January 20, 2015

EDITORIAL: Freedom of speech should be free of fear

This Editorial represents the views of the editorial staff at The Louisville Cardinal


On January 7, two masked gunmen wielding assault rifles stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, France, killing 11 inside, along with a police officer who responded to the incident. The men were later identified by authorities as brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi.


A day following the attack, a lone man by the name of Amedy Coulibaly shot a police officer dead and wounded a bystander in southern Paris, leaving the city.


A video was released shortly after by Yemeni al-Qaeda members, claiming they were responsible for the attacks. Their attackers’ goal was to avenge the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in Charlie Hebdo. U.S. officials say they believe the video is authentic but cannot guarantee that the ties between the group and the attacks are true.


The Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly were all killed by police on Jan. 9, at different locations throughout Paris, after Coulibaly had taken 19 hostages inside a supermarket and the Kouachi brothers were cornered in an abandoned warehouse. Overall, 17 people were killed in the attacks.


The magazine is no newcomer to these terroristic attacks. On Nov. 2, 2011, terrorists firebombed the Charlie Hebdo offices and then proceeded to hack into their websites.  Charlie Hebdo magazine is a now-renowned publication known for its satirical portrayals of religious writing and cartoons targeting Muslims, Jews and Christians.


“Je suis Charlie,” meaning “My name is Charlie,” is the term that went viral the weekend following the shootings, as nearly 1.5 million people rallied in Paris to support the magazine and commend those who lost their lives throughout the terror attacks—the largest rally in France since WWII.


In time with the rallies, the discussion began to fade into the topic of expression vs. suppression, and freedom of speech vs. fear. We often like to think freedom of speech means a blanket of security is handed down to those who bravely speak their minds and express themselves. We should retain this freedom, without worrying that someone is going to kill us in return.


The problem is that most of the time, freedom of speech is used to protect the ones who initially offend, and things can get blurry when religion becomes involved and feathers inevitably get ruffled. In terms of the acts of criticism and expression, religious groups are no stranger of becoming upset whenever depicted in not so holy manners.


The amount of criticism towards Charlie Hebdo’s satire has been growing by the years, which ultimately adds to the popularity of the magazine. But whether it’s in your face or a bit more subtle, satire in general can easily ride the line between discrimination and justified comedy. It becomes evident why small groups are opting out of supporting Charlie Hebdo in this incident. Some believe the opportunity for them to masquerade their satire as discrimination is too prevalent in order to justify their message as a publication in entirety.


Differences aside regarding the actual laws that protect freedom of speech between the US and France, we’re still able to blatantly see the wrong doing here. Charlie Hebdo may have initially struck first in the overall scheme of things, but their satirical drawings didn’t deserve murder as a repercussion. France follows the democratic standard many of us Americans are used to, which is freedom of press and expression. Putting it this way whether you can sympathize with the victims or not, anyone is capable of identifying the aggressor and the victim with their views simply strengthened by the knowledge that one side in this situation took life while the other drew pictures.


“I have the right to write whatever I want. And it’s equaled by another right just as powerful: the right not to read it.” This quote by author Brad Thor truly embodies the overall grasp of thought that should be taken in terms of the Charlie Hebdo attack. We should be able to identify with the criminal and empathize with the victim, and not confuse the two when parties involved begin to pass the blame onto others.


Here at the Cardinal, we’re no stranger to criticism. Whether it was our “Greeks establish informal tailgating dress code” article, or our article regarding former U of L Professor Tommy Parker and the cache of porn found on his laptop, our strive to report and cover the truth behind stories embodies the type of newspaper organization we are. The take-away of the Charlie Hebdo attack should not be to restrict yourselves in terms of expression and the search of truth, but to continue to search and express yourself no matter what the circumstances may be.


One of the main cartoons these journalists in Paris lost their lives over (top)  has surfaced with much skepticism over the past weeks. Many like to criticize the magazine and question why it was even ran in the first place. What message did it even portray besides hate and judgement? But the answer is simple, once you set aside your first assumptions, one can see these journalists were attempting to captivate ISIS and their thirst for violence.


We’re able to choose what we say, just as much as those around us are able to choose what they hear. We live in a reality where it seems as if those who push the limits seem to deal with the most rash consequences. We shouldn’t be afraid to express ourselves through the conducts of freedom of speech, just because it has the chance to possibly offend certain groups of people. We all reserve the right to speak our minds and get our messages across, and the cowardly acts of those who stand in the way should never be able to shake our intentions.

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