Charlie Hebdo and censorship

Charlie 1-

Almost everybody is against killing people over a cartoon, especially if the cartoon doesn’t push any of our buttons. That is because we believe in free speech. Of course, if a Muslim cleric in Yemen is instigating violence against us, then we think it is OK to kill them, especially if we use drones. As an aside, according to The Guardian, In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive. End aside.

About a week ago, I posted two cartoons from Charlie Hebdo and, now that I have thought about it, I am sorry. Making fun of the weak and disadvantaged may be easy, still it is closer to bullying than I am comfortable with. The jokes that work best are jokes about the powerful – especially if they are pompous as well – and jokes on the joke teller. It is easy to make fun of religion, to a non-believer like me, the facts just seem so goofy. I like to think that the bedrock of Love, Compassion, Tolerance, which, I am told, underlie all the religions, are not goofy but the details are. Jokes about the details, especially when they are told by somebody who is a member of the religion, can be funny – I think that is why Stephen Colbert’s jokes about Christianity are so funny, he is a Catholic who even teaches Catholic Sunday School – or not.

The problem is who decides if a joke is funny?

I contend that it should be the person being offended. If a person – a Methodist, say – doesn’t like being called a Methoddy, they have the right to not like it. Of course, I also have the right – the absolute right under our constitution – to call them a Methoddy, I just don’t have the right to judge if they are offended or not. If the Methoddy is offended , I don’t have the right to say they shouldn’t be, no matter what my intent. If I continue to call them a Methoddy, if I am going to be honest with myself, I have to admit that I just don’t give a shit about them or admit that I want to be offensive.

A lot of Muslims – I have no idea how few or how many, there are about 1.6 Billion self identified Muslims in the world so a few can be alot of people – are bothered by any image of Mohammed, some are very bothered, just like some Christians were bothered by the Piss- Christ and, as I recall some were very bothered. I don’t understand it, these are not things that rattle my cage, but that doesn’t give me the right  to say it shouldn’t rattle theirs. It also doesn’t take away my right to say pretty much anything I want, it doesn’t take away my legal right to be as boorish as I damn well please.

9 thoughts on “Charlie Hebdo and censorship

  1. Steve, I’ve thought about our earlier conversation on this topic several times in the last couple of weeks. The only point I would add, is that if I am intentionally offensive to someone or a group of someones, I deserve what I get. As an old friend once said succinctly, “You do what you do, and then, you get what you get.”

  2. I agree if by “I deserve what I get” you mean ridicule and/or ignored, I agree. I don’t think you deserve to get killed. Ironically, killing somebody often leads to the opposite of the desired result. I think Chérif Kouachi would have been surprised at the outcry against him by Muslims.

  3. True, of course I don’t deserve to get killed, but I have to know that there’s going to be a negative reaction. You’re right – it is bullying, and an abuse of the power of the press. Freedom of speech is not absolute, and without any law or other force to impose restraint, (internal or external) the reactions may be out of proportion and only escalate the pain on all sides.

  4. Gail, I think we are on the same side here. Both the killers and Charlie Herbo are wrong in my opinion. It is a little like rape. I don’t feel comfortable blaming the victims, but they are – clearly – players in this.

  5. Agree. Both behaviors are far beyond rational/sane/civil, but something that annoys me (amongst others :-> ) is that the outrage is focused almost exclusively at the terrorists, and Charlie comes off looking like a poor innocent victim. They’re not.

  6. The difference, however Gail, is that what Charlie did is legal and, I would contend, necessary for democracy. I’m not saying that making fun of religion is necessary for Democracy, but the right to do so is necessary.

  7. Just for fun, I’m going to invite a reaction here by going to another level. Because a thing is secularly legal doesn’t make it wise or civil or kind or acceptable. There’s a New Testament scripture that says something to that effect. In the non-secular world, in which these “terrorists” claim to travel, killing is legal. Mocking Mohammed is not. As a Christian, believing that God’s law trumps Man’s law, what Charlie does is out of sync with God’s law. Are we more interested in hiding behind Man’s law to justify inhumane behavior, or in bringing peace to the world?
    (Found the scripture… 1 Corinthians 10:23… “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.…”)

  8. Gail, I am answering this just after I got back from a Dharma Talk and my thoughts are a little different than they might have been two hours ago.

    A couple of days ago, The Announcer, an Orthodox Jewish newspaper, published a picture of World leaders expressing solidarity for France over the Charlie killings. Angela Merkel and EU policy chief Federica Mogherini had been edited out.

    I have no idea why their God told them to do that but it is apparently for the same reason that they don’t want pictures of women on public buses in Jerusalem which is now about 70% Orthodox.

    The question this brings up for me is how does someone reconcile different people’s different God’s laws? Especially when those laws are in conflict.

    1. You’re right…. so much of it just doesn’t make any sense, nor can it be reconciled. Maybe this is where I need to exercise that “hold the tension” thing.

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