Sunday, 18 January 2015

Dear Charlie Hebdo...

Dear Charlie Hebdo,

Being an ocean away, I never heard of you before the attack on your office that resulted in the needless death of twelve people, including the two unarmed police officers providing security outside.  What those gunmen did was evil, and now that they are dead they will face a justice system far better than they would if they were taken alive. 

The emotional outpouring of support around the world is both understandable and strangely irritating to me.  Injustice like that provokes sympathy, but it bothers me that others seem to be trying to lay claim by proxy to a virtue of courage that in reality they do not show.

How many of these media talking heads have spent years refusing to admit the existence of radical Islamic terrorism, refusing to use the term even after a terrorist attack in Ottawa, the utter destruction of a Nigerian village, the beheading videos, and everything else that has happened?   How many people who marched for unity in France also protested against people with traditional views on marriage or pro-life ideas who were invited to speak at a university or college?

Rex Murphy is a commentator here in Canada who hit the nail on the head in this column. I can't help but wonder however if he had to say this in the somewhat conservative National Post because the forum he is best known for (the ever so politically correct CBC) still avoids labeling terrorism as terrorism.  They are the broadcaster of choice to those very people that Mr Murphy points an accusing finger at.

I stand in opposition to both those terrorists who attacked you and to the self-censorship so prevalent in the media.  I stand firmly for the principle of freedom of speech, but I hope you understand that I can't offer my personal support for what you produce in your magazine.  Perhaps it is too soon to start this conversation, but there is no question that your magazine produces material that is lewd, puerile, insulting, derogatory, inflammatory and even pornographic at times.  I do not question your right to produce it, but I do question the wisdom in producing it.

Not because there are those who would lash out violently when offended.  Prophets, apostles, and missionaries have offended people many times in the past and become the targets of violent persecution and even murder as a result.  I've offended my share of people (although not to the point of them trying to kill me) and it is not in my nature to try and appease a bully.

I'm saying that your brand of humor is unwise because when you denigrate and mock a race, gender, group or religion, you erode the foundation of all freedoms.  I expect you would point out that you target Christians, Jews and Muslims equally and think yourself noble because of it, but that doesn't really make it any better in my eyes. 

When you stir up contempt for your targets, you dehumanize them into caricatures not to be taken seriously, not to be listened to, not to be afforded any respect.  You facilitate and inspire your readers to accept the kind of prejudices that would lead them to make other people second class citizens because of their beliefs.  It is a subtle attack on freedom of religion and there is no higher purpose in it for you than to provoke a cheap laugh by appealing to the lowest common denominators of society in a quest for profit.

We Mormons faced a lot of violent persecution in our early days specifically because there were people who stirred up contempt against us in much the same way you stir up contempt against your targets.  Innocent people were killed by mobs incited to violence by publications that attacked and mocked Mormons.  Just because you have a right to do something doesn't mean it is the right thing to do.

So please don't take my condemnation of your attackers as any kind of endorsement for the material you publish.  It isn't.  I won't be buying a copy of your latest issue and if I want to point to an example of courageous free speech, I'll refer to Malala Yousafzai or Ayaan Hirsi Ali