Haunted by the ghosts of Charlie Hebdo.
I heard about the attack shortly before I went on that morning’s John Oakley Show in Toronto. Throughout the grim half-decade for free speech that has followed, I have thought often of Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, the editor of Charlie Hebdo and a great cartoonist in the French style. Two years before his death, he said:
It may seem pompous, but I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.
He did. He was an heroic figure, and he paid for it with his life. One reason for that is because, when everyone else is on their knees, the guy standing up kinda stands out. And Charb & Co had been standing out for almost ten years. As I said to Megyn Kelly at Fox News later that night:
STEYN: Yes, they were very brave. This was the only publication that was willing to publish the Muhammad — the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2006 because they decided to stand by those Danish cartoonists. I’m proud to have written for the only Canadian magazine to publish those Muhammad cartoons. And it’s because The New York Times didn’t and because Le Monde in Paris didn’t, and the London Times didn’t and all the other great newspapers of the world didn’t – only Charlie Hebdo and my magazine in Canada and a few others did. But they were forced to bear a burden that should have been more widely dispersed…
We will be retreating into a lot more self-censorship if the pansified Western media doesn’t man up and decide to disburse the risk so they can’t kill one small, little French satirical magazine. They’ve gotta kill all of us.
Given the despicable, gutless groveling so shamelessly on display this past week, it’s clear that the five years since have brought no improvement in our sorry lot. Steyn looks back in anger:
Five years ago I quoted Andrew Stiles:
Journalists: These French journalists are so brave!
Readers: What did they do? Can I see?
Journalists: It’s our policy not to show you.
But I see Mr Stiles’ Tweet has somehow managed to disappear from the Internet. George Clooney held up a pencil and Dame Helen Mirren wore an exquisite pencil brooch pinned to her splendid embonpoint and thousands of tilty-headed wankers with sorrowful expressions marched through the streets of Paris waving pencils. But none of them was willing to do the one thing that mattered – and show what Charb et al had drawn with those pencils. By the following day I was good and sick of it:
To be honest, it makes me vomit to see people holding these Princess Dianafied candlelit vigils, and using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie – I am Charlie -and in effect appropriating these guys’ sacrifice for this bogus solidarity. It makes me sick to see all these ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ cartoons that have appeared in newspapers all over the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Australia, everywhere, from other cartoonists, again expressing solidarity with these very brave men – but not doing what they did…
I’ve been on enough events in Europe with less famous cartoonists than these who live under death threats, live under armed guard, have had their family restaurant firebombed – it’s happened to a Norwegian comedienne I know – have come home and found their home burned, as a Swedish artist I know happened to. And all these people doing the phony hashtag solidarity, screw your phony hashtag solidarity. Let’s have some real solidarity – or if not, at least have the good taste to stay the hell out of it.
That would have been asking too much. In the days that followed almost all those who claimed to be expressing solidarity with Charb were, in fact, signaling very clearly that they preferred to live on their knees.
I’ve quoted this great Tolkien passage here before, and it bears endless repeating:
It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two, Master Warden, and those who have not swords can still die upon them.
The Charlie Hebdo victims proved their mettle with a defiant message written in their own blood. Too bad the pathetic, weepy fools who boasted “Je suis Charlie!” in between choruses of “Imagine” at all those repulsive candlelight vigils are too cowardly to do anything more than disgrace such a noble legacy.