Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Wrong 3,000,000 Covers: Quel dommage!

I was saddened to see the news today that Charlie Hebdo chose the occasion of its post-massacre issue to manipulate an image of the prophet Mohammed.

I think Charlie Hebdo was right when they judged that their publication, which usually distributes 50,000 copies, was in a position to enjoy wide dissemination of what they had to say on this occasion. They printed 3 million copies of the new issue.

Unfortunately, they blew it.

The cover is described as portraying "the Prophet Muhammad holding a sign saying, 'Je suis Charlie' ('I am Charlie'), with the words 'All is forgiven' in French above it on a green background."

The 3 million covers presented the opportunity to make a statement about why free speech is so important. How can anyone think that a crude depiction of the Prophet Muhammad accomplishes that? Especially when graphically depicting Muhammad is considered by Muslims to be profane?

Don't get me wrong -- I'm an advocate of free speech. But that doesn't mean I think speech that profanes people shows courage or has value. Especially when people in a position of relative power profane those who experience prejudice and oppression.

Here's something that would be courageous and valuable, in my opinion: zero in on the handful of people in the world who have their fingers on triggers of the massive nuclear arsenals that threaten us, and bring them to heel. That would be impressive.

Let's see 3 million covers that take on the really worthy targets of our antagonism.