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Hebdo Forum

The weekend of April 24, 2015, six respected PEN members withdrew from the PEN Literary Gala as table hosts in protest of PEN’s decision to award the 2015 PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. No one expected or could have predicted the massive, national and international, rational (and sometimes not so rational) public discourse that ensued. PEN issued a statement on Sunday, April 26, soon after being contacted by several media outlets about the award, the decision to honor Charlie Hebdo, and the writers who withdrew from the annual gala. In the ensuing days and weeks, nearly 200 stories were written and published in all manner of publications, from the mainstream press to the literary blogosphere. We’ve included links to several of those publications below to represent the larger themes and key moments of the public discussion. Our takeaway from the ongoing discourse is that PEN—as an organization of writers, editors, translators, and publishing professionals committed to defending freedom of expression—and the free and open exchange of ideas are alive and well. Writers and artists play a vital role in shaping global conversations about creative freedom, civil and human rights, race, and ethics. We encourage you to keep talking, keep writing, and keep these important social conversations alive. We’ll continue to listen.

Six PEN members decline gala after award for Charlie Hebdo  
By 
Jennifer Schuessler
The New York Times, 4/26/15

Charlie Hebdo Deserves Praise, But Not At All Costs
Editorial
The Globe and Mail, 4/27/15

Charlie Hebdo: As ‘PEN Award 6′ Withdraw, Post-attack Legacy Is Still Being Drawn
Michael Cavna
The Washington Post, 4/27/15

I Admire Charlie Hebdo's Courage. But It Does Not Deserve a PEN Award
Francine Prose
The Guardian, 4/28/15

Why I Won’t Be Attending the PEN Galapalooza
James Wolcott
Vanity Fair, 4/28/15

How and Why 35 Writers Denounced PEN Over Charlie Hebdo
Boris Kachka
Vulture, 4/29/15

PEN Has Every Right to Honor Charlie Hebdo
Adam Gopnik
The New Yorker, 4/30/15

Why We’re Honoring Charlie Hebdo
Suzanne Nossel and Andrew Solomon (opinion)
The New York Times, 5/1/15

Gaiman, Bechdel Among New Table Hosts at PEN Gala 
Hillel Italie
Associated Press, 05/03/15

Charlie Hebdo Editors Get Standing Ovation at PEN Gala
Alan Yuhas
The Guardian, 05/06/15

Read transcripts and see video from the presentation of the award here.


In keeping with the true spirit of PEN's mission to defend and promote the free and open exchange of ideas, we created this page as an open forum where PEN members and supporters can freely express their opinions regarding the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award given this year to Charlie Hebdo.

We are grateful for the level of interest shown in this discussion, and we are reading every word. We appreciate the reasoned, respectful tenor of the conversation, and invite everyone to participate. 

PEN will not remove or alter any user-posted comments on this page, except those that directly threaten or aim to incite violence or are otherwise not protected by U.S. law. The statements on this page belong to the individuals who post them and do not represent the position of PEN American Center, its members, or its affiliate. 

Comments

I deeply disagree with the letter being circulated by some PEN members decrying the award being given to Charlie Hebdo. In fact, since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo were associated with murdering Jews in a kosher market, I find it deeply offensive. Shouldn't there be another place to voice members' support of giving the award to Charlie Hebdo? We are asked to care about the marginalized elements of the French population, but I don't see any mention of France's Jews who are certainly being marginalized by rampant antisemitism.
Have Gary Trudeau (really--Doonesbury is outraged by Charlie Hebdo?) and Francine Prose (writing in the Guardian) and others suddenly made it fashionable to tread so lightly around religious extremism on the part of any religion's followers that artists and writers must first check some kind of list of what is and is not acceptable to a particular religion before they do their work? Let's ask Salman Rushdie how that worked out.

If it's true, as PEN believes, that "Charlie Hebdo's intent was not to ostracize or insult Muslims, but rather to reject forcefully the efforts of a small minority of radical extremists" then we have to say that Charlie Hebdo apparently has no ability to discriminate between its stated small target and the much, much larger community of harmless, innocent and generally downtrodden French Muslims.

I am part of a Stop Islamophobia group, and as a political candidate -- I was the Democratic candidate for Congress in Wyoming last year -- I have spoken out against anti-Muslim bigotry. However, even without seeing Charlie Hebdo's cartoons (I don't care to look at them any more than I care to watch beheading videos), I am proud of PEN American Center for honoring Charlie Hebdo What is the point of PEN and "freedom to write" if we cannot honor those who've put themselves in danger (and even died) because of their published expression?
To my mind, the writers boycotting the event are so selfish that they are also insulting the courageous Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova , who is facing peril for her articles on government corruption. Although they have talked about self-righteousness and cultural imperalism in PEN's award to Charlie Hebdo, it seems that in ignoring our other honoree, they are both self-righteous and looking at the gala from the myopic lenses of their own cultural imperialism.

I'll let others speak to their objections to the kosher dinner option on the Gala's menu .

I'm very glad to see PEN open this issue up for general comment and debate. I live in Paris about half of the year, and my home is a 10 minute walk from Charlie Hebdo's former offices in the 11th district. I was on the scene, along with hundreds of other journalists, within an hour of the horrific massacre of our colleagues. So this hits very close to home. A lot has been said already, so I want to underscore one key point: In the United States particularly, there is a huge misunderstanding about the cartoons and caricatures that Charlie Hebdo published and what they meant. Charlie Hebdo is a left-wing, anti-racist publication and the cartoons it published concerning Islam, the Prophet Mohamed, etc, were all in that spirit. Charlie Hebdo never attacked or ridiculed Muslims as individuals, but was hostile to all religions; its caricatures and drawings of the Prophet were all intended to attack and satirize Islamic extremists (ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, etc) who used Islam as an excuse for their crimes and brutality. Stephane Charbonnier ("Charb") and other editors of Charlie Hebdo made that clear time and time again in their responses to criticisms of the publication and the cartoons in particular. In his posthumously published book, very recently published, Charbonnier made that clear once again. He rightly points out the difference between attacking individual believers and the religion in which they believe, a distinction that is the basis of French law (which does not go far enough in protecting freedom of expression in my view.) He criticizes the patronizing attitude of many anti-racists on the left (a group I normally count myself among) and suggests that Charlie Hebdo's critics assume that every Muslim is so sensitive to criticism of his or her religion, and so lacking in humor, that they should be assumed to be on the verge of committing violent acts (beheadings etc) on a hair-trigger basis. Few members of PEN, and few Americans in general, would consider a caricature of the Pope (say caught committing an act of pedophilia, to take a relevant example) as an attack on all Catholics as individuals, but somehow a caricature of the Prophet (if he was indeed a prophet) is considered to be a racist (or "Islamophobic") expression. To summarize, the controversy over Charlie Hebdo is in very large part based on a misunderstanding of the cartoons, their meaning, and the intentions of the publication's artists and writers. They are not racists but anti-racists who refuse to allow extremists to dictate what they can say and cannot say, write, or draw; they are not colleagues who should be defended not just in spite of their thoughts and actions, but also because of them.

Freedom of expression is inherently valuable, but acquires
its potency as a right when directed at tyranny and illegitimate power --
power that is being used top down and is aimed at quashing the voices
of those for whom voice is the only power they have. Free speech is an
equalizer in spaces dominated by wealth, power and brute force.

When it is a privileged majority that is expressing itself at the expense of
an already weak and powerless minority (as was the case with the Charlie
Hebdo cartoons), it is a kind of bullying downward for which those who care
about equality and justice as well as liberty and self-expression should have little sympathy.

Nothing excuses the use of violence against such expression, and the perpetrators of the attack
on Charlie Hebdo can only be condemned for their intolerance and punished for their deeds.
But honoring the kind of expression in which the cartoonists at the Magazine indulged is a
another matter. Charlie Hebdo's free expression was exercised
in the name of an old French tradition of 'ridicule' that has little to do with justice or equality
(and hence little to do with liberty as a political ideal). Such speech is more venerable
than it is honorable, and is not deserving of PEN's honors.

Free speech as political speech must be contextualized by power: who is using it?
in response to whom? in the name of what? Desecrating the religion of minority immigrants
already demeaned by racism and ethnic prejudice does not meet the standard. In a democracy,
liberty serves equality just as equality is the condition of liberty.

Naturally charlie hebdo...courage is the basis of all life...courage is the basis of art...add what you will...without it it s hollow

The point of free speech is that it's free. Free to be offensive, to be misguided, to be crude or wrong. If you start to cherry pick which kind of speech is worthy of defending, you might as well be ISIS. I'm thoroughly shocked that a group of writers I admire have castigated a free speech organization for recognizing artists butchered because of their commitment to free speech.

Thank you to PEN for holding to its decision about this year's honorees, and also for keeping the conversation open. Freedom of expression is just that -- period. Let's not forget that while cartoons depicting Mohammed in Charlie Hebdo have drawn the worst kind of attention a cartoonist or writer will ever receive, Charlie Hebdo has spent decades actively offending Jews, Christians, gay people, politicians of all stripes, and just about anyone you can name. So be it! Let's also not forget our other honoree, Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist now imprisoned in Azerbaijan. May we all come to enjoy true freedom to write, to draw, and to speak.

I want to express my support for PEN in honoring Charlie Hebdo and also my indignation at the authors who have decided not to attend the awards in protest. I read the exchange of letters between Suzanne Nossel and Deborah Eisenberg. I thought Eisenberg's opinions were unintelligible and indefensible.

The issue isn't just a matter of abstract principle for me. I'm a literary agent. But before that I was the owner of Cody's Books in Berkeley for 30 years. In 1989, Cody's was bombed for carrying THE SATANIC VERSES. It was another creative work that satirized religion and was no doubt extremely offensive to certain people. We were probably the first victim of Islamic terrorism in the United States. Afterwards the Cody's staff had to decide whether we should continue carrying SATANIC VERSES. It wasn't an easy choice at all. No one wanted to be martyrs to the cause. But the staff voted unanimously to keep carrying the book. Rushdie and the entire writing community stood united with us, and gave us courage.

I am glad PEN has honored Charlie Hebdo for showing their courage as well. I'm sorry those six writers have such short memories and such a weak and confused commitment to the values that PEN stands for.

I hope PEN will reaffirm its commitment to those values and to its decision to honor the courage of Charlie Hebdo.

PEN members protesting the award to Charlie Hebdo object to the content of Charlie Hebdo’s speech and what they assume was the intent of its murdered speakers. In their view, it seems, a freedom of expression courage award should only be bestowed on people who engage in whatever they consider valuable speech, offered “for the good of humanity.”
Put aside arguments that freedom for all speech, regardless of content, is “good for humanity.” Consider the fact that courageous freedom of expression will inevitably involve controversial, allegedly malevolent speech. A freedom of expression courage award based partly on subjective assessments of valuable or virtuous speech would be a rather blinkered courage award. We’d have to rename it the Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award for Speech PEN Likes.
PEN protesters might respond that a courage award should only be bestowed on speakers who offend the powerful. It doesn’t take a lot of courage to offend people who can’t hurt you. Charlie Hebdo’s speech targeted the powerless, the “victimized,” they assert. Not quite. If murder isn’t a definitive assertion of power, what is? The power of the sword has been wielded most effectively; we’ll never know how much speech has been chilled. Most of us are not that courageous.

When we defend a person, that should because we believe s/he is a victim of injustice, not because we necessarily regard that person as a hero. Freedom of speech is a ground for defending Charlie Hebdo, but not for honoring him. His picture of Mohammad, with the huge nose and bulging eyes, greatly resembles the anti-Semitic cartoons by Julius Streicher, and, in my opinion, shows about as much humor.

If this offends you as a journalist,you should find another profession. If it offends you as a citizen of earth,go live in a cave! Long live Jonathan Swift!

It's very easy to hide and distract and dissemble. Thank you for seeing what is right in front of our faces and recognizing the courage of the Charlie Hebdo writers.

It is utterly shameful that PEN has decided to "honor" Charlie Hedbo for publishing racist caricatures designed to support a system of oppression and bigotry against non-white immigrants. It's even more shameful that they dishonor Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist *actually* fighting for free speech, by linking her with such a racist and cowardly publication. It takes no courage to keep down the downtrodden, to vilify the oppressed, to mock the victimized.

Perhaps it's the media, perhaps it's an underlying Islamophobia propagated by western governments (they do need a new boogeyman to replace communism, after all), but people seem to have a mental block about responding to the situation in the most rational way. It's not about taking sides; there aren't really even sides unless you count the side of the racist system Charlie Hedbo supports, or the side of the extremists, but you would have to be a bigot on one side or the other to decide that one is the good guys and one is the bad guys. They both did bad things, and obviously killing people is worse, but it is absolutely ridiculous to honor someone for being less bad than mass murderers.

And Charlie Hedbo is most certainly bad. They're not an "equal-opportunity offender" as some like to claim; they don't target other oppressed minorities. All Muslims and Arabs are portrayed as racist caricatures, Muhammad included--and of course Muhammad is depicted for no other reason than to offend Muslims. After the Egyptian military forces massacred over a thousand civilians protesting the military coup, Charlie Hedbo joked about it. Well, 'joked', it's actually funny unless you think dead Muslims are funny. France is already experiencing a worrying rise in nationalism, with violence against immigrants common and laws being passed that discriminate specifically against Muslims, and all the hatred to match. Charlie Hedbo's racist caricatures only serve to inflame the already existing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim tensions.

I think we can all agree that PEN wouldn't be doing this if Charlie Hedbo hadn't been in the news. Without that, it's just another incredibly unfunny local magazine. And just because some psychos decided to shoot up the building doesn't change what they are. So is this a publicity stunt by PEN? A calculated act to promote anti-Muslim sentiment? Pure ignorance? Ok, it's definitely a publicity stunt. Seems to be working too. We can only hope people see through it and it backfires. Just don't click the donate button or we'll start seeing a lot more publicity stunts and a lot less deserving honorees in the future.

Bravo, PEN!

I wanted to comment and say I fully support PEN and their decision to award it to Charlie Hebdo. I was very surprised when I saw the news that writers would be boycotting the event. It's really a shame and I think their decision is poorly thought out. I understand that France's Muslim population is disadvantaged and faces struggles, yet that is no reason for making the criticism of something invalid. Anybody should be able to criticize a set of beliefs. Charlie Hebdo never attacked Muslims personally nor stereotyped them, they simply offered critiques on the extremist segment of Islam. If they are not allowed to do that, then what are they allowed to do? Ms. Kushner's comments about "cultural intolerance" and a "forced secularization" seemed remarkably naïve. Charlie Hebdo is not a propaganda publication trying to make Muslims atheists; it is simply portraying the incoherencies it saw in certain beliefs. "Cultural intolerance" is denying somebody the right to his/her beliefs, not criticizing or satirizing them. Does Ms. Kushner think no one should be able to draw Mohammed? If so, then that is the definition of "cultural intolerance". Muslims choose to adhere to their beliefs, and Non-Muslims should be able to not adhere to those beliefs. The "forced secularization" comment also failed to make sense. No one has has forced Muslims to do anything.

The first thing to realize is that the debate here is vastly more complicated than most of those commenting give it credit for being (a difficult truth to keep in mind when the shrillest voices -- e.g. Salman Rushdie -- seem to be painting the issue as black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us), and the second and most important thing to realize is that the protest in no way condones the actions of the terrorists in the eyes and hearts of the protesting writers. Each of them champions free speech (anyone who doubts that shouldn't be allowed near an abacus, let alone a novel); however, it also seems they feel that free speech in the absence of wisdom and discretion -- while a human right that should be vouchsafed, however ill-judged any statement in the absence of wisdom -- is not something to applaud. How does this not make sense to a reading public? And while the dissenting writers seem to feel that provocation is healthy, they also seem to take exception to Charlie Hebdo making a habit of provoking less to challenge people than to enrage and insult them. Expression should be accompanied by wisdom; if it is not, that is the artist's prerogative -- but one would be foolish to champion that specific expression as exemplary.

PEN has honored Amiri Baraka. Was there any condemnation by any of these people then? Certain leftists seem more concerned with the idea CH has a pro-Jewish/anti-Muslim bias (which is also free speech) then the fact 4 people were massacred by a black Muslim for being Jewish. You notice those complaining about racism never bring that one up. If Jews massacred media outlets with an anti-Jewish/pro-Muslim bias 100% of the Islamic media and 99.5% of the western leftist media would be gone. You notice the same people calling CH racist never say the same about that Kosher Market attack? 40% of all hate crimes in France are committed against a group that makes up 1% of the population-Jews. 95% of these attacks are committed by people of Muslim backgrounds almost all from Africa. In the aftermath of an African Muslim massacring people for being Jewish these writer condemn anti-black and anti-Muslim sentiment and not one word about anti-Jewish violence and attitudes. Not one word.

As a writer and global citizen, I know far better that the many various groups Charlie Hebdo were satirizing were a powerful, monied, and enfranchised majority. Therefore, shame on the ignorance of the PEN members boycotting, many of whom I used to respect.

The commenter "Je suis Carey" states it is obvious that the writers protesting this award to Charlie Hebdo support free speech, then adds parenthetically that anyone who sees the situation differently (as I and most of the commenters do) should not be allowed to read a novel! What a liberal sentiment: I appreciate the irony and only wish it had been intended.

My deepest gratitude to PEN for honoring Charlie Hebdo, courageous martyrs of the critical spirit. An obvious choice this year, one would have thought. I will no longer buy books by the writers who sign this letter of protest: they have all disgraced themselves.

I am shocked and disappointed by the PEN writers who have withdrawn their support for the award to Charlie Hebdo. More than anything, it shows their complete ignorance and outright hypocrisy.

I have been back and forth to France since the 1970s. Charlie Hebdo was outrageous, offensive, puerile and hilarious back then, and it remains so today. An anarchic cross between The Onion, Mad Magazine, Punch, and R. Crumb, Charlie thumbed its editorial nose at every shibboleth, every orthodoxy, every sacred cow. It represents the very essence of freedom of expression. That well-respected members of the literary community fail to recognize that is a sad reflection of their own irrelevance.

Probably the finest example of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons is one depicting the Prophet shedding tears beneath the headline "Mohammed Overwhelmed by Extremists" with a dialogue bubble saying "It's hard to be loved by jackasses." This is not an anti-Islamic sentiment. Quite the contrary. It's actually a very pro-Islamic sentiment.

The Satanic Verses was attacked by people who never read it for being anti-Muslim. For all its ribald irreverence, the book is among the most spiritual novels of our time, on a par with The Last Temptation of Christ. It led me to read the Koran, just as Last Temptation led me to read the New Testament.

Fools come in all forms and persuasions. I would have expected better from the dissenting PEN writers, whose work no longer deserves a hallowed place in my heart.

It seems to me that the notion of "freedom of expression" is being misunderstood and misused a lot in these conversations. State-granted liberty of expression is easy to get behind but the notion that all expressions should be free from social consequence is bizarre. The reaction may be moral or immoral, reasonable or horrific, but no one should ever expect to be freed from the unforeseen impact and consequences of our speech any more than we would expect "freedom of action" insisting that everyone simple accept whatever we do because we have the right to do whatever we want. There is a regular conflation of ideas in the pro-CH argument that is misleading. "If you believe in freedom of speech we should be allowed to say whatever we want and not have anyone react explosively." Who would expect that? And who would insist on defending that demand? Who is it even a demand of? It's far outside the bounds of any protection a state can offer and it is not a reasonable demand on reality.

I agree entirely with your decision to give an award to Charlie Hebdo.

Can we set aside our disagreements about PEN's decision for a moment and agree that the protestors' letter is astonishingly poorly written?

Who was the primary drafter?

Starting with nits, the second reference to "clear and inarguable" (or rather "neither clear nor inarguable") is unnatural and makes no sense. The decision was clear (is anyone confused about who will be honored?) and so was PEN's rationale (see its releases). Why would anyone expect a decision as essentially debatable as a Courage Award to be "inarguable"?

Next, the line about PEN "enthusiastically rewarding" expression that "violates the acceptable" seems to me silly. PEN's not honoring CH's courage to risk offending others; it's honoring CH's courage to risk their lives expressing themselves. There's plenty of room to disagree with that decision without misrepresenting what it is.

The core of the letter is just a mess.

In several passages, it essentially denies the possibility of distinguishing between intention to criticize ideology and intention to humiliate people. Thus, the letter suggests that “the subject fixed on paper by [CH’s] pen” is not Islam or religion or hypocrisy, but rather the French Muslim population. It states that although CH "seems to be entirely sincere" in its equal opportunity mockery of religion, CH's cartoons "must be seen [by the French Muslim population] as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering". And even though CH “seems to be entirely sincere” in its equal opportunity mockery, honoring CH constitutes "valorizing selectively offensive material".

The letter observes that “in an unequal society, equal opportunity offence does not have an equal effect” and power disparity “cannot, and must not [ed: you tell me what that adds beyond “cannot”], be ignored.” These are no doubt true. But once you’ve agreed not to ignore it, then what? If CH believes in good faith that Islam as an ideology is a (net) force of evil and ought to be brutally satirized, but CH cannot do this without a relatively powerless population of society perceiving it as a campaign of humiliation, is CH required to “go easy” on Islam or to focus exclusively on the religions of the richer populations of society? I wouldn’t think that the signatories would be comfortable with that.

Seen from France, this boycott proposal seems anti-French in its essence since a whole Nation is definitely and peremptory described as arrogant. Wow! It's almost racism against French that arises in this statement. Sadly, it comes when France has been severely attacked in its seculiar system of laïcité. The constitutional right of believe or not to believe. The boycotters may also have watch to much Fox News and its Paris non-Muslim No Go Zone in describing, again as a whole, an essence of Victimized French Muslims. For information High School is almost free for all in France, the government also provides houses, money and health care for all who needs. The main problem is the very high unemployment rate. Should it be a reason to self-silence in the fight against religious fascism?
I strongly adhere to this prize for Charlie.
C. from Paris, France

In addition to my comment above, I would like to say that this boycott is very dangerous and racist for the French Muslims themselves. If free speech is limited when so-called members of a supposed powerful community criticize the supposed members of a so-called less powerful and racially distinct community, should these communities not live together in the same nation? Like free speech, criticism is the basis of social life. This view is dangerous because it simply encloses people in arbitrary communities where they may not want to be into. The anti Charlie view is actually so racist when it sees racism everywhere that it refuses to speak about Zineb El Razhaoui a French and Morrocan Charlie staff member and journalist who as received credible death threat because of her work in CH. Why is she not talked about? Oh yes I see, she is a non-White, probably a Muslim, in the Boycotters' farcical view. She should not be working here. Exactly the same reasoning as Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Well done boycotters, you're the München people of this century!

As a longtime PEN American Center member, I applaud former president Salman Rushdie's defense of free speech in regard to the choice of honorees. Nevertheless, I believe more public PEN introspection is in order on its own moral lapse regarding another disempowered group, the disabled. Why is the "Freedom to Write Lecture," at the organization's World Voices Festival named for Arthur Miller, who was the organization's first president but who also refused to acknowledge his own disabled son, institutionalized as a child? Or at the least, let's have a World Voices session on challenges the disabled face globally — or on how Miller was influenced by the attitudes of his time in regard to the disabled, attitudes that do still exist.

I find it chilling to read words from eminent members of PEN that read "free speech in the absence of wisdom and discretion" is not speech that should be equally protected. These are the kinds of distinctions made by authoritarian governments, not societies in which freedom of speech is a cherished right. As anyone familiar with the concept of free speech understands, it is exactly the unpopular speech that must be most vigorously defended. Who, I ask "Je Suis Carey," shall deem speech unwise or indiscreet? I couldn't be more shocked--truly, truly shocked--than I was this week to learn that writers I admire and respect have chosen to respond in this manner, particularly when they are members of an organization that expressly advocates for free expression across the globe.

I find it curious that PEN members didn't protest or complain when Pussy Riot appeared at last year's PEN gala, but then their satire/art is often directed at the Russian Orthodox church. Odd that no one complained that it was "insensitive" to disrupt a prayer service in a church in the middle of the day, or scaring the bejesus outta a bunch of grandmas to make a political point was "gross." And lest we forget the Russian Orthodox church, at least the part that wouldn't do business with the Soviets, suffered greatly under that repressive regime—not that I'm defending anyone's church, thank you very much. Nor do I recall hearing artists and writers cringing that prior to becoming internationally recognized heroes of free expression, Pussy Riot was best known for fornicating in public for their art (again I don't mind: but then I'm not the prudish type); an act that some might describe as distasteful or "crossing a line." Alas, the rules for pious indignation differ greatly it would seem.

Shame on the protesters for piling onto victims of violent censorship so gleefully they don't even bother to check their facts. Islam is a rich diverse religion with a vast intellectual and cultural heritage. It is patronising in the extreme to assume a sick minority represents the whole. Do you think ordinary Muslims are as touchy as the fanatics? Do you think they can't laugh when the fools who profess to share their religion are mocked? Humourless prigs!

I'm facebook friends with Teju Cole and about 10 days ago he posted an excerpt from Junot Diaz's Letters from Palestine. Diaz is quoted as saying (I am paraphrasing here): you can criticize ANYTHING and get a free pass but the minute you criticize Israel people try and take things away from you.
Now these two men are lobbying hard to do just what they accused others of doing. (Furthermore they are delusional if they think that anything the left holds dear can be questioned without an angry leftist mob silencing decent. Diaz and Cole have been pressuring members many whom say they have been harassed to join the boycott. Furthermore, part of this attack was an anti-Jewish hate crime. Why do the letter writers condemn Islmaphobia but not a word about anti-Semitism when the attack was partially a massacre on Jews? You notice these people call CH racist, and compare it to Nazism. But they never say the same about Jews being murdered for simply being Jews. Their silence on that massacre is disgusting. Yet they call others racist? Pot kettle black.

Crime and Punishment
PEN does not want its writers to take sides on this issue, stating that "...we feel strongly that asking writers to declare themselves for or against oversimplifies and needlessly polarizes a complex issue." However PEN did take one side on this issue and apparently did so without getting a general consensus from its writers.
The writers protesting PEN's recognition to Charlie Hebdo understand very well that freedom of speech must be defended anywhere; however they also understand, and thus their reason for protesting, that Charlie Hebdo has continued unscrupulously and humorlessly driving an ideological wedge for the mere sake of profit and viewership. PEN is now receiving the punishment for defending a divisive bully that needs no help to defend itself thank you very much. If Charlie Hebdo's personnel couldn't do their work, I would understand PEN's intervention in this issue and I would support it; but honoring what appears to be a bully's boldness is very different from defending freedom of speech, it is unprofessional and as we can see also divisive.

you are all crap, dirt!. do not get excited, it's my freedom of expression. think about it

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"
- Evelyn Beatrice Hall (pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre) in The Friends of Voltaire

The audacity of these clowns is shocking. You know you're dealing with morally corrupt people when they say, we support free speech and follow it with a BUT. They support free speech as long as no one is offending their little anti-west marxist islamo-nazi support efforts. These people are mentally ill. But don't kid yourself, these idiots are powerful and dangerous. They need to be publicly shamed and ridiculed (use their own tactics against them).

To PEN: Having read the statement on PEN's home page about the Charlie Hebdo award, I have to raise my voice to say that I find this idea pretty shocking: "A number of people have approached us urging a counter-letter, but we feel strongly that asking writers to declare themselves for or against oversimplifies and needlessly polarizes a complex issue." I don't understand why you can't ask people to declare themselves--anyone can, of course, abstain from doing that. I realize that many PEN members like myself are hardly "important" writers like Deborah Eisenberg, Francine Prose and Junot Diaz, but by not providing a place for writers to declare their support in a unified, public way such as by signing a letter, you are letting this argument play out among the elites, which is kind of shameful.

The truth is, the public is very unlikely to see the online forum you set up--which, by the way, has already been hacked and spammed, thus reducing any relevance it has. Having decided to give an award to Charlie Hebdo, I think PEN has a responsibility to provide its members with a more visible, impactful way of voicing their support. Junot Diaz, et al, do not speak for me. They apparently do not speak for the vast majority of PEN's members but again, you are letting book sales and celebrity win the day. You had the courage to give the award to Charlie Hebdo. Why don't you have the courage to stand up to the elites in the organization and let the rest of us have a chance to say Je Suis Charlie--and this time, really mean it.

Eleanor Lerman

The list of shame:
"https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/30/145-pen-writers-thus-far-o...

"My question for the six" (original) "boycotters is this: if you cannot physically bear to sit in a room and show solidarity with people who have been murdered for drawing cartoons — murder being the most terminal form of censorship — then what is the point of belonging to PEN at all?" (from: https://33revolutionsperminute.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/charlie-hebdo-pe...)

I am shocked by the increasing number of intellectuals, who joined the six deluded writers, who associate Charlie Hebdo with racist attitudes. What guides them? Moral blindness? Self-censorship? Envy, selfishness, and the inability to rise above mediocrity? What do they think they will achieve by distancing themselves from CH? In a world where there are dangerous levels of tension already, and secular values are under threat, this attitude is likely to ignite more hostility against those who dare to speak their mind, and opens up the door to more hypocrisy. I hope, Charlie Hebdo will responde to it with humour and satire, with its usual sharp wit. they deserve to be ridiculed. In my eye they will always be lost in mediocrity if not malice.

I think there's a transatlantic misunderstanding here, and it grieves me immensely. Those of us who are self-righteously pontificating about Charlie Hebdo's racism should, if we are concerned about justice, at least do the following before we get too comfortable in our complacent certainties:

First, please read the statement by the president of SOS- Racisme, the French anti-racist NGO, in which Charlie Hebdo is described as the most anti-racist newspaper in France. Secondly, please watch the You-Tube discussion with Zeineb Al-Rhazoui at the University of Chicago. It is a long conversation in which she addresses concerns relevant to PEN members. She also did a thorough interview with Olivier

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MXCMA2DtRXQ

The best answer to the accusation of Charlie Hebdo being racist comes from Zineb Al Razhoui, a columnist of the satiric journal.

http://thecharnelhouse.org/2015/01/15/if-charlie-hebdo-is-racist-then-so...

This was written in December 2013, before Charlie Hebdo mass killing, but stands particularly appropriate in the present context.

The authors who signed this letter would do themselves a great favor by reading this, then sit and think about their own position which seems so clearly guided by embarrassing ignorance.

Thank you to PEN for opening up this space for discussion. This is a crucial issue, and one which is polarising people of good intent.

I would like to say that as a member of the 1968 generation which first organised and sustained the campaigns against racism; sexism; patriarchy; oppression of lesbians, gay men & trans-gender people; and for the environment & most of all, for freedom, I completely support this award, not despite Charlie Hebdo's content, but because of it.

I would like to think that the opposition to the award is simply a transatlantic misunderstanding, but I fear it is more than that. Since their deaths, Charbonnier & his courageous, witty, politically committed team are at best, damned with faint praise, at worst, demonised. This is a shameful betrayal. Let us examine the grounds for such an attitude.

CH has been accused, by some authors who have never put their lives on the line for their work, of racism. It is not claimed that this justifies the murders, but we are told that we should hesitate to embrace comrades so intrinsically vicious, to keep our own hands clean.

Let me point out that the president of SOS-Racisme, the French NGO concerned to remove racism from French society, has strongly protested against this characterisation of Charlie, which she asserts was the most committed anti-racist magazine in France. Zeineb al Rhazoui, a columnist for CH, herself of Moroccan Muslim origin, gave a sprightly talk at the University of Chicago, addressing the same issue. Please watch it on You-Tube, where you will find a 90-minute discussion which utterly demolishes the claim. She points out, inter alia, that CH has consistently supported the Palestinians. Her conversation with Olivier Cyran is also readily available on line under the title, in translation, 'if Charlie's racist, so am I'. If the testimony of a woman who is herself on a death list, specifically targeted by Da'esh, whose followers have published her home address and her husband's work address in order to facilitate the assassination, and who actually knows Charlie Hebdo intimately, cannot persuade you, how about Minister Christiane Taubira?

Would you wish to claim that this Black woman, the subject of the infamous 'monkey' cartoon, is too stupid to understand, in the sophisticated way natural to white American self-styled intellectuals, that CH insulted her? That, poor creature, she attended the CH funerals, and delivered a moving personal eulogy to Tignous, commending his commitment to social justice, because she is incapable of comprehension?

Joyce Carol Oates & others can only traduce a courageous group of artists by systematically de-contextualising what CH did. The 'monkey' cartoon was reproduced from a Front National site, with a caption clearly indicating abhorrence, in order to warn everyone that despite the attempts of Marine le Pen to distance herself from her unregenerate father, & make the FN seem respectable, they have not changed. This is important work, and deserves respect. Are the opponents of the award saying that the public should never be shown what real racists are up to ? That we should sweep their iniquities under the carpet because it may not be quite polite to mention them? Or is just satire, the tool which, in a 500-year-long struggle, served to free England, and much of Europe, from the domination of king and Church, that is now unacceptable.

The 'narrative' being composed by Prose & her clique, that to support CH is to justify the invasion of Muslim countries, omits crucial facts. (Yes, I know I just used a word discredited by post-modernists, but I'm old fashioned enough to believe that bleeding bodies on the ground constitute incontrovertible material evidence, so bear with me.) She refers to the victims of the attack as white, which means ignoring the equal murders of a North African copy editor, Mustapha Ourrad, and a Tunisian Jew, who along with Charbonnierr himself, was selectively sought out - not to mention the associated murders of police officers, one Muslim, one Black, and the slaughter at the Kosher supermarket which was not even worse only because a Muslim employed by the Jewish owners led some of the customers to a place he hoped would conceal them.

Charbonnier's recent posthumous publication is , approximately, ' An open letter to the pedlars of Islamophobia who enable real racists ' . It's worth reading. I stand with him, and with Rushdie, Kemel Daoud, Maryam Namazie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rauf al Badawi, and all those other courageous Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims who see this struggle not as one of Western cultural imperialism against a persecuted ethnic minority, but one of those who believe in liberty against the forces of totalitarianism. CH always stood up for minorities, but recognised the Islamist attacks in Paris, London, Madrid, Copenhagen, to mention just a few, as emanating from a wealthy, internationally funded group of imperialists who desire to impose on the world not a junior baseball team, as Obama affected to believe, but a universal caliphate. In Syria, the west did not properly support the Rojava Kurds, the only Muslim group there which stands for secular democracy and multi-faith, multi-ethnic regional councils, with a minimum of 40% seats reserved for women. Iraq is the battleground between Da'esh and Iran. Let us at least salute the courage of artists who saw clearly, spoke openly, and accepted that in the 21st century, in Europe, they might be murdered by the bully-boys of 7th-century theocracy. Attracted as effete white liberals may be to 'jihadi cool', you really need to think again about what you're not only appeasing, but enabling.

Thank you to PEN for opening up this space for discussion. This is a crucial issue, and one which is polarising people of good intent.

I would like to say that as a member of the 1968 generation which first organised and sustained the campaigns against racism; sexism; patriarchy; oppression of lesbians, gay men & trans-gender people; and for the environment & most of all, for freedom, I completely support this award, not despite Charlie Hebdo's content, but because of it.

I would like to think that the opposition to the award is simply a transatlantic misunderstanding, but I fear it is more than that. Since their deaths, Charbonnier & his courageous, witty, politically committed team are at best, damned with faint praise, at worst, demonised. This is a shameful betrayal. Let us examine the grounds for such an attitude.

CH has been accused, by some authors who have never put their lives on the line for their work, of racism. It is not claimed that this justifies the murders, but we are told that we should hesitate to embrace comrades so intrinsically vicious, to keep our own hands clean.

Let me point out that the president of SOS-Racisme, the French NGO concerned to remove racism from French society, has strongly protested against this characterisation of Charlie, which she asserts was the most committed anti-racist magazine in France. Zeineb al Rhazoui, a columnist for CH, herself of Moroccan Muslim origin, gave a sprightly talk at the University of Chicago, addressing the same issue. Please watch it on You-Tube, where you will find a 90-minute discussion which utterly demolishes the claim. She points out, inter alia, that CH has consistently supported the Palestinians. Her conversation with Olivier Cyran is also readily available on line under the title, in translation, 'if Charlie's racist, so am I'. If the testimony of a woman who is herself on a death list, specifically targeted by Da'esh, whose followers have published her home address and her husband's work address in order to facilitate the assassination, and who actually knows Charlie Hebdo intimately, cannot persuade you, how about Minister Christiane Taubira?

Would you wish to claim that this Black woman, the subject of the infamous 'monkey' cartoon, is too stupid to understand, in the sophisticated way natural to white American self-styled intellectuals, that CH insulted her? That, poor creature, she attended the CH funerals, and delivered a moving personal eulogy to Tignous, commending his commitment to social justice, because she is incapable of comprehension?

Joyce Carol Oates & others can only traduce a courageous group of artists by systematically de-contextualising what CH did. The 'monkey' cartoon was reproduced from a Front National site, with a caption clearly indicating abhorrence, in order to warn everyone that despite the attempts of Marine le Pen to distance herself from her unregenerate father, & make the FN seem respectable, they have not changed. This is important work, and deserves respect. Are the opponents of the award saying that the public should never be shown what real racists are up to ? That we should sweep their iniquities under the carpet because it may not be quite polite to mention them? Or is just satire, the tool which, in a 500-year-long struggle, served to free England, and much of Europe, from the domination of king and Church, that is now unacceptable.

The 'narrative' being composed by Prose & her clique, that to support CH is to justify the invasion of Muslim countries, omits crucial facts. (Yes, I know I just used a word discredited by post-modernists, but I'm old fashioned enough to believe that bleeding bodies on the ground constitute incontrovertible material evidence, so bear with me.) She refers to the victims of the attack as white, which means ignoring the equal murders of a North African copy editor, Mustapha Ourrad, and a Tunisian Jew, who along with Charbonnierr himself, was selectively sought out - not to mention the associated murders of police officers, one Muslim, one Black, and the slaughter at the Kosher supermarket which was not even worse only because a Muslim employed by the Jewish owners led some of the customers to a place he hoped would conceal them.

Charbonnier's recent posthumous publication is , approximately, ' An open letter to the pedlars of Islamophobia who enable real racists ' . It's worth reading. I stand with him, and with Rushdie, Kemel Daoud, Maryam Namazie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rauf al Badawi, and all those other courageous Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims who see this struggle not as one of Western cultural imperialism against a persecuted ethnic minority, but one of those who believe in liberty against the forces of totalitarianism. CH always stood up for minorities, but recognised the Islamist attacks in Paris, London, Madrid, Copenhagen, to mention just a few, as emanating from a wealthy, internationally funded group of imperialists who desire to impose on the world not a junior baseball team, as Obama affected to believe, but a universal caliphate. In Syria, the west did not properly support the Rojava Kurds, the only Muslim group there which stands for secular democracy and multi-faith, multi-ethnic regional councils, with a minimum of 40% seats reserved for women. Iraq is the battleground between Da'esh and Iran. Let us at least salute the courage of artists who saw clearly, spoke openly, and accepted that in the 21st century, in Europe, they might be murdered by the bully-boys of 7th-century theocracy. Attracted as effete white liberals may be to 'jihadi cool', you really need to think again about what you're not only appeasing, but enabling.

A Martian reading the letter protesting PEN’s decision might justifiably conclude that the Charlie Hebdo artists had imagined, and then rendered, loathsomely pornographic scenes of ordinary, oppressed, pious Muslims going about their daily lives. But the cartoonists’ overarching theme was the theocratic legacy of the Quran and its exalted author, Muhammad, a man who presumed to set the human race straight about the workings of the universe. Contrary to statements by the dissenting authors, the cartoonists in question weren’t picking on the afflicted. They were inviting their audience, through a series of deliberately coarse (but entirely optional) solicitations, to think about a debatable set of absolutist ideas. All passions are not equivalent. A vital distinction exists between maximum devotion to free expression and maximum devotion to killing other human beings in fulfillment of a worldview. If PEN won’t make that argument, who will?

I am disappointed by the announcement regarding honoring of Charlie Hebdo with PEN award. This amounts to further provocating over 2 billion aggrieved Muslims the World over. Instead of closing the front and providing a healing touch to those hurt by the Charlie Hebdo caricatures, award aims at teasing the Muslims with a strong message that mainstream Western media would continue to side with such rash acts and actors. This would also make Charlie Hebdo category trash to feel confident that they could commit such rash acts and would not only get away with it , but would also be pampered. Message for the Muslim World is that you can go and hit the roof, we care two hoots for your sensitivities. Result: elevating the conflict to higher intensity.

Ironically, French law does prohibit speech that might invoke or support violence. France has speech laws that specifically address anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. This right is also recognized in international human rights law and the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ (ICCPR), subject to the provisos stipulated in its Articles 19(3) & 20. Article 19 of ICCPR states:

“1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.”
Furthermore, Article 20 of ICCPR states: “1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law. 2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

In 2010, UN Human Rights Council passed resolution “Combating defamation of Religions” that highlighted some Islam specific points. Concern was expressed that Islam is being frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism. Another resolution was passed in 2011 that expressed concern at the deliberate stereotyping of religions, their adherents and sacred persons in the media. Issue is on UNGA agenda; it adopts a resolution each year. However this resolution is non-binding. America and other Western countries do not implement this resolution on the pretext that it would curtail the freedom of expression.

Collective Human conscience has a responsibility towards History. It needs to harmonize and synergize its efforts to take the mankind out of this psychological morass. Pope’s statement, UNHRC resolutions and ICCPR provide adequate framework to resolve the issue. UN Security Council should cease the moment and adopt appropriate resolution under chapter 7 of the Charter.

To conclude I strongly condemn the announcement of PEN award for Charlie Hebdo. Charlie Hebdo should instead face accountability under French and International Law. Like some of the Nobel awards, this award for Hebdo Charlie is essentially politically motivated aimed at inflicting ling lasting insult of Muslims. I salute the group of 145 writers who have raised their voice against this unjust award to Charlie Hebdo.

Offener Brief an Josef Haslinger, Präsident des deutschen PEN-Zentrums

Lieber Josef!

Ich habe schon vor ein paar Tagen in den Zeitungen gelesen, daß der US-PEN seinen alljährlichen "Freedom of Expression Courage award" an Charlie Hebdo vergeben hat.

Man kann durchaus der Meinung sein, daß Charlie Hebdo geschmacklos, geschmackfrei, unlustig - was auch immer - ist. Man kann auch dagegen sein, daß man einen solchen Preis an Charlie Hebdo gibt - ist eine Frage der Begründung.

Als ich aber am Donnerstag in der PRESSE las, daß Du als deutscher PEN-Präsident diese Preisvergabe "scharf kritisierst", war ich über die Begründung erstaunt. Wenn der Bericht in der Presse stimmt, lehnst Du die Preisvergabe ab, weil Du dem Magazin vorwirfst, es trage "zur Verschärfung des Klimas zwischen den gesellschaftlichen Gruppen bei".

Bist Du Dir wirklich sicher, daß Du da richtig liegst?

Meine Einwände:
* Wenn man dieses Argument ernst nimmt, sind Satire und Karikatur praktisch nicht mehr möglich. Irgendjemand ist immer subjektiv beleidigt, insbesondere religiöse Fundamentalisten aller Richtungen.
* Wenn Dein Argument stimmt, dann hätte die katholische Kirche mit gutem Recht gegen das Jesus-Buch (Das Leben des Jesus) von Gerhard Haderer protestiert (bis hin zur strafrechtlichen Verfolgung). Weihbischof Laun erklärte damals, daß dieses Buch "sehr schnell zur Verfolgung der Kirche führen könne". Na, das ist verdammt nah an Deiner Argumentation mit der Klimaverschärfung.
* Mit Deiner Einschätzung von "Klimaverschärfung" lieferst Du - zwar sicher ungewollt, aber doch - den verwirrten Attentätern noch im Nachhinein eine Rechtfertigungslinie. Du gibst all jenen Fundamentalisten Recht, die sich über Satire auf Religion empören und nicht anerkennen wollen, daß Religion Privatsache ist und auch keinen besonderen Schutz (Blasphemieparagraphen!) rechtfertigt.
* Zu schlechter Letzt erhebt diese Argumentation im Subtext einen Vorwurf, wie er auch den Juden gemacht wird: sie seien durch ihr Wesen und ihre Taten selbst schuld an ihrem Schicksal. Du öffnest argumentativ allen Irren Tür und Tor für irgendwelche Fatwen und deren Umsetzung. Mir ist schon klar, daß Du diese Taten nicht rechtfertigen willst, aber Dein Argument wird Fundamentalisten in ihrer Haltung bestätigen. Willst Du das wirklich?

Deine Argumentation hat auch noch einen anderen Haken: sie setzt voraus, daß die Fundamentalisten guten Willens und diskussionsbereit und -fähig sind. Sind sie aber nicht, wie wir wissen. Diese Leute haben sich doch nie mit den Karikaturen in Charlie Hebdo auseinandergesetzt, und schon gar nicht mit Fragen der Meinungsfreiheit, der Religionsfreiheit, von Demokratie und freiheitlicher Gesellschaft. Die wollen sich über etwas empören, ein Grund findet sich immer. Schon die bloße Abbildung des Propheten ist für diese Leute schlimmste Blasphemie und rechtfertigt in ihrer Lesart des Koran die Tötung solch "Ungläubiger". Wenn hier tatsächlich wer das Klima verschärft, dann solche Fundamentalisten. Sie drohen der westlichen Gesellschaft, verbreiten Ängste und Vorurteile gegen den Islam. Das jetzt umgekehrt den Leuten von Charlie Hebdo vorzuwerfen, halte ich für ziemlich verwegen und unangemessen. Du solltest wirklich nochmal überdenken, ob Du da nicht schwer daneben liegst.

Liebe Grüße
Michael Amon

as a person who used to go out of my way to respect others’ religions, i found myself appalled beyond expression after the charlie hebdo attacks. while there is a grey, very nuanced area concerning to what extent any person should go to in order to avoid disrespect, no one should suffer harm from any words they’ve uttered or artwork they have produced. bravo for your award in support of principle, which very deservingly goes not only to charlie hebdo, but also to the other honorees!

I’m an American author, who is also half-French. My books are published by the same house in France that publishes the work of two of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It is clear that many of the authors who have signed this preposterous letter of protest against PEN’s decision to honor these fine, courageous individuals, have absolutely no understanding of the outrageous, over-the-top, satirical, and yes, often offensive (to someone) humor that has been a French cultural tradition for centuries. I am stunned and deeply disheartened by the sanctimoniousness of these self-appointed keepers of our Free Speech civility. FREE SPEECH, two words together that cannot be parsed or qualified. Either you’re in or you’re out. Bravo PEN. Bravo Salman Rushdie. Bravo Deborah Nossel.

I think someone should ask the boycotters if any of them have actually READ the newspaper that they are denouncing. Everybody likes to look at the pictures, but sometimes it's nice to read the text as well. I find it absolutely insane that this question is not the first one posed by every journalist in response to the claim that Charlie Hebdo is racist: can you read French?

In the spirit of actually knowing what you are talking about, this is a story about Bernard Maris. It's also a story about cultural appropriation, but the appropriators aren't necessarily who you think.

Bernard Maris was an economist, part of the diverse movement of altermondialisme, which was concerned with topics within globalization such as economic justice or the protection of the environment. He was a minority voice in economics, coming from outside the mainstream economic views, from a position more or less on the left of those views. In addition to his research, he was also a public intellectual, writing not only for Charlie Hebdo, but also for several other newspapers including Le Monde, and doing a weekly segment for a general audience on France's national public radio.

As a voice which was at once established and not mainstream, Bernard Maris actually contributed to helping the lives of those maligned populations that those boycotting the PEN award claim to be sticking up for (consider how important voices on the left in economics are in a Europe caught up in a rage for austerity, for example). His voice is now silenced, because he was murdered by fanatics with masks and AK47s, because he happened to be at a staff meeting. (Yes, Charlie had a regular economics column. Why? Because it's a real newspaper, contrary to how it's often presented. But I digress.)

So, in effect, the PEN boycotters have laid claim to helping a population that they have never helped (aside from the present temper tantrum) and scarcely know anything about, and in so doing, they are tarnishing as a racist a person who in fact did try to help this same population, that is, insofar as they acknowledge his existence at all, which is very little. In short, when he is thought of as anything except invisible, it's as a terrible racist.

These people are erasing and stealing something important from Bernard Maris, and from Charlie Hebdo, and from France. When I say this is cultural appropriation, this is what I mean. This is certainly a global issue, and solidarity such as PEN's is always welcomed or useful. But pasting your own narrative over everything else, including the truth, so that you can look good while actually doing nothing is the worst kind of cultural appropriation, and it's no better for being applied to a European culture and country by people who claim to be progressive than it is when it happens anywhere else.

I am all for free expression, even when I don't like what's said, but the PEN charter that these people signed says this: "And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts for political and personal ends." This boycott is the distortion of facts for personal ends, and the members participating should be ashamed. People who cannot even be bothered to learn the names of the dead people that they are slandering because it might interfere with their 15 minutes on social media are not on the side of right. They are grotesque.

The 17 people killed: http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2015/01/10/dix-sept-victimes-en-trois-j...

The director of Charlie, also now dead, actually describes in his own words why he did what he did and what he thought the paper was for: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seFriE8kH9I

Among the unfortunate spam in this thread, a large number of PEN members and others have decried the shameful ignorance that led many writers we otherwise admire to declare that Charlie Hebdo is a racist, anti-Muslim publication when the truth is pretty much the opposite. I would like to add one more thing, or one more link, to a piece in Tablet by Vladislav Davidzon, a current member of the Paris expatriate community (in which I also count myself.) I don't agree with everything he says, nor with his overall tone (which veers towards the self-congratulatory), but in addition to his own observations he provides a number of useful links to commentaries by others about what Charlie Hebdo is all about. The amazing thing is that some cartoons with an expressly (in French) anti-racist message have been take as evidence of racism by the ignorant, naive and politically correct (yes, let's bring this term back to the left, where it originated long ago as a self-mocking critique of our own limitations.) If my own tone seems harsh towards those I otherwise admire and count as fellow members of PEN, it is because their attack on champions of free speech and progressive politics are really inexcusable.

Link is here:

http://tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/190749/paris-pen-boycott

Apologies to Ms. Nossel for my misstatement of her first name in my previous post. I mistakenly called her by Ms. Eisenberg's first name. I meant to say, Bravo Suzanne Nossel.

Humorless or people with a sense of humor? After reading more than I care to about this controversy, I've come to the conclusion that the sharp divide between the minority of protesting writers and those of us PEN members who see honoring Charlie Hebdo for its courage as something totally natural is the divide between humorless writers and those of us with a sense of humor .

When you look at the distinguished writers protesting the award, the thing that will strike you is that while nearly all of them have written brilliant books, none of them have written funny books -- or indeed, books with any humor at all within their pages.

Joyce Carol Oates? Brilliant, but no sense of humor.

Salman Rushdie? Also brilliant, but funny.

And I could go down the line of the PEN award protesters, many of whom are writers of books I treasure and of books I've taught as a literature teacher, and I cannot find one who really has any sense of the comic or the absurd.

If the editors, writers and artists of MAD Magazine half a century ago had been gunned down by religious Christians in the US, these same PEN members would not be wanting to honor MAD because it offended then-marginal groups and their own propriety simply because they didn't "get" MAD Magazine.

People who don't think Charlie Hebdo or Monty Python or Beavis & Butthead or Fritz the Cat is funny can't understand why anyone laughs at those works.

Now I feel less animosity toward the award protesters. They can't understand because they are lacking the capacity to laugh. The editors, writers and artists of Charlie Hebdo can manage to laugh even after the massacre because they are -- like most PEN members -- naturally funny.

We should feel pity for the humor-challenged PEN award protesters. And , behind their backs, we can laugh at them.

Also, the award protesters need to buy cheap Viagra. Especially Peter Carey.

Eugene wrote :
If it's true, as PEN believes, that "Charlie Hebdo's intent was not to ostracize or insult Muslims, but rather to reject forcefully the efforts of a small minority of radical extremists" then we have to say that Charlie Hebdo apparently has no ability to discriminate between its stated small target and the much, much larger community of harmless, innocent and generally downtrodden French Muslims.

Why do you focus on French Muslims ? Charlie Hebdo speaks about everybody not only muslims and it is secular sometimes rude but it's to show how rough religions are. Their death and murders proove charlie Hebdo staff is right. I think french muslims, you and others, who don't want to honor the courage of the missings are very dangerous for the future of the democracies. It's very sad and heart-breaking. Next week a young french muslim lady wanted to beat me because I said what I think of her religion, it's not a democratic way to speak each an other, just a way to begin a war of civilization. Muslims are not the poor persons without defence you believe they are, French christians are so poors, and secular too, not only one community. This young Muslims lady think apostasy (art 18 UR) islam forbid is a desertion, a treason. For me it's a language of warrior in war against occidental civilization. So to consider apostasy a war declaration don't be surprised if the response is arm and war to win the right of apostasy written in human rights. Keep opened ears and eyes if you don't accept poor and simple hand made drawings of atheists.

The funniest short joke in my copy of Charlie Hebdo this week?
"Hollande met les communistes en colère en comparant le FN au PC des années 1970. En revanche, il ne s'est pas risqué à comparer le PS d'aujourd'hui au PS des années 1970." (Technically, the long piece showing the life of jesus under special forces guard is funnier, but impossible to reproduce here. Why not try buying a copy and reading it for yourself? It's only three euros at the newsstand. Compared with the price of a PEN gala ticket, that's a real bargain.)

The funniest thing from this comments thread?
The person above who appears to believe that Charlie Hebdo is a person, first name Charlie, last name Weekly, but despite that profound and absurd level of ignorance, feels fine about condemning "him".

You can't make this stuff up, folks!
Well, Charb could have, but of course he's dead now.

Hilarious, isn't it?

The commentary about this noble effort should also contribute to a refined feeling for the protection of free expression. Don't rag or tear down. Be inclusive. A bunch of writers in closed fashion may miss out on the fresh thought from those that do, things.

Actually, I've changed my mind.

In reading Prose's statement (a piece of writing every bit as fine as anything that the marketing offices of capitalist america could produce), I now believe that we should denounce and censor even more. Who needs context? Who needs language skills? Who needs, oh, I don't know, a basic familiarity with the contents of the thing denounced?

Not me!

In that spirit, I would like to urge the National Book Award people to remove the novel Blue Angel from its 2000 short list. I know it's late, but even a retroactive change will make a strong statement that, while we probably don't think Prose should be blown up or anything, we certainly do not approve of what she has written, and will in no way celebrate or support her rights as a human being.

Now, granted, I haven't actually READ the book in question, but I did read a summary on the internet somewhere. I don't know who wrote that summary, but I'm sure it's fine. Also, I looked at the cover, and that picture, man, that picture really says it all. First of all, this is a book that depicts an inappropriate sexual relationship between a professor and a student. But then, the book sides with the professor! Can you imagine? Blaming the victim, a helpless young woman, subject to the power structures of an all-white all-male academy? Sexist nonsense!

And this slut-shaming prose (not all people with tattoos and piercings are promiscuous, Ms. Prose!) fist all too clearly into a narrative of pedagogy and female sexuality: poor victimized scholar, manipulative young nymphet, we've seen this before. Shouldn't Prose be challenging these dominant narratives with her art, and representing the disenfranchised instead of punching down?

Now some of you will no doubt object, saying that I have misunderstood, or even deliberately misrepresented, this piece of writing, or even going so far as to suggest that I should read it before I judge. To you I say this: I don't need to read this piece of garbage to know that it's sexist trash, and I refuse to bother even wasting my time this way! I don't like it, I don't want to read it, and I don't think you should, either. (You can if you want, it's a sort of free country after all, and I am TOTALLY for free expression, it's just that if you do like this book, there's probably something really wrong with you, is all I'm saying.)

National Book Award people, act now! It's not too late to protect us all from the dangerous, but absolutely free, I am so behind that, expression.

Something lost in much of this controversy is the sad fact that so many journalists and other writers have been killed, imprisoned, or otherwise made to suffer for exercising their courage and advancing free speech. Honoring Charlie Hedbo does something toward acknowledging that even arguable, imperfect, or worse expression can and is part of the spectrum we need to keep alive the possibility of discussion of difficult, even insoluble issues. Giordano Bruno probably raised objections among the writers and thought leaders of his time, even those who were somewhat sympathetic to his views. Now centuries later, we remember him; not the politically correct standers-by.

J'aimais tellement Cabu, sa douceur, son humour, ses caricatures des ploucs français, son Grand Duduche. Assassiner cet homme, c'était si bête, si inutile, si pauvre, si triste....
Une vingtaine de personnes sont mortes, criblées de balles, début janvier à Paris :
Cabu, un grand caricaturiste de presse,
Honoré, tout aussi vieux et talentueux,
Tignous, dessinateur aussi,
Charb, le patron,
Wolinski,, l'affreux sexiste.
Aussi Elsa psychanalyste
Bernard chroniqueur économiste,
tous de l'équipe de Charlie,
sans oublier Mustapha le correcteur.
Michel un Visiteur, journaliste et grand voyageur,
Frédéric qui effectuait son premier jour de travail
et Ahmed le policier.
A l'épicerie casher, 17 personnes ont été prise en otage, 4 hommes ont été tués :
Alors, je ne vous comprends plus, Russel Banks et Joyce Carol Oates, plus du tout !
Je ne lisais que rarement Charlie, je lui préfère Le Canard Enchaîné mais aucun droit n'est donné à personne de tuer, du moins en Europe.
Transgresser est nécessaire, salutaire, sain.
Un immense merci à Salman Rushdie et au PEN...
Cabu, tu me manques.

I believe the PEN members who objected are misinformed and displaying an arrogance that they understand the cultural context of Charlie Hebdo's work. First, the assumption that the Hebdo staff was comprised of all white, powerful men punching down shows they didn't really investigate, as there were Muslims on the staff, and one of the murdered staff members was Algerian. Further, they don't seem to understand the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. This is like French writers protesting an American organization for honoring Stephen Colbert. Colbert ridicules by masquerading as his target, and so does Charlie Hebdo. To put it in a cultural context they can understand, would they call the New Yorker a right wing racist magazine? They ran this cartoon of the Obamas as terrorist Muslims to mock the Tea Party paranoia: http://blog.kenperlin.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/new-yorker-obama-co... It is directly analogous to Charlie Hebdo's "racist cartoons", which, in many cases, were ridiculing the far Right for their racist remarks about political figures. I'd be super irritated with the literati in other countries having the arrogance to paint Colbert or the New Yorker as racist publications, without their even bothering to investigate the cultural context of their humor. Talk about an American exceptionalist, culturally superior arrogance. Hypocrisy at its worst.

Charlie Hebdo has been ridiculing religions for years, but until now murder as a response to their presumed provocations has not been considered a likely consequence. Those dissident PEN writers & other apologists who are willing to throw our 1st Amendment rights under the bus so as not to provoke the Islamists don't understand the concept of free speech. Self-censuring is not free speech. Liberty means you can say things that make others uncomfortable. Don't confuse free speech and being impolite. Saying that the Hebdo editors provoked the violence is the same as saying "She asked for it" concerning a rape victims' mode of dress. Don't self-censure. Modern civilization will be consumed by a 'tyranny of silence' if we do so. I applaud PEN for standing up to the dissident writers & other apologists who are unwittingly abrogating our free speech rights.

Is ridiculing and bullying people free speech? Is it something we should celebrate? We all must be concerned with the terrible realities of extremist religion, but how do the editorial actions of Charlie Hebdo elevate the discussion? Will they be the impetus for change or just increase the hatred? If the wives and children of these editors had been the victims of these killers would they have felt as strongly about their rights of free expression?

After following this controversy for some time, and finding both writers and ideas that I support on either side, I still find my own thoughts on the underlying issues basically unchanged. So I'll just post here what I wrote back on January 15, on a plane home from Paris. As for the award, if I had been given a vote, I wouldn't have cast it for Charlie Hebdo, but, once awarded, had I been invited to the dinner, I also wouldn't have opted to protest it. For some, that will likely seem the exact sort of waffling that such issues can't afford. Me, I'd just call it opting in to hear folks out. Anyway, here's what I wrote back in January:
 

Tous Charlie? Pas tout à fait...

Yesterday morning Charlie Hebdo hit the newstands in France and sold out within minutes. The cover of this “survival issue”—the newspaper’s first since two armed gunmen slaughtered eight of its journalists, killing four others as well at its Paris offices—appeared with the title, “All is pardoned,” and featured a caricature of Muhammed wearing an “I am Charlie” sign. The image, drawn by Renald Luzier (“Luz”), a staff cartoonist who simply happened to be late to work on Thursday, was true to form in its decision to violate Islamic strictures against representing the prophet.

Their editorial decision to lead with this image also wasn’t particularly hard to predict. That irony, rather than burlesque, was the dominant tone captured by the cover, however, was a less typical Charliesque choice. Within the issue, nonetheless, readers did find the sort of humor they’re accustomed to: one cartoon, for example, depicted two jihadists in heaven asking about their seventy virgins, who were said to be off instead with the team from Charlie.

By chance, my wife and I happened to be passing through Paris in the days just after the attacks. I won’t try to describe what it felt like to be among the million and half marching on the Sunday after the attacks—I simply have no words for it. Erri De Luca’s French translator, Danièle Valin, describes the experience as “hydrographic”: joining a trickle of folks outside your door, then a stream soon becoming a torrent, and finally a great river. She adds that this image is no metaphor, simply the literal and physical experience of belonging.

In the train on the way to Paris, I was reading Victor S. Navasky’s Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and their Enduring Power (Knopf, 2013). Anyone who wants real insight into the challenge that political caricature poses for advocates of free speech should do the same. Editor, then publisher and editorial director of The Nation for over a quarter-century, Navasky describes himself as a free-speech absolutist, so there’s no doubt about where he stands. Like Luz’s Muhammed, he’d likely have no problem with wearing the Je Suis Charlie sign. Yet his book—written at least in part in response to the 2005 cartoons published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten, and subsequently by other newspapers and magazine, including Charlie Hebdo—also doesn’t shy away from asking whether the power of political caricatures may at times do as much for evil as for good. After all, as he comments in his introduction, “the vicious anti-Semitic caricatures of the Nazi periodical Der Stürmer . . . helped turn a generation of Germans into Jew haters.” Navasky notes as well the afterlife of such depictions in the Arab press, and elsewhere, today. That an accomplice of the Charlie Hebdo murderers staged an assault on a kosher grocery store, killing four others, indeed evokes the Europe of over seventy years ago.

As Navasky notes, there were the twenty-four Nazi leaders tried at Nuremberg, but “Julius Streicher, the founder and editor of Der Stürmer, was the only editor” (306). He cites the verdict of the International Commission, which noted that, “In its extent Streicher’s crime is probably greater and more far-reaching than that of any of the other defendants [. . .] The effect of this man’s crime, of the poison he poured into the minds of young boys and girls goes on, for he concentrated upon the youth and childhood of Germany.” Navasky also argues that caricature gains its power through its inseparable combination of ideational content and formal expression, and that they may well capitalize on our hard-wired predisposition for face recognition—that the exaggeration typical of cartoon faces may emphasize the very patterns we use to recognize faces in the first place. Navasky cites approvingly the sixteenth-century Italian artist Annibale Carracci, who wrote that “a good caricature should ‘reveal the very essence of a personality [...] more true to life than reality itself.’” The Nation’s former editor and publisher also observes that, unlike verbal satire, a drawing doesn’t easily lend itself to refutation, or even response—after all, “there is, for all practical purposes, no such thing as a cartoon to the editor.”

In Art of Controversy, the bulk of Navasky’s analysis focuses on the progressive power of political cartoons to influence public perceptions of—and in some cases even humble—the apparently magnificent and mighty. He attributes his own fascination with this topic to an unexpected uprising by his own editorial staff at The Nation against a Kissinger caricature by David Levine. Navasky later calls David Low, the artist who most enfuriated the Führer, as “the cartoonist I most wanted to talk to” and gives ample space as well to commentary on the work of Herbert Block (Herblock), “who gave Senator Joseph McCarthy a bucket of tar with a big brush, and literally gave McCarthyism its name.”

In its discussion of the work of Doug Marlette, however, Navasky’s book ventures onto the ground most fertile for thinking through, and rethinking, the recent horrors in Paris. Marlette, once a cartoonist for the Charlotte Observer, had the distinction of targeting Jesse Helms so frequently that the North Carolina senator began to collect and frame the originals, until eventually one of the caricatures incensed him to the point that he demanded an apology, threatening never to speak to anyone at the Observer again. Marlette also “outraged fundamentalist Christians by skewering TV preacher Jerry Falwell, Roman Catholics by needling the Pope, and Jews by criticizing Israel,” but it was a Newsday cartoon with the caption “What Would Mohammed Drive?” that caused the biggest backlash. This sketch showed a man in a headscarf driving a Ryder truck with an over-sized nuke poking out of it. In his defense of the drawing, Marlette wrote that it was not intended as an assault on the Islamic religion and its founder, but was instead directed at the “distortion of their religion by murderous fanatics and zealots.” Tough to argue with that.

And yet, indirectly at least, Navasky does. Although he has, and should have, more sympathy for Marlette’s civil libertarianism than for some other uses of caricature he describes, Navasky does go on to wonder if the artfulness of such cartooning may in fact be inseparable from propaganda, and if so, whether its use, even in a good cause, can be distinguished from the use made of it by the very worst—and here Navasky reminds us of Hitler’s discussion of the subject in Mein Kampf. Marlette’s readiness to resort to stereotype in making his case provokes Navasky to suggest that progressive uses and social abuses in the art of political satire are formally indistinguishable, and that the only thing that does keep them apart are the battle lines of history, along with the justness of one’s cause.

So what then, other than the side where we’ve staked our tent, ultimately makes the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo formally different from those of Der Stürmer? In essence, nothing. Even if their political content, mutando mutande, tends to be close enough to that of Marlette, their form may yet simply heat the forge of Islamophobia within a West already hot with hatred and violence. In early responses to the killings in Paris, both Teju Cole and Joe Sacco have made related points. Sacco did so in a cartoon of his own, noting that “when we [cartoonists] draw a line, we are often crossing one too, because lines on paper are a weapon, and meant to cut to the bone.” But whose bone?” he asks, “What exactly is the target?”

Like Sacco, and, I believe, like most of those that marched on Sunday, I dream of a world capable of defending speech even when it offends, one that makes no apologies for brutality and murder, and yet that still believes so-called “political correctness,” though much maligned, may at times and in some cases be both political and correct. As Cole comments, “Moments of grief neither rob us of our complexity nor absolve us of the responsibility of making distinctions.” Had I not left town the day before, like most of Paris, yesterday morning I too would have gotten up early, only then to be disappointed when Charlie Hebdo sold out before I got to the newstand. I do see real heroism in their commitment to keep going, and I certainly value the République française, along with its values, which some see expressed in such journalism. But that still doesn’t make me a subscriber. 

Every once in awhile we have to poke at the hornet's nest. But how we express our outrage is very important. Being a bad boy to be a bad boy will get you only so far. It lubs the pen. After that, thoughts have to appear. Taunts must have substance. What happened in Paris, the reaction to Charlie, was from the hip overkill. So I guess what I'm saying is this: if you know what you're doing is going to get that sort of a reaction, make sure what you're doing is worth it.

The luxury of writing is to look at a thing from all angles. Discourse makes it possilbe to share an opinion, listen to other opinions, and revise. I find I revised my position on the debate of Pen awarding the Freedom of Expression Courage Award. When a petition went around asking PEN members to voice their dissent, the idea that caught my attention were a continued tendancy to isolate and voice anti-Islamic rhetotic in a racicist France. I added my name. Then I had a conversation with a woman whose ideas about freedom and justice are of such clarity that when when we discussed the issue, I found myself in agreement with PEN's desicion. People who change their minds are sometimes thought of as wishy-washy. Yet to create a space for discussion, to apply reason and intellect to the debate, to the raise the issue of racism, to see how it aligns with freedom is to create a path towards future considerations of these awards, and to continue to think about the questions raised is a precious commodity.

I would go to my death defending Charlie Hebdo's to freedom of expression and the right to publish the cartoons, but at the same time I cannot support any organization that celebrates and awards that crosses the line from humor and satire to extreme offensiveness and hatred. In the context of France's Islamaphobia, Charlie Hebdo is no different than Nazi Germany's repulsive "humorous" cartoons about Jews. I know of no Muslim who is not deeply offended and hurt by the cartoon. Now, that does not mean that Charlie Hebdo should have been attacked. Just the opposite. We should be fighting against this kind of xenophobia all over the world and especially in France these days. As a consequence, I have resigned my membership from PEN. I cannot support an organization that celebrates these kinds of hate crimes.

See how the once believed to be holy cow has arrested the freedom of westerners by just being in single digit minority. They have killed the freedom of people in their own country. I can bet that most free thinkers are chilled to the bone for the fear of getting killed as elsewhere in the world. All westerners missed the recent point of India-Pakistan divide. Non muslims in pakistan 45% while divided, now 1.5%. Muslims in india at that time 6%, and now 17.5%. Muslims criticize religion of others almost daily in India but hindus has full fear to even say a word on it. Just a minority of this faith believers has made life miserable for others. Just imagine the fear the world is living with and even politicians fear to utter a word against. Read book:

Dégoûtant - the very definition of adding insult to injury, grounded, apparently, in ignorance of what happened last January 7th and why... unless it's another case of Chico Marxism: "Who ya gonna believe - me or your lying' eyes?!?" I would hope that the dissenting writers have since done the research and tried to understand the honorable lives of the murdered writers and cartoonists that PEN meant to honor, but I'm not holding my breath. Fellow travelers indeed, giving credence to the lies that fueled these Islamofascist murders.

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