Perhaps you have seen it trending on social media or reported in the press. People have placed the French phrase on facebook and Twitter as well as many other sites, using the hashtag method so that it can be found by others. Some have changed their facebook, twitter, Instagram, tumblr or other social media profile pictures to a plain black box with the words written out in white letters, “Je Suis Charlie.” French NBA players wore black t-shirts with the same phrase in white during their pre-game warm-ups. Simply speaking, the phrase went viral.
During the past week criminal extremists assaulted a French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 at an editorial meeting including two police officers. The publication was fire bombed in 2011. The editor, Stephane Charbonnier, had received death threats in the past and was actually under police protection. That did not stop the brutal attack. In the two days that followed, a massive hunt for the attackers took place. By the time the criminals were hunted down, seventeen people had died.
If you can recall how people in America felt after the World Trade Center bombings in 2001, then you will have some idea how the French reacted to such a brutal crime in the beloved capital of Paris. People were angry, of course, but they had a larger message to spread. Within hours people took to the streets of Paris, Lyon and other areas around France to show the world they were “not afraid.” Many brought a powerful weapon along and held it up in defiance of those who would attack free speech. They had pens or pencils and held them up in tribute.
As the manhunt unfolded across the region of the French capital, rallies of support took place in cities around the world, including New York and Washington, DC. People appeared in front of French embassies holding up signs stating “Je Suis Charlie.” At the Embassy of France in Madrid, people also held the signs “REPORTEROS SIN FRONTERAS por la libertad de informacion” (Reporters without borders for freedom of press). Even as they stood in silent tribute, the crowds expressed the message that they were not to be silenced.
One of the things that terrorist hope to accomplish is to spread fear among its enemies, in other words, to terrorize them. People across France and around the world have largely rejected this with a strong show of support for the French publication as well as journalists and cartoonists everywhere. By Saturday, Charlie Hebdo staff had found another location to hold a meeting and under the protection of French police, they planned their next publication, now due out Wednesday. To do otherwise would be a victory for the terrorists.
Unless you are FOX News, you can find that a number of Arab publications stood with French journalists against these attacks. Cartoonists in Arab countries did what others were doing, drawing responses to the Paris massacre. In that region of the world, it takes a bit of courage to respond with support. Israel’s Ynet newspaper writes that even 4 years after the so-called Arab Spring, “people are still watching their step.” The online publication .mic published cartoons from various Arab countries, Here’s How Arab Papers Reacted to the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Massacre.
Prior to this week, I had never heard of the French satire, Charlie Hebdo (short for “hebdomadaire,” or weekly paper). I can not honestly tell you if I would agree with the satire that they publish. Perhaps I would even find some of it offensive. I will say that I am for freedom of the press and the right to poke fun at the foibles of humanity. Therefore, I am Charlie.
- The world mourns after Charlie Hebdo attack, MSNBC.com
- Here’s How Arab Papers Reacted to the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Massacre, .mic
- Charlie Hebdo: Gun attack on French magazine kills 12, BBC.com
- Charlie Hebdo, Wikipedia.org