Last week, my heart sank when I heard on my drive to work that several staff of the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo had been killed in a brutal attack in Paris. Journalists and cartoonists — artists like me — had been silenced for their work. The sad news came just weeks after a satirical movie, The Interview, was pulled from theatrical distribution after Sony Pictures was hacked and threatened.
In both instances, violent people took out their frustrations on art. As a medium, satire comments on the news, on the things that are wrong with the world. But now, satire is the news. Rarely is art so wrapped up in ideological struggles. And the fact that hackers and assassins have chosen to turn their sights on artists deeply worries me.
I don’t agree with the decision made by the staff of Charlie Hebdo to print offensive cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed. I don’t think I would ever want to watch The Interview. This isn’t about the quality or merit of the expression, but the freedom to express whatever you want.
What worries me even more than the senseless acts of violence perpetrated against artists is the effect it could have on others. When a dark cloud of terror hangs over creators for ideas that may offend, they may censor themselves. I don’t want to live in that kind of world.
We have to be better. We cannot stand for censorship. Art is the mirror of society. Without its pointed commentary, we would never confront our imperfect world. We must continue to question governments, religious institutions and systems of power. We must continue to create. Above all, we must support those who risk their lives to write, paint, speak or draw around the world.
Je suis Charlie.
— 30 —
Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His name isn’t really Charlie. You can follow him on Twitter.