American Left Having Second Thoughts About Defending Charlie Hebdo

Well, that didn’t take long. I don’t mean just having second thoughts about actually running Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Islamic cartoons; with a few notable exceptions such as the Washington Post, that’s been obvious all week. But having figured out that the leftwing French Charlie Hebdo magazine isn’t necessarily the second coming of the ’70s-era National Lampoon in the classic Michael O’Donoghue and P.J. O’Rourke days*, American leftists are heading for their fainting couches even faster than usual. First up, Noah Rothman spots Arthur Chu, a “Daily Beast columnist frustrated by response to Paris attack that ‘valorizes free speech for its own sake,’” as Noah’s headline notes. And we can’t have that, can we?


“Shooting people is wrong,” Chu opened an epic tome ostensibly on the subject of “trolls and martyrdom.” When you feel the need to clarify that you are opposed to retributive political violence at the top of a column on the subject, you should perhaps rethink the point you are seeking to make in the body. Chu declined to engage in this introspection, however, before he plunged into a dissertation on the clumsy and crude content published by the slain editors of Charlie Hebdo. He insisted that, while murder is totally bad and stuff, “Charlie Hebdo is also a crap publication and people need to stop celebrating it and making martyrs out of its staff.” “Let’s be real about what Charlie Hebdo is,” Chu continued. “Calling it ‘journalism’ isn’t quite right. Even the term ‘satirical newspaper’ puts it on the same level as The Onion, which isn’t very fair to The Onion, which strives for at least some degree of cleverness and subtlety, most of the time.”

Yeah, that’s pretty rich coming from a journalist whose editor is best-known for writing a book titled Wignuts. Next up, PJM alumnus Rich Miniter, writing at Forbes spots this “yes, but” moment at the Financial Times:

Within hours of the vicious slaughter of the unarmed and aged cartoonists, some of the executives of the Western world’s largest media outfits were already saying it isn’t wise to antagonize with pencils those who argue back with Kalashnikovs. Consider the case of the Financial Times. One of its regulars, Tony Barber, wrote recently:

Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims. If the magazine stops just short of outright insults, it is nevertheless not the most convincing champion of the principle of freedom of speech. France is the land of Voltaire, but too often editorial foolishness has prevailed at Charlie Hebdo. This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extend to satirical portrayals of religion. It is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.



  Today, American literary icon Joyce Carol Oates dived into her fainting couch:

You’re asking a lot of an American leftist, you know. Or to put it another way:

As Ace writes:

I can remember when American leftists were perfectly prepared to defend rather more extreme examples of their fellow socialists engaging in rather poor public behavior. But they were merely worried about the townspeople of Skokie, Illinois throwing rotten fruit and vegetables at them. Now that they see a rather more intractable enemy, it’s depressing — though not at all “unexpectedly” of course — how quickly the left folds when faced with defending free speech. Exit quote, from Kathy Shaidle:

I’m not sure how you could possibly be a “long time fan of mine” if you thought I’d react positively to you tweeting, while the blood was still being wiped off the walls, that the dead cartoonists weren’t “heroes” because Charlie Hebdo “was a rag anyhow.”


Update: And again:

No wonder Slate is vaporous — these are French socialist journalists — the utopian triple play to which every keyboard pusher at Slate wishes he could metamorphose into, ala Gregor Samsa.

Update: And again:

* Or maybe it is. Good luck getting anything like this in print in any self-described “liberal” publication in America in the 21st century.



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