Monday, 19 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie - Except In Scotland

You know, 2015 has started in utterly rubbish fashion.  Political parties gearing up for the oncoming UK General Election and utterly failing to understand the trouble ordinary people are in.

Then there’s the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

David Brown from The Independent's take on the Charlie Hebdo attack.
As an outsider, it does look like Charlie Hebdo does sail very close to the bone with its subject matter.  Looking at the covers, they are more strident and forthright than their nearest British equivalent Private Eye.  For all that the cover in the aftermath of the death of the Princess of Wales and the New York terrorist attacks were controversial, Charlie Hebdo is consistently controversial.  There’s the one with Francois Holland being led by his penis and there’s one that is about as close to the bone as possible about Michael Jackson… quite literally.  Then there’s the one’s that show the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

If I’m honest, the thought that people are offended at an image just seems so absurd…  so quaint...  so old fashioned.  Add to that the thought that the message that, arguably, Charlie Hebdo’s most controversial cover is obscured by that, misplaced, offence.  That cover shows the prophet being killed by someone who resembles an IS/ISIS/ISL thug.  The message that these Neanderthals wouldn’t know the true meaning of Islam being obscured by the use of the prophet is such a block on the true interpretation of these cartoons.  To quote another Charlie Hebdo cartoon “It’s hard to be liked by jerks…”.  Jerks who happen to behave more like bullyboy gangsters than religious figureheads mind, but still jerks.

It’s not just France that are having issues regarding the attacks.  Here in the UK, our media shamefully decided to not give any context to the story by pointedly not showing any of the cartoons, at least until they were pressed.  The BBC’s Newsnight showed the front page of “the survivors” issue, whilst someone tried to show it on Qatar Airlines sponsored Sky News.  Up here, the talk has been more on the offence caused by Charlie Hebdo more than anything else.  Last Wednesday’s Scotland 2015 was something of a low when it’s edition was a po faced discussion on…  well why do these people do it?

It’s not just the motives behind poking fun at Islamic fundamentalism that Scotland has failed the Je Suis Charlie test.  Supporters of both the SNP and Labour have continued to bitch, argue, fight and be nasty towards each other.  Two incidents come to mind.  Firstly, you may remember the case of the four Renfrewshire councillors suspended for protesting against the weak “Smith Report” – Indeed Smith himself dealt with the situation with more humor than any of the Labour representatives on the media.  In the past couple of weeks it came out that the punishment given to the “Renfrewshire Four” did not cover running for the SNP after 2016.  Cue hoardes of Labour empty vessels with their pitchforks out raged at this…  well to be honest I’m not sure why they are outraged.

The second incident involved a group called “Comedians for Independence” who, with a shocking lack of self awareness, called for the sacking of the journalist Paul Hutcheon for writing something critical of the SNP.  Words just fail…

For all of the so called similarities between Scotland and France, there are also lots of differences – France’s secular outlook is not a majority viewpoint here in Scotland.  It’s why I’ve felt that we (in Scotland) have never really understood why Je Suis Charlie resonates.  To me it’s about freedom of speech, freedom to make arguments and to make the case for things that may sound unsayable. 

It’s about being grown up and accepting ideas contrary to your own and responding to those views and ideas in a grown up fashion.  It is not about regurgitating decades discredited views, mistaking diplomacy with appeasement, surrendering to intimidation and abuse or giving into frustration and the temptation to abuse.  Those are the values that should be defended and adopted as we go into a General Election campaign hard on the tails of a bruising Referendum campaign.

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