Martyn Turner: ‘Charlie Hebdo fought extremism with laughter, satire and free speech’

Jan 13, 2015

By Martyn Turner

My first reaction to events in Paris yesterday, apart from sadness and shock, is that it is wrong to suddenly get especially worked up because a small group of extremist religious miscreants decided to kill off some European cartoonists, journalists and policemen. After all, the self same nuts decide every day to kill off many other substratas of society: men, women, children, goat-herders, traders, refugees, and anyone else that takes their fancy. They do not discriminate.

Very few can escape the wrath of their Kalashnikovs. Very few cannot cause offence to them by anything more than simply existing and not being one of them. And many of those horrors go by unnoticed by our media. And, of course, like the IRA before them, the terrorists of al-Qaeda and Islamic State are far more adept at killing their own “tribe” than killing others.

So in the same way that most victims of the IRA could be labelled “Catholic”, most victims of Islamic State are Muslim. But the attack in Paris is a bit deeper. It is an attack on the European way of life, European culture. How should we respond? Well, of course, in this way of life, this culture we don’t respond because that is the point of having a “culture” in the first place. “An eye for an eye” is the prerogative of others a bit farther east. With a few notable exceptions we don’t just slaughter people because we don’t agree with them. Except in world wars, of course.

To this particular and peculiar brand of Islamania, Charlie Hebdo committed the greatest crime. They fought extremism with laughter, satire and free speech. When I am in France,Charlie Hebdo is my weekly of choice. It is far livelier thanCanard Enchaîné and far less intimidating than Sine Hebdo (itself a breakaway from Charlie Hebdo). In France they take satire very seriously. They are devoutly anti-clerical in the broadest sense and have been for a century or so. The fight for the freedom of the press was fought against the church and against the political classes in France long ago and was won.


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19 comments on “Martyn Turner: ‘Charlie Hebdo fought extremism with laughter, satire and free speech’

  • Martyn Turner does it again. Of all cartoonists saddled with non-representation, his cartoon sails closest to the wind, and makes the mark.



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  • It’s very sad that nearly all the UK and Irish media have declined to publish the front cover of the new addition of Charlie Hebdo, which features a tearful picture of the prophet. They have given various reasons, usually wrapped up as “not wishing to cause unnecessary offence to Muslims,” but I’m sure that we all know the real reason.

    Those who suffered most from the outrage, have shown tremendous courage which their mass media colleagues have not reciprocated, they have carried on their work with defiance and taste.

    If causing offence and respect for the beliefs of others are to be the yardstick by which public discourse is to be permitted and judged, then where does it all end? Almost everything we do, think and enjoy in the west, our intellectual structure, morality (or lack of it!), diet all to cause offence to sectors of the Muslim world, and since we share the public space with them, does that mean we have to conform to their strictures, in order to avoid upsetting them?



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  • 4
    voiceofarabi says:

    Dehumanization is the cheif reason why so many people are killed around the world, and the article above is doing just that when it says “

    It is an attack on the European way of life, European culture. How should we respond? Well, of course, in this way of life, this culture we don’t respond because that is the point of having a “culture” in the first place. “An eye for an eye” is the prerogative of others a bit farther east.

    Come to think of it, many contributors on this site engage in dehumanization of others regulary in the name of freedom of speach, forgetting the main reason why people do crazy stuff…

    We don’t comprehend human nature, and we turn blind eye to our own animal instinct, and as a result, we end up doing crazy stuff, even if we are cultured Europeans – Leopold II of Belgium, and American Indian Holocaust are just two of the many recent things that jumps into mind.

    That said, i think fixing the barbaric attack that took place in Paris, should start by boycotting the sources that are responsible for such thoughts, and right now, the only one i can identify is Wahhabism… So, let us fight that in a peacful way by boycotting any country that claims to be or supports Wahhabism in any way… First that comes to mind would be Taliban in Afghanistan.

    If you live in the west, then you should lobby your government, MP, governer, etc to boycott this barbaric movement called Wahhabism.



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  • There’s not much anyone can do about the behaviour of foreign governments, as the US and UK know to their cost. What would you do, invade any country without a free media or the rule of law?

    This is different, France is a member of the EU, the seat of the Enlightenment, and a social democracy. No-one can change the political behaviours of other cultures, but we sure can defend our own values and freedoms, and it’s inevitable that dodgy politicians will want to get in on the act.

    Besides which, the modern media are some of the most powerful entities in the Western world, if they don’t take a stand then what hope is there for the rest of us? The last thing that anyone needs is a lecture on political morality from Zionist publications.



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  • I don’t really care where the information comes from, I question the content and the content tells me that there is no seat of democracy just a world of hypocrisy which includes the media. I find myself unable to put my trust in any entity but I can point out the injustices of all. Lets just say the biggest wrong anyone can do is to try and pull the wool over another’s eyes.



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  • When faced with the moral posturings of the ultra left, the great Gough Whitlam once remarked that the impotent are always pure. Of course the world’s a vile place full of sham, hypocracy, double dealing, violence and shame. Get used it, get on with life and do your best in the small way which is all most of us can manage. The price of achieving anything is moral compromise and usually failure, that doesn’t mean that we have to duck out of the struggle. Bear up!



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  • 8
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    So, let us fight that in a peacful way by boycotting any country that claims to be or supports Wahhabism in any way… First that comes to mind would be Taliban in Afghanistan.

    The first place that comes to my mind when I read or hear the word Wahabbism is Saudi Arabia. Don’t bet on any Western country boycotting them for as long as we are dependent on their oil. As for Afghanistan, the country’s economy and infrastructure is already in shambles, how can a “boycott” have any real impact there?

    Plus, Wahhabism is just another word for fundamentalist Islam. So is the ideology of fundamentalist Islam a problem? Yes it is a huge problem and sadly, much of the liberal left still persists in refusing to acknowledge the elephant herd in the room.

    The idea that someone deserves to die because they drew a cartoon is very bad and very crazy idea.

    The idea that someone deserves to be jailed for 3 years and be flogged for criticizing his religion is a very bad and very crazy idea.

    The idea that a woman ought to be killed for “dishonoring her family” because she was raped is a very bad and very crazy idea.

    I could go on and on but if people don’t get the picture by now, they never will. I know I sound like a broken record but ideas have consequences and they tend to guide the actions of people who hold these ideas as sacred truth. When the ideas are bad, the externalization of those ideas will inevitably be bad.

    And how do you fight bad ideas? By calling them out through free speech, education, literature, journalism, satire, criticism, parody, etc… By doing the very thing that the ideology of Islam condemns and that Islamic fundamentalists all over the world are trying to suppress by killing, torture and imprisonment and terror.

    The foundations of democracy are at stake. And in a world dominated by Islamic faith and Sharia law, there is simply no room for freedom of expression or freedom of religion or any kind of freedom at all. It is without a doubt the ultimate totalitarian state, as brutal and repressive as the one imagined by George Orwell in 1984.

    We must have the courage and lucidity to stop averting our eyes from the elephant in the room and speak out against the utter madness of Islamic ideology. The ball’s is in the media’s court and they have to pick it up no matter the consequences. Charlie Hebdo had the unmitigated audacity to mock an ideology that truly deserves to be mocked. Now the rest of the world has to follow their example. Our future depends on it.



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  • 11
    Christopher says:

    I am offended by anyone who believes that Blasphemy is a crime let alone one punishable by death or threat or terror. You and many others may feel that Blasphemy is offensive and you have the right to express your outrage. For me what no one has is the right to do is terrify others expressing their outrage. We in the “West” generally live in a societies where our outrage is both tolerated and even encouraged. What is obscene is to incite others to terror and violence. I am ashamed of my previous silence at the threats that people like Salman Rushdie suffer under and too many others.



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  • 13
    voiceofarabi says:

    Hey NearlyNakedApe. I think you and I agree on some points, but differ on one major point.

    You see Wahhabism as Islam, and wish to fight and kill the entire thing.

    I see Wahhabism like the “The Puritans” of the 16th – 18th century. They claim to be Christians, but have nothing to do with mainstream Christian religion.. If anything, it is crazy stuff.

    That said, all of religion is crazy in my own eyes, and no different than Santa Clause.

    I think people have the right to think and believe in whatever they want to believe in, and if religion rocks their boat, then that’s fine, as long as it does not harm others.

    Islam is practiced in Syria, Lebanon, Morocco etc etc, and you can choose to be whatever you want.

    The story is different when it comes to US Sponsored Wahhabi states!! (Egypt included!!)

    Plus, you cannot eradicate a religion because you say so.. The USSR failed after many tens of years, so I would not be hopeful. I think we should live and let live…. (Which is the main premise of Islam – “You have your own religion, and I have mine” – literal translation from the Quran.)



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  • 14
    voiceofarabi says:

    The first place that comes to my mind when I read or hear the word Wahabbism is Saudi Arabia. Don’t bet on any Western country boycotting them for as long as we are dependent on their oil. As for Afghanistan, the country’s economy and infrastructure is already in shambles, how can a “boycott” have any real impact there?

    I agree.. We don’t have democracy where I live, so I can’t effect any changes..

    But the west has democracy, as they never stop to remind us… Why can’t the people effect change?? The oil story is now old, and US of A is one of the largest oil exporters.

    I think the real reason why it does not change in the West is.. There are only few people like NearlyNakedApe, and a majority that couldn’t careless how many innocent people die as long as they are comfortable… which is human nature and basic instinct…



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  • Charlie Hebdo were left with no real alternative other than to publish this weeks edition with a cartoon of the prophet on the cover. The strapline ‘All is Forgiven’ was both tasteful and profound. The Muslim community leaders who are now banging on about provocation obviously don’t understand the meaning of the word, just as they didn’t understand the fundamental argument in the first place. The events of last week also helped ‘provoke’ a five million print run, which I am gratified to see have all flown off the shelves already.



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  • As an exercise in silencing the media it appears to be a spectacular own goal for the jihadists!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30808284
    Millions more copies of French weekly Charlie Hebdo are being printed after the first run sold out in hours.

    The normal print run of 60,000 was extended to five million – a week after Islamist gunmen murdered 12 people at the magazine’s offices and five others in subsequent attacks in Paris.

    The “survivors’ issue” has angered some Muslims by depicting the Prophet Muhammad on its cover.

    A video purportedly from al-Qaeda in Yemen said it planned the Hebdo attack.

    The gunmen are said to have used earlier publication of images of the Prophet as justification for their attack on the magazine.

    Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover shows a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad weeping while holding a sign saying “I am Charlie”, and below the headline “All is forgiven”.



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  • Joseph Conrad supplied a powerful caveat to the discussion in his novel Heart of Darkness. Take away our civilized veneer and we become the bloodthirsty savages we deplore. We evolved as a predatory animal that survived by killing other animals, including each other, and drinking their blood.

    Remember all those movies before the mid sixties that glorified Euro-Caucasions blowing away towel-headed, swarthy, ever-so-evil Hindus and Muslims rebelling against British colonial authority in “Inja” or mowing down gibbering, near-naked black Zulus attacking British outposts of civilization in Africa? Remember all those Westerns where American counterparts slaughtered the yelping redskin savages raiding peace-loving settlers and massacring Custer’s 7th cavalry? Remember the French in the early sixties outraged by Algerian “terrorists” who sought independence for a “territory” that clearly belonged to Metropolitan France. Remember the British hangings and concentration camps in Kenya in response to the Mau Mau uprising? Then around 1965, western revisionist history of these atrocities came on line with the shock of realizing, “Hey, WE were in THEIR country!”

    Fortunately, mixed ambivalently within the colonial, exploitative, oppressive, racist and enslaving ethic of western civilization were equally ethnocentric progressive ethics of liberty, democracy and human rights which emerged into predominance since 1960.

    Herein lies the great paradox of an accident of history. Western civilization, its beliefs and practices, evolved through darker ages to offer the world “superior” values with reference to a vision of how to live better through Science and Technology, Reason and Humanism. The late Richard Rorty, the atheist philosopher of modern Pragmatism, candidly confessed: (paraphrase) “I’m not a relativist, I’m ethnocentric.” Since all belief systems, institutions, ways of navigating and manipulating the environment, are dependent on biological evolution, informing abilities specific to the human species, we can only assess the relative “truth” of our beliefs on how well they serve our purposes and interests from a situated point of view in a specific environment. We are all ethnocentricts.

    I speculate that dealing with Islamic fundamentalism, manifested in terrorist acts, we must take punitive action, killing or capturing those who commit criminal acts. More broadly we should admit up front that we are ethnocentrics willing to work with, support with material and financial aid, the large factions of Muslims who are evolving toward contemporary western civilization and a humanist reformation of Islam. Most contemporary Muslims are coming around, however slowly, to a conviction that their governments, civil institutions and orthodox religious mandates are dysfunctional and regressively opposed to advancing toward “superior” modern western standards of living, freedoms and quality of life.



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  • 1,000 lashes? Too labor intensive. Just empty the clip from your 9 millimeter pistol into the miscreant.

    Of course, the Charlie Hebdo crime was more than simply murder. It was murder with special circumstances carried as out as a crime against humanity and the civil right of free speech, the lifeblood of democratic society.

    Still almost everywhere you go on controversial sites on the internet, you will hear bloggers squealing like stuck pigs about extreme insufferable attacks on their person and views; alleged attempts to silence them, pornographic images reducing their identity to vermin, excrement, or bestial sexual perversion in the name of “satire.” (Hey, can’t you take a joke?). In fairness and with due respect to these people -let’s face it “je suis these people” (sorry about the “stuck pig” analogy) complaints about ad hominem attacks laced with vile obscenities, carry weight, especially when “we” are the target.. Should we have a debate about our right to unrestrained slander and character assassination or set limits which respect the basic humanity of our opponents in the public sphere?



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