Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Charlie Hebdo Massacre in Paris

From The New York Times:

The brutal terrorist attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday has badly shaken France. But the French have reacted with a fierce determination to defend their freedoms. President François Hollande, speaking from outside the magazine’s office a couple of hours after the murder of 12 people, was crystal clear: This was an assault, he said, on “the expression of freedom” that is the “spirit of the republic.”

Two heavily armed attackers, who apparently knew the magazine’s staff would be gathered around a table late on Wednesday morning for a weekly editorial meeting, forced themselves into Charlie Hebdo’s office and shot 10 people dead, including the top editor and prominent cartoonists. Two policemen were also killed. At least 11 other victims were wounded. The gunmen then fled with a third accomplice in a waiting car. One of the three later surrendered to police, but the other two, who are brothers, remain at large.

The editors, journalists and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo reveled in controversy and relished hitting nerves. The magazine’s editorial director, Stéphane Charbonnier, who was killed in the attack, had scoffed at any suggestion that the magazine should tone down its trademark satire to appease anyone. For him, free expression was nothing without the right to offend. And Charlie Hebdo has been an equal-opportunity offender: Muslims, Jews and Christians — not to mention politicians of all stripes — have been targets of buffoonish, vulgar caricatures and cartoons that push every hot button with glee.

In 2006, Charlie Hebdo reprinted controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that originally appeared in a Danish newspaper. In 2011, the magazine’s offices were firebombed the day after it published a special issue guest-edited, it said, by Muhammad called “Charia Hebdo” — a play on the word in French for Shariah law. The cover of Wednesday’s issue poked fun at the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, whose newest book imagines France as an Islamic state in the year 2022.
There are some who will say that Charlie Hebdo tempted the ire of Islamists one too many times, as if coldblooded murder is the price to pay for putting out a magazine. The massacre was motivated by hate. It is absurd to suggest that the way to avoid terrorist attacks is to let the terrorists dictate standards in a democracy.

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