Today, our publisher asked those of us who wished to step outside for a group picture of The Sheridan Press employees — reporters, editors, designers, sales people, printers — holding up signs reading “Je suis Charlie.”
I am Charlie.
I am. But at the same time, I am not.
Charlie Hebdo is a publication that I’ve never cared for. I have never agreed with them. I have never supported them.
Because they were crossing a line to the point of being unethical. They answered the question for me of just because you could, should you?
No. Sometimes you shouldn’t.
It’s one thing to be daring. It’s another to be insulting to the point that you’re inviting someone to come and kill you. Yes, that’s what they were doing. Given the death threats that one cartoonist received and understanding of the way radicals would react, he was extending an invitation. Sadly, those who worked around him as well as the police who came to protect him paid the price as well.
I have no problem with being controversial. I like controversial. But these digs at Mohammed went far beyond that. They didn’t make any real point. What was it the cartoonist couldn’t say without drawing Mohammed naked and in pornographic poses? How thought provoking were they really being by allowing an issue cover to show a naked Muslim woman with her burka stuffed up her backside?
Yes, they had the freedom of the press to say what they wished. But for what? Did they not have a less inflammatory way to say they didn’t support Islam without grossly insulting the 1.35 billion peaceful Muslims who now have to figure out how to deal with the new wave of fear mongering and racism that will continue to be a growing part of their lives?
Official newspapers in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt have condemned the attack on the publication. The Muslim community in France was the first to do so. But it doesn’t matter. It’s not going to make people any more understanding of the Muslims’ plight. We, as a country, have decided what protest looks like in our own minds, and since the 1.35 billion Muslims who are appalled by the massacre aren’t doing what we think they should be, we’re going to lump them in with the terrorists.
I believe the cartoonists and editors at Charlie Hebdo needed to be accountable for what they published. But in no way do I support what happened to them. There are other ways for people to show that they won’t put up with that kind of unethical journalism than shooting up a newsroom. There are right ways, and that certainly wasn’t it.
So I will stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo and the freedom of speech and freedom of the press preached by Thomas Jefferson, but that is far as my support will go. I do not believe there are bounds to free speech, and I will not move on that. But there comes a time, even in free speech, even in the freedom of the press, when the ethical journalist has to stop and ask, “Should I?”
It should always be the first question a journalist asks.