The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo sparked conservative ire with its latest magazine cover. Former White House official, Sebastian Gorka, is leading the charge.
Gorka isn't alone. Many others in the conservative commentariat are also attacking Charlie Hebdo, such as Jason Howerton of IJR.
Was going to go off on Charlie Hebdo for that sick Texas cover.But then I realized that's what they want. Fuck you. I'm not sharing it— Jason Howerton (@jason_howerton) August 31, 2017
Albeit motivated by a different emotion, Howerton's sentiment explains why most media outlets didn't repost Charlie Hebdo's cartoon of Mohammed, following the January 2015 al Qaeda attack on its offices. Then, the media chose the emotion of fear over the reporting of speech. Now, conservatives are choosing anger.
Don't get me wrong, I recognize why this cover is so offensive to those suffering from Hurricane Harvey, to southerners, and to America. And Gorka is right, Americans from southern states were instrumental in France's liberation from Nazism, and in providing Europe's security during the Cold War.
But at the margin, it doesn't matter. Charlie Hebdo can publish whatever it wishes, and we have the right to like or dislike it. Yet while we should articulate why we dislike it (as I just did above), we shouldn't react with rage.
For a start, by doing so we play to the magazine's raison d'etre: its cultivation of controversy and rage! As its masthead explains, "Charlie Hebdo c'est un coup de poing dans la gueule. Contre ceux qui nous empêchent de penser." Translation: "Charlie Hebdo is a punch in the face against those who prevent us from thinking."
Moreover, beyond Gorka's ahistorical trope about surrender monkeys (the French saved America before Americans saved France), conservatives aren't taking the long view here.
After all, arguably the most important conservative cause today is our opposition to censorship and anti-free speech sentiment. And our credibility will be crucial if we're to convince others to resist the Left's ideological prison. But when conservatives resort with rage to a cartoon, we delegitimize our credibility. It suggests that we're all for free speech, just not all the time.
We also look hypocritical. Consider that just one week ago, Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon attacking Islam after the Barcelona attack. How many American conservatives smiled at it and how many American Muslims were saddened? Scrolling down the Twitter timeline of Charlie Hebdo tweets, I found the following from the Muslim Council of Britain.
In the context of today's uproar, those words prove why Charlie Hebdo's speech anarchy is so great. It doesn't care who, when, or why it upsets, only in its right to speak.
Ultimately, supporting unrestrained freedom of speech means supporting Charlie Hebdo not just when they are attacked by terrorists, but when they draw pictures like this one. And our support is best rendered either by passionate support or ardent criticism, but not by rage.
Because rage is the sword of those who seek chilled speech. As evidenced on college campuses, the Left revels in using abuse and authoritarian morality to chill the honest contemplation of others. Attacking a conservative speaker such as Ben Shapiro, they intimidate some students from associating with him. And whether they know it or not, their endgame is a dominion of drones displacing a society of speakers.
But consider one final point, Charlie Hebdo's mission statement.
"Pour être heureux, Charlie Hebdo dessine, écrit, interviewe, réfléchit et s'amuse de tout ce qui est risible sur terre, de tout ce qui est grotesque dans la vie. C'est-à-dire de presque tout."
"To be happy, Charlie Hebdo draws, writes, interviews, reflects and enjoys all that is laughable on earth, and of all that is grotesque in life. That is to say, almost everything."
By their own words, Charlie Hebdo's first priority is self-amusement! And just as they have the right to be happy, it's in our society's interest to not overreact.