Je suis Charlie: Some numbers and some reflections

After the murderous attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, there have been massive demonstrations in France Huge Show of Solidarity in Paris Against Terrorism Estimates of the crowds go as high as 1.6m.

Je suis Charlie protesters in Paris
Je suis Charlie protesters in Paris

Weekly sales of the magazine normally run to 30,00.  So we can safely assume that the vast majority of protesters have not actually read the magazine. And you can bet that these guys aren’t regular subscribers:

World leaders joined protest
World leaders joined protest

Here we have two separate issues: the abhorrence of  terrorism and the defence of freedom of speech being conflated into one.

Charlie Hebdo has now become the touchstone for freedom of speech but this has become dangerously entwined with the idea that the press has the right to insult and denigrate minority groups with impunity.

It is also become dangerously intertwined with the idea that if you are a member of a minority group that is offended by statements made in the press, you have the right to respond with the most appalling levels of violence.

Neither of these is true but the events of recent days indicate that as the defence of freedom of speech in France becomes more strident, the levels of violence throughout the  world will certainly rise.

 Riots in Niger over Charlie  Hedbo: the beginning of the descent into mindless violence
Riots in Niger over Charlie Hedbo: the beginning of the descent into mindless violence

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