‘Je Suis Charlie’: a caricature of freedom of speech

The pro-Charlie set is now holding back the fight for free expression.

In the four months since the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, something surreal has happened: this mag that slayed sacred cows has itself become a sacred cow. Among Europe’s self-styled ‘decent liberals’, the ones who still claim to believe in free speech, you criticise it at your peril. Think Charlie was infantile? Keep it to yourself. Think its Muhammad mockery was crude, and maybe unnecessary? How dare you. It’s the oddest thing: a magazine celebrated for pissing on dogmas has itself become the stuff of dogma. ‘Je Suis Charlie’ has morphed from an instinctual cry of solidarity with massacred journalists into an article of faith; a doctrine of the dinner-party set; a religious-style test of who is Good, and can thus be granted entrance into the realm of decent liberalism, and who is Bad, and must be written off as a fake liberal.