I Am Not Charlie

Je ne suis pas Charlie copySupport for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo murders by carrying signs saying “Je suis Charlie” seems to be  la chose à faire in keeping with the latest fad of identifying with victims everywhere of some unfortunate fate.  I am not one of them.

Yes, I support freedom of speech, but I do not support people who make a career out of insulting others and enflaming racial, religious and and cultural tensions.  Freedom of speech to me is the right to speak the truth where there is corruption and injustice.  It was not intended by our First Amendment to be a right to bully others whose private beliefs differ from our own.

Why do we not use the “n” word in speaking of African Americans?  Why are we counseled to avoid challenging the holocaust?  Why have over 115 professional organizations representing civil rights, educational, athletic, and scientific experts published resolutions or policies that state that the NFL’s use of the name Washington Redskins is a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping that promotes misunderstanding and prejudice?

Freedom is not the highest priority among progressives.  Respect for our differences as human beings is.

It’s a curious irony that cartoonist Maurice Sinet, who works under the pen name Sine, faced state charges of “inciting racial hatred” for a column he wrote in July 2008 in Charlie Hebdo.  He was dismissed from the magazine for refusing to take back a comment he made about the president’s son, following the latter’s engagement to Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, the Jewish heiress of an electronic goods chain.  When it was rumored that Mr. Sarkosy planned to convert to Judaism, Sine quipped: “He’ll go a long way in life, that little lad.”   Such a slight to Jewish dignity is of course mild compared to the attacks upon Muslim beliefs, but as Voltaire has written, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

No, I don’t believe that we should pass laws to prohibit people from criticizing whoever they want to criticize.  But we do have laws against those who would incite violence and engage in hate speech.  The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

There are two types of hate law regulations:  those that protect the public order and those that protect human dignity.

Charlie Hebdo violated both.


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