Monday, April 27, 2015

Free Speech For The Intolerant

The French satirical rag 'Charlie Hebdo' was attacked and the art world decried the senseless murder of cartoonists.

PEN American Center jumped on the Je Suis Charlie bandwagon as well, and decided that this year it would give its prestigious award to 'Charlie Hebdo'. The award goes to a worthy body involved in protecting free speech, and isn't that what the magazine was all about?

Or was the French journal just an outlet for anti-Muslim hate speech?

Six writers, members of PEN, have turned down invitations to the annual dinner where the award will be presented. Their reason? They believe that 'Charlie Hebdo' was just a big bully picking on France's minority Muslim population. The magazine is guilty of oppression in its own way, according to novelist Rachel Kushner. 'Charlie Hebdo' tries to force secularism, much like the Islamic fascists try to force their version of their religion down everyone's throats. It isn't so much free speech in the face of oppression as the other side of the intolerance coin.

Peter Carey suggests that the attack was not unexpected, given the level of French arrogance about their culture. They're all intolerant, those froggies, thinking that their culture is so feckin' superior. Sure the food is superb and when it comes to fashion you'll not find anyone more chic than a Parisian woman, but does that make France so much better than, say, Saudi Arabia?

Even the likes of Gary Trudeau, who could never be accused of conservatism, criticized the magazine for presenting what is little more than hate speech. 'Charlie Hebdo' attacks the powerless minority, he noted, forgetting that the magazine also goes after Judaism and Catholicism with equal vehemence. But that aspect touches more on Mr. Carey's remarks in regard to French arrogance about their culture. They have been so obsessively anti-religion since the revolution that they take great pride in their secularism.

It was the French, after all, who turned Notre Dame cathedral into a secular theatre after royal heads rolled into the gutter.

The artists and writers who produced 'Charlie Hebdo' were just French people being French, in France.

They weren't speaking truth to power locally. The French government was not cracking down on them. Not so much, at any rate.

'Charlie Hebdo' is not worthy of recognition by PEN American Center, according to the six writers who voiced a protest. In fact, the magazine is guilty of bringing an attack on itself. So if Pope Francis sends in the Swiss Guards to shoot up the place, we'll know why. An assault on the journal's offices by the Mossad? It would be due to French arrogance and a religious group getting mocked that brings on retaliation. There can't be speech that is completely free, if someone can define your version of free speech as hate speech.

Those who demonstrate intolerance are not entitled to say whatever they like. Someone might take offense.

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