Although I was only vaguely familiar with the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo before the massacre last week where armed gunmen killed the editor, multiple cartoonists, and journalists in an editorial board meeting, watching it on the news resounded deeply with me. Editorial board meeting? We have those every Monday, I thought. Theirs were on Wednesdays. My heart ached.
We shut down the website for the evening in solidarity. We published two cartoons and two opinion pieces, including our first editorial, at midnight that night about the shooting and we talked and talked about it. We were sad but defiant in our defense of free speech.
I thought about the difficult decisions publishers and editors make daily that the public doesn’t see or likely appreciate. I thought about some of the difficult decisions I have made and that I will continue to make in the future, and for a short time I didn’t think about Charlie Hebdo…
So when I read the news this morning, that Charlie Hebdo just published it’s first edition since the massacre with a cartoon of Muhammad crying on the cover, I thought to myself “Damn, they have some gonads! Good for them and good for the world!”
With a move that’s likely already setting off extremist sects of Islam worldwide, Charlie Hebdo has doubled down (and printed a reported 5 million copies) and boldly secured their status as the tip of the spear in a worldwide war of ideologies. Ironically, they did this at nearly the same time that Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack.
For many, the series of events this last week introduced the idea that publications and news entities are the targets of some of the most dangerous organizations in the world. I read that only about a third of the world’s countries have what would be considered a free press. That’s a statistic that’s astonishing to me. I try not to be prideful, but in these trying times I’m proud to be a publisher, journalist, and supporter of the free press.
People often think that I agree with all of the ideas that are published in The Independent/SUindependent.com, but nothing could be further from the truth. I publish and encourage opinions and letters regularly that I disagree with, and for the same reason as Charlie Hebdo publishes their controversial cartoons, such as the pope dressed as a mobster. I do this to foster dialogue, discussions, and conversations about important and otherwise difficult-to-broach subjects regarding the human condition. It’s not about pushing my own ideas, and all about people talking. So go ahead, talk.
Pub. Note: I would like to encourage all of you to write your thoughts in a letter to the editor and submit it to [email protected], and if you think you’ve got what it takes to be an opinion writer submit to [email protected]