Letter from the Editor: January

In which I talk about terrorism and satire

Letter from the Editor: January

Earlier this month, 12 people were murdered at the offices of “Charlie Hebdo”, a french satirical newspaper, sort of like a print version of “The Onion,” but, like, in French. The justification for the attack was that “Charlie Hebdo” had been publishing comics involving Islam, the prophet Muhammad (whose depiction is forbidden in some interpretations of Islam), as well as the leader of ISIS. This is not the first time renditions of Muhammad have incited anger, one example being a 2010 episode of “South Park” in which Muhammad appears, that Comedy Central was forced to censor in response to threats against Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the show’s creators.

Something worth noting is that “Charlie Hebdo” mocked not only Muslims, but also Christians, Jews, and just about everyone in between. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that many Muslims hail from former French colonies in Africa, which brings connotations of the oppressors lampooning the oppressed. Similarly to the issues between Protestants and Catholics in northern Ireland, it can be looked at as just as much a matter of a racial and historical matter as it is a religious one.

It’s difficult to criticize “Charlie Hebdo”’s actions without feeling like I’m sympathizing with the attackers, which I’m not. No matter the circumstance, retaliation like what we saw is never appropriate. Twelve people will never see their families again after these attacks, and nothing about that is justifiable.

Yes, some of the content in “Charlie Hebdo” was objectionable, and yes, some of it was downright offensive solely for the sake of being offensive. However, no man has the right to decide that someone’s words are worth their life. People have every right to be offended by the material published by “Charlie Hebdo,” but nobody has the right to try and censor that material. By being offended, you are exercising your own freedom of speech, but by retaliating against those who offend you, you are compromising everyone’s, even your own, right to speak freely.

The thing is, satire will always inspire some, and will always offend some. It serves as a firestarter, a potent device that casts serious ideas in a different light, and helps to open up conversation in situations where approaching the issue head-on could prove difficult.

Satire is necessary because it opens people’s’ minds to ideas they might otherwise reject, via humor. As Monty Python’s John Cleese said, “If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And if i can persuade you to laugh at the particular point I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge its truth.”