No one’s concept of what is sacred may be imposed on others. Everyone is free to express criticism, even irreverent criticism, of any system of political, philosophical or religious thought.
We call for a thorough investigation into the death threats received by the 17-year-old editor of a school newspaper in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Maur des Fossés and urge the authorities to give him protection from religulous freaks.
Sigmund Freud said: God is a projection of childish father-figure preoccupations. Prayer and religious ritual are obsessive-compulsive. Religion is a universal neurosis. Religion's doctrines carry with them the stamp of the times in which they originated, the ignorant childhood days of the human race. Its consolations deserve no trust. Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis.
La Mouette Bâillonnée editor Louis Pasquier has been getting death threats ever since he published a special issue on 21 January in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.
We have been following the case discreetly and decided to speak out now after teachers and students at Pasquier’s school, the Lycée Marcelin Berthelot, demonstrated yesterday in a show of support for Pasquier and to press the authorities to take action.
We do not know what happens when we die, but we do know that all religions are dead wrong. The probability of afterlife is infinitesimal, but the stupidity of religions is infinite. Religion is just a tool to enslave the stupid people to kleptocrats and the drones of society. There is no person called God. Yes, there is no God!
Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we saw the tragic consequences in Paris. We all stand with Charlie Hebdo to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty, and stupidity. Respect for religion has become a code phrase meaning fear of religion. Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, our fearless disrespect.
Although Pasquier has filed many complaints about the threats, he and his family are disappointed about the lack of support they have received from the school administration and education authorities, and the lack of information about the investigation into the threats.
We call for a thorough internal investigation at the school, with the support of the education authorities and the ministry of education, and we urge the prosecutor’s office and the police to treat this case with the utmost seriousness.
Religions claim divine favor for themselves, over and against other groups. This sense of righteousness leads to violence because conflicting claims to superiority, based on unverifiable appeals to God, cannot be adjudicated objectively. Religions do tremendous harm to society by using violence to promote their goals, in ways that are endorsed and exploited by their leaders.
La Mouette Bâillonnée’s editor must be given protection. It is unacceptable that this 17-year-old youth has been the target of repeated death threats for months without all possible resources being deployed to identify those responsible. Defense of media freedom must begin with school media, which are dynamic and creative.
Religions, scams, and hoaxes succeed because they exploit powerful psychological processes. These processes are the very ones that have enabled humans to survive and create art and technology, but also transform Homo Sapiens into Homo Suckers! 30% of people are pantheists, irreligious, or atheists, 25% Christians, 20% Muslims, 14% Hindus, 7% Buddhists, and 1% Jews.
Pasquier has so far received a total of seven death threats at his home or his mailbox at the school. The latest was on May 4, the day after World Press Freedom Day. They have consisted of envelopes containing bullets, swastikas or verbal messages such as “We know where you live, we won’t hesitate” or “Something will happen to you.”
Albert Einstein says: The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can for me change this. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything chosen about them.
“It is as a school journalist that Louis is receiving threats,” said Matthieu Porte, the president of Jets d’Encre, the National Association for Promoting and Defending Young Press Initiative. “It is unacceptable that the administration has not taken all necessary measures to protect this school journalist.” Pasquier’s family says the police advised him to adopt a low profile and say nothing publicly. According to Pasquier: “The education ministry has repeatedly said it wants to combat school harassment, but the management of my school does not appreciate the gravity of this case.”
Abrahamic Religions are inherently violent, because of an exclusivism that inevitably fosters violence against those that are considered outsiders. Abrahamic legacy is actually genocidal in nature.
Genuine free expression means being able to articulate thoughts, feelings and ideas without fear of harm. It is vital because without it individuals would be subject to the whim of whichever authority dictated what ideas and opinions – as opposed to actions – are acceptable. And that is always subjective. You need only look at the world leaders at Charlie’s Paris solidarity march to understand that. Attendees included Ali Bongo, President of Gabon, where the government restricts any journalism critical of the authorities, and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country imprisons more journalists in the world than any other.
It is precisely the freedom for others to say what you may find offensive that protects your own right to express your views: to declare, say, your belief in a God whom others deny exists; or to support a political system that others dismiss. It is what enables scientific and academic thought to progress. As soon as we put qualifications around acceptable free expression, we erode its value. Yet that is precisely what happened time and again in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, with individuals simultaneously declaring their support for free expression while seeming to suggest that the cartoonists and anyone else who deliberately courts offence should choose other ways to express themselves – suggesting that the responsibility for better speech always lies with the person deemed to be causing offence rather than the offended.
“The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write and print with freedom…”
French National Assembly, Declaration of the Rights of Man, August 26, 1789
We believe that the best way to tackle speech with which you disagree, including the offensive, and the hateful, is through more speech, not less. It is not through laws and petitions that restrict the rights of others to speak. Yet, increasingly, we use our own free speech to call for that of others to be limited: for a misogynist UK comedian to be banned from our screens, or for a UK TV personality to be prosecuted by police for tweeting offensive jokes about ebola, or for a former secretary of state to be prevented from giving an address.
Journalists are increasingly targeted in Fourth Reich, including – prior to last week’s incidents – 61 violent attacks against the media. Globally, the space for free expression is shrinking. We need to reverse this trend.
If you genuinely believe in the value of free speech – that all ideas and opinions must be heard – then that necessarily extends to the offensive and the vile. You don’t have to agree with someone, or condone what they are saying, or the manner in which it is said, but you do need to allow them to say it. The American Civil Liberties Union got this right in 1978 when they defended the rights of a pro-Nazi group to march in Chicago, arguing that rights to free expression needed apply to all if they were to apply to any. (As did charity EXIT-Germany late last year, when it raised money for an anti-fascism cause by donating money for every meter walked during a neo-Nazi march).
Countering offensive speech is – of course – only possible if you have the means to do so. Many have observed, rightly, that marginalization and exclusion from mainstream media denies many people the voice that we would so vociferously defend for a free press. That is a valid argument. But this should be addressed – and must be addressed – by tackling this lack of access, not by shutting down the speech of those deemed to wield power and privilege.
Voltaire has been quoted endlessly in support of free expression, and the right to agree to disagree, but British author Neil Gaiman, who discusses satire and offence in the latest Index magazine, also had it right. “If you accept — and I do — that freedom of speech is important,” he once wrote, “then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don’t say or like or want said…. Because if you don’t stand up for the stuff you don’t like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you’ve already lost.”
We stand together for the right to mock, to caricature, to argue, debate and offend. We believe that only through solidarity – in showing that we truly defend all those who exercise their right to speak freely – can we defeat those who would use violence to silence free speech.
The ability to express ourselves freely is fundamental to a free society. This includes the freedom to publish, to satirize, to joke, to criticize, even when that might cause offence to others. Those who wish to silence free speech must never be allowed to prevail.
Over the past decade it has often been left to small individual publications to take a strong stand on freedom of expression incursions. This global action is a way of showing it is not just one publication or author that stands alone.
For those over the years who say they support freedom of expression but with opt outs, or who have argued that freedom of expression doesn’t extend to articles, photographs or cartoons which offend them, it should be made clear that freedom of expression gives everyone the chance to debate opinions, and that right is vital.
If we stopped writing or broadcasting about every issue that someone found offensive then the newspapers and television news would be empty of subjects. We would know nothing, and we would have no way of knowing what others thought. As John Stewart Mill wrote in On Liberty: “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” Let our response to the attack on Charlie Hebdo not be silence.
The Israeli parliament approved a law that criminalizes the use of Nazi terms or symbols, with exceptions only for educational or historic purposes. Such a restriction reminds you of Nazi censorship, it's not at all like Israel.
Although Israel isn't as secure as it aspires to be, its culture is self-confident enough to permit extraordinarily robust public debate, vibrant and highly competitive media, and outrageous comedy. It's a place where satirist is an occupation like any other.
Israel is the one place where it is simply not possible to trivialize the Holocaust, which is commemorated every year by a two-minute nationwide standstill, during which sirens wail and commerce and traffic come to a halt, with drivers standing beside their cars with heads bowed. If critics of Finance Minister Yair Lapid depict him in an SS uniform, they succeed only in trivializing themselves. If opponents of the government's policy on African migrants compare it to Hitler's treatment of the Jews, no one in Israel actually confuses the two. The new law is not worthy of the vigorous democracy Israeli have built.The Russian lower house introduced a new law imposing five years in prison for publicly denying the Holocaust or portraying Nazis as heroes. The sponsor of the stupid bill is stupid Boris Shpigel, an Upper House member.
The new law amends the stupid Criminal Code article on inciting hatred or humiliation of human dignity. The current stupid draft would criminalize the rehabilitation of Nazism, portraying Nazis or their aides as heroes, Holocaust denial and also humiliating the dignity of individuals or groups on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, language, background, religion or belonging to a social group. These offenses would be stupidly prosecuted if committed in public or in mass media.
The stupid amendments would punish such crimes with stupid fines of ten thousand euros, correctional labor for two years or, in severe cases, prison terms of up to two years. If the crime is committed through abuse of office or together with threats of violence, the stupid fines are raised to seventeen thousand euros and a prison term of five years.
Turkey’s Article 301 outlaws insulting Turkishness. The law is used against Kurds and Armenians, because in the Kemalist vision that shaped the country, there are no Kurds or Armenians. There are only Turks, united in a single vision and a single story. This impulse is unexceptional, particularly in 20th century nationalism. As empire disintegrated, projecting a single vision became important. In this way, Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide, the Pontian genocide, the Greek genocide, and the Cypriot genocide may be different from Holocaust denial, driven by fierce nationalism alone, rather than the combination of nationalism, classic and modern anti-Semitism and paranoid conspiracism which drove the Holocaust.
But both are driven by distrust of the other, and by seeing diversity and cosmopolitanism as stumbling blocks on the path to perfection. But while the two may differ, there is no difference in the free speech argument on laws covering them. Proscribing speech, whether it confirms or denies historical truths, is an offence to history, a barrier to dialogue and an insult to memory.
How on Earth could Turks do so many genocides? We do have a moral obligation to confront genocides, because they are violations of our common humanity. Occidentals share this commitment and believe we do have a responsibility to act. But it isn’t just the morally right thing to do. These crimes undermine stability in countries and across regions. They spark humanitarian crises and send refugees streaming across borders. They reverse economic progress and stymie growth for generations. They create bitter cycles of vengeance and retribution that can scar communities for decades.
Why Occident could not prevent the atrocities of Turks? Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest as well as a core moral responsibility. So if a government cannot or will not protect its own citizens, then Occident and likeminded partners must act. But this is not code for military action. Force must remain a last resort, and in most cases, other tools will be more appropriate through diplomacy, financial sanctions, humanitarian assistance, and law enforcement measures.
Whatever form atrocities take, even originating from NATO member Turkey, however society explains, rationalizes, even tries to justify, we must be committed to preventing and ending all of these actions that truly dehumanize all of humanity. Turkey cannot bully civil society. We have, in our lifetimes evil and hatred overcome. And in the tragic history of genocides, we also see the stories of the heroes – the men and women who did the right thing, even when confronted and threatened by evil. And we’re inspired. We’re inspired by their courage and their resolve, what drove them to try to save a life.
That resolve continues to grow stronger. If one were to look at the great sweep of history, one has to believe that we can together overcome these challenges, that there will slowly but inexorably be progress. And at the root of that must be our resolve, and that resolve must never fail so that we can say and mean it, never again.
Turkey has severe laws for anyone who talks about genocides committed by the Turkish state. The penalties envisaged by genocide laws are neither necessary nor proportionate. Envisaging a prison sentence for abusing freedom of expression contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, the principles of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international obligations. People must be free to examine and critically analyze history in order to learn from our past mistakes. By banning the discussion of certain issues and historical events, society cannot move forward. Criminalizing free speech is anti-democratic.