Terrorists Can’t Kill Charlie Hebdo‘s Ideas
One of the most meaningful things I've ever written
On January 7, 2015, Islamist fanatics attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the heart of Paris and killed 12 people. The dead included four political cartoonists, editor in chief Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier and two police officers.
In response, I penned an opinion piece for WIRED entitled “Terrorists Can’t Kill Charlie Hebdo’s Ideas.” The original piece has been mangled by UX changes to WIRED’s website over the years, but the text is there. To see it in its original form, I point you to Archive.org.
I can’t repost the entire thing, but here’s the essential bit — and I ask that you please read the whole thing and reflect on the importance of freedom versus tyranny.
Nothing I have ever written has angered someone to the point of violence. I hope it never does. At times like this, I wonder what impact my writing—about cars and Apple, mostly—really has on the world. Or that of my colleagues, spending time in the desert to bring you the latest on über-thin televisions and self-driving cars. But personal expression—whether it’s a movie, a speech, a painting or a blog post—is given value by its reader. We write to be read. We write to have an impact on the world. Sharing hands-on impressions of the latest smart wristband may not change the world, but it has value. It matters in its way.
Today, all journalists have been attacked. Our colleagues in Paris have been brutally murdered for something they created with pen and ink (or their digital equivalents). Something they created that was simultaneously harmless and harmful, inane and enraging.
And with their tragic and indefensible deaths, we have been enraged. The cartoons in Charlie Hebdo may have been graceless and intentionally provocative and not funny. Tech journalism may sometimes be unimportant and vapid and self-indulgent. But all speech plays a part in creating a civilized society, whether from Demosthenes and Bill O’Reilly, Marshall McLuhan and Lawrence Lessig, or TechCrunch and Gizmodo.
As Charbonnier said two years ago, "I'd rather die standing than live on my knees." We all have an obligation to stand with him, to tell truth to power, and to forever ensure that our fellow journalists did not die in vain.
May the ideas live on. Je suis Charlie.