These days I’m generally loath to be a knee-jerk bandwagon hopper. I say that because, after reading with disgust about the murder of 12 people in yesterday’s attack on the Paris-based satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, I admit that it set off alarm bells, a distress signal warning of an incipient new wave of Islamophobia of the kind that polluted the cultural waters in the wake of the last cartoon controversy.
And one can read all sorts of motives and reasonings into the situation at large. At the top of my mind, there’s the privilege of self-professed non-conformists in poking fun at any and everything around them, in possible/probable ignorance of the very tangible effects of a society that’s marginalised those of minority ethnicity, both figuratively (cutting them out of the public discourse) and literally (encouraging ghettoisation in the banlieues). On closer view the Charlie Hebdo team probably mean well, and publish in good faith, but everyone has their blind spots.
That leaves a gap through which the racists and the Ukippers and the ‘Christian’ right creep their way into a discourse where they don’t belong. Hardly a day passed before Marine le Pen of the seriously dodgy Front National exploited the tragedy to take a potshot at Muslims, citing ‘extremism’ but not going out of her way to draw any sort of distinction in her blinkered supporters’ minds between terrorists with machine guns and the average Muslim family who might live across the road.
It’s with the latter in mind that I find so distasteful these efforts to share the Charlie Hebdo cartoons en masse as some kind of statement of protest or liberal defiance. As much as I get the impetus, it’s also lazy — because social media — and ultimately mindless rhetoric, missing the point of what any good-faith satirical publication is trying to do by ripping it from its context to stand for something it was never intended to represent. Barely 24 hours after the atrocity and Charlie Hebdo is fast becoming a byword for flipping the bird to Islamist extremists by mocking their faith’s ban on drawings of their prophet. Ha ha silly Muslims getting knickers in a twist over a drawing ha ha. But why should the average Muslims who live across the road have it shoved in their faces?
By all means one must show support for any cause one genuinely believe in. That’s why I’ve written this blog post, because freedom of the press means nothing if we allow the gun to quiet the pen. But let’s be reasonable about it, people. As much as nobody has the right to not be offended, nobody has the right to make others’ lives a misery, either.