Some of you may be thinking, “huh? ‘Je suis Charlie’ is not a word”. I know in most cases a series should be ongoing for quite some time before a special edition pops up, but whatever. As always, keep in mind I’m not (as some of you know) a big fan of euphemisms.
What is Je suis Charlie? “I am Charlie” originated as a tribute to Charlie Hebdo. According to wikipedia, “Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly newspaper, featuring cartoons, reports, polemics, and jokes.” The Journalists here were also victim to the shootings in Paris on January 7*.This slogan symbolizes the feeling of empowerment in free speech, particularly in Journalism. It first appeared as a hashtag on twitter one hour after the attack and it soon became viral, crossing over to other forms of social media at an amazing speed in pictures, hashtags and text.
After #JeSuisCharlie went viral, it provoked responses about the netizens’ thoughts on Journalistic free speech, when it would be considered “too much”. People also began discussing similarly controversial things such as the movie “The Interview”, ISIS’s gruesome execution of journalists, respecting other cultures, and discrimination based on religion or just discrimination in general.
Sophie Kleeman of .mic wrote, “#JeSuisCharlie sends a clear message: […] journalists and non-journalists alike refuse to be silenced. As Charbonnier said in 2012, following the firebombing of his offices, ‘I have neither a wife nor children, not even a dog. But I’m not going to hide.’” Other tweets include similar messages, including a blank image captioned “Please enjoy this culturally, ethnically, religiously, and politically correct cartoon respectfully. Thank you”.
Not all of the responses have been positive. The people who disagree with JeSuisCharlie use the counter-hashtag #JeNeSuisPasCharlie. In their defense, Charlie Hebdo’s newspaper was deemed as “hate speech” and “wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds” in America, according to David Brooks. In his NY times article, he also wrote, “in thinking about provocateurs and insulters, we want to maintain standards of civility and respect while at the same time allowing room for those creative and challenging folks who are uninhibited by good manners and taste” and “As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.” Others have said things along similar lines, basically stating that freedom of speech should have its limitations as well. However, these questions still remain: where should this line be drawn? What would be deemed okay and what would be “too offensive”? How do we draw this fine line between poking fun at a culture and being outright racist?
So what do you think? Are you Charlie, or are you not Charlie? If you would like to read the full articles of anything I have referenced for this issue of WOTM, links are found on the citations page, along with a brief description.