13 January, 2015

Aux armes, citoyens!

So what was it all about, this march in Paris, repeated all over France? Some say 3.7 million people came out.

Well....according to Piers Morgan in the Daily Mail, they were marching for 'freedom'; he seemed to imply that Obama's failure to appear meant the President was against the concept.

Most of the European Press seemed to feel they were marching against terrorism.

Now it's fairly easy to find several million people in favour of freedom or indeed against terrorism. But that isn't what the march was intended to be about. It was intended to be about freedom of speech. What 'Je suis Charlie' means is that you stand with those dead cartoonists willing to risk your life to publish what you want, however offensive. However offensive. So whether it's about the holocaust, or Mohammed or Princess Diana or Stephen Fry you are allowed to publish it and will stand by the risks of doing so.

Several journalists, notably Robert Shrimsley in the FT, said they were not Charlie, because they simply didn't have the courage.

The reason the moral thrust of the march is important is that if it was about being against terrorism, resentment that French citizens had been killed, that feeling will soon turn into an anti-muslim backlash and this, in my view, would be a very bad thing, if understandable.

If, however, it was against any attack on freedom of speech, it means something very different. Western Europe has been moving in the opposite direction to free speech. I mentioned France's laws against denying the holocaust and the Turkish / Armenian massacre. In Britain the police continually monitor social media for 'offensive' posts. And you can't say anything racist without plod turning up on your doorstep. Free speech would mean dismantling that whole apparatus.

I'd love to be proved wrong, but I rather think this march doesn't mean anything at all.

No comments: