Editorial: Standing up for freedom, in France and Hollywood
Journalists are an unruly lot.
We are at our best when we are irreverent, critical and show an anti-authority streak. Which is a big part of why the free world sat up and took notice when Muslim extremists gunned down a dozen people, including cartoonists and police officers, at the offices of the French satirical review Charlie Hebdo earlier this month.
Whether they are religious or secular, tyrants of all sorts can’t handle satire. They exist by oppressing their subjects and denying them the ability to look critically at what’s going on. And in a polarized world, the ability to lampoon the competition is one of the most valuable tools around.
There is something about the human spirit that is irrepressible — even in the face of extreme punishment for speaking out. That’s why, for example, the Russian people developed the best underground network for spreading wickedly cynical jokes during the glory days of communism.
The rise of Islamic extremism has been accompanied by a series of attacks on free expression. In the modern era, they begin with the death sentence handed down by Iran’s leaders against author Salman Rushdie in 1989.
The pushback against tyrants can happen in the most unusual places. Charlie Hebdo, a magazine that probably in reality had just a few thousand regular readers, has become a household name after the tragedy that took the lives of some of the most talented cartoonists in Paris.
Hollywood, normally a place that journalists love to lampoon, found some unusual courage when after a bit of a waffle, Sony Pictures finally agreed to release the anti-totalitarian film “The Interview.”
And the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11 became a platform for assaulting those who would deny freedom of expression by law, by threat, by AK-47 or by the sword.
We’re disappointed that the Obama administration didn’t send a highly visible representative to join the millions who demonstrated in support of free expression in Paris. However, we delight in the media’s lampooning of the White House’s lame excuses for not freeing John Kerry, Joe Biden or Michelle Obama for the trip.
As an independent media company, we applaud the way that journalists, the entertainment industry and the public have rallied to the cause of a free society. We are proud to say, “Je Suis Charlie.”