Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Whatever You Do, Please Don't Hurt Charlie Hebdo's Feelings

It's almost impossible to overstate how surreal this is:
But let's try to see how we've come to this very strange moment.  Recall that the case against Charlie Hebdo is that the magazine published material highly likely to make Muslims feel oppressed, humiliated, and unwelcome in their own country.  Maybe the magazine went out of its way to make Muslims feel this way, maybe it simply acted with extreme disregard for their feelings.

The most coherent defense of Charlie Hebdo—there are many, many incoherent defenses, as I have learned from Caleb Crain's retweets—is that the magazine was an equal-opportunity offender, that it was by and large taking on powerful people and institutions, and that when it occasionally commented on Muslims it did so with the same irreverence and disregard for personal feelings that it applied to all of its targets.  People should toughen up, a free society demands thick skins.

Now Dominique Sopo's point is that people who have criticized Charlie Hebdo should be ashamed of themselves, because when you express a negative view of someone, you do deep and terrible harm—you kill him a second time.  To criticize a publication is to go beyond the pale.  There are feelings at stake here!  Maybe you have a legal right to say something bad about Charlie Hebdo, but you have no moral right to do so.

This seems to me to be a highly bizarre thing to say at a gala honoring Charlie Hebdo.  It is in fact the most explicit criticism of Charlie Hebdo's values that I have seen anyone make.  I wonder if the crowd booed him off the stage.