The sad fact is there is no one else to defend them. Satirists are reliant ultimately on the very establishment they mock. That’s the great irony of their situation. — Harry Shearer
I may have mentioned this before but I have been troubled by a tendency here in the United States to be shocked and saddened by horrible events such as killings and assassinations, but only if the victims are “good guys.” Back in the ’60s we experienced the assassinations of of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. But around the same time a totally despicable individual named George Lincoln Rockwell was also assassinated. Rockwell was the leader of the American Nazi party and he was straight out the the Third Reich. But as Americans, we accept that everyone has the right to life, liberty, freedom of speech, etc., so Rockwell’s unpleasant demeanor and political views were protected in this country.
Truth be told, Rockwell’s rights needed to be highly protected and still someone who disagreed with him—probably hated him—was able to violate Rockwell’s rights as an American and leave what many viewed as just another Nazi lying dead on the street in a pool of his own blood.
Today we still honor John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, but who remembers George Lincoln Rockwell? I do. I keep Rockwell’s memory alive (even though I despised the man) to constantly remind myself that freedom in this country applies to all its citizens whether you agree with them or not.
Nowadays America has a growing population of what can only be called religious fundamentalists. On a daily basis we are reminded that unless we conform to the wishes of the right-wing fundamentalists, we are being very naughty and also very un-patriotic. Of course they have it backwards.
What is the difference between the more radical Christian groups in this country and the Islamic terrorists? I could suggest that, given time, the American fundamentalists will begin committing atrocities just like the Islamic fundamentalists, but I would be ignoring the fact that American fundamentalists are already well practiced in overt terrorism—assassinating those who are different, blowing up buildings, violently protesting establishments and individuals for practices the fundamentalists disagree with, etc.
The murder of much of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is being decried around the world but I am also hearing the occasional opinion that those at Charlie Hebdo provoked their own demise. Who else would slaughter human beings for daring to depict their religion in an unfavorable light? Who else would kill to avenge a cartoon?
Well, they’re not quite there yet but give the Christian fundamentalist in America a little time, a shot of that special-brewed American Exceptionalism, and I’m sure they can overcome any lead in death and destruction Islam might now possess. After all, isn’t it reasonable to consider the whole Iraq war an example of American terrorism?
But back to Charlie Hebdo. I have spent much of the morning reviewing some of the satirical graphics from the magazine and I find many hilarious, some disagreeable, and most too local to actually get the joke (it is a French publication after all and even though I read French, I couldn’t tell you anything about the French systems and individuals Charlie Hebdo satirizes). But what is a satirical magazine like Charlie Hebdo was published in the United States? Would we respect and defend the free speech rights of the publication or do you suspect something more dire might occur, like bombing the offices or even killing the perpetrators of the evil satire?
Harry Shearer has a well-considered article in the Daily Beast you should definitely read. It’s titled:
Satirists occupy a perilous position—to skewer dogma and cant, and to antagonize the establishment while needing its protection.