The History, And Future, Of 'Je Suis Charlie' | KUOW News and Information

The History, And Future, Of 'Je Suis Charlie'

Feb 12, 2015

Just over a month ago, on the morning of Jan. 7, two men stormed the offices of the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people.

In quick response, much of the world condemned the attack as a senseless act of terrorism. Within a day the slogan "Je Suis Charlie" became a widespread symbol of freedom of expression against radical extremism.

It is clear that when we say ‘I am Charlie” we implicitly reject the idea that murder is a justifiable remedy to insult.  It is also clear that the work of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo was provocative, to an extreme.

Critics say most of Hebdo’s ostensibly satirical cartoons abuse freedom of speech to express hate, racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry.

Here in the U.S. we are not free to incite imminent lawless action or violence, or to speak or deal in certain obscenities or to utter certain false statements. But we are otherwise free to voice our opinions, even when they are hateful, or racist or bigoted.

If the law does not limit the broadcast of hateful expression, the market can. Before Jan. 7 the audience for Charlie Hebdo cartoons was steadily declining. The violent acts committed that day served to popularize Hebdo’s brand of free speech at least temporarily.

In response to the Paris massacre, Humanities Washington organized a series of the Think & Drink events to engage a deeper discussion of the issues behind the headlines and rallying cries.

In this gathering, editorial cartoonist Milt Priggee and Islamic scholar David Fenner join KUOW’s Ross Reynolds to explore questions concerning the intent of the cartoonists and their attackers and the historical, cultural and religious context behind the tragedy.

This discussion took place at Seattle’s Naked City Brewery and Taphouse on Jan. 20. Thanks to Anna Tatistcheff for this recording.