After the Charlie Hebdo shootings, I was pretty incensed at any attempt to contextualize the murder of the cartoonists by focusing attention on how “offensive” the cartoons were. Whether they were offensive or not was beside the point. The point was that they had a right to say it and not be killed over it. In the immediate aftermath of such an event, attention devoted to the sins of the dead is at best misguided. Often worse.

Adding to this was the fact that Charlie was mostly just being Charlie, and did not have a habit of pulling punches with anybody. That’s context mattered to me a lot more. To argue that what they did was – while not as bad as murder – the important thing, is not to argue that we shouldn’t target a beleaguered minority, but that all humor should conform to the idea that certain religious, and certain peoples, should be entirely free of ridicule. It’s one thing to say “Don’t talk about Muslims the way you don’t want people talk about Christians” but another thing to say “We must hold Christianity accountable for its many sins, but we have to pull our punches against Islam because that’s punching down.” Even if we’re not talking about passing a law or killing people, that’s not a good position to take if you support “free speech.”

My reaction to the shooting in Garland is not as intolerant. While I don’t think the focus should be on the offensiveness of the speech, which unlike Charlie Hebdo was pretty specific in targeting Muslims.

While I get the sense that Charlie Hebdo would love nothing more than to live in peace with Muslims, Pamela Geller is a different story. Geert Wilder made a career out of trying to keep them out of Denmark. Maybe in the particular the latter is the right position, and if it’s the wrong position it certainly doesn’t warrant violence. But it’s not the same. They have the right to say here what they will, but what they are saying, and the context in which they are saying it, is more worthy of criticism, even after an event like this.

Not the least of which because they’re still alive. What had me so incensed about Charlie Hebdo was that whatever their sins, they were dead. While even those who criticized them past the buzzer said they didn’t deserve that, a lot of them spent more time talking about the sins of the dead than the sins of their killers. Geller and Wilders are thankfully alive. Everybody but the two would-be terrorists are dead. Praise be. More than being dead, they were made stronger by this and, to a degree, vindicated by it. The result, though, is that condemning the dead comes doesn’t seem the same level of preenery at the expense of the conveniently dead than was the case with Hebdo.

If we don’t Geller and Wilders and people like them doing what they’re doing, it doesn’t pay to make them martyrs. And since they paid little price for what they did, there is less need to hold back. Since the damage done was so light, there is more room to talk about what is and isn’t appropriate speech.

My own view is that we have to share this planet with too many Muslims to go about conscientiously antagonizing them all. I may not view Islam favorably, but that’s as irrelevant as whether you think Charlie Hebdo is funny. There are too many to really consider them a single entity, and if they were as bad as Geller suggests, events like this would be a far more frequent occurrence. Instead, Geller and Wilders had to go out of their way to bring the crazies out of the wordwork. Which, in turn, alienates those who can be and are productive and peaceful members of society. While I do not for a moment lament the death of these shooters, maybe we should choose not to do that?


Category: Newsroom

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9 Responses to No Je Suis Pamela

  1. trumwill says:

    I gotta confess, I really really hoping this attack would be a case of random violence, a deranged lefty, or a confused and deranged redneck.

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    Sorry Will, lefties rarely go in shooting, they call in bomb threats & try to get the cops to go in shooting.

  3. Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

    The title should read Je Ne Suis Pas Pamela.

    Also, the second I read or hear the phrase “punching up/down” I immediately roll my eyes. It has become a sign of intellectual laziness.

    • Mr. Blue says:

      French is for foreigners and wussies. And Louisianians.

      I agree about punching up and down. It may not be lazy, quite, but it’s basically cheating so that you can make rules that only apply to other people.

      • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

        Hey now, I knew my two years of high school French would pay off eventually.

      • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

        Also, people use the phrase “punching down” in order to stifle debate. So rather than attack the argument itself, they pull out “punching down”, thinking it is some sort of trump card.

        Color me unimpressed.

      • French is for foreigners and wussies. And Louisianians

        Hmmmm….well, I’m not a foreigner, and I’m not Louisianan, so…..

        Seriously, though, good post.

  4. fillyjonk says:

    Speaking casually, you could also say “je suis pas Pamela,” or “j’suis pas Pamela.” The “ne,” while used in formal speech, is often dropped conversationally.

    (I had ancestors from Louisiana. And, for that matter, from France, so there)

    As for the argument, I can see a couple of different sides: one, we want to avoid a slippery slope where Christians are asked “don’t be demonstrative of your faith in public” (i.e. wearing crosses), but also, the “don’t do things to your neighbor which might be offensive to you” coupled with an element of “perhaps it’s prudent not to kick a hornet’s nest.”

    If there were a similar event taking place on my campus? I might engineer a way to be off-campus that day. You know, just in case….

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