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Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie)

Je suis CharlieI grew up with Cabu. He was shot dead this morning by a bunch of pathetic brainwashed fools killing in the name of God. Cabu used to draw funny cartoons on my favorite kid's TV show when I was a kid. He was also a satirist cartoonist, and ended up working for Charlie Hebdo. He was a pacifist who was disgusted by war after he was enrolled to fight in Algeria. The irony of history has just had him killed by Franco-Algerian Islamists fifty years later.

Later, as an adult I was a non-regular reader of Charlie Hebdo. But I always laughed at most of their cartoons. Usually there were spot-on. The satiric newspaper was left libertarian and very anti clerical. I disagreed with their “analysis” on some issues of course, especially given their leftist background. But it was good, very good. It was good because from politics to religion to art, there was absolutely no sacred cow for them: Presidents, Prime Ministers, The Pope, Jesus, Mohamed, Rabbis, Le Pen, Communists. Charlie Hebdo was freedom. Freedom of speech. Freedom of thought. Freedom to criticize. Freedom to say “shit”.

One of the policemen was Ahmed. He was “finished” whilst lying wounded on the ground. It is difficult not to think of the sad irony of “Team America”, the - satiric - puppet movie in which a young American spy supposed to thwart the deadly plans of Islamist terrorists is transformed into “Ahmed”. In a country with tensions between “communities”, today the real Ahmed is – was – an example of successful “integration”. The symbolic significance of his execution by people who are examples of failure of integration is huge.

Another sad irony. Charb, who was editor at Charlie Hebdo, had just published a drawing saying “Still no terrorist attack in France” with an armed Islamist saying “Wait, we have until the end of January to send best wishes”. After an attack on the premises of Charlie Hebdo two years ago, he had said he’d rather “live standing than die on [his] knees”…

 Wolinski was also killed. I remember reading his books as a teenager. It was vulgar, naughty and provocative and I “learned” a lot from it. Bad and good - essentially bad. But it was freedom.

Heterodox economist Bernard Marris was also shot dead today. I would disagree on many of his analyses - he used to be a member of ATTAC’s council of advisors and a big fan of Keynes… But I would agree on his critiques of economic forecasting and neoclassical economics. And he was a good man. He was honest. He, too, will be missed.

People sometimes attribute the saying « I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it » to Voltaire. He actually never said or wrote it, but the sentence is quite appropriate. It is the quintessence of freedom of speech, of freedom of thought, of critical spirit, of tolerance and of the open society.

I've had a heavy knot in my stomach for the whole day. 

Not only men and a woman were killed today. Freedom was killed today.

And in fact it was probably killed twice. Because one can now expect that this will give government a pretext to increase state surveillance and that more people in France will turn to Le Pen by anti-Islamic reflex. This is a sad day.

Emmanuel Martin