Friday, January 9, 2015

Thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo murders

You don't have to love what the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists said in their drawings to defend their right to say it. That's a principle that both the French and Americans will passionately defend — at least as passionately as the alleged Muslims who feel called upon to kill those who "insult" their religion defend their murderous ways.

It's not just the French and Americans, either. It's everybody who appreciates the Enlightenment.

That's a lot of people. A lot more than believe in fundamentalist Islam, no matter what al-Qaeda or ISIS or far-right Western fearmongers say. And our ranks keep growing because our message is a hell of a lot more appealing than the unforgiving, intolerant credo of the fundamentalists.

That's what makes the fundamentalists lash out. They know they're on the losing side of the argument, so they have to write their message in blood for anyone to take it seriously.

There's a certain amount of self-examination going on in the wake of the murders. People are wondering whether some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons about Muslims and Islam were satire, or just bigotry. That's as it should be: a healthy society questions itself if things seem to be getting out of whack. Some will conclude that the cartoons crossed a line. Others won't. Eventually we'll return to a stasis, and the individual decisions of millions of people will govern whether we see a lot more such expression, about the same, or much less.

The point is, we will make that decision, not some thug with an automatic rifle and a warped "understanding" of religion.

The attackers and their ilk simply don't understand that this assault will trigger not less, but more of what they hate: more speech, much of it satirical, that questions who they are and what they believe. A lot of it won't be terribly effective in changing hearts and minds — but some of it will be.

More effective messaging that further diminishes the power of your ideas — that's not what you wanted, guys. But that's what you're going to get.

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