Charlie Hebdo – Open Thread

On behalf of Ken and myself, sorry. It would be difficult to write about this infuriating, monstrous crime without saying something one or the other of us would later regret. Perhaps later. Please feel free to discuss this atrocity among yourselves.

In the meantime, some cartoons, for your reading pleasure:







And finally, a reminder that France prosecutes people, indeed "national symbols," for speech far milder than what Charlie Hebdo had to say.

The goddess of free speech.

The goddess of free speech.

Vive La France, but change your laws. Never surrender.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. Kilroy says

    Awful people do awful things for awful reasons. How do you end hate when it has existed since the birth of mankind?

  2. machintelligence says

    While the pen may be mightier than the sword, at any given time, in any given circumstance it seems like the opposite is true.

  3. Castaigne says

    *shrugs* Happened in France. Didn't happen in the USA. Therefore not really relevant to Americans. Probably give the National Front a boost there, though, which will make most American conservatives happy, as the NF is the equivalent of our Republicans here.

  4. Trevor says

    For others, like me, who would like translations of the Charlie Hebdo covers above, the following is machine-translated courtesy of Google Translate. YMMV.

    Charia en Libye = Sharia in Libya

    Il fait plus beau qu'á live et on est moins, emmerde qu'á New York = It's nicer than live and we are less bored in New York

    100 coups de fouet, si vous n'etes pas morts de rire = 100 lashes if you are not dying of laughter

    Mahomet débordé par les intégristes = Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists

    C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons = It's hard being loved by jerks

  5. Suedeo says

    I like to tell myself that if masked gunmen were demanding that I enter the security code to the front office of my workplace, I wouldn't do it. Tough spot, though.

  6. J.R. says

    Nous sommes tous Charlie Hebdo. (We are all Charlie Hebdo.) Those who wanted Charie Hebdo dead want most of us dead (or enslaved), too.

    France is America's oldest, and perhaps best friend. Vive la France, vive la France libre.

  7. says

    "Il fait plus beau qu'à Lille, et on est moins emmerdé qu'à New York" means "The weather's nicer than in Lille, and folks are less pissed off than in New York".

  8. jilocasin says

    What tends to separate terrorists from the rest of us is their general complete lack of a sense of humor. Well that and their willingness to react violently in the face of humor.

    No matter how bad, corny, tasteless, irreverent something is, groans or perhaps shunning should be the extent of the negative reaction (I'm not including nausea or other like reactions).

    "The universe has an incredible sense of humor, the trick is learning to take a joke."
    – Orbus, keeper of the Great Clock

  9. says

    Pursuant to the occasional (and usually short-lived) commenters here on Popehat who try to justify "speech codes", "trigger warnings", and "hate speech" laws by claiming "words can hurt, words are a form of violence!", I respond thus:

    When you claim words are violence, you condone the use of violence in response to words.

  10. Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey says

    The National Front is the equivalent not of our saner Republicans, but of the David Duke/Council of Conservative Citizens/Minuteman Project sorts of more or less openly racist groups who keep bolting to form their own little pure factions: America First Party, American Conservative Party, American Freedom Party, American Third Position Party, American Populist Party, America's Party, America's Independent Party, Christian Liberty Party, American Heritage Party, etc.

  11. albert says

    Let's see, 5M Muslims in France, not liked at all by the NF. Events like this can swing right-leaning centrists towards tacit support of, or at least non-resistance to, retaliatory efforts. Time will tell.
    I think the Muslim groups used the word 'racist' regarding these cartoons. Is it a mistranslation?
    Muslims are a race? Ya learn somthin' ev'ry day, I guess.

  12. Jack B. says

    Bill Donohue: What a fuckhead.

    Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.” Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive.

  13. Bobby says

    Castaigne: What a fuckhead.

    *shrugs* Happened in France. Didn't happen in the USA. Therefore not really relevant to Americans. Probably give the National Front a boost there, though, which will make most American conservatives happy, as the NF is the equivalent of our Republicans here.

  14. C. S. P. Schofield says

    The thing is, this cannot end well for the Islamic world. Sooner of later the Islamotwits – the violent nutters who claim to speak and act for Allah – are going to set off a reaction. And then a lot of well meaning fools who got us into this mess by not consistently stomping on the violence are going to be horrified by the general slaughter of Muslims.

    This is where "They have legitimate grievances" gets us. This is where slobbering over a putz like Yassar Arafat gets us. This is where letting the Arab world hang out to dry those Palestinians they talked into picking the wrong side in 1948 gets us.

    There may be an Islamic culture that is not barbaric, but the West – and especially the Intellectual Progressives – have spent decades encouraging the barbarism and ham-stringing any attempt to curb it.

    And in the end, it is the Western Intellectual Progressives who will have the blood of millions of Muslims on their hands.

    We COULD have prevented this, if we had been willing to insist on minimal levels of civilized behavior. We didn't. And so when it becomes necessary to clear off most of the ISlamic work with fore and the sword, and then sew the ground with salt, that is going to be something that became inevitable because we weren't ready to clobber the radicals when they were outliers and few.

  15. Sloan says

    @Jack B

    Well that's about the most vile thing I have read today.

    I say about, as I made the mistake of reading some further examples of the sort of drivel this fellow puts out.

  16. Sylvaticus says

    It's so simple to say that this is an act of terrorism brought on by fundamentalism while ignoring the societal forces that have marginalized and disenfranchised muslim immigrants, especially young immigrants. There has been civil unrest brewing in France for a very long time. The racism and xenophobia in Europe makes guys like Cliven Bundy seem like NAACP supporters. In soccer stadiums bananas are tossed at black opponents. Supporters regular use monkey chants and nazi songs to welcome black players. There is racial strife and bigotry that should not be ignored as we comment on free speech, especially since suppression of the rights of immigrants, especially speech, is already prevalent in western society.

  17. Mr. Shotgun says

    While the pen may be mightier than the sword, at any given time, in any given circumstance it seems like the opposite is true.

    The sword may silence one, the pen inspires millions. Nous sommes tous Charlie Hebdo. (We are all Charlie Hebdo.)

  18. Nancy says

    I find myself wishing I could draw, so I could draw Mohammed. Let's spread the spark around the world.

    Nous sommes tous Charlie Hebdo. (We are all Charlie Hebdo.)

  19. says

    OK we're doing this. Here's a picture of Mohammed, peace be on him:


    I don't think for a second that sane humans who happen to be Muslims would want me dead for that, any more than I think sane humans who happen to be Christians want the poor to endure workfare or sane humans who enjoy computer games want to send death threats to Anita Sarkesian.

    Let's not take every fucking arsehole at their word when they self-identify into a large and heterogeneous group, or when they claim to have higher reasons for their arseholery than their own toxic character.

  20. Nate says

    "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!"

    "There is so much disdain, amorality of trenchant master morality implicit in this expression, this promotion of murder to the status of a profession. And how sure of oneself one must feel when one uses language in this manner!

    But do they really feel so sure of themselves?"

    -Viktor Klemperer, Lingua Tertii Imperii

    There is a degree of hysteria in the words and deeds of those who would murder for offense. There is a degree of poorly hidden shame in their actions. Those who would declaim faith through violence possess so little surety of faith as to be utterly insecure in themselves. Ultimately the violence of ideologues is a reaction of fear. Since they cannot inspire they seek to frighten, but as happens with bullys everywhere, the step to violence exposes only the weakness of their own thought. We must stand with France, so that the spirit of Lafayette should never die.

  21. Terry Cole says

    I spent twelve years studying the language and literature of France, and lived in Bordeaux for a year (studying math). But that was forty years ago. I'd never have seen this coming.

    My daughter commented that she could understand it, because they wrote some things really offensive to feminists and gays. I didn't see that coming, either.

  22. babaganusz says

    The sword may silence one, the pen inspires millions.

    you know they have more than swords now, right? please introduce us to the pen-equivalent of, say, an ICBM. (hint: "a hypothetical great idea that Goes Viral" isn't specific enough.)

  23. babaganusz says

    CSP, speaking as a habitual fence-sitter who occasionally leans somewhere between "left" and "zero", but one often moved and even persuaded by your clear-headed appeals to conservatism, today I find myself quite eager to grasp in greater detail what it is that you know which these "intellectual progressives" (who, if i understand you correctly, are ostensibly calling all the important shots and/or preventing the important shots from being taken) don't know:
    is it an 'intellectual conservative' assessment that the radicals aren't being properly crushed, or is it perhaps a "this is no time for being ~intellectual~" refrain? how exactly would the proper crushing, at any particular point on the timeline, be adequately conveyed to non-radical Muslims as The Proper Solution? has the droning of wedding parties been too soft? too small-scale? misinterpreted by the wrong people? misinterpreted by the right people? and where indeed is the clear statistical indication that there was a golden window of wiping out the bad guys* without what you would consider sub-optimal backlash or this inevitable massive slaughter? is 'intellectual progressivism' why non-radicals aren't crushing radicals at home? have all "doves" been the 'intellectual progressives' of their time?
    *i.e. anyone willing to out themselves as a bloodthirsty 'Islamotwit' and/or privately foment unrest due to prevailing circumstance x/y/z/q…

  24. makewi says

    Horrible. I think everyone's first reaction should be a freebie on this one. It seems to me that calmer reflection will remind us that this kind of thing is not the fault of the right or the left and that cheap shots at either are best just ignored.

  25. Mike says

    I'm not Charlie Hebdo. Never will be, no more than I would be David Duke if he was murdered for his views. But racist speech has to be met with speech or social condemnation or shunning, not government bans or private violence. This attack was vile, disgusting, and horrible, as is anyone who tries to say it was in any way deserved or preventable through speech bans.

  26. Castaigne says

    @Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey:

    The National Front is the equivalent not of our saner Republicans

    I would like to point out that RINOs like Boehner and anyone who voted for him are not actual Conservatives and therefore not real Republicans. The National Front mirrors the stalwarts of Free Republic, the litmus test for conservatism in America and the true patriots of the Republic.

    @C. S. P. Schofield:

    And so when it becomes necessary to clear off most of the ISlamic work with fore and the sword, and then sew the ground with salt, that is going to be something that became inevitable because we weren't ready to clobber the radicals when they were outliers and few.

    Ah, yes. The inevitable calls for a crusade, with the inevitable non-realization of what that means in a post-World War 2 era. One hopes that one would recognize that ALL freedoms would disappear in a crusade, but those hopes will always be dashed.

    Me, I'm the Jerkass Genie. I want to give people what they ask for…and give it in SPADES.

  27. albert says

    'Racism' has nothing to do with this discussion. If you want to use the term, then I challenge you to define 'race' and 'racism', then look up 'xenophobia'.

  28. Mike says

    @albert, I'm quite familiar with the terms and use them advisedly. But this isn't the thread to be drawn off into that pedantry. Feel free to google Islamophobia and racism and open your mind to the idea that prejudice doesn't always fit neatly into little boxes.

  29. albert says

    'Pedantry'? Hardly. 'Racism' is a loaded term, and it certainly can't be applied to islamophobia. 'Xenophobia' is hardly a 'little box', and it covers this situation nicely, and it's not as inflammatory, as, say, 'racism' or even 'islamophobia' (which does apply).
    AFAIK, French Muslims and non-Muslims are the same race.
    In an earlier lawsuit, the Muslim plaintiffs accused The Charlie Hebdo folks of "racism", presumably because that's a more serious charge. It was _not_ a case of racism, even though some of the staff may actually be racist.
    Do you think an outbreak of Jainism in France would have had the same effect? I don't know much about the politics of religion in France, but I imagine we're all going to find out more, now.
    Perhaps it's just a general resentment of immigrants, or EU policy, that sticks in the craw of a lot of French citizens.
    I gotta go…

  30. Mike says

    @albert –

    "AFAIK, French Muslims and non-Muslims are the same race."

    Based on what? French demographics are hard to figure (according to Wikipedia, stats-takers are prohibited from asking about religion), but it looks like many or most Muslims are first- or second-generation immigrants from Maghrebi areas. Plus, it sure looks like the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo disagree with you. Most strikingly, here. Many of their other depictions of Muslims are dark-skinned (not to mention big-nosed) as well.

    As to the Jains, well, I'd say it depends on how they look. Being Sikh rather than Muslim certainly hasn't helped those turban-wearers. And plenty of people use Arab and Muslim interchangeably. You can't divorce this from race.

    Like I said above, though, this is a pedantic rabbithole, and there's no point in untangling the bio-racism, cultural racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia now. I support everyone's, including racists', exercise of free speech, and abhor this or any violent response or intimidation attempt. But I wouldn't shout racist and anti-Semitic slurs if people murdered David Duke for them, and won't spread Charlie Hebdo cartoons on my personal pages, no matter how viscerally satisfying a response it seems to the attempt to silence them.

  31. Lock says

    It is not that these extremists are completely devoid of a sense of humour, but that they regard events and ideas without compromise.
    Any word against their idol, no matter how harmless, is taken to be a direct attack on all and is dealt with accordingly.

  32. Lagaya1 says

    Seven days into 2015, and we've already got our "Censorious Asshats" winner for the year?

  33. Brian says

    There may be an Islamic culture that is not barbaric, but the West – and especially the Intellectual Progressives – have spent decades encouraging the barbarism and ham-stringing any attempt to curb it.

    The reason why barbarism is able to spread and prosper is because it suits U.S. business and political (which is probably the same thing) interests. For example, Saudia Arabia has been allowed to spend petro-dollars setting up Wahabbist schools and mosques because they're an ally. You think it's progressives, not U.S. imperialism, but this occurs under all U.S. regimes. And yes, progressives can be tools, just like conservatives.

  34. albert says

    Hence the term 'neo-liberal'. There are no significant differences between Democratic foreign policy and Republican foreign policy.

  35. BST says

    @Dave Cortright – The vimeo link to South Park episode 201 is now a 404. A little googling found a copy at The Conservative Voices where it can be viewed in flash or directly downloaded from the URL that is in text at the end of the article. Since they do not make the mp4 itself a clickable link, presumably to avoid a takedown like I guess happened to Vimeo, I won't either. I see that the image of Muhammad is a black CENSORED rectangle, but according to the Wikipedia article on 201 (South Park) that was intentional and part of the plot – The actual censorship by Comedy Central was audio bleeps of every mention of the name "Muhammad" and removal of Kyle's monologue near the end in which he explains that threatening people with violence is the only true way to remain free from ridicule. (That's satire, by the way).

  36. Karasu says

    you know they have more than swords now, right? please introduce us to the pen-equivalent of, say, an ICBM. (hint: "a hypothetical great idea that Goes Viral" isn't specific enough.)

    "I have a dream"

  37. ilepapa says

    As it happens, there IS some connection between "race" (I do so hate that word) and Islam in France. Most muslims in France are of Moroccan or Algerian extraction. As an example, the Great Mosque of Paris is sponsored by Algeria.
    Now, I do not know whether I would say that Mahgrebis are of a different "race" from the dominant Caucasian, but the ethnic component does undoubtedly exist.
    This is not to say that they are not French, far from it (touche pas à mon pote, toi!); but I do say that there is a complicated connection there. In fact, many voters of Front National would make the distinction between Français de souche (them) and beurs (which is frequently perceived as an insulting term), who would be muslims mostly.
    As you see, there are some complications in the issue, and all French people are very aware of them.

    Your description of Europe as racist is not correct. First of all, there are many differences from country to country. For instance UK, mostly English, racism is very different from what you can find in Spain, say; the targets in the UK are Asians -the UK term for people originating in the Indian subcontinent – and Blacks, while in Spain the traditional target were the Gypsies and currently "Moors". Second, the degree of racism is nowhere near what you imply. Not even in the UK.

  38. Resolute says


    Awful people do awful things for awful reasons. How do you end hate when it has existed since the birth of mankind?

    Easy answer there – education. Religion has been the excuse used to commit more evil than any other thing in the history of earth. Which is a shame; religion is an invention to give easy answers to hard questions, but as an invention of man, is easily corrupted by man and is more often used as a means of control. Religion, and the control it allows, thrives best among an ignorant populace, which is why the poor and those with with less (or no) schooling tend to be more religious. We will never eliminate every religious nut, nor will we eliminate every soul bent on murder, but it is no coincidence that the world has become a far less brutal place over the the last few centuries as mankind has increasingly turned away from the dogma of religion to the thinking of science and reason. IMNSHO, dropping bombs on terroristic wannabe nations like ISIL – while perhaps necessary today – will not solve the overarching problem. Ensuring that children (male and especially female) are afforded the opportunity to get a proper education is. An informed and enlightened population chokes the supply of potential extremists. And that is true of both Islam and Christianity.

  39. Docrailgun says

    This was a tragedy. Not much more to say about the massacre.
    BUT… Bill Maher is a douchebag. He's losing his mind like Dennis Miller did. Sad.

  40. Papillon says

    AFAIK, French Muslims and non-Muslims are the same race.

    French Muslims tend to be immigrants, IIRC principally from former French colonies like Algeria.

  41. albert says

    Thank you. I stand corrected. I thought the French people were a lot less racist than, for example, Americans, or is this a memory of days gone by? In any case, making fun of someone's religion isn't the same as making fun of someone's race.

  42. The Man in the Mask says

    I have to concur with Resolute: religion is single most evil thing we humans have ever invented, and while I know I won't live long enough to see it exterminated, I hope that day comes as soon as possible.

    Bertrand Russell wrote: "Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence. It will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines."

    But not, apparently, without a struggle and without a lot of people affected by the violence associated with that struggle. Primitive superstitions (like religion and
    racism and homophobia) are not easily excised. Doubly so when there is profit
    to be made by those extolling their virtues: what would happen to the incredibly
    wealthy franchise that is the Catholic church if people figured out that it's useless?

    Speaking of which, 12 people is nothing. The Inquisition could knock off that many people for blasphemy before sitting down to breakfast. So before any Christians wax eloquent about Islam, perhaps they should review their own history.

  43. Sylvaticus says

    Although you are correct there is different racism in different countries we are seeing large mistreatment of minority populations across Europe. Just because countries spend time oppressing different minorities does not mean that the underlying behavior is any different. Immigrant populations in the EU are treated poorly by all parts of the EU including Norway, UK, Italy, Spain, France, German, Greece without taking into consideration the actions of eastern European communities. Just look at the stadium bans and sanctions placed by FIFA for racist/xenophobic conduct of fans. Even if it's only a small minority the activities are clearly tolerated by the country as a whole.

  44. anne mouse says

    Frenchmen whose ancestors (grandparents and above) were born in France are overwhelmingly white. Got to be above 95%. The uniformity is so high that you can often tell a Frenchman from, say, an Englishman, just by facial features. (You can also sometimes tell a Frenchman from the north of the country apart from one from the south, though this is getting harder as the population is much more mobile in recent decades.) This population is also overwhelmingly Catholic – again above 90% (if you ignore the fact that a lot of younger people don't actually practice).
    In such an environment, there's little practical distinction between racism and religionism. The racism is obvious, and one gets a sense that Arabs and Blacks are lumped together in the public mind – common terms for immigrant include "pied-noir" ("blackfoot") and "beur" (a borrowing from Dutch, signifying "African"), while the policy debates are mostly around religious issues, e.g. whether children should be allowed to wear a veil in public schools. (That one makes for strange bedfellows: both secularists and religious conservatives support a ban.)
    The wave of immigrants that has been causing concern for the past few decades is principally from North Africa. (Immigration from west Africa is also resented, and Romanians and Gypsies are frequently singled out, but the numbers don't compare: the North Africans are now about 10% of the French population, and account for 30% of new immigrants, vs 45% from Europe.) Racially, these ex-North Africans are mostly "Arab-Berber", and they're overwhelmingly Muslim. (Christians account for about 1% of the Algerian population, for example.)

  45. hydroencephalitis says

    Anne Mouse wrote:

    common terms for immigrant include "pied-noir" ("blackfoot")

    Well, sort of, but probably not in the way you think. "Pied-noir" means those white French citizens who lived in French North African territories until they became independent, and saw it prudent to move to metropolitan France.

  46. Argentina Orange says

    You can't eliminate religion. Even if you eradicate those forms traditionally called "religion," people will still worship the altar of the State, or Holy Gaia, or St. Bieber.

  47. Yon Anony Mouse says

    That whole pen quote is popular and all, but incomplete:

    Beneath the rule of men entirely great
    The pen is mightier than the sword.

    That first part really is kinda important.

  48. Terry Cole says

    "Anne Mouse" commented in an otherwise fairly well thought-out post that "Frenchmen whose ancestors (grandparents and above) were born in France are overwhelmingly white. Got to be above 95%."

    That and other statistics are well out of date. French institutions are so fiercely secular that it's forbidden to gather statistics on ethnicity, so good luck finding such figures on the census website (

    But private outfits like the Institut Montaigne are not so constrained, and their best estimates are that only 87% – not 95% – of French are "white" as traditionally understood. This figure comes from their January 2004 report and relies on data from 1999-2000.

    Moreover, since there is intermarriage to an astonishing degree, in the fifteen years since then there has grown a substantial fraction – about 20% of the younger generation – which is familiar with both Catholic French and Islamic Magreb-origin cultures.

    These figures alone explain the massively important voter backlash favouring the right-wing anti-immigration politicos, especially Le Pen's daughter. They also fudge the old distinction between white and coloured French societies.

    I'd also observe that the use of the word "pied-noir" to indicate African and especially Algerian immigration is problematic. At least when I lived there, the phrase was used only in relation to former white colonials who had to relocate back to the 'hexagon' following the French withdrawal from Algeria. Anne Mouse is probably thinking of the 'harkis,' that is the ethnically Algerian loyalist volunteers in the French army, who of course were dead men if they stayed home.

  49. ilepapa says

    @Anne Mouse
    As Terry Cole and hydroencephalitis have pointed out, there are a couple of factual mistakes in your otherwise reflective post. Another one: the etymology of "beur" is occasionally disputed, but it is frequently attributed to "verlan", most definitely not from Dutch.

    As to catholicism: it is quite many years since I lived in Paris, and the environment in which I was in was left-wing academic, so I do not have non-skewed first hand data. I do know, however, that the proportion of the population that identifies as catholic has plummeted prodigiously, and even among that part of the population that would identify as catholic a vast majority would do so only in cultural terms. In most of Europe religion plays a very minor role, in particular when compared to the USA. That is an additional point to consider when trying to make sense of this series of events: from a European point of view this cannot be understood as a war of religions, since there is no opposing religion. Not that the "anti-Crusades" much care: all the "farangi" (French, and, by extension, european) are crusaders to them, apparently.

  50. Vox Poplulis says

    The word "islamophobia" should be eradicated from common usage, this is not an irrational fear, but a well grounded and evidence-based fear of a murderous mediaeval death-cult based on the insane rantings of a ninth-century bedouin paedophile, which cannot and will not be negotiated with, and which sees any hint of tolerance towards it as a weakness to be exploited.

  51. Mercury says

    "On behalf of Ken and myself, sorry. It would be difficult to write about this infuriating, monstrous crime without saying something one or the other of us would later regret."

    And yet it should be quite easy to say something definitive and forthright with total confidence and conviction. At one time not so long ago it would have been.

    The elephant in the room here is that America's collective sympathies are more closely aligned with Charlie's killers than Charlie's staff.

    Oh yes, we are against gunning down unarmed office workers in cold blood (how brave of us) but I think it's obvious that if any Charlie-type publication opened up shop on any American university campus or cable channel it would be shut down in about 30 seconds; its artists, writers and staff would be be punished to the full extent of whatever the relevant jurisdiction would allow and our national media and social media brownshirts would do everything they could to make their personal lives miserable.

    We have already accepted the idea that freedom of speech and freedom of thought is no longer an unequivocal right or good.

  52. Patrick Maupin says


    And yet it should be quite easy to say something definitive and forthright with total confidence and conviction. At one time not so long ago it would have been.

    I could be wrong, but I think you have completely misunderstood where Ken and Patrick are coming from.

    The elephant in the room here is that America's collective sympathies are more closely aligned with Charlie's killers than Charlie's staff.

    That may be true, but that's almost certainly not what is stopping the writing here. In point of fact, I suspect (and fervently hope) that if Ken does choose to address this, his primary focus will be all the puerile arguments about how "it was bad that they were murdered in cold blood, but…"

    As Jack B. pointed out above, Bill Donahue argued that they had it coming. Over at the daily beast, Arthur Chu argues that they weren't really all that good, and we certainly shouldn't celebrate those who stretch speech to the limits. Chu also claims to be "from the internet" but that rings hollow.

    I'm sure there are a million more "it was bad that they were murdered in cold blood, but…" articles out there. Perhaps we should collect the worst ones here in this thread. If Ken does grace us with his laser wit on this topic, I'd hate to think we didn't have all the targets in his sights.

  53. The Man in the Mask says

    Sadly, Mercury, I fear that you're right about the elephant in the room. Look at the reaction that "Piss Christ" got. Even though it's just a minor work of art. Nobody was harmed by it, nobody was raped, nobody was tortured, nobody was beaten, nobody was murdered: it was put on display and people could choose to look at it or not. That's all it was.

    But the furor surrounding it was disproportionate. How close did we come, I wonder, to our moment of horrific violence over it? (There were certainly enough threats made.) Some of us are awfully touchy over inconsequential expressions of free speech and some subset of those tend to express that touchiness in unacceptable ways…as we saw this week. Yet many of those same people tolerate, without so much as blinking, terrible suffering among their fellow human beings. They'll walk right by the starving, shivering homeless in order to drop a letter-to-the-editor in the mailbox — one decrying the latest imagined slight to their religion, ethnicity, nation, sports team, whatever — never stopping. Never grasping perspective.

  54. Robert What? says

    Well, looking at it from a Liberal/SJW viewpoint – and I usually try to look at it firm the other guy's side – we are being very bigoted condemning the killers. If their religion permits them to kill non-Muslims, then who are we to judge? Aren't we denying them their basic religious freedom to kill who they want? Let's go after the real violent extremists: the Tea Party.

  55. anne mouse says

    But private outfits like the Institut Montaigne are not so constrained, and their best estimates are that only 87% – not 95% – of French are "white" as traditionally understood.

    No dispute there. I was referring to the subset of the population whose grandparents are also French. The current population is ~20% immigrant (using my definition of grandparents not born in France). Of these recent immigrants, roughly half are European, the rest would be traditionally understood by French as non-white. As I said, it's a guess, but it's a good guess, that the "grandparental" French population is over 95% white.

    Etymology is fun – many words have multiple plausible derivations which reinforce their meaning, and/or shift meanings over time. "Beur" as a double-verlanized "Arabe" is quite plausible, though it's not how I first heard it many decades ago. "Pied-noit" is indeed primarily used for French colonials who returned a little bit "africanized" (though the original meaning was different); I didn't think it was worth getting into the details, as it still supports my point that the whole continent is seen as, um, tarred.

  56. says

    Just a minor and major point unrelated to the debate started in comments above, but about Ken's original words:

    And finally, a reminder that France prosecutes people, indeed "national symbols," for speech far milder than what Charlie Hebdo had to say.
    Vive La France, but change your laws. Never surrender.

    Minor point : Charlie was prosecuted too. And they were cleared.Now, the major point: we French do have speech restricting laws, which prevent some speech which the US laws do not. OTOH, if Robert Crumb is any reference, it seems like we French have at least some newspapers which actually use their freedom of speech, while US ones seem not to exercize their wider rights in this respect as much as here. What's the point of a greater freedom of speech when those who could use it restrict themselves better than a state would restrict them?

  57. Terry Cole says

    To Anne Mouse:
    "I was referring to the subset of the population whose grandparents are also French."
    Ah. I see. And in fact that definition corresponds to the concept of Patriality as used to be defined in the Immigration Act (UK), so a comprehensible criterion.

  58. albert says

    This is weird, but I don't recall seeing your response after mine. Last I saw was
    Lagaya1. In any case, there were a slew of comments later regarding race*, and it's certainly a more complex issue than I thought initially. I'm not interested in entering any rabbit holes, either.

    The Charlie Hebdo stuff was, and I'm being too charitable, mean-spirited. It had no depth, and it wasn't funny, like, for example, Jesus and Mo. I support free speech, but the price is stuff like
    Charlie Hebdo. I guess I prefer more subtle satire, designed to make one think, rather than inflame passions.

    As Noam Chomsky said: "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."

    I gotta go…
    * a term that has outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any to begin with.

  59. man says

    This is more of a male violence issue than a free speech issue. The shooters weren't employees of any government and didn't (to my knowledge) shout "AND ALSO THESE CARTOONS SHOULD BE BANNED IN FRANCE" on their way out. I thought PopeHat knew what "free speech" meant.

  60. Jenny says

    Once you're bit, don't blame the scorpion for being a scorpion.
    You're the ninny who picked him up in the first place.

    This isn't Star Trek – we're not a collection of different pantones who somehow still all think alike.
    Appreciating diversity means appreciating that we really are DIVERSE – different cultures value different things.
    One of those cultures believes you have to respect a murderous slaving seventh century warlord or else.

    Quelle Surprise that importing large numbers of that culture results in bloodshed when post-modern Frenchmen don't watch their tongues.

  61. Harrow says

    @babaganusz: I'm sorry I labeled you a blowhard. That was uncalled-for and inappropriate. Your courteous response has shamed me.

    Simply pointing out the "water" should have been sufficient.

  62. Kratoklastes says

    Some stipulations to begin with:

    (1) murder: bad
    (2) free speech: good

    With that said: Je ne suis pas du tout 'Charlie'. Charlie Hebdo was an infantile low-rent set of fake agitators who had phuq-all to do with freedom of expression (they were only too glad to sack a staff member who refused to apologise when one of France's protected species took offence… free speech cred? Phuc no).

    That does not mean that they deserved to be killed, obviously, but as media mouthpieces for US carnage-wreaking have said, "War is messy" and "The entire globe is the battlefield". Omelettes and eggs and so forth. "Collateral damage" is a bitch of a phrase when its happening where white folks live: nobody bats an eye when 30 or 40 or 100 folks a month are slaughtered – women, children and infants – by Obama's drone 'heroes'.

    See, we in the West (or more accurately, our political parasite class and their cronies) have had their boot on the neck of the Arab world for 4 generations (since no later than the letter from Crewe to Hardinge in 1914, detailing how a divided Arab world was in the West's interests). The betrayal of the Ikhwan after they helped hasten the end of the Ottoman Empire; the Sykes Picot agreement; the Balfour Declaration (promising someone else's land to a bunch of unwanted Eastern Europeans in defiance of the law of occupation)… these things are not forgotten by Arabs. Nor is the fact that the US (and the West generally) are the sine qua non for all despotic regimes in the Middle East, and for the continued ability for 'Israel' to flout international law (again with the slaughtering of children and other non-combatants by the hundreds).

    And they – and their non-Arab co-religionists – have finally figured out that there are low-cost, asymmetric ways to exact some measure of revenge. They kicked upwards on a few occasions, and hit nutsack from time to time (although rarely).

    To couch this in terms that Fox News viewers will recognise, segments of Arab/Muslim culture, outraged at a century of mistreatment and had faith from the West, have decided to "bring the fight" to us, to "fight [us] here so [they] don't have to fight us over there", and other such Pentagon talking points.

    And while it confirms my priors seeing the blood-drenched opportunistic vermin of the Western political class slaver over these fresh corpses (as they do whenever any such opportunity arises) it is still galling.

    Note where this shit goes down, folks: France, the UK, the US – and a place where Australians holidayed (if the UK is the US's poodle, Australia's political class are a tapeworm). Not Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, New Zealand or even Italy.

    What make one country more likely to be a target that onthers?

    Proximity to (1) the Sykes Picot agreement; (2) the US post-WWII support of despotic regimes and constant interference in support of a hostile foreign body in the heart of the Arab world ('Israel'). The people perpetrating these asymmetric operations have said as much.

    inb4 "Muslim sympathiser" or whatever. I am a militant atheist, so I have no time for primitive Iron Age drivel – whether it's Wahhabi whackballs beheading criminals, Westboro Baptist boneheads screeching "God Hates Fags" or Lubavitcher loonies throwing stones at girls who wear trousers. They are equally idiotic.

  63. Kratoklastes says

    I forgot to mention (in my book-length diatribe above): France can go take a flying phuc at a rolling doughnut, too. I was hauled before their paramilitary police in 2006, for writing a post saying that the Loi Gayssot was a travesty (particularly since it would have prevented the revelation that a shitload of 'holocaust narratives' were fabrications).

    As it turned out during the 4 hours of 'discussions', they were using the 'Joo thing' as cover: the command from the Procureur was motivated by the fact that I referred to Sarkozy as a "nabot méchant" and as the grandson of Nazi collaborators, whose political rise was engineered by Neuilly's largest organised crime syndicate. They had even added 'nez cochu' (hook-nosed) to my description of Sarkozy when they translated the blog page (from English). Accurate, as far as it went., but not part of the original post. I thought it was a good suggestion, so I added it to the post later on (after I left France).

  64. Terry Cole says

    My dear Kratoklastes (crikey)

    – Glad you at least got the stipulations right. And I admire, I really do, your forthright declaration of militant atheism. Not that I agree – in my most atheistic moments I recall those of the thirty-nine articles which warn the Anglican faithful that all churches are subject to error, "even in things pertaining unto God", and that includes the church of unbelievers. But saying loudly "I am a militant atheist" must cause you great discomfort from time to time. Bravo.

    That said, you're full of crap. It's obvious that the four cartoonists were exercising their freedom of expression to the great distress of left and right, christian and muslim, … and atheist. You might not like it; too bad. Millions disagree with you, and I reckon those millions are much better judges of what has to do with freedom of expression than yourself. Infantile? Maybe. Low-rent? Sure,
    I'll bet they weren't paid much. But fake? Get real.

    As to the 'nobody bats an eye' to the collateral damage of drone strikes, the repeated publicity gives you the lie there too. If the great unwashed in the west is less outraged than you would like, that's perhaps because they feel personally under threat by the drones' nominal targets. And they suspect, rightly or wrongly, that the targets don't care about the collateral victims of their strikes in the west or elsewhere.

    In other words, this is war and hate working to rule as usual, and you might not like it but it doesn't say anything about the morality of the strikes, sub specie aeternitatis. The civilian victims of Bomber Command in WWII were in a similar position; at least the drones are better targeted, if still not perfect. (Not that a proper atheist should have any truck with morality as commonly conceived anyway. Dawkins' protests to the contrary notwithstanding, this is evolution in action, and morality makes no rational sense. Overall I prefer Huxley's tired conclusion that the only proper deduction is that we should be kinder to each other.)

    Your tired recapitulation of such chestnuts as "the US (and the West generally) are the sine qua non for all despotic regimes in the Middle East" doesn't make such assertions true. Assad didn't need the West or Israel to justify his repressions, although I'm sure their existence was convenient; he and other dictators in history have never had difficulty in finding suitable boogeymen, changing them from month to month if need be.

    And yes, most of us reading this site are familiar with all the diplomatic hypocrisy associated with the development of Israel. So what? I'm sure the dead editors would have had fun with that too. I'll bet the Arabs do remember it. The Serbs remember the duplicity of the Ottomans, the Greeks likewise, the Indians remember the Muslim invasions – for every arab grievance there's one on the other side and neither side will make progress as a people if such historical wounds are allowed to blinker their world view.

    And sure, these asymmetric operations will make people feel bad in the target countries you mention. Also people will feel bad in the non-target countries. So what? the grinding of hate will produce new strategems which will, for a time, cope, and the terrorists have no hope of killing us all.

    Nor do you.

  65. Patrick Maupin says


    I suspect (and fervently hope) that if Ken does choose to address this, his primary focus will be all the puerile arguments about how "it was bad that they were murdered in cold blood, but…"


    That does not mean that they deserved to be killed, obviously, but

    So we obviously don't have to go very far to find censorious dipshits.

  66. albert says

    Nothing confusing there. In France, as elsewhere, "free speech" is a relative thing.
    It depends on who your 'relatives' are, and who's calling the shots.

  67. Terry Cole says

    Dear L –
    I'm guessing he, that is Dieudonné, fell afoul of anti-hate speech legislation for saying Je suis Coulibaly, or perhaps Je me sens un peu Coulibaly (the link doesn't give the original French). The Guardian says he's been arrested. But I don't think he's been arrested exactly, unless the Judge of the instruction told the PJ people were feeling really, really pissed. At this early stage an arrest would be unusual. It's more like what happens in Kafka's "The Trial".

  68. Terry Cole says

    Albert – the man in question is a confusing guy. Dieudonné started out as an antiracist comedian with a Jewish friend, went a bit far, got a few criticisms he handled badly, zoomed over to the other side of the political spectrum and became great mates with the late not-much-lamented Le Pen (père) and his buddies including a whole stack of holocaust deniers similar to Kratoclastes above (cf. Geoffrey Transom). He eventually reached the point of being banned, not simply for hate speech, but for what I think in America would be called "fighting words" – likely to cause a massive breach of the peace.

    One wonders what his new buddies think of him supporting a terrorist, but it's all consistent – Coulibaly specifically killed Jews and a policewoman.

  69. albert says

    @Terry Cole

    Yeah, we call it "inciting to violence", which is not protected speech here, either.

    On a lighter note, I found the R. Crumb cartoon here:

    The Crumb interview is here, again:

    Though I don't like the Charlie-Rose-style-editorial questions, Crumb is a funny guy.

    I gotta go…

  70. L says

    @albert, Terry Cole,
    I understand that he is quite a nasty guy… however, the problem here is that as far as I know the post that made him under arrest (so my sources say) does not look very much like "inciting to violence". If anything, pretty confused:
    “After this historic march what do I say…Legendary. Instant magic equal to the Big Bang that created the universe. To a lesser extent (more local) comparable to the coronation of Vercingétorix, I finally returned home. You know that tonight as far as I’m concerned I feel like Charlie Coulibaly”

  71. hydroencephalitis says

    late not-much-lamented Le Pen (père)

    He has handed over the leadership of Front National to his daughter, Marine Le Pen, but unfortunately he's not yet late.

  72. Terry Cole says

    Dear hydroencephalitis,
    The old para is still with us? Good god, you're right, for some reason I'd assumed when his daughter took over NF that he'd passed on… that'll teach me to check.

    Also, albert – thanks, the cartoon was entertaining. Crumb's a genius, however flawed, but my preference in '60s cartoons ran to Norton Motorcycle racing Fastass Sumbitchi.

    L – thanks for the link; it does say two useful things:

    First that he compared the march of millions to the coronation of Vercingétorix, which had to sting – it implies that vast army defending free speech is destined for death. Second that his sin was officially to 'condone' acts of terrorism. Although I'd translate "faire l'apologie" as 'defend' rather than 'condone'.

  73. L says

    @Terry Cole

    I find your interpretation highly dubious. Vercingétorix is some sort of a national hero in France, sometimes referred as the first French leader… citing his coronation is way more easily some sort of celebration than an elaborated menace.

    As for the defence, I can't find it in that text…

  74. Terry Cole says

    Dear L,
    You're welcome to your own interpretation of Dieudonné Mbala's "Vercingétorix" remark, of course, although Vercingétorix never had a 'coronation' in the modern sense since the Gauls didn't have the concept of a "King", let alone a crown. The man was more of a dux bellorum or Bretwealda.

    In defence of mine, can I point out that the historical chieftain was captured, held for half a dozen years, then garrotted at Julius Caesar's order when Caesar was celebrating a 'Triumph' at Rome? That Vercingetorix's army surrendered ignominiously after the siege of Alesia, losing more than half their number in battle and most of the rest, including wives and children, to starvation? That Caesar's casualties were comparatively tiny?

    All this is surely familiar to students of military history or Latin scholars, but I personally first encountered Vercingetorix in the the Asterix comics – which show him dumping his weapons and armour at Caesar's feet. Neither the comics nor any of the popular retellings of his story mention his miserable death, nor do they dwell on the extinction of his people, but I assure you the French know of it, and would have put Mbala's derisive remark in the context intended.

    You also wrote: "As for the defence, I can't find it in that text…"
    The text I had in mind was the link you provided:

    – which says: "As Article 19 points out in a statement today, publicly condoning (faire publiquement l’apologie) acts of terrorism is a crime under Article 421-2-5 of the French Criminal Code."

    Now, "faire publiquement l'apologie" is not something I would translate as "publicly condoning". Rather, to me it means "publicly defending". The distinction is important, to my mind, but reasonable people might disagree.

    I'd compare that use to the Latin also; for example, Cardinal Newman wrote a moving response to some scathing remarks by Kingsley in a tract entitled "Apologia pro vita sua", meaning "In defence of one's life".

  75. L says

    Dear Terry Cole,
    may I ask you where are you from? I am from Italy (in a sense, French people are my neighbours), and I have some relatives in the French part of Belgium.

    Sure, he lost, but netherless the first thing a French thinks when you speak about the Gauls is not "That bunch of sore losers", but "They sure gave Romans a run for their money!". In popular culture, free from those pesky details of accurate history, the Gauls are a point of honor for France.
    The contrary would be like saying that since he lost at Waterloo, in France referring to a military official as a Napoleon is a stealth insult.

    As for the rest, I just mean that I can't find any word of defence in that Facebook post, only a cryptic closure that plays with fire.

  76. Terry Cole says

    Dear L,
    I'm nothing special at all, and would prefer to leave personal details in a decent obscurity. I have no presence on social media, including facebook, and have the slightly paranoid attitude to security of a (retired) network engineer.

    You're right about the cryptic nature of Mbala's final words. I wouldn't expect a prosecution to succeed; but France is a Civil law jurisdiction, not Common-law. From the little that is known, I gather there is simply detention pending investigation by a juge d'instruction. If – and it's a big if at this early stage – he said something sanctioned by the penal code, then a true arrest and trial might follow. But this is a tightrope which Mbala has walked before, to great profit.

    Your point about the veneration of Vercingetorix' memory is well taken. Yet, the true facts were well known in the educated circles I moved in many years ago. The sting of Mbala's comment arises from cognitive dissonance, contemplating the myth and the reality.

  77. Terry Cole says

    – L: Didn't the Romans, and by extension the Italians, specifically hate and fear the Gauls? After all, Brennus sacked the city and demanded a tribute of gold, weighed with rigged scales, responding to Roman protests with vae victis (woe to the conquered).

    So would a good Italian not enjoy the discomforture of the French? The Gauls, after all, wiped out a large part of the Roman ruling class a few hundred years before Caesar returned the favour at such a terrible rate of exchange.

  78. Bonner says

    We have the right to give offense. We have the right to take offense. What we lack is the right to tell others not to give or take offense.

    As Stephen Fry has wryly observed, "SO WHAT if you're offended?! Nothing happens!"</i? The responsibility for "being offended" must lie with the offended person, since he is more likely the one with raised passions.