The aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack has brought an encouraging reaction. You can see it on the streets of Paris and other cities. Last week, tens of thousands of people joined vigils in solidarity for the murdered journalists. Upwards of a million Parisians took the streets on Sunday. “Je Suis Charlie” read the signs. Online the corresponding hashtag has swept across social media. Some news outlets — more than I expected — have reprinted Charlie Hebdo cartoons. But what's more, the outlets that have refused to publish the images (or pixelated them) have been deservedly bashed. They shame themselves by cowering.
We are all Charlie — at least today and next week. But what happens once grief and horror naturally attenuate over time?
For the Je Suis Charlie phenomenon to translate into a strengthening of freedom of speech, a great deal depends on the conclusions people form and act on going forward.
Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic admonishes that few fully appreciate what it meant to stand up for freedom of speech, or have the courage to do so themselves. I’d add: where was the solidarity nearly a decade ago for Jyllands-Posten, Flemming Rose, and the artists who were driven in to hiding after the Mohammad cartoons crisis? And before that, after the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh? Or, for Charlie Hebdo in 2011 when its offices were firebombed?
By now people have many, many more data points. Now, as in the past, the pattern is blatant. The jihadists seek to extinguish the freedom of speech. At Charlie Hebdo, the killers declared that they were avenging the prophet. They voiced a standard battle cry, “Allahu Akbar.” They executed the journalists during an editorial meeting.
The future will bring continuing assaults on the freedom of speech. The courage to defend that freedom presupposes a real understanding of it. What's vital now is to champion the freedom of speech, to inform and educate all who will listen. If you value your life and freedom, you should speak up in whatever forum is open to you.
Join ARI in our effort to defend the irreplaceable right to the freedom of speech.
* * *
Some of what’s coming up: