Je ne suis pas Charlie

Dear Editor, I have only recently become familiar with Charlie Hebdo’s work, thanks to the inexcusable act of violence in Paris. I am a fan of satire, but Hebdo seems to focus its energies exclusively on provoking the Islamic community in the most vile way possible.

Its writers worked hard to provoke a reaction, and it’s a bit rich to ‘cry wolf’ when some fanatical nutcases finally gave them a reaction.

Hebdo’s cartoons have a lot in common with the depictions of the Irish in Punch cartoons of the 19th Century. No doubt many non-Irish people found them funny at the time, too. Is this the Hebdo people identify with when they chant ‘je suis Charlie’? One would hope not.

So is it about ‘freedom of expression’? That’s a bit rich in a country where even attempting to question official accounts of the holocaust will land you in jail and where the genocide in Armenia was recently added to the list of ‘unquestionable topics’. Where were the mass protests then? 

In Ireland our words of support seem hollow when we recall that for 30 years any honest questioning of British policy in Northern Ireland was effectively stifled by Section 31. Where was ‘je suis Charlie’ then?

Some initial, well-justified journalistic indignation aside, the media here weren’t long knuckling under, to their shame. There are many ways to muzzle press freedom besides bombs and bullets, the heavy hidden hand of state apparatus disapproval often being far more effective. 

My fear is – and commentators are already disproportionately calling this France’s 9/11 – all that will emanate from this sorry affair is a much heavier state suppression of French liberties in the name of ‘security’. That will probably be the final ironic legacy of Charlie Hebdo.

And the crowds chanting ‘je suis Charlie’ will have contributed to their own curtailment of freedom – in the name of freedom.

Yours etc.,

Nick Folley,


Co. Cork