Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Charlie, je suis - ou peut-être je ne suis pas

Our newspapers and the television news have given enormous coverage to recent events in Paris.  The BBC sent two of their top television news presenters in addition to three or four other correspondents, editors and reporters - plus (of course) all the sound and vision recorders etc etc.  I shudder to think what that cost.  The Parisian hoteliers must be rubbing their hands in glee!

I suppose that hysteria is not really surprising - and I think describing it as hysteria is no exaggeration.  I would apply the same word to the reaction of the French people, turning out in their millions on Sunday in mass demonstrations of solidarity with the magazine Charlie Hebdo and its staff.  It wouldn't have happened this side of the Channel - remember the London bombings of 7th July 2005 when as well as the four bombers, 52 civilians were killed and over 700 more were injured.  But the French have always been given to over-the-top displays of emotion; they don't have the stiff upper lip mentality.

Anyway, now that the hysteria has died down a tad, I will throw in my two-pennyworth.   I am a firm believer in the freedom of the press and the right of free speech for all, so to that extent, je suis Charlie.  I have never seen a copy of the magazine or reproductions of any of its cartoons so I cannot speak from personal experience, but from what I have read, some of the cartoons published in the magazine have been especially offensive to many Muslims.  I would not suggest that atrocities such as were seen in Paris can ever be excused by the publication of cartoons ridiculing religions or those who hold particular religious beliefs, so again, to that extent, je suis Charlie.  But I do believe that it is incumbent upon anybody and everybody - including newspapers and magazines - to exercise some self-discipline.  Public figures, such as politicians, put themselves forward and must be prepared to accept that they will be lampooned, but there is a line beyond which newspaper and magazine editors should not venture.  The question remains, however; just where should that line be drawn?  It seems to me that in France the line is drawn further to the side of libertarianism than it is in England and that is why peut-être je ne suis pas Charlie.  Indeed, I might even go so far as to say je ne suis pas Charlie, no peut-être about it.  It does seem, shall I say, a little hypocritical of all those senior politicians to say that it's perfectly in order to mock Muslims - but don't you dare say anything about blacks, gays or Jews as that would come under the category of hate crime.

Another point that concerns me about the reaction of the television and newspaper editors, as well as the world leaders and the millions who marched in Paris and elsewhere, is that other more bloody events are taking place in the world and they are attracting far less attention.  What about the activity of Boko Haram?  They slaughtered two thousand people in Nigeria a few days ago.  What are the national leaders who were in Paris saying about that?  More to the point, what are they doing about it?  And there has been, as far as I am aware, little or no international outrage at the murder of more than 150 people, most of them children, by the Taliban at a school in Pakistan.  It's almost as though we have one set of values for Europeans and another set for Africans and Asians.  But no, that would be racist.

I don't have the answers to the problems posed by Boko Haram, Al Quaeda, the Islamic State of wherever or any of the other extremist groups across the world; I only wish I did.  But I do hope that our elected leaders give urgent thought to how we can collectively thwart their threats.

3 comments:

The Broad said...

Very well and timely posted, BP. I have had many similar thoughts myself.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

The term half-hearted comes to mind, but even that seems a bit lukewarm.

#1Nana said...

I have no answers either, but I am tired of the killing. I wish there were answers. The hate can't be allowed to continue to grow.