what they make themselves out to be (a concerned individual).

    So on reflection I can finally with good heart say: Je Suis Charlie.

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    • In addition, Charlie Hebdo is a small satirical journal focused on providing general satire to the political aware community in France with a small circulation in France. It was never meant to be main-stream and was never meant to be global. It’s satire worked at several levels often combining different current affairs news of France into one cartoon to create something quite complex and nuanced that really could only be fully understood by someone aware of the French current affairs news. Hence it was often subtle but it is in the general nature of satire to be subtle.

      It was not Charlie Hebdo that made itself global news and it was never Charlie Hebdo’s intention to be global news. It was disillusioned french youth in the name of muslim extremism that made Charlie Hebdo global news, and it was muslim extremism that was the cause of people from outside French politics and current affairs to begin to look at Charlie Hebdo. For me it was through the prism of the Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie campaigner that I became first aware of the cartoons and the accusation that it was a racist and islamophobic journal. This I had to be balance with the general media claim that the attack on Charlie Hebdo was an attack on free speech.

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  25. Oui, absolument. Et nous sommes tous francais. I am an American, and I will make any sacrifice necessary to preserve freedom of speech, but I don’t want my commitment, or Ahmed’s, to be wasted for the sake of gratuitous insults.

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  26. Perhaps “waste” does not translate well. Yes, Ahmed died in the line of duty, trying to prevent murder. Nothing could be more honorable. But, it was a tragedy that should not have happened. CH knowingly chose to provoke irrational people to do extreme things. Ahmed had no choice. In my vernacular, CH wasted the life of an honorable man.

    Now, after the needless violence, I think it is necessary to demonstrate courage and commitment to free speech by printing more cartoons. And we can expect more violence if this continues. Where does it end? This is an example of why restraint is required of responsible people. (The French tried to convince the Americans and the UN of this before the second Gulf War.) CH acted irresponsibly, and people died. Understand?

    People of my generation in the US grew up learning the words of the early American patriots: “Give me liberty or give me death”; “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country”; “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” These words are defining commitments, and those commitments should not be invoked for mere entertainment. Despite anything I have read to the contrary, I believe most French people would agree with me.

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    • I asked about the law against Holocaust denial simply because I was curious. That law seems to contradict the French commitment to free speech. I would expect CH to attack that law more vigorously than they attack a religious prohibition which is intended to avoid idol worship.

      Also, it is inconceivable that anyone in the US would be prosecuted for saying the things that Bridget Bardot said a few years ago. Thus, I have trouble understanding the French interpretation of the right to freedom of speech, which is now so passionately asserted. I am surprised that you are allowed to converse with me in a language other than French (sarcasm). Did CH have a problem with the French government’s attempt to prohibit the use of Anglicised French words?

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      • CB doesn’t draw Muhammed because of laws against drawing him. They draw him because they satire current events. They have been doing this for decades and satiring all religions, why exlude Muhammed? Muslims are not capable of understanding satire?

        If a topic on the holocaust is current event, CB will (and has) satired on it. In Europe, i think most people accept the restriction of holocaust denial and nazi support. It is mainly neo nazis and recently Islamist who engage in this. Now you have a point and a right to contest this. This can be seen as hypocritical. As a French person another hypocritical thing I have seen is after a week of defending freedom of expression, a miniority of people who posted “je suis Coulibaly/kouachi” and people who supported the terrorists are getting punished by law.. Here again we can question hypocrisy.

        Anyways back on point, CB being a left wing newspaper it is not surprising they don’t engage in the pastime of the (extreme) far right in holocaust denial. However from the ideology of the newspaper, I think they would want ppl to have this right. They would rather make fun of holocaust deniers than them being illegal.

        As for the English words, it’s not “prohibiting” English. English is compulsory to every student in France. The problem is the dominant place of English/American culture. We need to protect our culture also. And anyways on such a “light” topic I can easily picture CB having a field day- French government is their #1 recipient of jokes.

        Conclusion- French government can be said to by hypocritical. CB- not on the points you’ve raised.

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  27. Charlie Hebdo had a circulation of 60,000. It was tiny. The next edition is going to be something like 6 million printed in 6 different languages, Apparently George Clooney has ordered his copy.

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  28. It’s funny how they try to defend a decadent magazine. No need to be French to understand that your readers are people with low culture. Fortunately only one per thousand French people bought this rag each week.

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