The messenger normally occupies a fairly humble position in society.
A between-the-lines bloke or bloke-ess.
In Charlie Hebdo’s case, the messengers were on the frontline.
It’s been suggested to me that satire – at least, liberal satire; at least, visual satire – is inherently racist. Big noses and beards for Arabs and Israelis. Popping-out eyes against dark skins for other races. Red, drink-imbibed, faces for bankers, right-wing politicians and CEOs.
The stereotypes are multiple.
The question is fair: when does the shorthand become offensive not because of the message contained but, instead, because of the container?
But even as my thoughtfulness is bound to make me keep the above issues in mind, and even as the above issues must not be forgotten for another, more cogitative, time, today, right now, this morning, as the Studio Exec lays out clear, any of us who care about free speech – as well as the slippery slope that leads from not caring about it – must proclaim: “Je suis Charlie!”
Yesterday, they shot the messengers. It was horrifying, because it was precisely the messengers they wanted to shoot.
They wanted not to eliminate a society – the rest of us, that is, whom the messengers represent, whom they fight on behalf of, whom they battle to keep on the intellectual straight and narrow – but, rather, eliminate the messengers of that society, so that its component parts, the rest of us, would begin to kowtow to fear.
They didn’t want to destroy us: they wanted to mould us.
They are like well-fed cats playing with a half-winged bird.
They don’t need to.
They idly want to.
So over the next few days and weeks, when you hear people talking of extenuating circumstances or of racist satire or of insulting stereotypes or of any other amelioration of perception they wish to apply to the initial acts of violence, just remember this: these people chose to shoot the messengers yesterday – not in order to stop the brave but, instead, to shut down the rest of us; to shut down what they have assumed are inevitably going to be the frightened.
And when this kind of thing happens, to then half-blame the victims is not a matter of exercising the liberal free speech you so roundly undervalue.
It’s allowing the messenger to be shot on our lily-livered behalf.
Just remember that.
Update to this post: two examples of satire/cartoon comment which hit home for me this morning. Firstly, Steve Bell’s in the Guardian. Secondly, what appears to be Lucille Clerc’s work, at least according to the Independent, can be found here.
Both, for me, make their points most gracefully.