Nous Sommes Tous Charlie

By now I’m assuming everyone’s heard about the dreadful attack on the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebo:

Masked gunmen burst into the Paris offices of a French satirical newspaper on Wednesday and killed 12 people, including top journalists and two police officers, before fleeing in a car. The gunmen were still at large at dusk, as an extensive police dragnet spread across a traumatized city.

Among the dead were four prominent cartoonists who have repeatedly lampooned Islamic terrorists and the Prophet Muhammad, leading to speculation that the attack on the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was the work of Islamic militants acting alone or in concert with extremist groups.

The gunmen — reports suggest there were three — are still at large, and, according to Times coverage, it remains unknown what group, if any, organized the attack.

Salman Rushdie knows something about words and art and the threat of deadly violence aimed at suppressing it.  He’s one of many who have responded to the attack.  The statement was apparently up at PEN’s site, but that’s down now, and (via a Neil Gaiman tweet) I found it at the Wall St. Journal.  Here it is:

“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”  –Salman Rushdie

Bad times, sad times.  My thoughts and deepest sympathy to all the families and friends of the murdered.

Explore posts in the same categories: Evil, rare sincerity, Things that actually matter

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One Comment on “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie”


  1. It seems to me that both sides of the debate over the incident that occurred in the offices of Charlie Hebdo are overlooking the baby in the bathwater. The baby in the bathwater that I refer to is the absolute power of words. We are so accustomed to tossing off words in a vapid conversation, or in an email that we are unaware of the energy that we are expending. However, if you have experienced serious illness, you soon learn how much energy it requires, not only to talk, but to put words together into a meaningful sentence. When an idea is spoken or written with focused attention, and backed with emotional force you have take physical energy and condensed into an energy shape that does have an impact on the environment around you. Maybe you cannot see it, but you can feel the impact.

    Don’t be too quick to discount the underlying validity of those creation myths that talk about calling the world into being with the spoken word. It is doubtful if the American Revolution would have happened if it had not been ignited by the power of eloquent men who repeatedly spoke and wrote on the subject of liberation from England.

    There are historians who speculate that it was the power of Hitler’s voice and impassioned speaking that energized the rise of the Third Reich. It was Churchill’s voice and speeches that sustained the British during the dark hours of the war.

    I did not read the copy in Charlie Hebdo that gave rise to the brouhaha that resulted in bloodshed. However I bet that the words in that copy were written with sustained focus backed with a lot of emotional steam that spawned that copy.

    I support free speech, I support satire. I also support people being aware of what they are generating when they invoke the power of words combined with feeling. They must not only be aware of what they are doing, they must also be responsible for, and accept the consequences of what they have loosed in the world.


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