Terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo: Defending or defiling freedom of speech

The bombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices should make us stand up for freedom of expression. Photo: Associated Press

CHICAGO, November 6, 2011- The Bill of Rights is not just some musty old document used by the Supreme Court to decide civil liberties cases.  It is an iron clad guarantee.  It guarantees people unalienable rights.  It guarantees that we shall have no fear those rights will be trampled on.  It guarantees us the right to be free from repression and oppression. 

We have a sacred duty to defend our rights and guarantees at all costs.  Even if speech or expression overtly provokes or inflames passion.  Especially in the face of violent extremism.

The media has a higher standard of duty to defend freedom of expression, speech, religion, and the press; if only for its own self preservation.  Remember, “First they came for the…”  

Which bring us to Charlie Hebdo and Time MagazineCharlie Hebdo is a weekly satirical newspaper based in Paris France.  Last week its offices were fire bombed and its website hacked.  Charlie Hebdo released an issue titled Sharia Hebdo and listed the Prophet Mohammed as editor-in-chief.  The issue was a satire on Islam, with cartoons. 

Evidently this upset some extremists who adhere to the religion of peace. 

Bruce Crumley is the Paris Bureau Chief for Time Magazine.  He posted a piece in Time’s Global Spin Blog on the controversy. 

“Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?” 

In his opinion, Charlie Hebdo’s issue was the equivalent of yelling fire in a theater.  He refers to Islamaphobia, a term created out of whole cloth by the political correct police to repress criticism. 

The term Islamaphobia is used to define hatred of Islam.  A phobia is a fear.  It is not hatred, though some hatred is based on fear.  Hatred against Jews is mildly called Anti-Semitism, not Jewphobia.  Maybe Anti-Semitism would be taken more seriously if it was called Jewphobia.  Eric Golub, please don’t send a hit squad after me. 

Crumley uses Islamaphobia to decry Charlie Hebdo’s publication.  He calls it infantile and indefensible.  In effect, Charlie Hebdo got what it deserved; just like the proverbial blond walking down the street in a short red dress and red stiletto heals deserved to be assaulted. 

Blame the victim. 

Someone should remind Mr. Chumley what free society really means.  It appears he has been living abroad for way too long.  Free societies are not told what they can or can’t DO by small minorities of extremists.  Free societies allow for the petulant, divisive, idiotic, futile, and infantile.  Expression and speech are not destructive.  People are. 

If we banned the type of speech Crumley finds abhorrent, there would be no Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, or Ann Coulter, just to name a few.  There would also be no Time, Newsweek, or Mother Jones, since any article in one of those could be considered offensive by some person or group. 

Speech and criticism can be distasteful, hateful, and even egregiously hateful.  It is still protected.  The speakers, writers, and expressionists should be too.   

Remember the Florida minister who wanted to burn the Quran at Ground Zero over the proposed Mosque?  Remember how even high government and military officials tried to talk him out of it, directly, or indirectly through the media?  They should have offered to have swat teams surround him so he could express himself, if that is what it took. 

We could and should have criticized his stupidity to high heaven.  But, we had no right to try and stop him.  Free speech covers stupidity.  That is what having protected rights is all about.   

Free speech, except for a very few instances is protected speech.  We don’t have to like what is being said, we just to accept it and the orator’s right to say it.  Criticism of speech or expression is also protected, no matter how inflammatory.  We have the right to criticize all we want, however we want.  We do not have the right to shut it all down in the name of offending some person’s or group’s tender sensitivities.  That is cowardice. 

Chumley realizes this, which is why is article is so cleverly written.  He condemns and defends at the same time.   

Freedom of speech is also the freedom to exchange ideas, no matter how outlandish those ideas are.  That exchange makes it doubly precious and valuable.  It allows for open dialogue and communication. 

It is time for the media, and entertainment business, to stop hiding behind sensitivity issues.  It is time to take a stand.  It is time to invoke our God given right to be free from fear.  Banish political correctness, political palatability, and the multi-culti nonsense.  We are a courageous people and it is about time we started acting like it. 

Or suffer the consequences of being silenced.


Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance writer, freelance photographer, and consultant.  He is a passionate cook and eater.  He likes to be the sharp stick that pokes, annoys, and provokes.  His opinions are his and his alone.  


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Email- pvbella@gmail.com  








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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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