01.12.2015 06:16 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: the real haters

[Inspired, in part, by a post from last week.]

God gave us the powers of judgment.

In Her infinite wisdom, She gave us the ability to look, and listen, and consider. She bestowed upon us the ability to recognize that there is, indeed, a qualitative difference between publishing a cartoon poking fun at a religious leader, and publishing a propaganda poster calling for all Muslims to be exterminated.

That distinction was apparently lost on not a few folks the morning after the mass murder at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. If you look at what the French satirical magazine was doing – and it is advisable that you do so – you will see they weren’t in any way agitating for genocide, or knowingly propagating hatred.

Over the years, they were publishing cartoons that poked fun at several religions and religious figures. During the time that they did so, Islam became the world’s fastest-growing religion, at a rate of 2.2 per cent every year. While Charlie Hebdo was publishing satirical cartoons, to put a fine point on it, the sky – filled, as it is, with assorted deities – did not fall.

Decide for yourself. I did. The Charlie Hebdo cartoons are all over the Internet; they’re easy to find. My hunch is that if you look at them, some of you will laugh, some of you won’t, and all of you will go about your day, undeterred.

It should be added, here, that the writer who gratefully occupies this space is no anything-goes libertarian kook. And, in the week following the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, it’s probably not a popular position to take: when it comes to speech, I believe reasonable limits should indeed exist.

Child pornography. Promoting genocide. Denying the Holocaust in the classroom. All of those things are prohibited by Canadian law, as it should be.

There are reasonable and proper limits on human expression, because certain words and images have power. Words and images indeed have the power to wound and hurt and, sometimes, persuade people to kill.

As a society, we should reproach those who use words and images to deliberately or recklessly inflict harm on others – as with the aforementioned child pornography, promotion of genocide or Holocaust denial. And, yes: as society, we are entitled to object to the expression of actual hatred towards religious faiths. Words and images that expose the tenets of a person’s faith to hatred are not helpful. Because expressing actual hatred about someone else’s spiritual beliefs is just that: expressing hatred.

Almost a decade ago, a global debate raged about cartoons depicting the prophet Mohamed as a terrorist – and my colleague Ezra Levant’s decision to display them in the magazine he then published. The cartoons set off a wave of emotional protests and threats on a global scale – and fostered a vigorous debate about what constitutes free speech. Was the publication of those cartoons satirical, or was it hateful?

When we attempt to answer that question – honestly, diligently, impartially – we will quickly ascertain the difference between an act of mischief (say, spray painting a graffiti artist’s tag on the doors of a synagogue), and an actual expression of actual hatred (say, spray-painting “DEATH TO THE JEWS” on the doors of a synagogue). Certain words and images can stir up actual fear and pain and hate. Others don’t, or shouldn’t.

So, again: God gave us the wherewithal to debate and determine where the line should lie. She bestowed upon us critical faculties. We should use them.

When we do so, we know that those who were slaughtered at Charlie Hebdo weren’t in any way propagating hatred or promoting genocide. They were being rude, yes. They were being scurrilous, yes. They were being equal-opportunity offenders, yes. But they weren’t hating anyone.

The real haters, instead, weren’t the men at Charlie Hebdo.

The real haters were the ones who killed them.

8 Comments

  1. bigcitylib says:

    How did the cover showing Boko Harum sex slaves as welfare queens grab you?

    Certainly what they were doing was not hate speech, at least as such laws are constituted in France. And sure, maybe the insulted the pope, who is very powerful, but they also were willing to insult an French minority that is generally speaking at the lower end of the economic scale. As someone has written, white men punching down is not a good model for Satire.

  2. doconnor says:

    Holocaust denial is a good example. It isn’t illegal to deny the Holocaust in Canada. You can teach it in school because it is against the curriculum and unsupported by evidence, just like saying that man years of work counts as jobs created.

    It is just highly offensive to many people, targets one religious group and is strongly suggestive that someone is antisamitic. Those cartoons where highly offensive to many people, targeted one religious group and is strongly suggestive that they where islamophobic.

    People have pointed out they have mocked other religious figures. Jerks like these usually target many groups.

    • smelter rat says:

      So, death to the infidels, then?

      • doconnor says:

        Warren says there is a “qualitative difference” between what Charlie Hebdo has published and “child pornography, promotion of genocide or Holocaust denial”.

        I am saying what Charlie Hebdo does is on the same scale as Holocaust denial.

        Death to nobody.

        Not the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, not the people who killed them, although they where well equipped to fulfill their death wish, not to Osama bin Laden who apparently was murdered by American troops.

  3. EB says:

    Hebdo is offensive to many/all groups on a regular basis. Presumably, they understood that it could provoke a response from those provoked. It is a tragedy that people have died, including innocent hostages. I don’t think that this response was entirely unexpected.

    It is all well and good to debate the finer points of what is a hate crime versus what is free speech. But given the situation we have to acknowledge we are in, is it a wise thing to continuously poke a hornet’s nest with a short stick?

  4. Zardoz says:

    “Zardoz” is banned. If Zardoz comes back, real identity and address will be published, Observant in Corunna. Cops will be notified too.

  5. davie says:

    Apparently the French police are looking for the members of the support group to these two gunmen and the hostage taker (and bomber…and murderer of a police woman) and the mysterious woman who has fled to Turkey. As well, the all four have connections to El Qaida in Yemen, and to ISIS in Syria, (despite the recent rift between El Qaida and ISIS). So it looks as though this was a very large operation, with many people involved, much movement of weaponry, a heck of a lot of secrecy – because it took everyone by surprise, and it just keeps getting bigger and more international.
    And the agenda, the target, of all this, the political aim of all this, was to murder some cartoonists.

    As some guy in the media says…’Question more.’

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