“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire
First and foremost, I’d like apologize for the interruption in programming. If you’re looking for an insider scoop or a sharp analysis from the technology industry – the kind of stuff you’ve come to expect from The Michael Report – then this isn’t going to be it. Click on something on the sidebar or bottom to read something different – I don’t mind. But I think that it is profoundly important – at least to me, personally – to take the time out to say something about the Charlie Hebdo murders.
When I was in school, they taught me that tolerance is about how comfortable I am with listening to ideas that are both disagreeable and uncomfortable. The cartoons Charlie Hebdo print every week requires, without question, a very high level of tolerance. They were, at best, viciously witty, and at worst, needlessly vile. More often than not, the cartoons Charlie Hebdo printed also showed a blanket disregard to the dignity of fellow human beings. It’s what they do, week after week. You don’t have to like or support the cartoons. I know I don’t – my religious leader, the Pope, ranks #1 on the leaderboard of the most insulted by Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists.
You don’t have to like it. But you should still support the concept of it.
Over the last few days, I’ve seen multiple versions of “I Am Not Charlie” on various newspaper editorials and social media. Their point, it seems, is to sympathize with the deaths of the cartoonists while still distancing themselves from the work of the cartoonists. If these people are hoping that their spineless, drive-by sympathy will stop the next satirist from getting killed, then they’re almost definitely wrong. By doing so, they are saying that our free speech is only worth as much as a couple bullets fired from the gun of a terrorist. Is something so fundamental to us – so much so that it’s now a fabric of our society – only worth that much?
By cowardly distancing themselves from the work of the cartoonists, these people plant a dangerous seed in our minds: only “perfect” victims deserve justice and our unconditional sympathy. To these people, only those who had died unjustly but had spent their entire lives doing charitable deeds for mankind deserve their complete support. It’s a discriminatory behavior that is not only discouraging to those who choose to pursue what they view as the truth through satire, but it is also an incredibly dangerous precedent to set. After all, wouldn’t it be easier for the terrorists to shut those who are making noise up if they had no support? If no one valued their work? If no one cared about them?
One of the biggest offenders is, surprisingly, the New York Times. In the course of reporting on the Charlie Hebdo murders, the New York Times refused to run any of the cartoons that led to the shootings. It’s too provocative, they said. But what about pictures of dead bodies that the New York Times has run throughout the year, and will continue to moving forward? Aren’t those provocative – to the families of the victim, to the village of the victim, to the country of the victim? All of a sudden, those people don’t matter as much to the New York Times. If Charlie Hebdo, with a staff of less than 50, could print those cartoons bravely, then why couldn’t the “Paper of the Record” do so with a staff of more than 1,000?
In fact, it is reported that many of the New York Times’ international correspondents told the paper’s editor-in-chief Dean Baquet (who, I should add, has a history of cowering in the face of adversity) that they wouldn’t feel endangered should the paper decide to print the cartoons… and yet, disappointingly, they decided not to. There’s no mincing of words here: the New York Times’ decision to not print the cartoons is both worthy of contempt and craven to the extreme.
In a couple of days, The Michael Report will go back to reporting on the technology industry.
In a couple of weeks, the hearts of family members of those massacred will start to mend.
In a couple of months, a monument of sorts will be probably be erected somewhere in Paris, and the names of those who died in this vicious attack will be immortalized.
But unless we stand up for the very ideals these cartoonists had sacrificed their lives for, don’t expect anything to change.
Because, remember: first, they came for the satirists.
Then, they came for the journalists.
Then, they will come for you.
Who will be left to speak out for you?
– Michael Andrew
Editor’s Note: This editorial was written by Michael Andrew, and therefore does not necessarily represent the views of those who work for/with The Michael Report.