The Pen is Mightier

On Wednesday, a brutal attack on offices of the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” left 12 dead. I’ve read about the incredible manhunt that has now culminated in the murderers own death.

The magazine is well-known for its controversial religious covers. These cartoons were deemed personally insulting to a fringe offshoot of Islam who decided to make those who created the magazine pay for their “crimes.”

I’m not religious, so I find the idea that cartoons exist that are so offensive that you must kill the artist a sad reflection on your religion. My belief or non-belief has never harmed anyone.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, essayist Mark Morford expressed exactly how I feel when these things happen:

If your great and powerful religion – presumably a well established, deeply devout, time-honored vehicle of fervent moral goodness, one that’s directed by an all-seeing, all-knowing supreme deity of love who inhabits and animates all of time and space at once, if your grand creation cannot tolerate a joke, cannot stand to be criticized, is too weak to abide even the most silly or disrespectful of left-wing jabs from a single tiny human, your religion is no religion at all, and should perhaps consider another line of work.
It’s an easy rule to scale up, to apply to issues both dire and recent. How small, pathetic, vengeful must your god be that he/she/it cannot be casually depicted by a satirical newspaper, without threat of violence or death? How cowardly and untenable is your faith’s message that teasing about it might lead believers toward “false” gods or (heaven forefend) independent thinking?

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe Islam is the problem. Religion isn’t even the problem. The problem rests with extremists.

Extremists never win in the long run. Their actions only serve as reminders that free expression has to be protected and championed. The extremist goal of subjugating the weak and controlling the narrative by expunging those that disagree with them only makes those left behind appreciate the importance of a free society. The best way to respond to these acts isn’t to demand retribution or condemn a whole group, but to remain the same.

As a comics guy, I’ve seen many of the pictures and cartoons expressing solidarity with the murdered staff. I think that’s great. There’s also a swath of Charles Hedbo cartoons online. The same extremists that killed these writers and cartoonists want to censor these images.

Guess what? Even after the vicious attack, they’re still there. Available for anyone to find, download and spread like a virus.

It’s not a short game. It’s a long game and the pen always wins.