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Charlie Hebdo attack exposes hypocrisy

Charlie Hebdo attack exposes hypocrisy

The shootings at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris last week have led to yet another round of conversations about free speech.

While I hate the fact that these folks chose to fight speech they didn’t like with automatic weapons instead of with more speech, I also hate what they’re forcing me to defend. To be frank, the stuff that Charlie Hebdo put out was not only crap, it was crap designed to endorse any prejudice you had. Racist? Check! Anti-Semitic? Check!

Because of the murders of 12 people (including a Muslim police officer) at the magazine’s offices on Wednesday, Twitter has been alight with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie in support of the right to express yourself.

Last Wednesday, a group of Muslim extremists armed with automatic weapons shot and killed several cartoonists and editor Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier due to the magazine’s tendency to publish cartoons that show the Prophet Muhammad in ways in which he is, well, debauched.

While I hate the fact that these folks chose to fight speech they didn’t like with automatic weapons instead of with more speech, I also hate what they’re forcing me to defend. To be frank, the stuff that Charlie Hebdo put out was not only crap, it was crap designed to endorse any prejudice you had. Racist? Check! Anti-Semitic? Check! Homophobic? Check!

Yet, because I’ve been known to defend the free speech rights of Klansmen, I have to defend this crap as well.

Charlie Hebdo has free speech. Others should too

But while I’m a consistent defender of the First Amendment and freedom of speech, what I’m noticing is that a lot of folks don’t share my bent.

I’ve been having a fairly contentious debate on my Facebook page because of an article I’ve posted on a law that was one of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s going away presents to his base.

When you say you’re a supporter of freedom of speech that means freedom of speech for everyone. Not just people who draw comics that disrespect the Prophet Muhammad. Not just people who have “Support the Police” rallies. Not just the folks on Fox News.

Under this law, anyone who has committed a violent crime and is asked to speak to a community group, a college, a prisoner’s rights group or anyone else can be legally prohibited from speaking if the family of his or her victim deems it “perpetuates the effect of the crime.” Since it was passed after Mumia Abu Jamal spoke at a college graduation in New England and was pushed for by the family of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, the man that Abu Jamal is in jail for killing, I call it the “Keep Mumia from Talking” law.

(I also call it the “We May Have Sworn To Uphold, Protect and Defend The Constitution, But We’ll Throw The First Amendment In A Trash Compactor In A Minute” Law…)

Why the debate has become contentious is because I have more than a few folks in my circle of Facebook friends who support this law, blame the #BlackLivesMatter protestors for the deaths of two NYPD officers, and even want New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio to apologize for being honest with his Black son about possible pitfalls with the police who have changed with profile pictures to read #JeSuisCharlie.

Huh?

Sorry, but that’s a little inconsistent to me.

Vous êtes un hypocrite on Charlie Hebdo …

When you say you’re a supporter of freedom of speech that means freedom of speech for everyone.

Not just people who draw comics that disrespect the Prophet Muhammad.

Not just people who have “Support the Police” rallies.

Not just the folks on Fox News.

Not just people who like posting pictures of President Barack Obama dressed as a monkey.

Not just people who think it’s okay that a National Football League team is named for a racial slur against Native Americans.

Not just views and perspectives that you share.

Everyone.

Charlie Hebdo, free speech, and hypocrisy

Otherwise, just be honest and say that you don’t really believe in FREE speech, you believe in YOUR speech.

The French philosopher Voltaire is credited with saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, I may not like what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it.

It’s a belief that demands consistency.

En d’autres termes, si vous êtes “Charlie”, mais la demande le silence de ceux qui protestent contre la brutalité policière, vous avez manqué le point de la liberté d’expression.

(In other words, if you say “I am Charlie”, but demand silence from people protesting police brutality, you’ve missed the point of freedom of speech.)

Think about that before you say you stand in solidarity with those who have, literally, paid for the freedom to speak with their lives.

Photo credit: Paris protest in the wake of the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, January 2015. Gweneal Piaser / Flickr Creative Commons


denise clay 2Denise Clay is a veteran journalist, a former adjunct professor, and an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists. She is a regular contributor to Solomonjones.com. Click here to learn more about Denise.

Denise Clay
Written by Denise Clay