Did Charlie Hebdo ever lampoon ‘freedom of speech’?

Amid the tsunami of affirmations – from left, right and wherever else – of freedom of speech, I have been searching. Did Charlie Hebdo ever lampoon freedom of speech? Did they ever lampoon the right to insult? Charlie Hebdo is now world famous for the attack a couple of days ago that left its editor dead, along with France’s leading cartoonists and many others. Report after report states that Charlie Hebdo held nothing sacred, attacking the birth of Jesus, the Roman Catholic Church, Jewish rabbis, Islam and Mohammed, as well as political leaders and holders of power the world over. Left-wing they felt themselves to be, mocking the antics of the far right.

But I have yet to find out if they lampooned the most sacred cow of all: freedom of speech.


5 thoughts on “Did Charlie Hebdo ever lampoon ‘freedom of speech’?

  1. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they did, actually. After all France is the land of Rabelais and a rich history of sophisticated satire. At any rate I suspect their idea of the societal role of their cartoons was quite a bit different from the freedom of speech narratives now put out in the mass-media and by politicians.

    I cannot help but think this is the ‘strategy of tension’ all over again, this time to deflect attention away from austerity to the inflated muslim threat. Of course this threat is the creation of lax surveillance and also the freedom of speech and movement given to fundamentalists (I guess a sacred cow remains sacred even if she shits all across your house whilst eating your food). A people’s security force would long ago have dealt comprehensively with these groups by justly trampling on the sacred cows of freedom.

      1. Well, regarding your piece on the Danish affair, I would have to say the cases are in fact rather different. The Charlie Hebdo people are/were actual leftist in terms of not only because of 1968 but also associations of several cartoonists with anarchism, communism and the Front de Gauche. This can be squarely located within the French tradition of laicite, the republican attack on the political role of the church and so on.

        So, I would want to distinguish between CH and the particular narrative by the government and global media on free speech.

        Also, while the Danish cartoons can be located within a ‘Plato to Nato’ narrative directed against Islam, I would rather locate CH differently. In fact it has more in common with the Bolsheviks, not least in the Stalinist drive to eradicate entrenched ‘muslim’ conservatist structures as in Central Asia. It is one thing to posit a ‘West and the Rest’ narrative to suit a liberalist position, but quite another to establish a Soviet republic based on equality through the mass purging of reactionary elements. Central Asia is still a better place for it, as Afghanistan would have been without the CIA.

        Not saying that CH were literally Bolsheviks on a mission, but certainly it would not be correct to lump them together with the Danish affair. Of course they will be styled that way in the globalist media, but that is just the propagandist value made of it (which made me think of the ‘strategy of tension’ history).

      2. Marcus, that’s really interesting. I confess to knowing very little about Charlie Hebdo, but what you say makes a fair bit of sense. I am working on a long and detailed exposition of Stalin’s thoughts on the national question, where the paradox of equal rights – to language, education, governance and religion – requires unequal application to make it work. Hence the push to remove reactionary elements in church, mosque and synagogue in order to make it work. The Bolshevik solution to this paradox was the strong state, which in its turn fostered greater diversity, which then led to a deeper sense of unity – at least in theory.

      3. That said, there is still something that bothers me about CH as a bunch of pale male intellectuals from a colonising country deriding those whom they once colonised. At another level, it’s not so easy to determine the reactionary and revolutionary dimensions of the religious impulse, since – as Bloch and many others have pointed out – the two are dialectically entwined.

        I simply cannot bring myself to say ‘je suis Charlie’.

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