Freedom of speech

This morning the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked by heavily armed gunman who murdered 12 people both staff at the paper and police officers. These 12 people were murdered over an ideology that was satirical in nature. That satire pushed the envelope on all religious sides as all good satire does and regardless of your thoughts on the subject matter - satire is important. What the staff at Charlie Hebdo did was important, I dare say vital to modern journalism and western society as a whole. 

In America we found speech so important that it ended up # 1 on the Bill of Rights, the Taylor Swift of inalienable rights and what Charlie Hebdo did was not protect the freedom of speech but work to minimize extremist views with satire. The ability to do that job is impossible in an ecosystem without the ability to speak freely, one in which we enjoy and likely take for granted.

In the video above the editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier is quoted as saying "I would rather die than live like a rat" a sentiment that is so visceral and stark today it is hard for me to write, but important for us to hear. Another victim Georges Wolinski famously quipped "all acts are suspect, especially those not guided by the profit." These men were visionary and heroic in their calling.

Do not, however, think that this event was about cartoons, this attack was perpetuated by people who are enemies not of the west, nor of freedom, but of humanity. Reports have them shooting a wounded officer in the head as he lay wounded, weak cowards act in such a way and regardless of where you are politically this event galvanizes the need for fearless journalism in dangerous times.  

The former editor of the Onion put it best:

"Satire must always accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter."

You cannot kill the idea of satire, it is in fact - immortal. It is hard to wrap your head around things like this, but the idea of free speech is one that we take for granted, until it looks like it can be taken away. It cannot and it must not ever feel like it can because without the ability to speak freely ideas that are extreme in nature, from any side, are allowed to germinate and grow which is why the concerns of my friend Jason are very real:

But the good guys are the ones who continue to speak, disrupt, and report regardless of the fear. 

Eric HultgrenComment