Time to Say “Je ne suis pas Charlie” (2015), by Sean Gabb

As ever, for the avoidance of doubt, I will say that I believe in freedom of speech, regardless of what offence may be given. Anyone who responds with violence deserves the fullest punishment allowed by law. Anyone who defends a violent response is a bigot.

But let us put Islam aside for the moment, and consider the general output of Charlie Hebdo. Have a good look at this cartoon. Is it funny? Is it brave? Is it making any point that is worth discussing? Is it doing anything beyond giving gross and unprovoked offence? When Bayle and Voltaire and Gibbon wrote cuttingly about the Christian Faith, what they gave us retains all its argumentative and comedic power a quarter of a millennium later. The questions Voltaire asked about the chronology of the historical books of the Old Testament remain a challenge to any biblical literalist. The fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of Gibbon's Decline and Fall remain a masterpiece of sustained irony. By comparison, the above is at best tiresome.

Certain facts of demography have brought us into a cultural war with Islam as it is usually practised. If we are to win this, I suggest we shall need better weapons than the equivalent of that cartoon.

I repeat that the cultural leftists at Charlie Hebdo did not deserve to be murdered. Even so, they make thoroughly disreputable martyrs to free speech – a cause, by the way, in which they do not appear to have believed in any general sense.

© 2015 – 2017, seangabb.

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Sean

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