Êtes-vous Charlie?

There was a bit of a discussion on Twitter yesterday about the use of the hashtag “Je suis Charlie.” Some people are uncomfortable about being seen to endorse a publication whose views they did not agree with. Here are two opposing views from George Potter and Caron Lindsay:

Non by George Potter

Let me start by saying that the attack on Charlie Hebdo was a despicable attack on freedom of expression.

However, I am deeply uncomfortable with the use of the phrase “Je suis Charlie”.

Charlie Hebdo was, and is, a racist, xenophobic and bigoted  publication. Sometimes it attacked powerful targets like the Catholic Church but it was largely white men attacking powerless, marginalised and oppressed groups in France, especially Muslims who face horrific levels of discrimination. That’s not “satire”, it’s bullying.

None of this justifies the attack on the magazine. But nor should Charlie Hebdo be free from criticism and nor should our rush to denounce the attack lead us to condone the racism and bigotry of the magazine.

Unfortunately “Je suis Charlie” does just that. It says I am Charlie Hebdo. Imagine if something similar, god forbid, had happened to the EDL or Anjem Choudary’s group who protest the funerals of dead soldiers. Imagine if a KKK organisation in the US had been bombed. Would people really be saying, without even thinking about who they’re endorsing, “I am the EDL”, “I am Choudary” or “I am KKK”?

No they wouldn’t. Yet for some reason people are happy to do this with Charlie Hebdo, just as some as people are happy to start sharing racist Charlie Hebdo cartoons for the sake of “solidarity”.

It is possible to condemn an attack on people without endorsing their viewpoints. Yet “Je suis Charlie” fails to do this. When you say that you are someone, you are endorsing them.

In the UK Muslims routinely face discrimination, being deliberately offended and demonisation. Probably less than five Muslims were involved in the Charlie Hebdo massacre – how does that make it justifiable to endorse a magazine which is part of that problem of demonisation, bigotry and deliberate offence towards Muslims? To me it doesn’t.

But if you are going to shout “Je suis Charlie” in solidarity it would be nice if you also shouted in solidarity with the mosques currently being attacked in France. For some reason very few are though.

Oui by Caron Lindsay

It’s a natural instinct to show solidarity with those who are suffering as a result of any tragedy.

Sometimes there is an important principle at stake, too, that you want to show that you believe in.

When I heard of the murders at Charlie Hebdo’s offices, I felt an immediate empathy with all those who had lost their lives, not just as human beings but as fellow writers and artists. Let’s face it, the men who so cold-bloodedly gunned them down wouldn’t think much of most of my musings. I’m guessing that advocacy of feminism and LGBT+ rights would not meet with their approval.

I wouldn’t have bought Charlie Hebdo. I don’t particularly approve of its brand of satire. It’s not a justification to say that they pick on everybody equally when the playing field is not level. When confronted with an atrocity on this scale, though. I don’t think that the content of the magazine is relevant. George asked on Twitter if it was staff at a lads’ mag or the Daily Mail would I be so willing to espouse such a phrase. Actually, much as I despise those publications, I probably would and it would be all the more powerful for that. Fundamental rights aren’t just for those people you agree with. There is barely a publication on the planet that doesn’t offend with casual sexism, racism or homophobia at some point.

When people are killed for peaceful expression of even disagreeable views, then I feel moved to stand with them and to show compassion to those who mourn. That, to me, is what #jesuisCharlie is about. It’s not an endorsement of everything Charlie Hebdo ever said but it is a statement that they had the right to say it without being mown down at their desks.

I respect those who feel that they don’t want to use that expression. We shouldn’t allow that to become an artificial division when we are all committed to making the world a more open, liberal place. Polarisation is the aim of the terrorists & we mustn’t let it happen.

Pencil & French flag image used to advertise this post in our featured post windows is by Mike Licht (adapted).

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I agree with Caron. “I am Charlie” is not the same thing as “I agree with Charlie”. The statement was a mix of compassion for those who had lost their lives and a robust defence of our personal freedom. But even if you think the words “I am Charlie” give too much solidarity, that is really an argument against the person who originally chose those words, not those who chose to join the meme.

  • George

    “Charlie Hebdo was, and is, a racist, xenophobic and bigoted publication”

    No it was an offensive publication your description suggests differentiation of treatment, which as others pointed out it was happy to direct its offensive lens at any target that it felt like.

    “Imagine if a KKK organisation in the US had been bombed”

    Excuse me? Could you tell me who the staff at Charlie Hebdo killed or fire bombed? I assume you are ignorant of the history of the KKK or you are engaging in exactly what Nick Clegg rightly criticised on the radio the other day.


    Mostly agree.

  • George Potter 9th Jan '15 - 11:57am


    I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse. Just because the people who started the hashtag didn’t stop to think doesn’t mean people aren’t responsible for thinking for themselves before they join in with a meme.

    And there are alternative hashtags – for example, #jesuisahmed – named after the Muslim police officer who died protecting a magazine which insulted his religion and culture. But there many other ways of solidarity too which don’t run the risk of endorsing a racist publication. Such as changing profile pictures to the cartoons of a pencil snapped by a bullet and sharpened into two pencils.

    So I really don’t think that “other people started it, I just copied it” is a justification.

  • Allum Bokhari 9th Jan '15 - 12:16pm

    “Sometimes it attacked powerful targets like the Catholic Church but it was largely white men attacking powerless, marginalised and oppressed groups…”

    Well-meaning, but no thanks. I don’t want to be protected from satire just because of my ethnic background. Naturally I don’t speak for all minorities, but I find the line of reasoning to be perverse. You don’t promote equality by holding people to different social standards. It is paternalistic in the extreme.

    “Charlie Hebdo was, and is, a racist, xenophobic and bigoted publication.”

    Being deliberately offensive and being bigoted are not remotely the same thing. Making an analogy between Charlie Hebdo and the KKK is equally bizarre, and more than a little insulting.

    You are entitled to your opinion of course, but I’m surprised it was given a platform here, at this moment in time.

  • Alan Marshall 9th Jan '15 - 12:22pm

    I agree with Caron. There’s a fundamental principle of free speech here. But there’s also one about equality and not giving any particular group, even religious groups, any special privileges. We know that cartoonists and Journalists across the world are more reluctant to offend Islam than other religions in certain ideas. They wouldn’t print a depiction of Mohammed. Because they would be scared of an attack. It’s not just a few terrorists who might be involved in this. We witnessed scenes across much of the Islamic world of people burning flags, and many of their leaders inciting violence. People die for doing it. We know that the great majority of Muslims don’t fall into this category though. They may be offended, but would rightly condemn violence.

    So the likely consequence of this terrorist attack is that press freedom will be curtailed through self-censorship and fear of being killed. The best way to prevent this is to show solidarity with the magazine in various ways. The simple phrase Je Suis Charlie is like “I am Sparticus”. It’s expressing solidarity with a victim and saying that such an barbarous attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us. It’s akin to #IllRideWithYou in solidarity with Muslims who face intimidation on public transport. An attack on a Muslim on a bus is an attack on all of us. We wont stand for it.

    Another way of showing solidarity is showing the terrorists and their supporters that they haven’t won and that we support in principle people being able to draw cartoons of Mohammed. Not necessarily individual cartoons, but the principle that this is something that is allowed. I considered putting some of their Mohammed pictures up on Facebook. However, I thought this would serve no positive purpose. I don’t think I know of any extremists on here. I did see a few Muslim friends post the copies of Charlie with Mohammed on them though. They were probably making their own political point in a way that I couldn’t.

    But I would tentatively support mass publication of the pictures by newspapers across the world. This would be a very firm statement of a red line that the terrorists haven’t won and cannot win. Then we can get back to hounding out Islamophobia and showing solidarity with oppressed people.

  • Geoffrey payne 9th Jan '15 - 12:25pm

    I admire George for having the courage to write what he has written. I broadly agree with him. However rather than argue my case I strongly recommend LDV readers to read this; http://paper-bird.net/2015/01/09/why-i-am-not-charlie/

  • Jim Forrest 9th Jan '15 - 12:49pm

    Meral Hussein Ece’s responses to other posts in this debate are a lesson in tolerance. We rightly pass laws to protect racial or religious minorities from having bigoted slogans painted on their walls or chanted at them in the streets. But to be offended by a cartoon or an article you first have to hand coins across the counter to buy the publication. Like Meral, I simply ignore those publications which I know contain material which would offend me. To ban an opinion because it MIGHT offend strikes at the heart of freedom just as much as to gun down those who espouse it. And like Meral, I honour the policemen who died defending people whose views they, and I, might have found distasteful.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 9th Jan '15 - 12:53pm

    I agree 100% with Caron and can do no better in response to George than post this link: https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/je-suis-charlie-its-a-bit-late/

  • David Faggiani 9th Jan '15 - 1:01pm

    I agree with points made on both sides, George and Caron both make points very reasonably. Liberalism does sometimes contain complexities not easily answered, but I like this attempt to. I agree with Caron, in a sense, but I suppose, given that I personally have not adopted the meme(moriam), and for some of the reasons he states, I also agree with George.

    I would like to state that I love this format (Question Of The Week with “Yes/No” arguments, then focused comments debate). Is there any chance of seeing this become a weekly feature? The LDV editors could either just pick a question suggested by the week’s events, or pick one from submissions, perhaps? Either way, Yes and No articles could then be commissioned/volunteered, from a rotation of commentators (George & Caron having blazed a trail).

    What does everyone think?

  • Maria Pretzler 9th Jan '15 - 1:14pm

    I think there is a difference between, on one hand, condemning the terrorists’ actions, making clear that CH has a absolute right to publish what it publishes, even to argue that self-censorship should not increase after this and, on the other hand, saying ‘je suis Charlie’.

    One can make the free speech point without having to associate oneself with a publication which was essentially itself an expression of intolerance, re-enforcing, in the name of tolerance, certain prejudices among those sniggering along with it, without really wanting to engage in debate.

    Pointing out that CH is not a publication a sensible liberal wants to be identified with is also not automatically victim blaming. They are clearly not responsible for what happened to them, the terrorists are responsible for the murders and they have no excuse. I just don’t like the idea that their brand of mockery is now quasi-sanctified by martyr status. I don’t think that’s necessary, either.

  • I’d second Geoffrey Payne here, and George’s suggestion of #JeSuisAhmed. The guy who started #JeSuisAhmed said it best IMHO: “I am not Charlie. I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture, and I died defending his right to do so.”
    While I fully endorse Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish whatever the hell they like, I also think an intrinsic part of free speech is the right to criticise them for publishing it – using words, obviously, before anyone accuses me of condoning murder.

  • I agree with this part of what George Potter has written —
    “…When people are killed for peaceful expression of even disagreeable views, then I feel moved to stand with them and to show compassion to those who mourn. That, to me, is what #jesuisCharlie is about. It’s not an endorsement of everything Charlie Hebdo ever said but it is a statement that they had the right to say it without being mown down at their desks…”

    Whilst I was aware of Charlie Hebdo before this week and aware of its role in France, I have never bought a copy and have never read a copy. My O-level /occasional holiday french would probably not be adequate to get all the jokes.

    But the picture that George paints of the people who put Charie Hebdo together may be ill-informed.

    One of the cartoonist killed was George Wolinski the 80 years old man who in 1968 had founded the paper L’Enrag.
    He was born in Tunis. His dad was a Polish Jew and his mum was half Italian, half French. What George says about him and his colleagues does not ring true to me. Someone obviously thought well of him because he was awarded the Legion of Honour ten years ago — which is interesting in itself considering he had spent his adult life lampooning the Paris establishment.
    In UK terms it would be a bit like a cartoonist from Viz being made a Companion of Honour instead of someone like Paddy Ashdown.

    It is difficult to over estimate the importance of the anti-clerical, secular and republican beliefs of French Liberalism.

    An expression of solidarity by people who call themselves Liberals in the UK goes deeper than a slmple holding up of hands in horror at yet another killing in another country. Over recent months many hundreds of people in Nigeria have been butchered by people who straddle the line between organised gangsterism and religious bigotry. Are they any less important being Nigerian or a bit further away? We hear less about that from our Anglo-centric media. But we might question ourselves about why.

    What make the murders in France different is perhaps the fact that it was a direct assault on our values as Liberals — Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

    Nous sommes tous Charlie.

  • Julian Tisi 9th Jan '15 - 1:26pm

    Alan Marshall nails it. I would also thoroughly endorse the link Geoffrey payne added https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/je-suis-charlie-its-a-bit-late/

    Even in our party we have this conflict though – remember when Maajid Nawaz tweeted the offending cartoon with the tagline saying simply “I am not offended by this” – only to receive death threats for doing so. It’s interesting to compare the shamefully mixed reaction then with the unequivocal reaction now.

  • Gary Fuller 9th Jan '15 - 1:32pm

    Great debate. The Twitter side, though, seems to boil down to:

    George: Stop glorifying Islam/Muslims being picked on by not being nuanced enough in your empathy.
    Caron: Empathising in my chosen manner is nuanced and isn’t the same as agreeing or glorifying.
    George: It is the same as glorification to me, if you choose to empathise in the manner you have chosen.

    While the overarching debate is a much more complex, and hugely interesting to me, essentially what we have here seems (to me) to be George falling into the trap of interpreting how Caron (along with various other people) feels about something on the basis of her use of language. I don’t know that this is what George is doing for certain of course. I also don’t know what a hashtag followed by 13 letters says about how Caron, or anyone else, feels or thinks. Thus I choose not to interpret Caron’s choice, or George’s interpretation of that choice, in any way.

  • Reposted from my comment on Caron’s page

    Instinct and compassion goes with using ‘Je suis Charlie’, however my reservations are more about the effect on our cohesive society and in particular the murderers obvious intent of driving a wedge between Muslims and the wider community. I did think of ‘Je suis Charlie ….. Je suis Mohammed’ on the basis that an an attack on a Satirical Paper is an attack on me, even if I disagree with their views, just as, despite being effectively an aetheist, an attack on Islam is also an attack on me. I am looking forward to hearing Maajid on R4 questiontime tonight!

  • Caspian Conran 9th Jan '15 - 1:59pm

    An interesting discussion but a bit of a non debate as it seems to me. George claims only to not like the phrase yet still supports the right of the publication to print.

    I think it is quite clear that one can dislike the content of the publication yet still be a keen defender of the right of that publication to exist and print freely. This boils down to a subjective opinion of what is meant by the phrase. For most the phrase is not intended to condone the content of the publication but merely to support the right of that publication to exist. George has clearly interpreted it a different way by suggesting that the phrase supports the content of the publication. This is a fair opinion; although unorthodox.

    However on the important issue at stake here, freedom of speech, both sides are in clear agreement. Whether one likes the publications content or not is irrelevant; it must remain free to print and offend all manner of peoples as it sees fit. This is the core of our liberal society. We must not be curtailed by any manner of intimidation. If this is lost then all is lost.

  • Saying “Je suis Charlie” shows that one defends the right to a robust, rude, and rowdy liberty of speech against those who would try to shut down speech and only allow tongues the freedom to say what they are allowed to say.
    With all due respect to Ahmed Merabet, no doubt an outstanding and courageous policeman, “Je suis Ahmed” does not say any of that.
    The fact that Charlie Hebdo has printed, and no doubt will continue to print, outrageously offensive cartoons that many people found derogatory, is not merely not a reason to avoid saying “Je suis Charlie,” but is exactly the reason one should. It is not that one agrees 100%, or 50%+, or even 10% with the now-slain Charlie writers. It is that writers must be free to express themselves without being cowed by the threat of death. Once the fringes of speech are shut down, that’s all it takes for more mainstream but still edgy speech to become the fringe. It’s the freedom of those who are out there mingling society-defying opinion with plain bad taste that protects the rest of us.

  • It is facile to compare satire exposing pompous authority with incitement to violence, xenophobia and bigotry. AIUI, Charlie Hebdo has a record of traducing the far right just as much as extreme Islam, and other religions.

    Je suis Charlie, and proud of it!

  • George

    Two points one specifically about your argument and one which regards a sense of “tone” that seems to be bubbling below the surface of many people making similar argument to you.

    “Mocking those in power and authority is satire – mocking the disempowered and oppressed is bullying”

    Your argument can be boiled down to this:
    You can mock and satirise so long as any mocking or satire doesn’t touch in any way someone you deem to be “collateral damage” so Islamic Fundamentalists can’t be mocked in a way that a single non-fundamentalist will find offensive.

    I can respect that argument when expressed by people who are discussing the use of force in war, but not speech.

    They will have published cartoons that I find offensive it doesn’t give me the right to say it shouldn’t be published (though I am free to think less of them and behave accordingly if I valued my feelings above free speech).

    Your logic classifies Monty Pythons Life of Brian as something offensive that shouldn’t have been published because there was a large population of poor Christians in the developing world who would have found the film offensive when it was first released – collateral damage in offense.

    2. The second point has bothered me for some time but the discussion over this topic over the last few days have really brought it out.

    I do hope someday people will stop saying “Muslims find it offensive” some don’t. All religions have teachings that are interpreted in different ways. Islam is a religion with over a billion followers it has different interpretations. Muslims should be given the respect as being regarded as individuals, in the same way people seem capable when discussing the views of Christians.

    Everyone I have noticed when talking about causing offense to Christians say “some Christians”/”most Christians” so as to recognise that they are individuals and should not be regarded as a partially homogeneous block.

    It is the same “block treatment” which causes some to think that somehow the “community leaders” have to issue statements clarifying that that the community they apparently “represent” disagrees with a particular action. I don’t know any Muslims who consider this crime accept able and I am concerned by the implication that they may.

    Muslims who do find a cartoon offensive will not necessarily believe it should therefore not be published. Islam like all religions has layers and different teachings which are interpreted by individuals as they understand their faith. There is a much more complex question of whether banning pictographic representations of key individuals actually constitutes a form of idolatry which is trying to be avoided.

  • Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there were a British publication, run perhaps by people of the UKIP persuasion, which, amongst satire directed at other parties, included some pretty strong language and pictures mocking Liberal Democrats, and portraying Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, et al. in an offensive way. Let’s further say that a tiny group of deranged soi-disant Lib Dems decided to attack this publication to avenge Clegg’s honour, killling several. (This is, I admit, a fantastical scenario.)

    Which of these things do you think is reasonable:
    1) That all Lib Dems should be required to ritually denounce the attack as if they could be presumed to sympathise with it otherwise?
    2) That the denunciations should be tempered with an admission that, well, the publication was pretty offensive?
    3) That anyone should say “Well, of course murder is wrong, but we must understand that Lib Dems would be aggrieved by the way their leader was portrayed”?
    4) That sympathy with the victims of the attack should be derailed to take on any number of other political agendas?

    The common thread behind these responses is that assassinating a bunch of journalists for insulting Nick Clegg is an explicable, understandable response which would naturally be approved of by all Lib Dems, and which can only be averted by removing the cause, namely, insults to Nick Clegg.

    “But,” you will naturally say, “we Liberal Democrats are not roused to a killing frenzy by insults to our political leaders!” And that is quite right. But, as a general matter, Muslims are not so roused either, and to assume that they are is absurd. A resort to murder is by any measure exceptional, beyond the bounds of any expected reaction. There are some who say “nobody should be surprised,” etc. But they are wrong. We should be surprised. Nothing should be allowed to normalise this sort of reaction; nothing should make it seem like a natural reaction, comprehensible, understandable, defensible, justifiable. It is therefore completely irrelevant whether the publication was offensive (to Nick Clegg, or to other gods, saints, and prophets, or anyone else); no amount of offence can explain a murderous response, and no restraint (state-enforced or self-enforced) could have averted it, except those which amount to a dictatorial suppression of all free speech. Anyone who takes offence at a cartoon could easily find any number of trivial offences to his taste. Perhaps our imaginary Lib Dem terrorists could demand that Nick Clegg’s name never be mentioned without adding ritual praises afterwards. Or that his rivals’ pictures never be shown in public. Once one gets to that level of lunacy, there are no possible limits: one cannot appease such people except by allowing them an unlimited dictatorship over expression.

  • Jonathan Bird 9th Jan '15 - 3:28pm

    @ George
    You haven’t produced sufficent evidence that Charlie Hebdo has published racist cartoons. I link to them would be appreciated, so we can make up our own minds.

  • Peter Reynolds 9th Jan '15 - 4:08pm


    Oh dear. A massive blunder on your part. I suggest you retreat, have a long hard think and come back with great humility. That will take great courage but it is the right thing to do.

  • ex Lib Dem voter 9th Jan '15 - 4:12pm

    I voted Lib Dem in 2010. Never again.

    As terrorists attack a jewish shop in Paris, you claim that it is Charlie Hebdo that is racist.
    That’s just obscene. When challenged on it, George provides no support for the claim. Are you aware that Islam is not a race?

    And yet you quote ” They ascribe to the same edgy-white-guy mentality”, ” White men punching down”.
    There’s a word for that sort of comment. Racism.

  • George Turner 9th Jan '15 - 4:17pm

    George, I think you clearly are equating Charlie Hebdo to the KKK and that is completely inappropriate. If your point is simply about people using slogans without thinking about it then it doesn’t go very far and is poorly made.

    Some may have found it provocative and offensive, but that is not the same as being racist, not by a long shot.

    And the article you have linked to says the covers it is showing gives context, but then ignores the context of those covers. The first cover with the journalist from Charlie kissing another muslim man was printed the week after they were firebombed, the title says “love is stronger than hate” and in the background their offices burning. Many thought that was a pretty courageous comeback. I struggle to find the racism in that message.

    The one of Mohamed crying has the headline “Mohamed upset by the fundamentalists” and he is saying “Its difficult being loved by idiots” Now is that a racist picture, or is it a provocative picture which asks whether the profit himself would agree with many of the people claiming to be his adherents and killing in his name. Again, I struggle to see what is racist about criticism of a particular group of religious fundamentalists. I can criticise the Westboro Baptist Church, that doesn’t mean I hate all Christians.

    When Charlie Hebdo was taken to court for promoting hate speech the editor at the time said, I think its racist to think that some people don’t have a sense of humour.

    That is the point isnt it. Your article seems to suggest that it only OK to satirise some people. That Charlie Hebdo, shouldn’t be criticised for portraying Jesus as a cheap magician, or nailed to the cross as a contestant on “I’m a celebrity get me out of here”, but Mohamed is another matter because that will cause offence.

    There is a world of difference between deliberately seeking to offend people for the simple belief that they are somehow physically or constitutionally inferior than you and causing offence because you are engaging in legitimate criticism of beliefs and ideas.


  • Liberal? Don’t make me laugh…Vince Cable on QT was meally mouthed about defending free speech too – the modern liberal party has lost its marbles and is unable to stand by the simple liberal principle of a statement may be bigoted, offensive, racist or anything else but that’s tough – if you don’t like it, argue back – using speech, not buchery…dreadful stuff from the liberals overall.

  • John Vincent 9th Jan '15 - 4:27pm

    Too many high horses. Its a slogan. Its about solidarity. Its about solidarity with fellow european citizens who value free speech. Full stop.

  • George Potter
    Many Muslims play the self pitying victim and it has come to characterise a significant part the community: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddists, Daoists , Confucians and Christians as a rule do not play the self pitying victim. Those who complain of being victimised need to look at the pros and cons of living in this country and compare their attitude with those who have successfully integrated. There was a documentary on Sikhs and they interviewed one elderly former pilot who had flown in the (Battle of Britain and I think he had been awarded the DFC). The former pilot said he was treated very well and during WW2 he was allowed into cinemas without paying. Over the years many Fijians have served in the Army and especially the SAS( including becoming the RSM of 22 SAS) , I have not heard of them complaining of being victimised. Many Hindus and Sikhs have successfully assimilated into the UK; those who were expelled from from East Africa arrived with barely more than a few suitcases of clothes but with a determination to integrate and make a success of their lives: perhaps those muslims who play the victim can learn from them?

    The saying ” Manners Maketh Mann” mean that the manner in which one presents oneself to the World is the manner in which one is judged.

  • Charlie 9th Jan ’15 – 4:35pm
    I was rather hoping that your comment would have simply been —

    Charlie 9th Jan ’15 – 4:35pm. Je suis Charlie

  • Sadie Smith 9th Jan '15 - 4:52pm

    Surprised Hogarth made any progress at all.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Jan '15 - 5:03pm

    @ George Potter.
    I am afraid that I have to disagree with you. I believe that Charlie Hebdo did fight for all of us. The journalists fought for a liberal democratic ideal, a right to a particular way of life.

    I agree that we often curtail our own right to freedom of speech so that we do not offend others. However, in some cases, we self- impose limits on what we say because of fear and a sense of self- preservation and that is a very different matter.

    On the matter of racism, I believe that the partner of the editor Stephane Charbonnier, is of Algerian heritage.

  • George Turner 9th Jan '15 - 5:30pm

    George, your error is in that you assume that Charlie Hebdo is racist and therefore everyone who uses JeSuisCharlie is endorsing a racist publication.

    In reality you are defaming the dead and the only evidence you give to advance your case that Charlie Hebdo is racist is a very poorly written blog post which is not an accurate representation of their work.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jan '15 - 5:33pm

    Yesterday some fantastic articles showed why people should support the Lib Dems (including the Simon Hughes video). However today, George’s statement shows why people shouldn’t.

    Let’s quickly move on from this and get back to campaigning and high quality analysis.

  • Potter just doesn’t “get it” does he? Defending freedom speech isn’t just about defining the rights of those you agree with but MUST also include those whose views are also anathema. I would feel just as angry if the offices of the SWP had been attacked, or even Mr Choudary, mentioned in Potter’s blog post, who must surely rank as one the most repulsive people in this great country of ours.

  • sackcloth and ashes 9th Jan '15 - 6:29pm

    Wow, just wow.

    I think George Potter needs to stop calling himself a ‘liberal’. And maybe some basic research is in order.

    Charlie Hebdo had a pop at everyone. It satirised Michel Houllebecq as well as Omar al-Baghdadi. It printed cartoons showing rabbis snogging Nazi officers, as well as insulting Christianity. It did not pick on Muslims.

    As for the comparison with the KKK, please tell us (from an examination of their output) when they encouraged violence against French Muslims. Please tell us when someone inspired by a Charlie Hebdo cartoon pitched a firebomb at a mosque, or shot an imam.

    As for marginalised minorities in France, there is one that has escaped your attention. It is one which is mocked by comedians doing fascist-style salutes, that has had its places of worship attacked, and which has been the subject of terrorist attacks against unarmed civilians. It is also one where there is a recent surge in numbers seeking to emigrate, because they feel that France is no longer a safe place for them.

    They’re not Muslims, by the way. But given their ethnicity and religion I don’t expect the party of Jenny Tonge and David Ward to care about them.

  • James M. Gowland 9th Jan '15 - 7:11pm

    This is the most offensive article I’ve ever read…

  • Lee_Thacker 9th Jan '15 - 8:28pm

    There is another slogan going across the internet: #JeSuisAhmed “I am not Charlie. I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture, and I died defending his right to do so.”

    Does anyone know where it comes from? Was Ahmed definitely a practising Muslim? None of the media reports I have seen state he was. It looks to me like outsiders are imposing their agenda on him. For all we know he did not regard himself as part of the Muslim and agreed with Charlie Hebdo mocking Islam. If anyone knows any different I would be pleased to see a link.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 9th Jan '15 - 9:18pm

    @ James Gowland,

    Really? You must lead a relatively sheltered life, given some of the stuff I see on the Internet in surprisingly mainstream places. But it would be helpful if you could explain why, given that the article consists of two opposing views… I am genuinely interested in hearing your view.

  • Charlie Hebdo is not a racist publication – it is not even a right-wing one. Here is a French person giving some context:


    but please, continue to judge a magazine you have most likely never read a single copy of by some out-of-context cartoons, and your perception of it as someone completely outside of French political culture.

  • @George Potter
    “But if you are going to shout ‘Je suis Charlie’ in solidarity it would be nice if you also shouted in solidarity with the mosques currently being attacked in France. For some reason very few are though.”

    I’m not sure it’s possible to show solidarity with a building.

    You say we should reject those who write racism and bigotry. Would you extend this to the writers of racist and bigoted religious texts?

    I haven’t seen that many Charlie Hebdo cartoons, but most of the ones I have seen seem to have been attacking racism and bigotry rather than perpetrating it.

  • stuart moran 9th Jan '15 - 10:51pm

    George Potter

    Do you think you are being stopped from criticising them? I get the feeling there a lot of straw men being set up here

    There are a lot of people who are happy to say Je suis Charlie…that is fine, I am one of them. There are others who found their cartoons offensive and don’t want to and there is no problem with that either

    What I cannot agree with though is the hinting that they deserved their deaths. That they brought it on themselves because they were offensive and the comparing of them to hate groups.

    You also need to take into account the different culture in France….do you have any experience of living or working with the French, or even speaking their language?

    France is very secular…it is one of the bases of their state…..they have no reverence for religion enshrined in law (no blasphemy, no banning of the showing the image of Mohammed, no promotion of religion etc) and so it is not uncommon to see mocking of religion by some of the radicals. The cartoons need to be understood in the context of French cartoons since the 60s. Also this is the biggest terrorist incident in France since the beginning of the 60s and so it is not surprising there is a strong reaction

    They are not racist or xenophobic though, although there are some times I am uncomfortable with them, but religion is not a race.

    In the end though, no-one wants you to be forced to be Charlie but is anyone doing that.

  • Charlie Hebdo a fort défendu le droit de contester les idées, quelles qu’elles soient, il n’a attaqué personne pour leurs origines. Tous ceux qui chérissent les idées sont Charlie.

  • Kenan Malik puts it very eloquently in the article already linked to, above: ‘What is really racist is the idea only nice white liberals want to challenge religion or demolish its pretensions or can handle satire and ridicule. Those who claim that it is ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ to mock the Prophet Mohammad, appear to imagine, with the racists, that all Muslims are reactionaries. It is here that leftwing ‘anti-racism’ joins hands with rightwing anti-Muslim bigotry.’

  • Jim Forrest said: “Like Meral, I simply ignore those publications which I know contain material which would offend me. To ban an opinion because it MIGHT offend strikes at the heart of freedom”

    Well, a generation ago we in the UK decided we would no longer just ignore the many publications which called people niggers, or which advertised lodgings for NO COLOUREDS. We did that because these publications were racially offensive. We passed a law prohibiting publications that were clearly racially offensive. We were broadly following a British tradition which criminalises “behaviour liable to cause a breach of the peace”. That tradition also puts the onus on a jury to decide, as and when necessary, whether a “reasonable person” would consider that the behaviour complained of was liable to cause a breach of the peace, and not just a trivial jape. I think Britain did all this quite well.

    Some people on this thread have called for careful examination of what exactly Charlie Hebdo published, to decide whether or not it was unacceptably racist. I think that in a sense, that is beside the point. I think that free speech as its limits, one should not be free to shout “Fire!” in a crowded cinema, and one should not be free to break the reasonable race relations laws that we have in this country. That is the principle we should follow, and it makes no difference to that principle whether one thinks that Charlie Hebdo always kept within that principle, or whether one thinks that they sometimes broke it.

    And of course (just to be clear), if indeed they did sometimes break it, then they should have been penalised under the law, and thus brought to understand and respect the limits of our tolerance for racial or religious provocation. Nothing but nothing but no way remotely justifies murder.

  • Typo: in 3rd para it should say “free speech HAS its limits”

  • Married to a Muslim 10th Jan '15 - 1:33am

    Islam is not a race. It’s a belief system. The Muslims of Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, China, India and, yes, white Europe are all different races. Ergo how on earth can you describe caricaturing Islam as racist? Utter nonsense.

  • jeremy young 10th Jan '15 - 3:45am

    re: Charlie Hedbo
    “Sometimes, humor is just a way of calling attention to the contradictions or the hypocrisy that’s going on officially. That’s the function of humour, it can alter your reality.”
    Paul Kassner

    re: George
    Unfortunately @Peter Reynolds your advice is unheeded.

  • Mark Valladares 9th Jan ’15 – 9:18pm
    @ James Gowland,
    ” Really? You must lead a relatively sheltered life, ”

    Good point, Mark Valladares. One might also assume that James Gowland never looked at Charlie Hebdo. I am no expert on Charlie Hebdo but I believe those involved who said that often their very intention was to be offensive.

    On this side of the English Channel I find lots of things offensive from the entrenched privilege and wealth of the monarchy to the bedroom tax. I read articles about them in the mainstream media all the time. There are very offensive.
    I only have to open up a copy of The Sun or The Mail to find much more offensive articles than this one by George Potter. Goodness knows what James Gowland has been reading if this is the most offensive thing he has ever read.

    BTW — has anyone ever been in a crowded cinema when someone has shouted FIRE ? As far as I am aware there is no law against it, it simply does not happen. Yet over the last couple of days I have listened to this cliche roll out on various Tvand Radio discussions. The media is often like an echo chamber.

  • http://www.quora.com/What-was-the-context-of-Charlie-Hebdos-cartoon-depicting-Boko-Haram-sex-slaves-as-welfare-queens

    Some useful context.
    For those who were not too familiar with Charlie Hebdo (as I was not).

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 9:50am

    Now this is the true viper in the bosom

    It is this type of communication that is dangerous and unacceptable, but he is only the most powerful media magnate on Earth so that is all right then!

    When will a Government have the nerve to cut him adrift


  • Je suis Charlie. After the massacres in Paris I am proud to say this, no matter how much it upsets LibDems like George, or for that matter the Islamic fundamentalists. The magazine Charlie Hebdo satirised every one and everything. It is hardly a voice for the KKK, the EDL or Jihadists for that matter. To make this statement is both false and somehow typically LibDem. To publish it on the day of the massacres is just despicable.

  • Tsar Nicolas 10th Jan '15 - 10:16am

    Je ne suis pas Charlie.

    I say that because I find it hard to buy into the official story that this was about free speech. I think it is far more plausible to see this as a false flag attack as a warning to Francois Hollande for daring to suggest that sanctions against Russia should be lifted and that France should re-assert the right to protect its own sovereign interests.

    But even if I am wrong, I question the sincerity of many of those – the same ones who were outraged at the remarks of our Bradford MP – calling for the right to criticise religion ( a right I very much believe in). Will those people now say that it is OK for French comedians not to be attacked for satirising what they see as the Holocaust industry. Or are there very real limits to free speech after all?

  • I have only ever briefly read Charlie Hebdo on trips to France. My understanding of French language and humour is not good enough for me to understand it fully but I am certain that it was not a racist, bigoted or xenophobic publication. It seems to have arisen out of 1960’s counterculture and the May 1968 protests. It seems to have attacked bigotry, prejudice, hypocrisy, fanaticism and racism. If it was racist then show me editiorials in it that supported racist organisations. I suspect you won’t find any….The writers were not all “white men”. It contained columns about diverse subjects such as economics and relationships. I have no idea whether some people from Muslim backgrounds actually enjoyed some of it’s satires on extremism but I have no doubt that all it’s contributors opposed racism, bigotry and xenophobia.

  • David Evershed 10th Jan '15 - 10:46am

    My interpretation of “Je suis Charlie” is that I am in favour of the freedom to publish my ideas.

    George Potter’s interpretation is that it means I agree with what the magazine has written.

    In my view George’s interpretation is wrong.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 10:50am

    Tsar Nicolas

    Fine, but I find you reasoning a tad far-fetched

    As to Holocaust denial etc; firstly, I think there is a specific law in quite a few countries dealing with holocaust denial – often linked with their own history. You can argue whether there should be these laws.

    Of course there are limits to free speech and these have been well-discussed and at the interfaces there is some grey area – anti-semitism is one we see often discussed and it will continue to be so because it is here I think most of the sensitivities lie. These are due to the Holocaust, history, the political situation of Israel, designation of the Jews as a race etc. I do not think we should muddy the waters of this particular case with the Jewish discussion. I have my own views on this but will wait until a more appropriate time to share them

    Belief systems should in no way be protected (political, religious) from mockery, satire etc in law. The phrase ‘in law’ is important as there are other things that prevent people saying things such as taste, friends, their own beliefs and values etc.

    The question of ‘Je suis Charlie’ is also a little bit complex and we should be a little careful in how we interpret it when people say it. I guess on here most people who are either Charlie or not are actually pretty much in agreement on most of the principles. For me who is a Charlie, I am much closer in values to a George Potter who isn’t than to a Farage (whom I guess would say he is Charlie)

  • Brian Williams 10th Jan '15 - 10:53am

    This article is a classic example of why your party will likely disappear without a trace at the next election. Never have you been more out of touch with the principles of freedom and liberty.

  • Brian Williams 10th Jan '15 - 10:57am

    A further comment: If it is only ok to print Left-wing satire or to mock disagreeable attitudes by majorities, then the whole principle of satire is destroyed. My feeling is that any orthodoxy is fundamentally suspect, and satire is a tool to test such orthodoxies. Clearly the extent of cultural Marxism in our country is now such that the only acceptable form of humour and satire is that which mocks traditional English and conservative (small “c”) principles – in fact, anything which opposes Marxist narratives.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 11:00am

    David Evershed

    That is fine from your point of view but from the other angle I am not so sure it is – there is no definition of ‘Charlie’ – it is often the person who holds that view who makes the choice themselves

    A Farage, Le Pen, Griffin etc may also be Charlie because they want to have the right to publish and offend but to places that I would vehemently oppose. It will not stop me say ‘Je suis Charlie’ but I am not saying that I agree with their interpretation of it either

    I respect George’s view (I have said above why I do not agree with him necessarily) and he is saying by being Charlie makes him feel like he is condoning the cartoons. He has every right to say that and I would say my values are much closer to his that the 3 people I mentioned before

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 11:03am

    Brain Williams

    What are you on about?

    “Clearly the extent of cultural Marxism in our country is now such that the only acceptable form of humour and satire is that which mocks traditional English and conservative (small “c”) principles – in fact, anything which opposes Marxist narratives”

    I am an Englishman so can you please give me some examples of traditional English values that are being unfairly (in your view) satirized.

    I believe I see many cases of ‘political correctness’ being satirized and the Daily Mail is surely one big satirical publication (please don’t tell me it is real!)

  • The number of people in this thread who are accusing George of wanting to do all sports of things he has clearly said he doesn’t beggars belief. George had clearly said several times that he supports the magazine’s right to publish whatever they like he’s just not going to say he IS them. For this he has been told he isn’t a liberal, and accused of all sorts of things besides. I think a lot of the commenters on this thread need to take a good hard look at themselves.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 11:35am


    George did say they were racist and used a comparison with the KKK – it is that that has probably created some of the heat. I think he could have used a little more judicious choice of words

    He also makes some accusations that have been responded to by people who know the French culture, language and place of satire better than him – I ask if he speaks French well enough to get the nuances – I do and I can see some of the reasons why his interpretation is simplistic

    If he had said that he is not Charlie because he found the cartoons offensive, and that because of that he feels calling himself Charlie would be wrong then I totally agree with him. If he also said he felt that some of the cartoons pushed the boundaries of acceptability then I could also agree with him, and probably the dead cartoonists would too

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 10th Jan '15 - 11:51am

    I’m of the view that one should reflect a little upon why you are Charlie before blithely declaring “Je suis Charlie”. Whilst George was somewhat intemperate in his approach, he makes some points which deserve a respectful hearing, rather than simply responding in kind.

    The right to free speech does come with some responsibilities, and society places some limits upon it – defamation and intimidation are restricted, for example. Our actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences fall upon innocent bystanders. I merely ask people to reflect upon the idea that doing something because you can means that you should be doing it.

    George defines himself as a liberal, as I do. We find ourselves on opposite sides of an argument from time to time – I’m not entirely sure that we do here, although there may be more than one fence – but I wouldn’t doubt his liberalism or his compassion. As Jennie says, can we stop with the accusations and focus on the issue?

  • Well said, Jennie. It is worth considering that a good number of commenters here are visitors, after clicking on a link on a site named after the leader of a November 5th coup attempt.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 12:03pm

    Mark Vallederes

    I agree with your post – but why should only people who say they are Charlie reflect?

    Surely those who say they are not should also reflect on why not?

    As there is no definition we should not jump to any conclusions

  • Tsar Nicolas 10th Jan '15 - 12:10pm

    stuart moran 10th Jan ’15 – 10:50am

    Tsar Nicolas

    “Fine, but I find you reasoning a tad far-fetched”

    Thanks for at least engaging.

    I, too, found the idea that western states would perpetrate outrages and blame them on other groups such Communists and right-wingers ‘far-fetched,’ until in 1990 the Italian PM announced just that.

    The political violence experienced across that troubled land in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s turned out to have been fomented under the aegis of the state. This was admitted by then prime minister Andreotti in a statement to Parliament in 1990.

    It was known as Operation Gladio.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 10th Jan '15 - 12:14pm


    Only perhaps because there are a lot of people out there who aren’t engaged in the debate. And, occasionally, we are duty bound to remember that it is only a minority of us who use Twitter or other social media.

    This particular debate is going on over the heads of many people whose thoughts are of concern for those who died and their loved ones and/or a touch of fear for what might happen next. And, to be frank, there aren’t so many people who reflect on issues of free speech beyond a general sense that it should exist.

    Those who have chosen, for whatever reason, to declare “je suis Charlie” have taken a positive action – we really can’t tell what anyone else has chosen to do unless they have declared that they aren’t, or have reservations.

  • Tsar Nicolas 10th Jan '15 - 12:14pm

    Paul Walter 10th Jan ’15 – 11:58am

    “a November 5th coup attempt.”

    Funny you should mention 5/11, Paul.

    It is the case that for at least a century after this infamous conspiracy, most British historians, Protestant as well as Catholic, considered that Guido and his fellow conspirators , had been set up by the Secretary of State, Sir Robert Cecil.

    The only recent mainstream media attempt at even hinting at this was to be found in an episode of the kids’ programme, “Horrible Histories.”

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 12:15pm

    Tsar Nicolas

    I did look up Gladio after your last post on it, and it is indeed incredible

    I think we can then use this to jump to conclusions in every incident but you are right that we should not underestimate too much the carrying on done by the bottom feeders in our Governments probably without any democratic control. I do not doubt there are some who will welcome this type of incident to allow the security apparatus to expand further out of our sight

    For these it is a game to play and I don’t think we civilians know the half of it

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 12:20pm


    Yes I take that point but there are others who are actively saying they are not as well. I make no comment on those who have not expressed a view (I have no right to and also no right to ask)

    I think those, such as George, who take a clear choice to say ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’ should also reflect on why that is as well

    There are good reasons for both and, as I said, this is a personal definition. My definition is different from George’s which is why we say differently . if the definition was fixed then we would possibly agree whether we were or not

    I am also a bit bemused by Paul Walter’s post – I responded to Jennie as to why I think George has had a bit of a hard time, and that he could have perhaps used more judicious terminology. I am no sure who all these ‘visiting posters’ are though as by and large it has been regulars who have contributed and most of the visitors (as far as I can see) have made sensible contributions on an emotive subject

  • @David Allen
    “Well, a generation ago we in the UK decided we would no longer just ignore the many publications which called people niggers, or which advertised lodgings for NO COLOUREDS.”

    It seems hard to believe, but racist adverts for lodgings are still found in Britain :-


    A poster here claims that such ads are common even in her university library :-


    What I find particularly troubling about George’s comments here is that he explicitly argues that some groups in society should be given more protection from criticism than others, on the grounds that “punching downwards” is worse. I think this is a grave error. It’s the kind of thinking that allows racist adverts such as those linked to above to continue, and the end result is that more and more people are driven to the likes of UKIP. This helps nobody in the long run.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 1:37pm

    Sorry George

    Lost me when he said ‘flicking through translated copies of the cartoons’.

    I can accept that they weren’t very good in some cases, childish in others but you need to be able to read them properly and put them in context. Satire out of context is difficult to interpret. Do you speak French, have you lived there and understand where this type of magazine sits in their culture?

    We understand you are not Charlie. Fine and cool with that. We know the muslims in France are going to find it hard as well.

    Calling them racist and using the KKK was not, however, a good way to make your argument as I think it has undermined the point you were trying to make

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Jan '15 - 3:19pm

    I am not impressed with Dan Falchikov’s comment:

    “George Potter – the French philosopher Voltaire didn’t actually say ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ but it is a lesson you should learn.

    But Voltaire did say ‘I have only ever made one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.’ – I suspect those who attacked Charlie Hebdo will go down in history as ridiculous – as you and others will who give them succour.”

    Nowhere has George said anything that implies that he thinks that the horrific actions of the murderers were justified. What he is saying is that he interprets those of us saying “Je suis Charlie” as endorsing all of the content of the magazine. Most of us view it as an affirmation of the right to us all to be free to express our views. As I said in my piece, much of what I’ve written in the past would have got up the nose of the murderers.

    I think what George was doing was asking us to consider where the boundaries of solidarity lie. That’s all. It was a debating point not a direct comparison. I don’t think the analogy works – I think the Daily Mail one works better – but I would not doubt either George’s liberalism or that his heart is in the right place.

  • First, I agree with Caron, but can emphasise with George’s position, but I cannot agree with it because:

    1 = there is a difference between being racist and being prejudice against a religious group. Muslims are not a racial group. I think this is important here because one of the things that leads to the tension between Muslims and other groups is that they are seen in an erroneous and simplistic light that dehumanises them. The oppression of Muslims in XinJiang, China is a perfect example of this.

    2 = there is a difference between being offensive and bigoted. To be offensive is ridicule a certain aspect (or aspects) of another. To be bigoted is to remove, degrade or prejudice their rights due to those aspects. This is important because Charlie was clearly offensive (and in my opinion tasteless), but his creators were not advocating the reduction of rights in the same way that groups such as EDL and KKK do.

    3 = to say that the writers equal treatment of all is not important due to the unequal position of Muslims is erroneous and flawed logic in the extreme. First, it is important as it means they were not victimising anyone, but ridiculing everyone, so this cannot be prejudice. Secondly, your position implies that Muslims are a class that require the paternalistic defence of the state more than other groups, and that ‘White men’ have less rights to do things due to their stronger position in society. Would we say men have less right to not be subject to sexual harassment from women just because their positions in society are unequal? That is not liberalism because it is not about maximising freedom and liberty of all, but about predetermining your treatment of individuals based on their group classifications. Had several Muslim people been killed by several white, male, fundamentalist Christians for drawing offensive in the extreme images of Jesus, the Muslim would have been no more or less righteous in their drawings just because their position in society can be deemed unequal to those they are offending: nor would the killing of them be any more (or less) horrific.

  • Sorry, click submit by mistake.

    4 = Finally, correct me if I am wrong, but was the point of Charlie not just to offend, but to make the point that no one should be free from criticism. They did it as a protest against self-censorship. Please do correct me if I am wrong, but I do think it is important as a contextual point that this was not being offensive for the sake of being offensive. Though, one could argue the principles are the same even if it was.

  • Lee_Thacker 10th Jan '15 - 7:15pm

    Jean Marie Le Pen, the father figure of French fascism, does not like the Je Suis Charlie slogan. He sees them as a bunch of anarcho-trotskyists. I don’t subscribe to the “Your enemy’s enemy is your friend.” However, if the people at Charlie Hebdo really were bigoted racists you would have thought he would have had warmer words for them.


  • Lee_Thacker 10th Jan '15 - 7:21pm

    Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of French fascism, has gone on record as saying he will not have anything to do with the “Je Suis Charlie” movement. He regards the editorial team at Charlie Hebdo as anarchists. If they were racists or bigots surely he would have had warmer words for them?

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th Jan '15 - 9:09pm

    @Lee_Thaxker The police officer, Ahmed Merabet was a Muslim of Algerian heritage. If you’d have watched his family’s press conference, you’d have heard the incredible dignity they displayed in the face of tragedy. They asked that their religion not be associated with these extremists. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/charlie-hebdo-brother-of-killed-algerian-officer-says-do-not-mix-up-extremists-with-muslims-9970046.html

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th Jan '15 - 9:20pm

    I think George is being given a hard time here. Anyone would think we don’t support freedom of speech or expression on Lib Dem Voice. It’s perfectly possible to support the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish their cartoons, but we are not duty bound to like them. I find them unfunny, crude, and repellent, and yes some of them are racist. Can anyone tell me what else a cartoon of the black Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, depicted as a monkey can be called? I cannot imagine Private Eye would go with such a cover.

  • @Meral Hussein Ece
    “Can anyone tell me what else a cartoon of the black Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, depicted as a monkey can be called?”

    It was a direct (and scathing) satire of racist comments that had been made by a National Front politician and a right-wing genuinely racist publication called “Minute”. At least that’s what CH’s editors claimed and it’s certainly how their readers saw it according to comments on the web. The following forum post gives some useful context :-


    Not speaking French, and not being fully aware of the context, it’s impossible for me to judge for myself. But it’s worth noting that the French National Front candidate who made the original “monkey” comment that was being satirised was imprisoned for 9 months under France’s strict anti-racism laws whereas the CH cartoonist certainly wasn’t – though he’s since been subjected to a rather more severe form of retribution for some of his other cartoons.

  • Sorry, I meant to include this link as well :-


    Note the contribution by the Charlie Hebdo editors condemning the racism of the publication (Minute) that they were lampooning.

  • @ Meral Husein Ece Yes, I did listen to the press conference. You are right it was very moving. Nonetheless, I am still none the wiser as to his religious beliefs or philosophy of life. The speaker describes him as being of “confession musulmane,” but does not elaborate further. The slogan that is going round says the newspaper ridiculed his faith.
    For all we know he hated fundamentalist religion and enjoyed reading Charlie Hebdo.

    George Potter has been given several hundred words to defend his position so I am not sure how it can be said we Liberal Democrats do not believe in freedom of speech. He states, “Charlie Hebdo was, and is, a racist , xenophobic and bigoted publication,” without offering much evidence other than a few critical blogs to back up what he is saying.

    According to Wikipedia the magazine has been running since 1960 including an eleven year break. It would be surprising if in that period they had not said or done anything stupid.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 10:41pm


    I think this is where you have made a mistake of trying to read a satire in a foreign language out of context. I assume you are not a French speaker and have not looked at the what this was all about and the play on words in the title

    I have made some criticisms of what George said but unfortunately none of them have been addressed, rather people like you have just repeated them.

    I pointed out that the accusation of racism could only be made after you had understood the context and spoke the language – too many people on here have just read a translated picture without even bothering to look at whether it can be justified when in context

    George has every right to say he is not Charlie because he didn’t like the photos, but to accuse people who have just been murdered of being racist without doing a bit more due diligence left him open.

    I could also interpret his comments as being ‘terrible they got shot but they did bring it on themselves’ but, fortunately, I have seen his posts and know he would not want that to be the case…s I give him the benefit of the doubt even though I would say he should be very careful about what analogies he uses in the future

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 10:49pm


    George has posted a number of links and comments that say that the people killed were racist (let us not beat around the bush here – that is what he is suggesting until he says otherwise, and Meral supported that argument in the last contribution)…..and he has not tried to qualify what he said after this has been pointed out

    If he wants to say otherwise he just has to say that – in fact I will make it simple for him by asking a closed question

    George, do you think that the cartoonists, specifically Charb, were racist?

  • Graham Evans 10th Jan '15 - 10:57pm

    The problem with vague phrases like Je suis Charlie is that everyone can place their own interpretation on them. If people cannot even agree on the meaning of a phrase then there is little likelihood that any meaningful conclusion will be achieved, and therefore little of value can come out o the debate. I think most people will agree that murder was a totally inappropriate respond to the CH cartoon, so I will not comment further on when or if violence is a justifiable response to oppression, whether perceived or real. What is regrettable is that it takes a terrorist outrage to get us all, and particularly those of us who call ourselves liberals, thinking about the concept of free speech in a multicultural, liberal democracy. We all know that in practice thee will be limits, some legal, some merely based on respect for other people’s sensitivities. Unless we have this debate on an ongoing basis the response to the depiction of figures reverred by many, or the use of certain words once commonplace but now considered by some as offensives, racist, sexist, or homophobic, will not be based on calm analysis, or a mere shrug of the shoulder, but rather on a sort of mob rule, no longer on the streets of London but instead propagated through the world wide web.

  • @Meral, I am sorry, but people are not giving George a hard time at all. As far as I can see most people have been very polite, but some have disagreed quite firmly, but fairly, with some of his points of view: aka, there has been a debate. He has the freedom to express his view and we have the freedom to disagree openly with him. Your comment is closer to shutting debate than anyone who has disagreed with George. I admit I may have missed a few comments, but I do not believe anyone has said they disagree with George’s right to express his views, even when comparing (quite unfairly it seems) several individuals to extremist racist groups. It should also be noted that George is a very popular individual on this site, who people (myself included) have defended very strongly when he was unfairly criticised, such as when a certain Tory decided that his dress sense is more important than his opinion.

    In relation to the image you mention, as I have said, I do not like these publications, so will not defend them as good or right, but I will based on the evidence given to me judge them as fairly as I can – and as has been explained, they are not racist. As far as can be seen that publication was against racism, not for it. You may disagree with the channel they used to make their viewpoint and believe it to be offensive, but to call that racist is erroneous.

  • jeremy young 10th Jan '15 - 11:33pm

    @Brian Willams
    “A further comment: If it is only ok to print Left-wing satire or to mock disagreeable attitudes by majorities, then the whole principle of satire is destroyed. My feeling is that any orthodoxy is fundamentally suspect, and satire is a tool to test such orthodoxies. Clearly the extent of cultural Marxism in our country is now such that the only acceptable form of humour and satire is that which mocks traditional English and conservative (small “c”) principles ”

    Oh the irony!

    Charlie Hebdo is/was… and always has been… a ‘left wing’ satyrical magazine.

    Where you have a point a point is if you define cultural Marxism, as unthinking dog whistle politics.

    There is something rather delicious about people condemning the cartoons, and the magazine as a whole, as racist (no doubt there will be a boycott of Quentin Blake in the near future). Ok it’s in French – but if you like a cryptic puzzle there is always Google translate – out of context – but it is fairly easy to check the date, particularly of the covers, and google to find out what news event they are referring to – and because someone has told them it is.

    It rather reminds me of those library panels in America that banned The Diary of Anne Frank because it was ‘too depressing’ and Huckleberry Finn because of the liberal use of the ‘n’ word, choosing to ignore the fact that it is marvelously fierce and frank anti-slavery tract.

  • Stuart Moran,

    “do you think that the cartoonists, specifically Charb, were racist?”

    Here is what I would put forward as a carefully considered and profound viewpoint: I don’t bl**dy know!

    I don’t bl**dy know because, as posts above, it is easy to get lost when a linguistic game of bluff and double bluff is being played with racist commentary in a foreign language and culture. I don’t bl**dy know what might be considered fair comment about a publication if it contained a mixture of campaigning journalism and humour some of which might have tended toward the racially provocative.

    So I want to express sympathy and solidarity with Charlie, but I think it was just an unwise choice of words to suggest that all supporters of free speech are Charlie. Frankly it’s just an unhelpful degree of identification with what appears to be a rather specific political standpoint.

    Suppose the atrocity had been against the Labour Shadow Cabinet. Would we all be going around saying “I am Labour”? Hardly. Not because we would have had anything but sympathy with the victims and with their right to say what they believe. Just because there are better ways to condemn murderers and to support free speech.

  • stuart moran 11th Jan '15 - 12:15am

    David Allen

    Calm down sir!

    I didn’t direct the question to you and obviously it is a good job because you don’t know and that is why you would not have made the accusation that they were. If you look back at George’s original article where he talks about the KKK and a later post links to a blog calling them racist (based on flicking through some translations) then do you understand why some of us ask that question? He didn’t need to say it to make his argument

    I therefore ask him directly for a clarification

    As to your points, then fair enough – you see what ‘Je suis Charlie’ means differently to what I do and I mentioned in another post (added to by Graham Evans) that there is no definition so each person makes up their own. In that respect there is no right or wrong and I don’t expect everyone to agree.

  • OK. I was going to start by quoting references to Islam made in the media over the years which were considered amusing at the time, but would nowadays be thought of as disrespectful. But no. I cannot. If I want my comment published on LDV, I simply cannot go there.

    But I do have something to say about humour and satire. Back in the early 1960s, before he rebranded himself as a reactionary Christian, the late Malcolm Muggeridge told Richard Ingrams, who had just become editor of “Private Eye”, that everything, absolutely everything had to be subjected to satire. Indeed, the more sacred, the more culturally sensitive the topic, the more important it was to poke fun at it. Muggeridge asked Ingrams to name someone who was universally considered saintly. Ingrams replied: “Albert Schweitzer.” So Muggeridge said: “Have a go at old Schweitzer.”

    Take a look at the following:


    In Euskal Herria, Benito Lertxundi is a national treasure. He is widely revered for his work in promoting the national language in difficult times. But a Basque language TV station is perfectly happy to poke fun at him. And that is a sign of a healthy society.

    Now, before we get too sanctimonious about the state of free speech in the UK, I would remind readers that we have an infamous piece of legislation called the Malicious Communications Act 1988 which allows judges to imprison people for saying rude things on Twitter on the basis of the judge’s own personal preferences. Last year, a young bloke wrote a comment on Twitter about a murdered teacher. I did not personally find it offensive. And if it really was so offensive that the rest of us have to be protected from it (though not the court), and the perpetrator punished in such an extreme and disproportionate fashion, why was it OK for the newspapers to repeat it in full?

  • A bunch of cartoonists were murdered for the most crazy of reasons and yet here it feels like it is the victims who are on trial. Not LDV’s finest hour.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jan '15 - 2:23am

    Some of Charlie Hebdo’s previous work has been making me laugh. They were smart and funny and we mustn’t let the terrorists win. I might start reading it more often. Not for provocation, but because it makes me chuckle.

    I’m still against being overtly provocative on this subject. I’m not going to start angrily posting pictures of Mohammed on Facebook or elsewhere to make a point.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jan '15 - 6:35am

    In fact I think I’ve made a mistake. It seems that more Muslims than I thought can be genuinely hurt by seeing public depictions of their prophet. Maybe it is fine inside the cover.

    I’m not a libertarian and I do value community too. I’m certainly not a coward, I’m proud to value community.

    Je suis Charlie et Ahmed et tout le monde mal dans l’attaque.
    I am Charlie and Ahmed and everyone else hurt in the attack (I think I got my French right).

  • @Paul Walter
    Apparently Muggeridge turned up 15 minutes late for a screening of “Life of Brian”, hence missing the establishing scenes demonstrating that Brian was not Jesus. This led him to believe that the film was a direct send-up of Christ, and he attacked Python on that basis.

    Which is not too dissimilar to the way some posters here have condemned certain CH cartoons as racist, despite not understanding the language, culture and/or context of the cartoons.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Jan '15 - 10:27am

    Why are people being so literal?

    I have ‘liked’ a, ‘JeSuisAhmed post on my Facebook page. I am clearly not the brave muslim policeman who died doing his duty, but because Ahmed represented something even bigger than an individual who gave his life doing his duty.

    Ahmed represents people like me, people who go about their daily life, loving and living, trying to contribute to their society in a meaningful way. They make a society, the sort of place that I want to live in. Ahmed and people like him are the proof that seditionary1 are wrong.

    Keep your chin up, George, even though we have a different opinion on this, when push comes to shove, we are all on the same side of the metaphorical barricade. The enemies of ‘cultural marxists’ will soon be are taking up positions at the other side, forming an army of political extremists, who may or may not claim the authority of God for their beliefs and are too dumb to recognise their commonality with those whose beliefs they claim to abhore.

  • @Meral
    Incidentally, Christiane Taubira has spoken out strongly in defence of Charlie Hebdo since the attacks. She has said that it is “inconceivable” that CH could cease to exist and that if necessary she would like public money to be used to keep it afloat.

  • stuart moran 11th Jan '15 - 11:18am


    Firstly, if he didn’t think they were very nice people that is his opinion but to liken them to the KKK, insinuating they were racist and all this a day after they had been murdered in col-blood alongside other innocents can, at best, be called poor taste on his part, if not very offensive.

    I also sensed a ‘they deserved this’ tone in his original article. Perhaps I was wrong but when he starts talking of the cartoonists ‘bullying’ muslims then you are into to a chance of who is the victim in this.

    We can also challenge some of his assertions about their ‘racism’ as a few of us have. I have said repeatedly that this type of satire needs to be read by those who understand the culture, context and language – the Taubira cartoon being one example – George has not convinced me he has understood any of that before making his post

    He has the right to hold his view on the cartoons and he has the right to think they are racist. Just because he thinks the latter though does not mean he is right and I find his absence from this discussion disappointing.

    I find your last paragraph also disappointing – it has not been us that use comparisons with the KKK in our posts is it?

  • Paul Walter wrote:

    “Sesenco, we should also remember that Malcolm Muggeridge later criticised Monty Python for “Life of Brian”.”

    Yes, indeed. Which is what I was hinting at when I said he subsequently re-branded himself as a reactionary Christian.

    I found is rather sad, actually, to see Muggeridge, one of the best piercers of humbug in his day, come up with the unimaginably feeble proposition that the existence of Chartres Cathedral proves that the claims of Christianity are true. Tellingly, on what one would have thought would have been a key issue for Muggeridge – would the “Life of Brian” damage Christianity? – he said: “No. It’s too tenth rate for that.” If Christianity really is what its adherents say it is, why would it be harmed in any way by Monty Python making an irreverent film? Similarly, is anyone suggesting that cartoons depicting Mohamed are going to persuade adherents to question their faith?

    If the answer to those two questions is a negative one, that tells me that the issue is all about power. Organised religion dislikes being insulted for the same reason that Kim Jong-Un dislikes being insulted. It is a challenge to the special status that organised religion demands (and very often gets).

    Then we have the issue of the heckler’s veto. No-one tried to murder the Monty Python team. Indeed, John Cleese is able to visit the US Bible Belt without rednecks attacking him. But if they went to Saudi Arabia or Iran and insulted Islam, they would be dead pretty fast. Because one’s life might be in danger if one speaks out, that is every reason to speak out and no reason at all not to speak out. Unless we wish to lose what passes for a liberal democracy in this country.

  • stuart moran 11th Jan '15 - 12:04pm


    and so dies the explicit comment of racism – this changes the notion of who was victim here

    The whole tone of that original post was inappropriate

    George has only responded to a blog based on weak evidence and has ignored all attempts to get him to justify his claim of racism against murdered journalists

    You then come on defending him without addressing these points and insulting other posters

    I have also seen some of the tweets where there are some complaints about him being ‘attacked’ – if you want to make controversial comments then please do so but don’t then complain when they are challenged

    What is your view on the Taubira cartoon?

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Jan '15 - 12:59pm

    On my Facebook, there is now a post with a picture of the young man who saved the lives of Jewish customers by leading them to the safety of a refrigeration area. It is from a newspaper and has the headline,’ Heroic Muslim man saved Jewish hostages during Paris siege by hiding them in a freezer’.

    Amid the comments such as , ‘Im waiting for Rupert Murdock to give all Muslims the credit for this’, and ‘During WW11, the main Mufti of Paris gave over 1.100Jews Muslim identity to save them from being deported by the nazis’, is one:-
    ‘Muslim terrorist in attempt to freeze Jews to death’.

    If one takes the last post literally, then it is tasteless and offensive, an attempt to, hurt, whip up hatred and provoke violence even, but if one sees it for what it is because one knows the aims of the person who posted it, it is satire and the object of the satire are certain newspapers who distort facts ( particularly about Muslims and immigration), to suit their own political agenda.

    Was it posted by a Muslim or a non- Muslim. I’m not telling!

  • stuart moran 11th Jan '15 - 1:21pm


    You have a warped view of free speech – you can say what you want but don’t expect to be allowed to get away without criticism or challenge. I do not know why you feel able to speak for George – is he not willing to do it himself

    I also do not think you have read any of my posts so I will make it easy for you

    I have said that he is perfectly entitled to say he is not Charlie because he found their cartoons offensive

    I have said that the definition of what ‘Charlie’ is may be different for each person so again there is no ‘right or wrong’. I think George and I have a different definition but it doesn’t mean either of us is wrong

    George said in his post explicitly that the publication was racist and he used some, in my view, unpleasant analogies that didn’t need to be used to make his point.

    My opinion, and it is just that, was that the tone suggested that the cartoonists were in some way to blame and were not the victims in this. George has denied that he meant this but that impression still lingers. I hope though I will be more prepared to listen to his real opinion that he was prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the murdered journalists

    He also linked to a very weak blog to support his assertions of racism

    To accuse someone of racism is a pretty serious thing in my book – especially when they can no longer answer – and I challenge George’s reasoning because it seems pretty superficial. He has not really bothered to answer that which is why he is getting a hard time

    ‘I am not George’

  • Well, I’m guessing we will never see George Potter use the phrase “Victim blaming” in any debate, ever again. No one would be able to survive that amount of ridicule.

  • stuart moran 11th Jan '15 - 5:13pm


    You may see George Potter’s accusation of racism as ‘overstatement’ but what if it is wrong? If someone had written an article about me like he did above, and then continued to repeat it then I would be very put out

    I am standing up for the victims of a horrific crime here and would like to see him justify it with more than he has already. At the very least he could say that perhaps it was an ‘overstatement’. He has done neither

    Of course, it is an opinion, but as we said an opinion is not necessarily right and he cannot complain if those who think it is wrong expect it to be substantiated

    Paul Walter used the example of ‘To Death Us Do Part’ – a very well written satire but, as he said, it can easily be confused as racist – especially if you take it out of context, do not consider the background of the people acting in it and writing in it, the language and the era.

    As to the ‘victim blaming’ – no he hasn’t done it explicitly but I am sure I am not alone in having that feeling lurking in the back of my head

    I think, on reflection, George has taken a very valid point on what ‘Je suis Charlie’ means to different people and spoilt it by a very poorly written article. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that his article was just poorly written (but I am being kind to him to be honest)

  • The BBC could get enough of this stuff because the magazine is run by lefties.

  • Before anybody judges Charlie Hebdo cartoons to be “racist” – and there have been plenty of them in the English-speaking media in recent days – they would be well advised to consult the following website:


    Understanding the context is crucial to understanding the strong ANTI-racism messages in Charlie Hebdo. Sadly, these seem to have gone over a lot of people’s heads.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Martin Gray
    Centrist governments support the rules of international order. Sadly , when it comes to the Palestine those rules , those values , have all but been abandoned...
  • Peter Hirst
    For all its faults, America remains a democracy and we must retain our links. Brexit allows us to show flexibility in our strategic relations. We must now allow...
  • David Raw
    As a long time student of political history who first joined (and was employed by) the Liberal Party way back in 1962, I've come to believe that the basic quali...
  • Peter Hirst
    Putting country before party seems to me to be quite apposite in the context of the last decade. The Party system is a weakness of our present structures. It is...
  • Peter Hirst
    If we really wish to change this country then we must have an eye for the next election. Many new MPs will want to retain their seats. We must win the popular d...