Charlie, encore une fois...

Eliot Weinberger

The frat-boy humour magazine Charlie Hebdo is unfortunately back in the news. Six writers who were scheduled to be 'table hosts' at the annual PEN American Center gala in New York – tickets start at $1250 – have refused to attend after it was announced that the surviving staff of Charlie was to be awarded the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award at the dinner. The response to the six has been almost uniformly negative. Salman Rushdie, for one, who has turned PEN American into his little fiefdom, charmingly tweeted that they are 'pussies'. Others have even accused the writers of being apologists for terrorism.

Any discussion of Charlie must begin with the requisite throat-clearing. Of course one believes in absolute freedom of speech. Of course the murder of the magazine’s cartoonists and editors was deplorable. But the question here is not whether they are victims of free speech – of course they are – but whether they are heroes of free speech, deserving of a prize for 'courage'. To put it another way: Are they Pim Fortuyn or Martin Luther King?

They are indeed courageous for 'soldiering on amid devastating loss', as a PEN statement puts it. The same is equally true for many hate groups, terrorist cells and so on. But an award to Charlie celebrates them not only for continuing to speak. It implicitly affirms that what they have to say is valuable.

Charlie’s defenders tend to make three arguments: first, that they are the continuation of a long line of French satirists, from Voltaire on. (To which one can only sigh: poor France!) Second, that they are 'equal opportunity' offenders. This neatly avoids the fact that, for a bunch of white guys in a Catholic country, making fun of the pope is not the same as categorising a beleaguered minority in that country as moronic towel-heads. Third, we have been told that Charlie is actually anti-racist. When they portray the minister of justice, Christiane Taubira, who is black, as a monkey, or the pregnant sex slaves of Boko Haram as welfare queens, they are not satirising black people, but white people who vilify black people. It’s a fine distinction, no doubt lost on anyone who is not white.

If PEN wants to award the courageous, there are many in the world who are facing imprisonment, exile and death for leaking government documents, exposing corruption and repression, genuinely speaking out in the name of freedom of expression. This PEN award is merely the latest instance in the now-rampant free expression of gentlemanly Islamophobia.


  • 29 April 2015 at 8:52am
    Pechota 22 says:
    This is a particularly cowardly defence of the six individuals who boycotted the PEN award. It is entirely possible to be "a bunch of white guys in a Catholic country" and make valid satirical points about the Pope as being degenerate and Muslims being nutcase fundamentalists. Let's not forget that to an important degree they were proved pretty correct on the last point. Yes, you can sprinkle a number of references to particularly near-the-knuckle cartoons. And yes you can drip irony and sarcasm through the whole piece, but in so doing you are pulling back from any examination of the nature of satire and its relationship to different means of ordering and controlling meaning. Fine, take a different line on it. Like Peter Carey, you may want to object to the bestowing of the honour on Charlie Hebdo because the recipients are French and well, the French state can't be trusted. (Quite how he can lump a magazine who sets its stall out to continually reveal the gross contradictions of that state's behaviour with the state itself is another matter. But at least he takes it on.) Not Mr. Weinberger though. He dodges the argument and goes for sarcasm, so above the whole sordid debate about the nature of caricature, buffoonery and the messy business of standing up for the autonomy of the creative individual to determine the purview of their own work. I could opt for Rushdie's description but instead I'll respond in kind: well done mate. *Slow handclap* Good job.

    • 29 April 2015 at 10:49am
      Remonstrater says: @ Pechota 22
      Very well said! For some reason, the LRB seems to have taken it upon itself to promulgate the absolutely contemptible "Of course the murder of the [Charlie Hebdo] cartoonists and editors was deplorable. But..." position.

    • 29 April 2015 at 11:13am
      Laabidi Raissi says: @ Remonstrater
      Yes you are very right. And I hope to see Mr Weinberger responding to the above comment. Besides, I think his argument "If PEN wants to award the courageous, there are many in the world who are facing imprisonment..." is very weak. In fact, if we go with it, every award will stop being given until we find the "the writer who is facing the absolutely worst conditions in history. And then we find the second one etc.."

    • 29 April 2015 at 12:42pm
      Mat Snow says: @ Pechota 22
      Der Stürmer was full of 'near-the-knuckle cartoons' too.

    • 29 April 2015 at 2:18pm
      ander says: @ Mat Snow
      Charlie Hebdo'a robust but even-handed satire has nothing to do with the hate-motivated 'humour' of Der Stürmer. It is important to understand this distinction.

    • 29 April 2015 at 2:37pm
      manchegauche says: @ ander
      "Robust but even-handed satire" - wrong on all accounts.

    • 29 April 2015 at 4:14pm
      Mat Snow says: @ ander
      Have a look at some of those CH anti-Muslim cartoons — hook-nosed mullahs, burqa-lifting women, the whole tenor dripping with sexual insult — and tell me there was not something pathologically obsessed and, yes, hate-motivated in Charlie Hebdo’s treatment of Islam. Because one thing is for sure; those cartoons were truly unfunny. Which is why, incidentally, its circulation had been falling for years; it was a satirical magazine which had become over time a hotbed of bitter cranks.

    • 30 April 2015 at 1:40pm
      BillC says: @ Pechota 22
      Well, whatever this defence is, given comments like this were inevitable, it is not cowardly - brave in fact.

      The cowardly thing would have been to STFU, no ?

    • 2 May 2015 at 3:17pm
      ander says: @ Mat Snow
      Grotesque depictions are the stuff of satire. You don't have to venture so far as CH to see such caricatures, The Economist will suffice. Islamic nuts aren't their sole target, just look at their depictions of the Israeli ultraorthodox set. Relax.

  • 29 April 2015 at 8:53am
    Vingtras says:
    Wow. I've read quite a few "Je ne suis pas Charlie" pieces. But this has to be the first that compares the magazine to "terrorist cells and so on". Perhaps Mr. Weinberger's being ironic? But then he doesn't seem to have much time for the irony defence.

    As for the Christiane Taubira cartoon, yes, it was satirizing a pre-existing racist caricature in an extreme-right magazine. Those interested in such "fine distinctions" can find detailed parsings of this and other cartoons (including the one about "welfare queens") at the website Understanding Charlie Hebdo:

    They may also be interested to learn that the weekly magazine devoted a grand total covers to the subject of Islam during the ten years preceding the attack (a third of the number targeting Catholicism).

    • 29 April 2015 at 10:56am
      Joe Smith says: @ Vingtras
      Glenn Greenwald shows the logical fallacy of your first assertion in a recent article. If you say that all people shorter than 5’8 are great people,just look at Hillary Clinton, and I say you’re wrong, Hitler was 5’6, I’m not comparing Clinton to Hitler. Similarly, when Eliot writes that we do not give awards to “terrorist cells”, he’s only countering the point made by some at PEN that Charlie Hebdo deserves the award on courage alone. If they did, then the logic would mean people in terrorist cells should be equally eligible. Which is not in any way comparing the two.

    • 29 April 2015 at 3:20pm
      Vingtras says: @ Joe Smith
      Notwithstanding your bewildering musings about how tall Adolf Hitler was, I dare say Weinberger has a better grasp of his own snark than you do. The comparison with "terrorist cells" is clearly designed to be provocative (in the frat-boy style he erroneously attributes to Charlie Hebdo). And it implies that shooting a bunch of unarmed cartoonists with Kalashnikovs is a courageous act. Now Sontag said much the same thing about the 9/11 hijackers, arguing that courage is a morally neutral quality (which is debatable). But hijacking airplanes and shooting a bunch of middle-aged cartoonists and shoppers with assault weapons are not at all comparable in this respect (the former takes considerable physical courage, in the Sontagian sense, the latter very little). And whereas Sontag made her point to try and introduce some nuance into the discussion as the US prepared to go into imperial overdrive, nothing of the kind is now happening in France. Weinberger just wants to stir things up and vent against a far more successful writer (who still lives under the threat of murder -- how's that for courage?). I suppose he's succeeded.

    • 29 April 2015 at 5:58pm
      Seth Edenbaum says: @ Vingtras
      Text of a Hebdo cartoon: "The French are as dumb as the niggers" Look it up.

      There is no free speech in France, or the UK. A writer for Hebdo was fired and brought up on charges for one snide anti-semitic comment; no one was fired or arrested for that cartoon. Under hate speech laws the powerful define what's hate and what's satire.

      The marchers in Paris were not marching for freedom of speech; they were not marching against the existence of hate speech laws. They were defending Charlie Hebdo as such. And now so is PEN.

      Give the award to Hebdo and Dieudonné and we'll call it a day. But PEN won't do that, because they're cowards.

    • 29 April 2015 at 8:33pm
      Joe Smith says: @ Vingtras
      Apologies for my confusing phrasing,here's the article which responds to your point much better than I could As for Sontag, I happen to be in France at the moment, and you could not be more mistaken. On Monday the Assemblée Nationale will begin deliberations on a surveillance law which aims to legalize mass collection of data. French troops are already heavily involved in conflicts involving Islamic extremists in the Middle East and Africa, although I concede Hollande is thankfully no Bush. Comedian Dieudonné's treatment is the most discussed manifestation of a crackdown on free speech which disproportionately affects Muslims. Dieudonné is a mediocre comedian, Charlie Hebdo is a mediocre paper. None of these people should be tried, killed - or celebrated.

    • 29 April 2015 at 8:40pm
      Vingtras says: @ Seth Edenbaum
      Ah yes, no free speech anywhere at all. How on earth do they allow a fearless dissident like yourself to post such subversive insights on this website? Indeed, how is it Dieudonné manages to broadcast his equally brilliant analyses to millions of doughty followers on Youtube? Not to mention all those hardy souls who queue up to pay fifty quid to watch another unforgettable rendition of "Holocaust Pineapples"? Oh what japes!

      Understanding Charlie Hebdo has a useful gloss on the cartoon to which your refer:

      At the time of publication, the Pope had recently visited a number of African countries, namely Zaire, Congo, Kenya, Ghana, Upper Volta and Côte d'Ivoire. This visit finished on the 12th of May 1980, and the press coverage of this visit was still fresh in the minds of the French, including the controversy surrounding the Pope's condemnation of the use of condoms. Shortly after this, the Pope visited France (pilgrimage to Lisieux, 30 May 1980). The cartoon depicts the crowds that gathered during this visit.

      The caption in the cartoon can be read as the thoughts of the Pope. Charlie Hebdo are mocking the French reaction to the Pope's visit (frenetic adoration), by showing that the Pope thinks of them, and Africans, with tremendous contempt (note that the Pope's eyes are not yellow, possibly indicating he is not under the same feverish delusions as his admirers). This comparison with Africans further adds to the irony of the situation: the admirers are idolising a racist.

    • 29 April 2015 at 9:05pm
      Vingtras says: @ Joe Smith
      Balderdash and piffle. Mass surveillance has been going in all western societies for decades now. Charlie Hebdo didn't cause that and the magazine itself has forcefully opposed that law in recent weeks.

      The interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic have explicit UN authorization and were carried out reluctantly to avoid imminent humanitarian and geo-political catastrophe. There is no comparison with Iraq or Afghanistan.

      Hollande, for all his faults, is indeed not Bush and has responded to the atrocities with restraint. There's been no emergency legislation, no attack on Yemen, and no dispatch of suspects to Devil's Island. Get a grip.

    • 29 April 2015 at 10:02pm
      Seth Edenbaum says: @ Joe Smith
      I'd posted this in the wrong spot.

      In London or Paris I could have someone arrested for calling me a kike.
      And explain to me the subtle humor of the new cartoon of drowning refugees. Ask youself if any of those cartoons would fare in the US. And ask Francophone and French non-whites what they think. My friends grit their teeth.

    • 30 April 2015 at 11:59am
      ander says: @ Seth Edenbaum
      CH cartoons wouldn't fare in America. Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, fares splendidly.

    • 4 May 2015 at 2:03pm
      Natasha38 says: @ Seth Edenbaum
      One of the monstrous aspects of this debate is that is being waged with such stubborn ignorance. You need to know, if you're going to use it as a point of debate, that the cartoon you mention was not published in Charlie Hebdo. Inconveniently for your argument, and your tooth gritting friends, it is by a cartoonist called Ali Dilem, and was published in the Algerian newspaper Liberté.

    • 4 May 2015 at 3:06pm
      Seth Edenbaum says: @ Vingtras
      I was sloppy in assuming Hebdo would be so explicitly racist. The rest of my points hold."He'll go far that young lad" was enough to have a writer brought up on charges. There are plenty of examples more offensive than that. Jokes about black welfare queens,let alone sex slaves, to a neutral eye are more offensive. And given the history of French imperial adventures since 1789, the non-white world, not excluding Jews, has every right to laugh at pretensions to enlightenment.

  • 29 April 2015 at 9:48am
    ander says:
    Eliot Weinberger exaggerates when he writes, "they [Charlie Hebdo] are not satirising black people, but white people who vilify black people. It’s a fine distinction, no doubt lost on anyone who is not white.". The distinction wasn't lost on "anyone who is not white". During the 11th January Marche républicane in Paris, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the non-white President of Mali, marched next to François Hollande, and 12 other (non-white) African leaders came to the event.

  • 29 April 2015 at 11:45am
    Harry Stopes says:
    What exactly is the award supposed to be for? For Charlie Hebdo's satire, or for the fact that its office and staff were attacked? The point is that the former does not deserve to be singled out for the highest praise.

  • 29 April 2015 at 1:58pm
    ander says:
    Weinberger confuses the vulgar imbecility of frathouse humour with the robust satire of Charlie Hebdo.

  • 29 April 2015 at 2:28pm
    Julia Atkins says:
    LRB blog seems to be acquiring its own specialist trolls. Amongst the tripe on display is the notion that France is obsessively concerned with free speech. Not so. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations are often banned. Pro-Palestinian speakers (including those who happen to be Jewish or camp survivors) barred from speaking at universities. Holocaust-denial is illegal, etc. Free speech is essentially having a go at the Muslims. Even one of the founders of Charlie Hebdo questioned the targeting of Islam and denounced it in strong language.
    Surely there were some obvious candidates for the PEN accolade: Chelsea Manning locked up for revealing the truth, Edward Snowden forced into exile for the same offence and revealing widespread surveillance by his own government on a global scale. PEN always plays it safe, in this case ultra safe. Congratulations to the six writers who boycotted this poor people's banquet. Wish there were more of them.

    • 29 April 2015 at 4:20pm
      Mat Snow says: @ Julia Atkins
      Agree 100%, Julia.

    • 29 April 2015 at 6:19pm
      Alan Benfield says: @ Mat Snow
      Me too.

      Apart from anything else, some of the array of 'world leaders' who had the gall (like Bibi Netanyahu, who was there largely grandstanding in view of the pending election in Israel) to come along to Paris to trumpet their support for free speech was disgusting: Russia? (Sergei Lavrov) Egypt? (Sameh Shoukry, foreign minister) Turkey? (Ahmet Davutoglu, prime minister).

      The list goes on...

      This takes nothing away from the nature of the murders: it is just a reflection on the hypocrisy of those who think that such a gesture somehow washes their own sins away.

    • 2 May 2015 at 1:58pm
      Natasha38 says: @ Julia Atkins
      Encouraging to see LRB readers upholding the notion of freedom of expression by insulting all those who don't toe the party line as 'trolls'.

      Brief reminder - the PEN award is not going to France, the French government or the French people.

    • 4 May 2015 at 2:36pm
      Seth Edenbaum says: @ Natasha38
      The editors of Charlie Hebdo fired Siné.

    • 4 May 2015 at 6:39pm
      stettiner says: @ Julia Atkins
      Bad, bad France! You can't burn a synagogue just to show how deep you love peace. After you smash a few joooish shops, the fascist police come running. The privileged jooos are everywhere: almost 1% of population and only 50% of hate crime. Shut up the jooos and free speech is saved. Not only in France, mind you...

  • 29 April 2015 at 6:22pm
    Alan Benfield says:
    By the way, on the question of 'satire': as a fluent French speaker, "frat-boy humour magazine" nails it for me...

    You want French satire, go to 'Canard Enchaïné'...

    • 29 April 2015 at 8:13pm
      ander says: @ Alan Benfield
      Alan, with all respect, as a fluent French speaker daily plugged into the French public ethos, 'frat-boy humour magazine' doesn't nail it for me at all for the reason I explain above. Charlie trades in its own brand of satire, which, for the lack of a better adjective, I modify with "robust". While their message is strong, it is never off target. The bottom of the nameplate of most editions says, "Journal irresponsable" to forewarn the faint of heart.

    • 5 May 2015 at 4:34pm
      cg199 says: @ Alan Benfield
      Alan, Wolinski, Cabu and even Charb regularly drew cartoons for Canard Enchainé...

  • 30 April 2015 at 5:48am
    Farah says:
    One doesn't have to agree with every single thing that Weinberger says in this article to get the point he's making! I think the recent New York Times article did an excellent job highlighting the disquiet that many of us feel about such a decision through the quotes from the writers, and that was not entirely alleviated by American PEN's statement on this subject.

    There is a difference between feeling that the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo should be able to write what they like in safety (which I strongly do), and awarding behaviour that (to me) is a reminiscent of the bully in the schoolyard, and often racist. And, as many have said, I believe satire should be used as a weapon against the powerful not against the alienated and disenfranchised. But that's just my opinion - thankfully shared by greats like Carey, Prose, Cole et al.

  • 30 April 2015 at 9:52am
    Julia Atkins says:
    Just so we know. Here's a short profile of PEN's Executive Director, a former State Department hackette:

    • 30 April 2015 at 10:23am
      ander says: @ Julia Atkins
      Nice catch!

  • 30 April 2015 at 12:04pm
    Loic Marsillac says:
    There is an extremely long history of denigrating, fustigating, and demonizing Islam in the West; viewed in that light Charlie Hebdo looks hoary and traditional, nothing radical about it. Albeit it does strike me as daft that they should expose themselves (for such a false and bankrupt cause) to the violent ire of demented and malleable socioeconomically marginalized individuals in their midst–for who is more likely than the psychologically disturbed to kill others (and indirectly themselves) over a transparent, even desperate, caricatural provocation? Such acts imply giving privileged and expert provocateurs the further privilege and importance of a determining value, and power, over life and death, one’s own as well as theirs. This ‘very serious’ signifying dance of life-entwined-with-death, in which both the magazine staff and attackers reciprocally participated, is quite obviously a folie, but ultimately a folie à tous.

  • 1 May 2015 at 7:33pm
    markacohen says:
    Dear Mr Weinberger I have enjoyed all of your work up to now and am a translator myself and have a deep respect for your efforts in that area too.
    I'd like you to respond to the above comments because none of your co-signees have had the gumption to appear in print and those of us (everyone I know no exceptions) find your stance baffling even before it make me angry with tis infantile leftism that does real leftism no good (or the people it is intended to help). Please to read if you have not done so yet at least the following articles by people who are very well informed about Charlie Hebdo's actual stances and the nature of its humor because they read it regularly and know the French scene well. If after reading them you still think CH was Racist and Islamophobic I'd be interested to know why. What about the articles is false or wrong? Do you have something more probative to offer?


  • 3 May 2015 at 12:59pm
    spiggott says:
    The Christiane Taubira monkey cartoon is attacking racism, it isn't a racist attack on Taubira.

    Weinberger says: "It’s a fine distinction, no doubt lost on anyone who is not white."

    No - it's not a fine distinction. It's simple and easy to grasp.

    The cartoon was drawn by Charb, an atheist who participated in anti-racist campaigns for MRAP (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples). He was murdered on January 7.

    As for non-white people not getting it, you could check that with Charb's ex partner, Jeannette Bougrab, the ethnic Algerian former chair of the French Equal Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination Commission.

    You *might* say the Taubira cartoon is misjudged and that using a racist image in this way is itself inescapably racist. I think that would be mistaken but it's a perfectly reasonable view. Maybe some of the Charlie Hebdo stuff was misjudged. But to not even attempt to understand what the cartoonist was *trying* to do is either dishonest or stupid.

  • 4 May 2015 at 1:32pm
    Natasha38 says:
    It’s just all a bit complicated isn’t it, Eliot? Speaking of ‘gendered/ethnic/religious/national aspects of access to PEN and global literary circles’, here’s a French Muslim woman addressing, Emmanuel Todd, yet another patronising white man telling her what she thinks about Charlie Hebdo.

    Her response? ‘Stop worrying about us. The great majority of the Muslim and immigrant population of France are very happy to live in a secular country, where freedom of speech is not something to be negotiated on the altar of condescension. And guess what, for quite a lot of us, that’s actually the very reason we have chosen to live here. Calm down and treat us like adults. That’s the best way to respect us, M. Todd.’

    I’m happy to translate the rest for those who don’t understand French. It’s about time that real live French Muslim women’s voices were heard in this debate.

  • 5 May 2015 at 1:38pm
    fbkun says:
    I'm sick and tired with those stupid comments from people who obviously don't understant anything about Charlie Hebdo, its history, and what it stands for. Some people should stick to what they know and understand.

  • 5 May 2015 at 3:15pm
    ghils says:
    Poor Eliot! Please check your sources: Christiane Taubira, the minister of justice, was not portrayed as a monkey by Charlie Hebdo, but by far-right conservatives. I can imagine that you equally throw Salman Rushdie and Khomeiny into the same pot.
    By the way, if you mention Voltaire, you should be happy to know (but do you know?) that he was far tougher with religious faith, islamic or other, than Charlie. You would have argued that catholicism was a beleaguered minority ... oh sorry!
    Another stupidity: "phobia" means "fear" and does nor have anything to do with racism (anyway, islam is not a race). Of course, we should not be afraid of the Islamic State: poor guys, they are just lost souls in search of a paradise where they can rape virgins.
    Finally, you are right: Charlie does not write the best literature. And IS's beheaded victims are just minorities.

  • 5 May 2015 at 4:27pm
    cg199 says:
    It is very sad but also worrying that the LRB has missed again an excellent opportunity to say something intelligent about Charlie Hebdo. If commentators like Mr. Weinberger can bubble along as they like with so little knowledge of what they are talking about. Have you really read every Charlie Hebdo since thirty years, Mr. Weinberger? Have you duefully counted how many cartoons make fun of what? Have you checked all references to current political affairs, French popular culture, French media and TV debates of the moment etc. before jumping to conclusions... of course you have not, have you? Nobody who cries out 'racism' as soon as they see a comic with a black person on it, has. And so has nobody checked a bit figures, history and stories about 'muslims' in France(for my part I still don't know who is meant with this word that is only meant to racialize and distinguish what are citizens) in France, about the history and political thought of French republicanism or laicité. Nor has anyone in LRB up to now proposed a sensible analysis on the question whether the colour lines in France are maybe (certainly) very differently constituted from those in the US because THAT is Mr. Weinberg's reference, isn't it...and as we're talking about 'them', have you ever been to 9-3 Mr. Weinberg? Have you ever talked to the poor and oppressed whose defense you're taking up so generously here? "When they portray the minister of justice, Christiane Taubira, who is black, as a monkey, or the pregnant sex slaves of Boko Haram as welfare queens, they are not satirising black people, but white people who vilify black people. It’s a fine distinction, no doubt lost on anyone who is not white." you write but funnily it is you, the male, white American on whom the distinction is lost, not the black woman from a former colony, Christian Taubira. Dear editors of LRB, could you please in any further comment on Charlie Hebdo ask someone who actually knows something? It would enormously help me to believe that all your other articles are written by knowledgeable people who think thoroughly and seriously before filling paper with words.

  • 5 May 2015 at 8:21pm
    jeburruto says:
    Does Weinberger wish to seriously argue against "now-rampant free expression"? If so, where would he draw the boundaries around free expression? A phobia is an irrational response to stimuli. How can a hard satirical, and no doubt tasteless, attack on Islam and its Prophet be Islamophobic when that attack provoked the very murderous response from Muslims that the term Islamophobia implies would be irrational? Weinberger has revealed himself through this sleazy piece of sarcasm to have already slipped into the stream of Western intellectual dhimmitude.

  • 6 May 2015 at 5:55am
    abcd85 says:
    The post is right in its direction, but does not make the case clearly enough:

    • CH was not an “equal opportunity offender.” Under pressure from Jewish circles in fired the cartoonist Siné for a possible anti-Semitic drawing. CH lost the case for wrongful dismissal in court.

    • That the state should not regulate free speech is self-evident.

    • In nature and society there are unspoken, flexible, and negotiable rules of reciprocally “acceptable” behavior. Identity is a form of cultural expression of such boundaries. We negotiate them every minute of the day. “No preset set rule” does not mean “no rule.”

    • Whether in the age of internet and worldwide instant dispersal of images and news “in the face politics” is advisable, not to speak of a right, is debatable. Since by definition there always is an identity at the bottom of the pile, resentment and revolt is preordained.

    Louis XIV allegedly proclaimed “L’état c’est moi” (he never ruled so, but that’s another matter). Today everyone proclaims the same. The assertion is more than questionable, and it may be unsustainable in a complex society as ours.

    Categorical “value” argument is sterile. It is simply posturing, as it ignores time. When is it opportune to assert the value? The Renaissance first grappled with secular time (Castiglione della Casa) – but already Ulysses was the master of timing (Metis is all about planning and timing).

    Modern state institutions are rules to articulate values in time. We are losing the sense of time, as we mix past and present in our arguments. In a rush to create eutopia on earth, we may be forgetting the most important fact: there is no time there.

    Alas, we live in time.

    • 6 May 2015 at 2:10pm
      stettiner says: @ abcd85
      The former CH cartoonist Siné has never been "afraid to admit," as he did once on the radio, that he is an anti-Semite who wants "every Jew to live in fear".

  • 6 May 2015 at 12:28pm
    Shivera0405 says:
    " But an award to Charlie celebrates them not only for continuing to speak. It implicitly affirms that what they have to say is valuable." No, Mr. Weinberger, the award affirms their right to say it - without being persecuted or killed - is valuable. How is it that so many people have difficulty with this concept of free speech? Supporting the right of people you agree with to say something is not the same as supporting the right to free speech and freedom of expression.

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