Charlie Hebdo & Why #JeSuisNigeria Won’t Work
I was reluctant to write about the Paris terrorist attacks. The assassination of Charlie Hebdo’s staff was horrific; images of their blood stained offices were everywhere and we saw victims on stretchers being carried away, it’s one of those scenes that we can’t forget so I thought why write about it. The networks seize these moments and hope for a ratings increase (most desperately need them) and politicians will use the attack for their own agenda, but something bothered me; it was the US media’s continued explanation of French satire, the strange examination of French Muslim-Jewish relations and the constant use of words like “controversial and provocative.” Is it really any of those things? Charlie Hebdo is a satirical newspaper with a small left-wing audience; all of their readers were French and well-educated. It was never intended for mass consumption. The sole purpose of satire is to ridicule the shortcomings of society and ultimately disrespecting a religion shouldn’t result in death.
I wonder if Charlie Hebdo can even be considered provocative (i.e. causing annoyance, anger, or another strong reaction, especially deliberately) when their target audience is accustomed to the cartoons? They expect it. My friend once told me, “Charlie Hebdo is for the very smart.” He’s right. Their writers and contributors are graduates from the best schools in France, they are economists, doctors, and filmmakers.
Does Charlie Hebdo incite violence? I don’t think so. It makes light of issues in French society. People have the right to say what they like and voicing support of terrorism is a component of those freedoms, but it is also seen as a precursor to violence. France is probably smart to arrest those individuals. It’s fairly simple; France doesn’t have an all encompassing freedom of speech. France has laws concerning inciting racism and religious hatred, one can look at the charges against Michel Houellebecq and John Galliano as a reminder that there are freedoms with limitations. Galliano was found guilty of Anti-Semitism. Houellebecq was found not guilty of inciting religious hatred.
Last night the news reported people standing in queues for Charlie Hebdo and it was strange seeing people purchase a newspaper that they wouldn’t ordinarily read because of a terrorist attack. Overseas interest in Charlie Hebdo has grown too, I wonder how helpful that will be in the future. Several American friends have subscribed to Charlie Hebdo out of curiosity and possibly a means of financial support, but their relationship with France is a superficial one; how long until the appeal of reading the “provocative” wears off. What happens when they find out it’s not so controversial? Can Charlie Hebdo appeal to someone in Oregon who has never heard of Marine Le Pen? I’m not so sure, but it’ll be interesting to find out. After all the US media covered French politics insofar as having discussions about the fashionable Carla Bruni and who she was wearing, most people won’t understand the context. Francois Hollande’s ex-partner Valerie Trierweiler was the topic of conversation in the US media while the French government debated whether to make changes to their assimilation policy.
Hashtags are helpful, but ultimately meaningless in countries where citizens have little to no autonomy. The Bring Back Our Girls campaign with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls led to public awareness but there are still over 250 girls missing. Boo Haram has been active for over a decade and the Nigerian government has done little to protect their most vulnerable citizens. Their massacres are brutal but not unexpected, the frequency with which Boko Haram attacks these villages has increased. Figures vary and eyewitness accounts differ on the dead. There can’t be outrage without real shock and no one is shocked that Boko Haram continues to attack men, women, and children. The Nigerian government is rife with corruption and an army reluctant to fight a terrorist group stronger than them. Amnesty claims 2,000 were killed but the Nigerian military spokesman said it was 150 people. To write Je suis Nigeria is problematic as it does nothing to help the problem. It would be more helpful to write a senator on the Foreign Relations Committee and suggest that the international community hold Nigeria accountable instead of tweeting Je suis Nigeria. No one knows exactly what happened in Baga, what we do know is Boko Haram strapped a bomb on a 10-year-old girl and blew her up in a Nigerian Marketplace. Nigeria is unstable but France is the opposite, we just don’t expect a massacre to occur in a place like Paris. Yes, it’s unfair but tweeting #JesuisNigeria won’t change anything. There’s no real emotion behind it, the outrage just isn’t there.