Philosophers and Theorists on the Charlie Hebdo Attacks (updated)

Philosophers and Theorists on the Charlie Hebdo Attacks (updated)


Yesterday, twelve people were shot dead at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine. It was reported that the gunmen shouted “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic (“Allahu Akbar”), and so the attack is believed to be the work of militant Islamists in response to offensive cartoons that appeared in the magazine.

I am posting this as a place to collect relevant writings and media appearances by philosophers, political theorists, and others on or relevant to these attacks, or to the general issues underlying them. Please post them, with links if possible, in the comments.

Here are two:

First, there’s an interview with  Jacob Levy (McGill) on the BBC in which he praises the widespread support for freedom to speak offensively in the wake of the attacks, but notes the hypocrisy of such support in conjunction with France’s ban on certain traditional Muslim clothing, in particular, veils to cover women’s faces.

Second, there is a piece by Jason Stanley (Yale) in The New York Times. He arrived in Paris, coincidentally, right after the attacks, to give a series of lectures. An excerpt from his “Postcard from Paris”:

Liberalism is a political philosophy that has as its two chief ideals, liberty and equality. In a liberal democracy, all citizens have equal power, because all are possessed of reason, and have the liberty to employ it in expression. In France, which has a right to be considered one of the modern birthplaces of the liberal democratic revolution, satire has long had a special role. Satire is the ultimate method by which reason can address power. With the use of satire, even those without control of resources can, with merely the use of a pen, bring figures of authority down to earth.

The revered cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had not only mocked the chief religious figure of the Islamic faith; they also had subjected Pope Francis to equal ridicule. No authority figure was safe. To take Charlie Hebdo as singling Islam out for abuse is a misunderstanding, one might think. Their target was authority, whatever its source.

Yet, as the staff of Charlie Hebdo was aware, there surely is a difference, in France, between mocking the Pope and mocking the Prophet Muhammad. The Pope is the representative of the dominant traditional religion of the majority of French citizens. The Prophet Muhammad is the revered figure of an oppressed minority. To mock the Pope is to thumb one’s nose at a genuine authority, an authority of the majority. To mock the Prophet Muhammad is to add insult to abuse. The power of the majority in a liberal democracy is not the power of monarchs, to be sure. But it is power nonetheless.

(image of window at Charlie Hebdo, from Associated Press)

UPDATE (1/10/15 – 2/1/15): I’ve gone through the comments and gathered up links submitted in response to the OP, and added some seen elsewhere:

– Patrick Savida (Université de Poitiers) – “Charlie Hebdo: un courage democratique” (in French) (via Nick)

– Nigel Wartburton (Philosophy Bites) – tweets and links (via Nick)

– Bob Kirkman (Georgia Tech) –  “Charlie Hebdo

– Chris Bertram (Bristol) – “Charlie Hebdo” (via Brian Weatherson)

– Samir Chopra (Brooklyn College, CUNY) – Kill All The Cartoonists; God Will Sort Them Out

– Justin E.H. Smith (Université Paris Diderot ) –  “Finding Something to Say about Charlie Hebdo” (via S)

– Stephen Law (Heythrop College, University of London) — “What’s the point of lampooning religion? To upset the religious?”

– Serene Khader (Brooklyn College)  – “Why You Won’t See Me Posting ‘Je Suis Charlie’” (via More Indeed)

– Kenan Malik (writer, lecturer, broadcaster) –  “je suis charlie? it’s a bit late”  (via L)

– Amol Rajan, Editor of The Independent interviewed -“Publishing Muhammad cartoons would have been too risky” (via David Wallace)

– Fredrik deBoer (Purdue), “On Debating Dead Moral Questions”

– David Brooks (NYT columnist) – “I Am Not Charlie Hedbo” (via Bob Kirkman)

– Joe Sacco (graphic novelist, journalist) – “On Satire – a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks” (via Anon)

– Glenn Greenwald (journalist) – “In Solidarity with a Free Press” (via J C McG)

– Scott Long (human rights consultant) – “Why I am not Charlie” (via J C McG)

– Adam Shatz (journalist) – “Moral Clarity”  (via J C McG)

– Catarina Dutilh Novaes (Groningen) – “Charlie Hebdo and the Intolerant Enlightenment”  (including a link to a piece by Eric Schliesser — in Dutch) (via Nick)

– Teju Cole (writer, photographer, art historian) – “Unmournable Bodies” (via sin nombre)

– Glen Newey (Leiden) –  “Rival Sanctities”

– Slavoj Žižek (Ljubljana) – “Are the worst really full of passionate intensity?

– Amos Guiora (S.J. Quinney College of Law, Univ. of Utah) – “To Fear Offense or Reprisals Is to Surrender Our Values” (via anonymous 17)

– David Atkins – “When Defense of “The Other” Runs Contrary to Liberal Values”  (via Blain Neufeld)

– Seyla Benhabib (Yale)  – “Piety or Rage? On the Charlie Hebdo Massacres

– Noam Chomsky (MIT) – “One Man’s Terror Is Another Man’s War

– Catherine Liu (UC Irvine) – “Intellectual History and the Death of Politics: Jacobin, Sade, Charlie Hebdo

– Etienne Balabar (UC Irvine)  – “Trois mots pour les morts et pour les vivants

– Brian Klug (Oxford) – “The moral hysteria of Je suis charlie

– Zygmunt Bauman (Leeds) – “The Charlie Hebdo Attack And What It Reveals About Society

– Jameel Jaffer (ACLU) – “Charlie Hebdo, The Interview, and Censoring Torture Photos

– Daniel Weinstock (McGill) – “The (Messy) Ethics of Freedom of Speech

– Antonio Negri – “Charlie Hebdo, fear and world war: two questions for Toni Negri” (by Mike Watson)

There are 126 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  
Please enter an e-mail address