Six Lessons from the Charlie Hebdo massacre

One month on, the post-massacre love for free speech is withering.

On Sunday, assorted Muslim organisations gathered in London to demonstrate against the publication of ‘insulting’ cartoons of Muhammad. Their demonstration confirmed that the passions aroused by the Charlie Hebdo affair remain undiminished.

This is not a surprise. One month on, the Charlie Hebdo massacre continues to have a profound effect on the public imagination – not just in Europe, but throughout the world. The massacre, which was quickly followed by the killing of Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket, was widely interpreted as a clear sign that every Western society is at risk of terrorist attack. The carnage in Paris provoked an unprecedented display of public solidarity with the victims. Mass demonstrations in France and many other parts of the world proclaimed the importance of free speech, tolerance and liberty. Some hoped that this display of solidarity would lead to a greater affirmation of democratic values. Others believed that the callous act of terror would at least prompt jihadist supporters to re-examine their allegiances and adopt a more tolerant approach to public life.

A month later, it is now possible to start assessing the legacy of the Paris killings. The reactions to the Charlie Hebdo massacre brought to the surface some very uncomfortable lessons.