It’s not about free speech: Charlie Hebdo victim blaming

Victim-blaming gives the rest of us the sense of safety.  “They did this, so they got killed,” draws a firm line between us and the victims. It means we, as long as we don’t do what they did, are safe. No wonder people jump to it.

Among many other reasons, one thing about 9/11 that shook us to the core was that the victims were just like us.  No one was able to differentiate themselves from the victims. It could have been me, doing nothing different than yesterday, dressed conservatively, being the perfect neighbour, and offending no one. Our lives being threatened, the literal life or death, is the one most hard-wired fears in us. We can’t just let it sit.

If we could separate the victim from us, we can feel safe again. What did the victims do, how did they dress, were they particularly heroic, were they particularly douchebaggery, did they subscribe to a belief, culture, or religion, were they offensive, illegal, or immoral?  Some answers to these questions, combined with “therefore they got killed,” constructs an unintentional, non-malicious “victim-blaming.”


Be careful treading that path. Victim-blaming reveals what the speaker considers “provocative enough to have justified a violent assault.”

Specifically about Charlie Hebdo, “By my values, these hate speech/comics were worthy of a death sentence.” It establishes the speaker’s values that 1. some speech/expression worthy of a murder and 2. you get to judge, based on your values, if someone’s speech/expression was worthy of a murder.

Now let me ask you.  Did you mean these things when you said/thought/wrote “freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility for that speech” (in comments,

Our democratic world is built upon the foundation of NO ONE being allowed to autonomously say “By my values, these hate speech/comics were worthy of a death sentence.”  Not even an elected judge.


When victim-blaming, Charlie Hebdo or rape victim, remember this. The way we dress, speak, draw, and live each of our lives is offensive to some. Let me demonstrate. Are you for, against, or neutral about same-sex marriage?  Regardless of your answer, you’ve just deeply offended someone. Something that is absolute and clear to us… how about Do you support removing someone’s burqa if you think the situation justifies? There, you again profoundly attacked someone else’s values.

“How do we know I’m not Charlie Hebdo to someone? We don’t.” (


The bottom line is this.  The paper is atrocious. Many of their cartoons attack me and offend me. The paper’s actions, however, must be put to the rule and punishment of the law, not to that of one group based on the group’s values. What happened at Charlie Habdo to me was not just an attack on free speech but was an offence to democracy and to the concept of different groups of people living under the same governance.


What this reminds us is our sense of entitlement regarding the power and authority of the law. The world I thought I live in is only an assumption.  No wonder people want to take shelter in something like victim blaming.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s