Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!

Je Suis Charlie

I made these Je Suis Charlie pencils and have them out for free at the It’s Only Fashion office.


The first paragraph I drafted for this post called what happened yesterday at Charlie Hebdo unthinkable. Of course, I had to delete that and start again because it obviously was not just thinkable, but doable. Three of our fellow human beings went into an office and killed twelve other fellow human beings because they were offended by their cartoons. It all sounds so ludicrous, doesn’t it?

Of course, to say the murders were about cartoons is to miss the point. The killers are bit players in an existential struggle between modernity and traditionalism and modernity is winning. When you are winning, you do not resort to tactics like terrorism. Terrorism is for losers.

Je Suis Charlie


You see, if they were not losing the argument already, they had many other options to object to and oppose the satiric cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. They could protest outside the office. They could have billboards saying  “Chalie Hebdo is a poopy head.” They could write letters to the editor or to the advertisers asking them to stop running ads in the magazine. They could call for a boycott of products advertised in Charlie Hebdo. But their side is losing and they know it. So they decided to smash things and kill people. 


Je Suis Charlie


Here in the United States, some anti-abortion activists frustrated by their inability to stop access to safe and legal abortions bombed clinics and murdered nurses and doctors. That form of domestic terrorism is waning only because their side has racked up hundreds of legislative victories that make them optimistic they will prevail. However, they have the same traditionalist worldview that society must be structured around  faith, not reason. When the tide turns and they realize they are still losing in the long term, I have no doubt that we will see an increase in clinic violence again. Terrorism is the tactic of the losers.

Yesterday, the NAACP office in Colorado Springs was fire-bombed and a  balding, middle-aged white male is the suspect. Although racism remains ubiquitous at many levels in our society, open racism is losing and the conscious racists know it. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was the act of losers angry that segregation was coming to an end. So they decided to blow things up and killed four children.  Terrorism is the tactic of the losers.

Je Suis Charlie


However, terrorists can win small victories if they succeed in making us change what we do. Many in the press are succumbing to terrorist threats by refusing to print the cartoons. I understand the fear, but I think it would be smarter and safer if every newspaper, magazine and television new program published them. Ten thousand targets would be the same as none. It was only because Charlie Hebdo was so singular in its publishing that it was a target.

And yes, that will be offensive to Muslims around the world. Probably as offensive as the Piss Christ by Andres Serrano was to many Christians. And you know what, people organized campaigns, writing letters, speaking on television, protesting and making their objections to the Piss Christ clear. That is the modernist response to things that offend us. We will all be offended from time to time. That is part of life and we just have to deal with it. We have every right to object, to speak up, to voice our opinion. But we don’t get to kill people because they offend us. That is modernity.

And for the record, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are offensive, xenophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic; they ran the gamut of top-down offensiveness. Many of their cartoons will offend people of all religions, not just Islam. But being offensive is not a capital offense. They deserved criticism of their xenophobia, their racism, their sexism. Criticism! They deserved boycotts and protests. But freedom of expression means that offensive people get to express their offensive views. Then they can be criticized for it, ostracized, even boycotted. They don’t get killed for it.

Je Suis Charlie


I hope our governments and our people can remember that this was an act done by individuals, not a religion. It was supported by an organization that is hoping we react with anger. It was done by people who hold a traditionalist worldview that places faith in charge of all aspects of life, government, the arts, family and social structures and yes, even the press. We often conflate this view with Islam because we recognize and object to the Islamic worldview influencing our government and our society. Meanwhile, we fail to see how some Christians seek the same influence on our laws, our families, our media and our society. It is hard to see the forest when you are a tree.

But why aren’t Christians doing terrorist acts, then? In the United States and in Europe, Christians are comfortably in the majority. But as we have seen with abortion clinic bombings, a small minority of Christians will resort to terrorism when they perceive they are losing, just as a small minority of Muslims have. Moreover, the United States is not the whole world and you can find terrorists of every religious stripe if you look worldwide. The Bosnian war was Christians ethnically cleansing Muslims in Europe. In the Central African Republic, militias are trying to eliminate all Muslims – an underreported genocide. Christian terrorists in India have carried out many attacks in the north east of India. This is not a conflict between religions, it is a conflict between the modern world and the traditional one.

Love is stronger than hate from Charlie Hebdo

The proper response to terrorist acts designed to change our behavior is to do that behavior more often and more loudly. So, publish those offensive cartoons on the front page of every paper from the neighborhood monthly to the big national papers. We can make clear you don’t endorse the racism, the xenophobia, the sexism, the homophobia, the hate-mongering that motivates them, but we can make clear that we support their right to expression and they won’t be silenced by murder.

Make the offenders so commonplace they cannot be stopped by three men or three thousand.




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2 thoughts on “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!

  1. Sinead McMillan

    “And for the record, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are offensive, xenophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic; (…)”

    Interestingly, one of the assassinated members of Charlie is/was Bernard Maris a left-wing economist and a member of the scientific board of Attac.

    Charlie always fought and “les Survivantes” still do fight against the bigotry of FN, racism, homophobia, the neo-liberal meme etc. pp.

    Can you proof your statement?

  2. Cajsa Lilliehook Post author

    I guess it depends on what you mean by prove, a slippery thing when it comes to oppressions like racism as some people define racism so narrowly it’s meaningless – as they only acknowledge racism in white sheets. However, as I see it, they employ offensive racist caricatures that display stereotypical images of people of African, Arab and Jewish heritage. Whether then intend to satirize racist extremists, they are exploiting racism for humor.

    I doubt any young woman who was kidnapped from school and raped by Boko Haram would care all that much about the subtextual intent to criticize xenophobes if she saw herself as a big-mouthed, slack-jawed pregnant woman screaming about benefits. Why did they have to use young women who have been so traumatized, who continue to remain captive, whose freedom may never come? Because they didn’t even see them as people. That is racist.

    Moreover, France has systematically discriminated against Muslims who are very much on the downside of power in France, unable to wear their traditional clothing, under- and unemployed, and marginalized in society. Satire worthy of its name attacks those in power, not those outside of power. Are there any people more powerless than those girls captive of Boko Haram. Whatever high-minded intent to criticize French politicians may have inspired that cartoon, its execution is racist, punches down at young women who have and continue to endure a horrible captivity. They give no thought to them other than to exploit them to score some political point. That is exactly what racism is – not seeing the human beings as people that matter.

    Likewise, Muslim women might not care that there is a secondary critique overlaying the cartoon of Muslim women praying to Mecca (which the cartoon labels a brothel) with their asses exposed. Whatever higher purpose might exist in the subtext is more than cancelled out by the lower purpose of exploiting racist tropes for a laugh. It’s a form of “hipster racism” – acknowledging the racism and excusing oneself of it because it is done with awareness. Being aware you are using a racist trope and knowing it’s racist really does not make it less racist.

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