More on the guy to the left in a second.
I did not read Charlie Hebdo, had never even heard of the French publication until shooters went in earlier this week and killed 12 people, including 10 staff members and two police officers.
Since then, Facebook and Twitter have been alive with “Je Suis Charlie” — I Am Charlie — posts. A New York paper added “Charlie” to their reporters’ bylines. Next week’s The New Yorker’s cover will pay homage. In a fit of journalistic solidarity, I posted this photo on Facebook:
I’d previously posted a different photo, one that showed a cartoon of a raised middle finger covered in blood. I thought better of it, because, well, I don’t know why. I took it down to be replaced with the photo above. Even after I posted that one, I second-guessed myself. My initial reaction comes from feeling a kinship with any one who puts words (or drawings) on a page. “Charlie” most emphatically wasn’t my kind of publication. And yet the murders were just so over the top vile.
When Paris residents held a moment of silence today, they did so holding aloft pens. As for what flowed from Hebdo’s pens, Tom Breen posted this on Facebook, an interesting analysis of precisely what kind of publication was “Charlie,” and Gawker published this piece about previous attacks of the satirical publication. (As I write this, two suspects are still at large. One has surrendered to the police.)
(And no where can you make the argument that their publication made them eligible for a bullet. No where. I think the weirdness is summed up very here here, by First Dog On the Moon.)
In this country, satire is protected by law, and, uh, thanks, Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine, for that. Pornographer Flynt (he’s the guy at the top of this post) would not have been my choice as a guardian of First Amendment rights, but there you are. (Go here to see the fake ad that poked fun at the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who didn’t see the humor and fought it all the way to the Supreme Court.) I found Flynt’s publication vile. I found his championing the First Amendment heroic, though strictly speaking, the Court ruled that the ad could not have damaged the Rev. Falwell’s reputation because everyone — except the Rev. Falwell, evidently — could see it was satire.
From all indications, Flynt relishes his role of “pornographer with a heart/champion of free speech.” So if we are Charlie, then we are Charlie with all the messiness, the raunchiness, and the sometimes hateful speech of that publication. Which sounds about right.