Charlie Hebdo and the Future of Free Speech

Henry Glitz


The Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath was the most significant France had experienced since a 1962 train bombing — related to the war in Algeria — outside Paris. Moreover, it seems altogether foreign and incomprehensible to the relatively liberal standards of our society that the motivation for such atrocious violence was vengeance for the mere act, conflated into a crime, of drawing a cartoon. 

While it may seem natural to most Westerners, the response to the Jan. 7 attacks looks almost absurd when approached from a different point of view. Rénald Luzier, the figure behind the cartoon that seemed to spur controversy, himself highlights the irony of Western leaders — who more often than not look at satirists like those employed at Charlie Hebdo as “agitators” — declaring the slain satirists “white knights defending free speech”. The definitive characteristic transformed a weekly burlesque, whose parent publication described itself as a “stupid and vicious magazine”, into a hero of modernity. This reflects, quite simply, a feeling throughout the Western world that intrinsic rights are under attack. 

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