“Do you know why people like violence?” Benedict Cumberbatch says in a low, empty voice, playing the role of Alan Turing in the recently released movie The Imitation Game. “It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes hollow.”
This movie is set in the 1940s, a time well acquainted with violence.
However, this quotation is relevant today time and time again, as it has been over the past 70 years since World War II. The most recent reminder being the attack resulting in the deaths of 12 people at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. On Wednesday, January 7, two gunmen killed writers, cartoonists, editors, and policemen. Eleven other journalists were wounded. Following this attack, hostages were taken at two locations in connected acts of terror. Four hostages were killed.
And this is just the least of it. Daily, hundreds of innocent people are dying in Syria, the Ukraine, Nigeria. Everyday people are dying for no reason all over the globe. Go to CNN, The New York Times, NPR, anywhere, and they all show the same sad truth that innocent people are dying without rightful cause.
It is interesting then, that the deaths of 16 French people made the news on an international level when a Boko Haram attack in Nigeria, just four days prior, left anywhere from 150-2,000 people dead, yet hardly surfaced on the international news. This is because the attacks in Paris violate the basic human right of freedom of expression, defied the French law of freedom of the press, and infringed our own first amendment right of freedom of press.
Charlie Hebdo printed images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, which violates the rules of the Muslim faith. This insult to the Muslim religion is credited with being the cause of the attacks, which Islamic extremist group, Al Qaeda, is now claiming as their own. In response, Charlie Hebdo printed their next issue, which came out Wednesday, bearing another image of Muhammad on the cover with a tear down his face and the words “Tout Est Pardonné” printed above, meaning all is forgiven.
While I understand the Muslim community’s discontent with the depiction of Muhammad (although as someone who is not devoutly religious, I can never claim to fully feel it to the same extent), I strongly believe Charlie Hebdo made the right choice in doing so. As a satirical journal, it is their job to raise awareness and highlight the ironies about current events and popular culture. By depicting Muhammad on the cover, they raised questions such as why is it against the Muslim religion to show pictures of Muhammad?, something that most people were previously unaware of. However, in the wake of the recent events, this law has become prominent and well known. Additionally, the cover, which may appear to target all Muslims, prompts discussion about the religion as a whole and brings to light the importance of differentiating between the world’s estimated 1.6 billion people who identify as Muslim and the miniscule fraction of a percent who are radical Muslim terrorists. In this way, Charlie Hebdo fulfilled their duty as journalists and as satirical commentators by inciting discussion and awareness about the Muslim faith.
Perhaps the even more hotly contested issue that the attacks raised is the issue of freedom of the press. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen guarantees the French people the right to express their opinion in the press. However, there clearly were severe consequences for this expression of opinion for the French writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. After the 2011 fire-bomb attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, editor-in-chief Stephané Charbonnier told colleagues “I prefer to die standing than living on my knees”.
His legacy should serve as a lesson for us all. Charbonnier was a man willing to die voicing his opinion and utilizing the right of freedom of press. Do not let these ten journalists die in vain. We must acknowledge the consequences of publishing our opinions, but in the face of that, we must push on and continue the fight for freedom of speech. We must show the world that as journalists, as humans, we are resilient, and we will continue to voice our opinions, despite what others may think. Because once we do that, their acts of violence to suppress our freedoms just become hollow.
(Olivia Gieger ’17, Arts Editor)