The callous murder of ten journalists and two policemen yesterday in the centre of Paris is a landmark moment. The French now have their own 9/11 or 7/7. It’s certainly a defining moment in the history of freedom of expression too: on a par with the Rushdie fatwa.
It’s less than 24 hours since the atrocity and the murders are still at large, yet there is already so much to write about. With ‘moments’ such as this we experience cycles of news, comment, counter-comment and meta comment (i.e. comment on the comment). We seem to be experiencing all of these at once.
I am as guilty as the next person at perpetuating this explosion in words. On my commute this morning I’ve been sharing thoughts on: the newspaper coverage; editorial decisions; the paucity of #JeSuisCharlie; our tendency to self-censor; the motives of the terrorists; the role of the police in defending civil liberties; and the perpetuation of the ‘clash of civilisation’ narrative. I hope to make longer notes on each of these in the coming days.
For now I will ask a single question, which is to wonder how the Charlie Hebdo magazine will recover from this hideous attack? It seems that all of the regular cartoonists were murdered yesterday. If Charlie Hebdo is to rise again, who will take over the reins. I fear that, despite everyonetweeting #JeSuisCharlie, no-one will step up to draw for, or edit the magazine…. which will result in a permenant kind of censorship.