Nobody should have to die just because he’s an asshole. Talk about a holocaust. But Charlie Hebdo was a nasty bigoted shitrag, and I for one decline to join the stampede of righteous indignation — as if some great principle, like free speech for example, were at stake here.
Let’s start with that concept, actually. There is no such thing as free speech, never has been, and probably shouldn’t be. If I walk into a bar and inform the first plug-ugly I see that his mom was recently laid off from a house of ill repute, I’m likely to get pounded for my pains, and quite right too. If the Charlie massacre suggests to smug complacent humorists softly ensconced behind the police lines of the First World that they can’t rely on impunity if they make fun of lesser breeds’ religion, well then, perhaps the Carlists will not have died in vain. I hope Richard Dawkins is holed up in a secure undisclosed location somewhere, quavering like a Victorian soprano, and sporting a false beard and a turban.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the intrinsic charm and value of something called “satire”, as if it were all of a piece. Dean Swift wrote satire, and so did Der Sturmer, a satirical publication much given, like Charlie, to cartoons featuring big noses and bushy eyebrows(*). We can still read the one with pleasure and intense enthusiasm, but the other is pretty distressing. Perhaps the value of satire depends in part on who is being satirized, and why. Perhaps it even depends on who’s enjoying it. There are people with whom I would not care to share even a harmless taste — fly-fishing, say.
Of course what complicates the picture in the case of C-Hebdo is the strong whiff of provocateurism the thing gives off. When something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
(*) Its editor, Julius Streicher, was hanged at Nuremberg. So much for free speech.