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I Am Charlie, Uncomfortably: The Price of Free Discourse

by Remittance Girl

To hold a pen is to be at war.”  Voltaire

In the wake of the murder of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo Magazine offices, there has been shock, mourning and much passionate debate. It is sad that it takes the assassination of a group of French satirical cartoonists to prompt a serious discussion of what constitutes freedom of expression and where the limits of cultural offense might be located.

The most difficult part of defending freedom of expression is that it requires that you take a stand with people whose ideas are offensive to you. Much Charlie Hebdo’s satire took aim at the hypocrisy, intransigence and parsimony of the religious groups that make up French society. I, and many people, found the cartoons produced by Charlie Hebdo offensive; they were often racist, homophobic, sexist and concertedly insulting to Muslims, Jews, and Catholics, using exaggerated visual stereotypes to get their point across. I can’t defend the content or the artistic merit of much of Charlie Hebdo’s work, but many people would equally refuse to defend the content or the artistic merit of what I write.

That’s the thing about freedom of expression: the worth of any particular act of expression is always going to be subjective, but the freedom to express it is not.

If you’re puzzled as to why so many French people have taken to the streets – read more:



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