Charlie Hebdo: On the Freedom and Responsibilities of Expression, and the Morality of Murder

Charlie Hebdo: On the Freedom and Responsibilities of Expression, and the Morality of Murder

Losing your life in the most violent manner for publishing a cartoon can be defined as nothing else other than a barbaric crime. A crime that not only kills individuals but also attacks our very foundational ideals; the ideal that right to life must be respected above everything else, the ideals of freedom of expression, and of free speech.

In such a scenario, any scrutiny of the content published by Charlie Hebdo could fall into the trap of victim blaming, and runs the risk of being mistaken as a justification of the killings.

A brief glance at Charlie Hebdo's published comics would show that they indulge in the most offensive racial stereotypes of religious communities that already face marginalization in white-dominated spaces. It is true that Charlie Hebdo also mocked other religious communities like Christians and Jews, but do the members of those communities also experience the same marginalization, stereotyping, and racial profiling like Muslims do? Racism isn't some flat idea that would apply or not apply to everyone in same manner, racism is a product of the power structures and systems of privilege and oppression that exist in the given society. That is why we can't have “White Pride” like we have Black Pride, that is why we can speak of Male Privilege but it would be ridiculous to speak of Female Privilege.

Thus, there is such a thing as a racist cartoon, and taking the idea of 'pen is mightier than the sword' forward, one can also say this medium must be handled with responsibility and sensitivity. Of course, 'being offended' can never ever be the only parameter for judging something as good or bad, because many times this 'offense' is necessary, as the greatest French thinker Voltaire demonstrated. This space, this freedom, must indeed be protected. But this must also be distinguished from racist and sexist acts, acts that only further oppress the already oppressed, and do caricaturization of entire community, race or gender. These kind of acts deserve all the criticism that we can offer, and should never ever be glorified. Because 'daring to say or do something' shouldn't also be the only parameter for judging whether one's act is good or bad

In short, racist cartoons deserve criticism, but never of the violent kind that was meted out to the staff at Charlie Hebdo, because killing someone is categorically wrong and everyone loses with this approach in the long term. The murderers' act can never have any justification, and they must be brought to justice. As a society we must try in every way to make sure that such recourse to violence must never be encouraged.

Also, to put it bluntly, the murder of the cartoonists does not mean we forget the racism and sexism in the cartoons, and begin to glorify them with our misplaced sense of grief. Freedom of expression does not mean that all that is expressed must be respected. Racism or sexism must be criticized, because, let's not forget, this criticism also constitutes a freedom of expression.
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  • RE: Charlie Hebdo: On the Freedom and Responsibilities of Expression, and the Morality of Murder -Deepa Kaushik (01/12/15)
  • The media definitely has the freedom of expression, but they also carry the responsibility to protect the emotions of the masses and ethics of the media. The cartoonist is a part of the media and news agency who is equally responsible to hold the work ethics of the media. The freedom should be used in a way that doesn’t offend others.

    On having a look over the publishing of the Charlie Hebdo, it is pretty clear that they are severe in their expression of racism and discrimination. Though it was not the muslim community alone which had been targeted, still the three gunmen who came up with the violent expression of dearth and their resistance against the discrimination explain themselves to be from one religious community. As the people of other communities didn’t show up with a similar attacking mode, that doesn’t imply that they had accepted the ruthless behaviour of Charlie Hebdo.

    We cannot justify the terrorism as shown by the three gunmen. And that would be highly incorrect to term any religion for the terror attack. Every religion preach good virtues and values of humanity. Those who attacked were not from any religion, they were brutal human who have lost every emotion in their rage and violence. The attack had an equal contribution by both the Charlie Hebdo and the terrorists which claimed 12 innocent lives.