Big Eye, January 20, 2015

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Has the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo reached our sleepy backwater?

Has anyone managed to secure their own personal copy from local stores in town? Part of me would like to think Linnets are up to speed with current fashions and political awareness and part of me would prefer that our little world wasn’t contaminated by the ugliness that has been meted out to France as a result of its content.

The airwaves have been swamped by people airing their opinions as to the rights and wrongs of publishing cartoons that mock religious beliefs and whether you care enough to express an opinion there is no doubt that these cartoons achieved their ultimate goal which was to insult others.

However, strongly you feel about what has happened in France and the threat to justice and ‘free speech’ personified in the form of a terrorist assault, it plainly wasn’t unexpected and, having agreed to an offer of protection from security services, I suggest these cartoonists knew they were playing with fire.

Now this comic and its snappy little sound bite “Je suis Charlie” has reached iconic status overnight and possession of the title, artfully displayed on coffee tables, will automatically imbue you with an aura of sophistication and identify you as a libertarian and a fearless supporter of free speech in every form.

Free speech is something most people say they believe in but does that mean there are no limits?

Insulting another’s religious faith may represent an expression of free speech and maybe we should all buy the book and wear the T- shirt. Is nothing beyond mockery? Those who state categorically that Charlie Hebdo’s raison-d’être was legitimate and the ultimate expression of a free society might like to consider where the boundaries lie!

Should we be free to cackle with laughter at Holocaust cartoons or comics depicting children with cancer? Could magazines heartlessly depicting these topics also be considered great and unassailable examples of a free unfettered society?

There are limits and we all know what they are!

However, free speech and the notion of a private thought or conversation is under attack from somewhere much closer to home.

Our own Government is preparing further legislation enabling their spooks to have ever freer access to your private emails and phone conversations and to make sure that every key stroke and internet search is captured.

They are using the spurious argument that there is a pressing need to do this to keep you safe in your beds while the apparently dozy terrorists creeping amongst us blithely continue to tweet their tweets to each other, utterly oblivious to the fact that they’re being monitored.

Slaughtering the writers of a controversial satirical magazine may well have represented an assault on the concept of free speech but the latest attack on our privacy from our own Government is probably going to prove to be 10 times more dangerous and the effects will continue long after Charlie Hebdo has been consigned to the green bin!

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