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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

Magnus Shaw via Twitter

As I'm writing this, the news is filled with the outpourings of grief and support for the cartoonists and other victims killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It's a grim start to the year.

Editor Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb) was a contributor to a number of French comics, including L'Echo des Savanes and Fluide Glacial. Amongst the others killed on Wednesday were Jean Cabut (Cabu), former Charlie Hebdo editor Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac (Tignous), another contributor to Fluide Glacial, and Philippe Honoré.

The response from other cartoonists has been magnificent—look at the websites of any of the broadsheets and you'll probably find some; BuzzFeed has gathered a collection in typical BuzzFeed fashion; ITV News has a similar collection, as do the BBC.

Some days, when the news is so full of horrors and atrocities, you wonder what kind of world we live in. But the response from journalists, cartoonists and the general public waving their "Je suis Charlie" banners, gives us hope for humanity.

Let's hope that as people stand shoulder to shoulder in the name of freedom of speech and expression we don't allow politicians to use this outpouring of grief to justify introducing even more controls against those freedoms. We should not forget that Charlie Hebdo was founded in the ashes of Hara-Kiri Hebdo which dared to link the death of Charles De Gaulle with a then-recent tragedy on its cover ("Bal tragique à Colombey: 1 mort"); the weekly was shut down by France's Interior Minister Raymond Marcellin using a law introduced in 1949 to protect French youth against what we in the UK would, a few years later, call "horror comics".

Marcellin was later forced to resign in 1974 after officers of the Directorate of Territorial Security were caught planting microphones in the offices of the investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, which ran Cabu's 'Les nouveaux beaufs' comic strip.

The 'beauf' of the title was the kind of arrogant, foul-mannered idiot who would have an opinion on everything based on nothing but his own knee-jerk, ill-informed, often racist or chauvinistic attitudes, broadcast loudly as "only common sense".

I expect the beaufs will be out in full force on social media at the moment, unaware that they were just as likely to be satirised in the pages of Charlie Hebdo as politicians and religious fundamentalists.

If you really want to support the victims of Charlie Hebdo, do so my making sure you're informed before you start forming your opinions about what happened on Wednesday morning. You'll only dishonour their memory by being a beauf.

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