Freedom’s costly price
Depending on the historical clarity of hindsight, Wednesday was either another bad day for journalism — and world peace in general — or a day the world realized how important the media is in a free and democratic society.
Charlie Hebdo is a wacky, weird weekly newspaper in France with a serious left-wing satirical bent. Its detractors, many of them people in positions of power, find it distasteful.
The paper is certainly not mainstream in terms of anything people here would call a normal media outlet. As far as that goes, few outside of France would have known anything about it prior to Wednesday’s mass killings in Paris.
So it’s ironic that a newspaper that was hard to love in the best of times, that was controversial and often very disrespectful, has come to represent freedom of the press and free speech. And, more importantly, Wednesday’s slaughter has reminded us of the need to fight to preserve free speech.
We at TC Media join in solidarity with our journalism peers around the world, in reminding readers that our own freedom of thought and expression has always come with a high price — often paid by people far away from us.
If Charlie Hebdo had a sister paper in Canada, it’s doubtful the paper would be a runaway success. Oh, the newspaper certainly could be funny, but it was crude and its credo was that no subject, or individual, was off limits, including the Pope and the Prophet Mohammed.
It took the old newspaper slogan of “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” to a whole other level.
The paper’s brazen willingness to poke the bear of Muslim fanatics, by satirizing about the Prophet Mohammed and printing images of him, appears to be the reason two violent and demented young men rushed into the newspaper’s office and wreaked their revenge. All the while they were engaged in such unholy work, they were chanting in praise of their god. It’s doubtful any god was on their side.
The bloodletting has left us all with another flesh wound to our sense of civility and sensibility. Unfortunately, we are becoming numb and harder to surprise when it comes to such outrageous acts. The names of too many gods are being shouted out by individuals with their fingers on a trigger.
Those people who argue that Charlie Hebdo was playing with fire and asking for trouble need to take off their Pampers and put on their grown-up pants. Anyone who believes in freedom of speech must accept the fact that the freedom extends to everyone, not just to the people we think deserve the right to express an opinion. People can cross lines when it comes to free speech, but we have the courts to protect us in those cases.
It would be a minority of Canadians who agree with many of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial decisions. But, certainly the vast majority of Canadians would support the newspaper’s right to exist.
This week’s edition of Charlie Hebdo has been reduced to eight pages instead of the usual 16, but the print run will be one million copies, not the usual run of 60,000 copies.
Charlie Hebdo and its staff paid a heavy price, offering up that which is most precious to us, our blood, for their belief in freedom of speech.
Eight staff members, along with four other individuals, have earned the right to be symbols of free speech. May they rest in peace and the freedom train that is the right to free speech keep on rolling.