Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Am NOT Charlie Hebdo

Freedom of speech is a fundamental freedom that can help to advance liberty in society. With liberty, minority opinions can be defended and heard. But freedom of speech can also be used to advance reactionary projects of hate and bigotry. This reactionary project has been embraced by right-win segments of French society in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. Instead of reviving France's tradition of liberté, égalité, and fraternité, many of those who have embraced Charlie Hebdo are only serving to promote further divisions in French society. Charlie Hebdo has decided to double-down on its inflammatory content and there have already been numerous attacks on Synagogues, Mosques, and Muslims across the country.

If 8-10% of your country adheres to a particular religious faith and you go out of your way to marginalize and antagonize them, how do you think they will feel? Will this serve to advance freedom of speech or the project of liberté, égalité, and fraternité?

For those who believe that this "I am Charlie" slogan is somehow a liberal defense of freedom of speech, consider this thought experiment. Say Fox News was on the receiving end of a terrorist attack. Then all of a sudden people started walking around saying "I am Fox News" and replaying over and over again their most bigoted commentary. How effective would this tactic be to defending freedom of speech?

Equating poor content and inflammatory organizations with freedom of speech actually hurts freedom of speech advocates. Freedom of speech is fantastic. But when you spread hate content through hateful organizations, this only serves to create deeper divisions across society. This reduces the civility of 'civil' society and, in the end, does not help advance the cause of freedom of speech or liberté, égalité, and fraternité. Instead it helps advance the goals of reactionary bigots. Anomie increases and ultimately everyone loses. For all of these reasons and more, I am NOT Charlie Hebdo.