Journalists are not the enemy. Cartoonists are not the enemy. Satirists are not the enemy.
Journalism – the freedom to listen, tell, and share – has become a dangerous profession. Last year saw scores of reporters and photographers killed and hundreds more imprisoned, mostly on assignments in conflict regions.
Yesterday, more were gunned down. This time not in a war zone or on the trail of drug cartels, but in an office in Paris.
Liberty of expression was assassinated again. It has been many times in history, and will be many times ahead. But it always rises. No mouth-to-mouth needed. It just resuscitates, reinvigorates, reaffirms its own freedom to exist.
Free speech was killed in the night… then reanimated.
I only hope the sorrow at its repeated execution will be matched by the intentionality and perseverance with which it is revived.
Don’t we know this was an attack not on a single team in a single office in a single city? It was an attack on all voices. It was a brutal attempt at the premeditated murder of all the writers, comics, editors, producers, photographers, poets, satirists, story-tellers, novelists, screen-writers, and living room conversationalists who live now and will ever live.
What if Stephen Colbert was shot dead in the street? What if Gulliver’s Travels was pulled from the shelves and burned? What if “The Simpsons” or Chuck Palahniuk, Kurt Vonnegut or Weird Al, Mark Twain or Doonesbury were rounded up and massacred? We would be out in the streets! And the presses would be spewing ink and spitting paper so fast, the printers would have to stand thirty feet back from the heat of it.
Wouldn’t we want the newsstands to have to call for more stock? What an honor and statement it would be if our mailboxes filled with ink and broadsheet, if online media was made to crash because of too much traffic.
Protect the right to a free press, free speech, free expression. Don’t only protect it; use it!
Don’t get me wrong; there is a lot of bad journalism, a lot of offensive satire, and a lot of stupid media in general. There’s plenty of print and broadcasting I don’t like and satire I don’t find funny. But I will never in my life tell them they can’t make it.
It was Miguel de Cervantes, that master of satire, who in his masterwork Don Quixote wrote: “I am a fire afar off, a sword laid aside. Those whom I have inspired with love by letting them see me, I have by words undeceived.”
Freedom to think and speak must continue to be free. And it will be, because the pen is still mightier than the sword. Freedom of the press cannot die until we allow all the libraries to burn. Until we shut off the internet. Until all our thinking and all our words become merely forced exercises in recitation and propaganda.
No killings will do that. The people will be neither silenced nor hypnotized.
What did the terrorists think would happen? That this would make writers stop writing? Artists stop drawing?
No, they will write, create, reveal, and opine as fiercely as they ever did.