The outpouring of support for freedom of speech and Charlie Hebdo after the horrific Paris attacks would be so much more heartening if it were not for the hypocrisy or naivety – perhaps both – of so many who have proclaimed.
“Je suis Charlie” is the slogan. And a very good one it is too. I am confident I can use it since I make no effort to silence opposing views, no matter how much I abhor them. But the thousands who recently signed a petition to have Katie Hopkins arrested for “offensive” Twitter musings, or those who shout down any attempts of those who express the failures of multiculturalism have no business in calling themselves Charlie.
In addition, Nigel Farage was condemned by British politicians for his comments on just that, the failures of multiculturalism. He has been accused of making “political capital” out of the attacks by the Westminster cartel. I ask, when should such matters be discussed? Since politicians have done their utmost to avoid talking about them for many years, evident from the backlashes now seen in the polls, backlashes they deem to be “protest votes”.
Rest assured, the people who want the likes of Mrs Hopkins arrested, would never have affiliated themselves with the work of Charlie Hebdo before the massacre. I doubt very much whether they fully understand it now. It is nothing more than a bandwagon to portray their apparent liberalism. For these “liberals”, freedom of speech ends the moment they hear views they don’t like. The tolerance they preach soon morphs into something more akin to an agitated toddler in a pram. Charlie? Non.
Nor do the French government have the right to call themselves Charlie. Within 48 hours of the initial attacks, President Francois Hollande was already seeking ways to ban Marine Le Pen’s Front National – the same party Charlie Hebdo regularly mocks with their cutting humour – from joining the solidarity marches in the French capital on Sunday in a display of both incompetence, and supreme ignorance. The newfound desire to press home the importance of freedom and liberty appears not to have lasted long.
The BBC. Well they’re not Charlie either. Live on Question Time, host David Dimbleby said: “Due care and consideration must be used regarding the use of religious symbols in images which may cause offence, the Prophet Muhammad must not be represented in any shape or form”. The public broadcaster, which is supposed to act in the interests of those who fund it, have taken it upon themselves to silence free speech via the form of censorship wherever they see fit. Is this a North Korean tribute act?
The British media have also let themselves down. Immensely. Instead of plastering the most controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons over the newspaper front pages in an act of defiance, they meekly surrendered by not doing so. This form of cowardice is a sign of defeat – the hatred and fear spewed by the extremists serves to grant them the censorship they so desire. I highly doubt any decent practicing Muslim would protest against the necessity for the media to preach their right to free speech – indeed it is the honest Muslim who also suffers when the radicalised commit these acts.
Satire, as heinous as it may come across at times, is ultimately, just satire. The ability to mock and poke fun is essential to a free society, and wavering to those who look to block it is a grave injustice. Britain to an extent has already given in – there is no magazine published on these shores comparable to Charlie Hebdo. You may be offended by what satirists say, you may not think it’s “right”, but neither of those mean it shouldn’t be allowed.
The solidarity shown by the European people for their liberty in the wake of the attacks cannot fail to instill hope. But we must all heed our own words. To everyone who has considered themselves Charlie, ask yourself if you really do believe in all true freedom of speech entails. If you do, go forth. If not, I invite you to travel to any oppressive country which shares views similar to yours. I’ll even pay your air fare. One way, of course.