A Major Lesson from Charlie Hebdo

Living in a college town, we are solely influenced by our surroundings. The professors you see twice a week, your roommate across the hall, your bestfriend a few streets over, the unfamiliar faces we pass on the undoubtedly long walk from the Union to the Williams building. These surroundings make up a community—a Seminole community filled with pride, an undeniable spirit, the place you’ve come to realize who you are and most importantly, who you want to be. And within this pursuit, we are encouraged to find our voice—the voice stating our ideals, our opinions, our beliefs. For most of us, we allow our voices to flourish in the classroom, at organization meetings, endless locations. But for aspiring journalists, English majors and Communications majors, we share this on paper. And once something becomes printed it becomes easily accessible—and suddenly you’re not just sharing with your community, you’re sharing with the world.

On January 7, 2015 the staff of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo experienced the ultimate horror—two gunmen, Said Kouachi and brother Cherif Kouachi, fired shots across the room during the newspaper’s editorial meeting. 12 were killed—five cartoonists, one economist, two editors, one guest, one maintenance worker, and two police officers. Included amongst the victims is Editor-in-Chief Stéphane Charbonnier, otherwise known as Charb.

Charlie Hebdo’s content ranges from political to religious to economic issues, often featuring satirical cartoons and pieces on Muhammad. Islamists have made their anger with the newspaper abundantly clear throughout the years—showing their disproval through a 2011 fire bomb on the offices as well as a hack into the newspaper’s site. Four years later, the Kouachi brothers were reported shouting, “Allahu akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) as well as “The Prophet is avenged” while taking the lives of the staff—angered about Charlie Hebdo’s frequent references to Muhammad in the paper.

The freedom of expression allows us to take our ideas and opinons and transform them into content. Even posting thoughts on the web has great significance, especially when the digital world lacks the ability to tell us the exact audience we’re reaching. Charlie Hebdo has become one of the greatest examples to date—innocent Europeans killed while doing their job entertaining their audience with humor, mockery, and irony, unaware of the effects on their audience. Most fail to realize the permanence of such mediums in the first place, becoming apart of an informal, recorded history. We suppose this could be one of the reasons for the Kouachi brothers' gruesome attacks, offended by the mockery of their God in such a permanent medium—print. 

As students, we often take for granted the power of our words and the outlets we use to share them. Throughout the world, supporters of free speech have used the term, “Je Suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie” in French) to emphasize the importance of having a voice. We take for granted the constant encouragement we receive on campus, the entitlement to an opinion. As the Parisians still try and cope with the act of terrorism surrounding their city, the goal of the terrorists to silence the newspaper has inevitably backfired. On January 14th, days after the attack, Charlie Hebdo released their first issue created by the survivors with the headline, “Tout Est Pardonne” (“All is forgiven” in French). What used to circulate between 30,000 readers has now reached over 3 million, making history with the overwhelming support of the Parisians and remaining citizens throughout the globe as we mourn this tragic loss. 

Source: cbsnews.com