A measured media response to the Charlie Hebdo atrocity

I utterly condemn the individuals who today attacked and killed innocent civilians at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris today. It is horrific and unprovoked and I would if the opportunity presented, would happily press the “on” button for their electric chairs. Also, I am an atheist.

I would like you to keep that in mind please throughout this piece.

You may have seen a lot of people calling for a response to the killings, printing the cartoon on the front cover of every and any newspaper and magazine that will co-operate, I have seen this from people both within the media and outside the industry…To highlight the absurdity of the killers motivation, to amplify the message of those who have fallen and to stick two fingers up to anyone who opposes free speech. All genuine and valid reasons, initially I agreed, I clicked “Retweet” just as we all do on impulse occasionally, then I thought about it more. It’s just not right.

Charlie Hebdo had the right to publish the cartoon in the first place, it is their choice and I respect that completely, they clearly knew it would cause a fuss throughout the world but made the editorial decision as again, was their right.

Did they expect that the fuss would result in their brutal murder? Possibly not, but that’s not for me to judge, they are their own arbiters of their motivation. And now the call for reprinting throughout the world… When Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten put out a call to cartoonists who would be willing to depict the muslim prophet mohammed, they printed the 12 they received…riots throughout the world over this resulted in over 150 deaths. Many muslims were irate that something they hold to be a core religious principle was so deliberately breached, which is their right also (although obviously not resulting in death)

A recent news story in the UK has been that of Wigan Athletic Football Club chairman Dave Whelan casually using the word “chink” to describe someone of chinese origin, BBC news featured a discussion where other racially offensive words were brought into the debate, and whether people felt it was ok to refer to somebody as a name that they and the consensus among their community deemed to be offensive and racist. I think most right thinking citizens can agree that called someone of chinese origin a “chink” or pakistani origin a “paki” is abjectly wrong…why? Because the object of the word would likely be offended by it. So we don’t say it. Equally the “N” word…the social adoption of the repulsion for this word is vast, I justified in my own head the reasons for writing “c….” and “p…” as editorially relevant and in context of an example and followed up with a condemnation, I can’t bring myself to write “n…..” in any context, that is the strength of feeling surrounding the word. Why is depicting the muslim prophet mohammed any different?

We know that many muslims are offended by it, yet it is dismissed as being in opposition to free speech and therefore should be disregarded and often mocked. Muslims across the world will be condeming this attack, as we integrate into a more global society we will come to realise how few our differences are in time, yet tomorrow if the hundreds of millions of muslims who think, like you and I, that the Parisian attack is a barbaric act of madness…see nothing but an image that is A: designed to offend one of their beliefs and B: printed to show how little the world cares about offending people at the expense of free speech.

I support the No More Page 3 campaign, I think that The Sun newspaper has the right to print it, I just think that morally, it’s probably time to let go of one of the most prominent bastions of our sexist past. I would ask the editor to remove it, but I would never ask a politician to make them remove it. Every journalist in the free the world who mourns a colleague today has the right to print that cartoon on the front cover of their publication, I have the right to print it here however I choose not to. Would I offend an entire religion if I did? Probably. Should I casually refer to a person of chinese descent as a “c….”? Would I offend them if I did? Probably. Will I? Definitely not.

One of the central pillars of our “free world” is freedom, we have that freedom and how we use it is how we will be judged, not in some ethereal theist manner, but by our peers, by our fellow citizens. You would (hopefully) judge me as a racist if I made a throwaway racist comment about the pakistani community, and in fact many publications regularly do figuratively jump up and down on prominent individuals who express an opinion deemed to be racist…but those same publications printing a picture that offends an entire religion? The moral high ground seems far enough away at the best of times…

The monsters who attacked the people Charlie Hebdo are completely different to the vast majority of muslims, in the same way that hitler differs from the majority of christians. Every group, creed, race, religion and workplace has their nutjobs…when a lunatic assaults a gay person because they interpret the bible as telling them that homosexuality is wrong, christians as a whole are not attacked by the media. All too often a muslim attack furthers the farcical belief that muslims are terrorists, this is due to nothing other than ignorance.

I do not think the picture should be reprinted because of a fear of reprisal, not at all. I think the picture shouldn’t be reprinted because it offends innocent individuals who also condemn the attack, sometimes we don’t set ourselves a high enough bar of equality… Two things will happen, the few muslim people who already hold an extremist opinion will be further radicalized…and muslim people who think that the attack was a a cowardly unmotivated murder will feel like the sense of togetherness isn’t quite as together as we all want it to be.

You have the right to freedom of speech, now earn the right to exercise it appropriately


Kris tweets ferociously as @belfastbarman and runs an associated site, www.belfastbarman.com where he occasionally opines his views. He lived abroad for a while and as such, feels he will never really ‘get’ this place. Formerly a barman, he regularly broke the cardinal rules of, “No politics or religion in the pub,” as such, he turned to writing. Previously a stand up comedian and an animal crematorium assistant, now works in marketing and is a recently joined member of the Alliance Party.

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