‘Charlie Hebdo’ poked fun at far more than Islam

Charlie Hebdo cover after assassinations

After many staff members were assassinated by Islamist extremists, the website for Charlie Hebdo was down. Remaining staff restored it with a headline that has resonated globally: “Je suis Charlie.” (Snip/cover of Charlie Hebdo)

Media on both right and left are characterizing the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo as a newspaper satirizing Islam. That is extremely misleading. 

Charlie Hebdo didn’t focus on a single faith or issue—the editorial content comprised satire aimed at the Pope, Jews, Christians, and whatever else rang the staff’s chimes. This set the magazine apart from the left in the US where Christians and Jews are fair game, but media, pundits, and academics neurotically embrace political correctness regardless of the cost to society.

The magazine’s philosophy was self-described in an editorial penned by staffers and published in 2013 by Le Monde:

“We laugh, we criticize, we still dream the same things. This is not to betray a secret: the current team is divided between supporters of the left, the far left, anarchy and ecology. All do not vote, but all sanded champagne when Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in May 2012.”

Because I used a search engine translator, I was stymied by the verb translated as “sanded” and tried many different variations, even turning to an old French text from my one semester studying that language. I eventually found a cognac expert online who explained in an article, “[T]he word Champagne is a derivation of the French term for chalky soil.”

Language aside, what’s intriguing is how savagely the left can turn on its own regardless of nationality. Via Gawker, an account from a leftist magazine in the US about how other media responded to Charlie Hebdo’s issue satirizing Islam after an amateur filmmaker was falsely and repeatedly blamed by the Obama administration for preventable attacks on US interests in Benghazi, Libya:

“When word got out a week ago Monday that the paper was printing a representation of Muhammad—an act that many Muslims consider blasphemous—Paris police called the editor (and cover cartoonist), Stéphane Charbonnier, just as the issue was closing. Charb, as he is known, sent the prefecture the front and back covers, and the police urged him to think again. He declined—satire is, after all, his bread and butter…French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a statement criticizing the cartoons and any such “excess.” Politicians and editorial pages in much of France attacked the drawings as irresponsible, inopportune, and imbecilic.”

The government’s capitulation on free expression should have brought people into the streets as the assassinations this week did, but apparently the French, like Americans, only notice the rights to free expression when they are annihilated.

In the US, criticism came from leftwing publications over Charlie Hebdo’s content, and leading Democrats like Howard Dean were still running interference for the alleged Muslim extremist killers after the assassinations in Paris.

Shortly after much of its staff was assassinated, the magazine experienced a website crash. Remaining staff brought it back online with a defiant statement resonating around the world: “Je suis Charlie” [I am Charlie]. Many on social media chose to use the phrase as a banner in the vein of We are all Charlie now. The featured image above is a snip of the online cover.

Whatever your position on the First Amendment in the US, it’s important to remember that Charlie Hebdo didn’t just focus on a single faith or issue. One past cartoon depicted the Pope holding a condom above his head in the same fashion a priest holds the wafer representing the body of Christ during Holy Communion. Other cartoons have satirized Jews.

We may assume there are extremists in any faith, but what we know is that the extremists who have hijacked a single faith are hellbent on shutting down free expression globally. Media controlled by the left in every country have largely surrendered to these globally connected extremists, and even the president of the United States failed to deliver a passionate defense of the US amendment that is the linchpin to freedom.

Media should be truthful with the public about this magazine’s content and refrain from casting it as a publication aimed at a single faith or issue. Because that characterization is unforgivably false.

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/January 8, 2015)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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