Letter from the Editor

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Contrary to the rabble-rousers of today’s news sources, I think I’ve actually become a more adamant supporter of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. I used to think that the French magazine, which described itself as secular, atheist, far-left-wing and anti-racist, seemed to profit financially more than spiritually from its irreverent material. A 2006 issue featuring a comic of the prophet Muhammad accompanied by the caption “it’s hard being loved by jerks” sold three times as many copies as a normal issue. However, when the editors continued to publish the standoffish material even through hate speech law suits and a 2011 fire bombing and hacking attack, I began to think that the publication might be more than just a publicity stunt.

In fact, it seems that momentous cultural shifts start with what look like publicity stunts and transition through a violent phase before gaining serious momentum. Atlanta recently opened a new Martin Luther King center (see page X), which memorializes one such movement. Rosa Parks, the Woolworth counter sit-in, and even the Selma-Montgomery march were all ploys to attract public attention, but they worked. Indeed, King and hundreds of other activists died in the fight, but today we memorialize them as torchbearers of justice and truth.

So does that mean I support intentionally inflaming entire regions of the world in order to bring a problem to light? Probably not. But I do support what Charlie Hebdo was and still is fighting against: the oppression of women under Sharia Law, restrictions of freedom, forced marriage, stoning, and oppression of gays and dissenters. Perhaps the only way to clamor through our saturated information feeds was to become the dissenters themselves, just like King. They’ve attracted all the news outlets they can get, completed the martyrdom phase, and caused demonstrations across Europe on the subject of the Islamic faith. Charlie, you’ve got our attention. Let’s hope you keep it long enough to help us finish what you started.

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