The Canadian English-language news media has betrayed Charlie Hebdo, again

The attack on Charlie Hebdo has been (almost) universally condemned. Given the savagery and insanity of the attack that’s not surprising, but I waited with bated breath to see what would happen next. In particular, I wanted to see the reaction of journalism media – particularly the Canadian English journalism media, such as it is. I expected to be disappointed, and I was.

Riddle me this: Twelve people, including the originating cartoonists, were murdered specifically over some cartoons. These cartoons, by the way, are not even particularly pornographic or gory, and certainly can’t be reasonably interpreted as hate speech; there’s nothing about them that would seem to preclude putting them on the air. Put yourself in the shoes of an editor at a news media outlet. How could you possibly report the story of this tragedy without showing the cartoons that provoked it? Even without the broader issues of journalistic solidarity, you can’t seriously expect to tell the story of the murders without showing the cartoons that these people supposedly died for. The story is simply incomplete without that context.

Let me give a hearty thumbs-up to Canada’s French-speaking media. Most French-speaking journalism outlets went ahead and showed images of Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons. They did it, not only because it is the logical and honest thing to do when reporting the story of the murders, but also to drive home the point that the murderers failed… or rather, would not be allowed to succeed. They murdered twelve people to make those cartoons disappear, so every media outlet that shows them further hammers home the point that they were stupid and wrong, and they lost.

Canada’s English-speaking media, however, disappoints. They do not surprise, sadly. But they disappoint.

My condemnation in this post extends broadly to virtually all Canadian English media – with the exception of the National Post, which did publish images of Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons uncensored. However, I’m going to focus here on CBC News, partly because they’re Canada’s public news network, but also because they’re one of the few who went public trying to justify their decision. They’ll serve as an example of the whole cowardly lot.

In their coverage of the shootings, CBC News naturally showed several images of Charlie Hebdo cartoons. In the Thursday edition of their flagship news show – The National, with Peter Mansbridge – they showed this cartoon – these, by the way, are actual screen shots of what was shown on the CBC, totally untouched:

Screenshot of CBC News showing a Charlie Hebdo cover. The cover images shows François Hollande putting Nicolas Sarkozy’s head in a sausage grinder.

Screenshot of CBC News showing a Charlie Hebdo cover.

I believe – guessing with no more context than you see here – that that is an image of François Hollande putting Nicolas Sarkozy’s head in a sausage grinder. Not exactly an image appropriate for kids, but whatever… the news story this image appears in is about the brutal murders of twelve innocent people who were just having an average day at work; it hardly makes sense to worry about making the images in this story kid-safe.

Next up, they show this:

Screenshot of CBC News showing a Charlie Hebdo cover. The cover images features Pope Benedict blessing a condom as if it were a communion wafer, with caption: the Pope goes too far!

Screenshot of CBC News showing a Charlie Hebdo cover.

That, I believe, is the Pope (looks like Benedict, not Francis), holding up a condom and blessing it the way he might bless a communion wafer. The caption is “The Pope goes too far!”

Then they show this:

Screenshot of CBC News showing a Charlie Hebdo cover. The cover features Jesus, with caption Le Dîner de Cons (dinner for dumbasses).

Screenshot of CBC News showing a Charlie Hebdo cover.

That’s Jesus, and the caption reads “Dinner of/for dumbasses” – which I believe is referring to a film – and it seems to be referencing the Last Supper, but I can’t really tell without more context. (CBC never shows the bottom of the page, but I found the full image elsewhere. It turns out that Jesus is inviting his followers to sit at the table for the “dinner for dumbasses”. Ouch.)

Then there’s a short aside were they recall the Jyllands-Posten controversy of 2005/2006 (which Charlie Hebdo played a notable part in). After that, they return to showing Charlie Hebdo cartoons:

Screenshot of CBC News showing a Charlie Hebdo cover. The cover is blurred, making the cover image impossible to identify.

Screenshot of CBC News showing a blurred Charlie Hebdo cover.

Wait a minute… one of these things is not like the others.

Let me clarify this again: These images are lifted directly from CBC News (specifically, their Internet videos). Other than converting them to JPEG, with some standard compression settings, I did not edit them in any way.

I have to guess what the blurred cover originally was, but I suspect it was this:

A cover of Charlie Hebdo, featuring Muhammad crying. The caption says: Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists. Muhammad is saying: It's hard to be loved by dumbasses.

Cover of Charlie Hebdo.

I got the above image from Slate – specifically from an article about Charlie Hebdo’s most controversial religious covers – which describes it thusly:

In 2006, the magazine featured Mohammed weeping with the headline “Mohammed Overwhelmed by Fundamentalism.” This was the cover of the issue that also featured reprinted cartoons from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that caricatured the prophet. Jacques Chirac, French president at the time, denounced the magazine and Muslim groups sued, but courts eventually ruled in Charlie Hebdo’s favor.

So, to recap… the CBC reprinted a cartoon showing the President of France grinding the head of his opponent in a sausage grinder… a cartoon showing the former Pope doing the blessing of the sacraments with a condom… and a cartoon of Jesus inviting all of his followers to sit at the table at the “dinner for dumbasses”. But an image of fairly politely drawn Muhammad in tears because of what fundamentalism is doing to Islam? That is just too much for them. That is the line they will not cross.

That cowardice did not surprise me. I’ve seen it before. In 2006, when Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten was being flooded with death threats from all around the world, Charlie Hebdo was one of a very small number of publications worldwide that dared to republish their cartoons in their entirety. It was a gesture of solidarity and support, and – they hoped – a message to the extremists making the threats that their efforts were futile and self-defeating; threats would not silence speech or criticism, and making such threats would only serve to increase the volume. It was a brave move by the plucky little satirical magazine. However, the big and powerful voices in journalism – especially in the English-speaking world – largely turned their backs on both Jyllands-Posten and Charlie Hebdo. They did exactly what the extremists wanted them to do: cave, and cower to their wishes. And in doing so, they threw those few brave voices that refused to submit to the wolves, and left them to fend for themselves.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo was only possible because the large and powerful voices in journalism were silent when free speech needed them most. And now, in the aftermath of the attack, they’re doing it again.

As disappointed and disgusted as I am, I am determined to give the CBC every chance to defend its choices. After all, the cruelest standard you can judge someone by is their own.

In an interview with David Studer, CBC’s director of journalistic standards and practices – an interview that seems particularly uncomfortable, despite appearing mostly scripted – Andrew Nichols pretends he’s being a journalist and asks Studer to “clarify” the CBC’s decision to refuse to reprint Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. It’s laughably bad; Studer tries at least a half-dozen rhetorical tricks to justify his cowardice. Amusingly, after a clip where (director of the Québec Federation of Professional Journalists) Caroline Walker explains that the French side of the CBC, Radio-Canada, is publishing the images both to show they are not afraid and to send the message that these kinds of attacks are futile, Studer is left stammering and unable to respond, ultimately dodging the issue by saying it’s “above his pay grade to explain”.

Let’s consider the Studer’s defences against the criticisms of the CBC’s decision, one-by-one.

“You don’t need to see them to understand the story; it is enough to know they exist”

According to Studer, you don’t need to actually see the cartoons to understand that the murders were about them. The attack wasn’t due to the content of the cartoons, he argues, but merely due to the fact of their existence.

Well, fuck you, Mr. Studer, because an honest journalist would let the public see the cartoons and decide that for themselves, rather than deciding the conclusions for them then using it as a flimsy justification for censorship.

I’m honestly not even sure who graced Studer with the divine revelation of the killers’ motivations – before they were even caught! I’m not sure how he can conclude that the content of the cartoons has no relevance whatsoever in the killers’ minds. But even if he were somehow right, I don’t know why he can’t let us come to that conclusion ourselves after our own review of the facts. I’m not a journalist, but isn’t the point of journalism to put the facts into the hands of the public, not the conclusions?

More importantly, even if Studer were right and the content of the cartoons was irrelevant to the killers, it wasn’t irrelevant to the victims. Those cartoonists and their supporting staff did not draw pictures of Muhammad for shits and giggles. They were doing it for reasons, and they were doing it for those reasons with the full knowledge that being murdered for doing it was a very real possibility. They died for the content of those cartoons… not for the mere fact of their existence, but for their content. How can we possibly evaluate the full measure of their sacrifice, and the full scope of the tragedy, without being able to see what they died for… what they died for specifically because they wanted us to see it?

That’s why the CBC’s decision is not just cowardly, but disgustingly offensive. It’s all about the killers and those who agree with the killers’ opinions… with not a thought spared to the victims or their supporters. The murders happened specifically because of a desire to prevent those cartoons from being publicized… the cartoonists died specifically because of a desire to publicize those cartoons… CBC – and all those news outlets who made the same decision – are thumbing their nose at the victims and kowtowing to the wishes of their murderers. You disgust me, CBC.

Let’s assume for a moment that the content of the cartoons really is irrelevant. Even accepting that, they can still serve as part of the surrounding context for the murders. The CBC isn’t really shy about throwing contextual information into their news stories – even when it has nothing at all to do with the incident being reported on. How else would I know that Nathan Cirillo had plans to be a full-time soldier, joined the cadets at 13, had the nickname “Army Nate” in high school, was a personal trainer, worked at Good Life Fitness, and often showed up at his bouncer job still in his fatigues… not to mention myriad details about his family. The CBC not only published just about every utterance about Cirillo made on Twitter, they actually live-blogged the fucking funeral. Now why didn’t Studer object to that?: “It is unnecessary to actually show the funeral; it is enough to know that the funeral happened.”

Let me try to sum up the reasons why the content of the cartoons is important – not merely the fact that they exist, as Studer claims.

  • The cartoons were almost certainly the primary motive for the murders. But Studer is simply making shit up when he pretends that it was the mere existence of the cartoons that drove the killers into a savage frenzy, and that the content has no relevance.
  • Publishing the cartoons was definitely the primary reason the Charlie Hebdo staff knowingly put themselves at risk. The message of those cartoons – whatever it was – was what most of those people chose to risk their lives for. We cannot understand or assess the risks they took without the content of the cartoons. We wouldn’t know what they died for; at most we would only know what they were killed for. And that’s not good enough.
  • No matter how hard Studer might try to deny it, the content of the cartoons is part of the broader story of why the attack occurred. Even if it were true that the content of the cartoons was irrelevant to the killers, we can’t understand what kind of magazine Charlie Hebdo is, and its relationship with France’s Muslim population, without knowing how it depicts Islam and Muslims. (For example, does it mock them more, less, or the same as any other religious or minority group? Does it mock them in the same ways, or does it show special malice to Islam (or Muslims)?)

“Muslims get special consideration because this really offends them”

I think this evasion over and above all the others is where Studer is most craven.

The problem – as Nichols points out – is that in refusing to show the cartoons to protect Muslims from offence, CBC is instead offending everyone who strongly believes in free expression and standing up to terrorism. They have to justify why it is more important to protect Muslims from offence and offend free speech advocates, rather than vice versa. Even more troubling, they have to explain why this only holds true for Muslims – they fearlessly show very blasphemous images of Jesus when they’re newsworthy, but won’t even show a tame… or even complimentary… image of Muhammad, even when it is the whole point of the news story.

And most troubling of all, CBC has to justify kowtowing to the delicate sensibilities of Muslims in this case in particular… because in this case in particular it is not only exactly what the murderers want, it is literally what they committed the murders to achieve.

Studer evades and rambles, but ultimately ends up saying nothing. He never even comes close to a cogent explanation for why Muslim feelings matter more than anyone else’s. He blathers some bullshit about how they’ve always been RLY SRS about aniconism (which isn’t even really true), and thus their feelings shouldn’t be hurt, but this can be easily shown to be hogwash in at least two different ways. First, you could point out that Christians are equally sensitive about Jesus being portrayed in insulting ways (rather than merely being portrayed at all), yet the CBC shows those images when they are relevant. Second, you could point out that many Muslims are equally offended by depictions of women without hijab, yet they are not accommodated. Ultimately, the decision to protect those particular people from that particular offence is arbitrary, and no other group is given similar respect. That is not “tolerance”, that is capitulation.

Let me be clear about one particular point, though: I’m not suggesting that the CBC should show pictures of Muhammad just for the hell of it. I’m especially not suggesting that they show insulting or satirical images of Muhammad just for the hell of it. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with doing those things, but there is no reason for CBC News to do it – unlike Charlie Hebdo, they’re not a satirical paper that aims to take the piss out of anyone and anything that takes themselves to seriously, they’re a news outlet with a mandate to report relevant information about current events. Thus they shouldn’t show images of Muhammad just to be provocative, but they should show them when they are relevant to current events… as they are in this case.

I have to clarify this because this is one of the smarmy evasive tactics that Studer tries; he tries to imply that the only reason one might have for showing a picture of Muhammad is to be intolerant, insensitive, or just plain provocative. At one point he makes the patently dishonest point that he wouldn’t have opted to show the cartoons the day before the killings, and concludes from that that he shouldn’t do it the day after… as if nothing has fucking changed between those two days.

My answer to that is that I agree to the first part: With no reason at all to show the cartoons, the day before the shootings, the fact that they might offend or upset is reason enough to refuse to show them at all. However, Mr. Studer seems to have completely lost track of the whole purpose of his damn network in the second part: After the shootings, the cartoons have become news… you know, that shit that Studer’s network actually specifically exists to show… thus they should be shown, and to hell with people who might be upset or offended by the sight of them. This is the same position the network should take for any relevant but potentially disturbing content, ranging from blasphemous material to mangled bodies: don’t show it for no reason at all, but if it’s part of a news story and showing it is important to telling the whole of that news story, then bloody well show it.

“We do not become part of the story, or take sides; we merely report it”

This is the only place Studer comes close to a good point, but even here his position is weak at best.

The gist of it is that CBC News wants to position itself as an impartial, uninvolved reporter of the news (whenever it is possible, of course; obviously this wouldn’t apply to things like the Jian Ghomeshi scandal), so it should studiously avoid anything that makes it part of the story, taking sides in a story, or making the story about how they feel about the situation (as opposed to how those involved feel about it)… even if their feelings about the story are very strong.

This is an admirable goal, in theory. In practice, it is neither achievable, nor even desirable. And CBC itself knows this.

I get the Toronto/Ontario version of CBC, which means my local evening anchors are Anne-Marie Mediwake and Dwight Drummond – whom I both quite like. One of the promos the station shows (which I can’t find online, unfortunately) features Mediwake and Drummond walking around Toronto, interacting with people, grocery shopping, etc., with the tagline: “It’s not just covering the news. It’s experiencing it with you.” The point of the promo is that CBC News Toronto is a good source of news because it part of the same world as its viewers, which makes it more involved in the stories, and thus more motivated to seek them out and tell them well.

Which, of course, almost entirely contradicts the way Studer describes the network and its responsibilities.

I’m not pointing this out to highlight an inconsistency within the CBC about its vision of the news, but rather to illustrate a fundamental tension that exists in journalism. On the one hand, it’s nice if journalists try to tell stories with absolute impartiality, using the perfect set of relevant and necessary facts without specious or biasing extras. On the other, not only are journalists and news outlets not robots, but it is their very attachment to and investment in the same culture as their audience that drives them to do their job, and do it well. Denying that is not only pointless, it is disingenuous.

This particular story is not something that the CBC has no stake in; it is not merely a passive observer with no stake in it. CBC News has a responsibility, defined by journalistic integrity, to tell the stories that Canadians need to know… even if it won’t make them happy to hear it. Protecting the feelings of their audience – attempting to shield them from hurt feelings and offence – at the cost of telling the news honestly and with integrity would only undermine their efforts.

In fact… that’s what’s happening right here, right now. The CBC’s cowardice in not telling this very important story the way it should be told has become news itself – to the point where the director of journalistic standards and practices has to go on the air to (attempt to) justify itself. If they’d just done their damn job properly, Studer wouldn’t have had to go on the air to justify not doing it, and I wouldn’t have had to write this article. In other words, in going to absurd lengths to feign impartiality, the CBC has screwed itself – it has compromised its coverage of the story, and itself became news for its own cowardice.

There’s another important angle to consider as well. The reason Charlie Hebdo ended up in the crosshairs of crazies is that it did what few other media outlets would do: When terrorists threatened violence for republishing the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, Charlie Hebdo bravely went ahead and did it anyway. This was not only an act of bravery, and an act of defiance against terrorism and tyranny, it was a very pragmatic move: the more outlets that republish the cartoons, the less likely it is that any one of them in particular would come under attack.

Shamefully, very few other media outlets were as brave as Charlie Hebdo. Most of the largest and most powerful simply left the tiny, plucky little Charlie Hebdo to fend for itself against the wolves. Several times now Charlie Hebdo bore the brunt of the extremists’ ire alone – the attack on this week was only the most recent, and the most violent.

The lack of support by media and journalism in general was shameful, and embarrassing, and although it’s too late to save the brave but innocent victims of this massacre, now’s as good a time as any to take steps to prevent attacks like this from happening again. This is not merely about solidarity, and it is not merely a show of defiance – as with the original decision made by Charlie Hebdo, it is about pragmatism. If every major news media outlet had the backbone to show the cartoons the killers wanted to bury, it would make it clear that the killers had failed miserably, and that future attempts would be similarly futile.

Instead, by refusing to show the cartoons… even though they are central to the news story at hand… the CBC (and all the other cowardly networks refusing to publish the cartoons for stupid reasons) is actually making the killers’ strategy work. Which means other crazies are more likely to try it again. And maybe next time, at the CBC.

In other words, publishing the cartoons is not merely an act of solidarity, and not merely an act of defiance (though it can certainly be those things, too). It is an act of civic responsibility. The more who publish those cartoons, the less likely copycat attacks become. The more who refuse to do so, the more effective the killers’ strategy becomes – and the greater the likelihood of a repeat.

Besides, the “we won’t take sides” act is pure bullshit in this case. The CBC is hardly going to pretend to be neutral about the attack. They’re not seriously going to sit there and say: “Well, twelve people were killed while just going about their daily routine – drawing cartoons – by three people with assault rifles and grenade launchers… but we’re not going to pick sides here, and say one side was right and the other was wrong.”

Summary

Charlie Hebdo was attacked because it was one of the few publications brave enough to stand up to the extremists. The pusillanimous refusal of most media outlets to support Charlie Hebdo when they defended the rights of other publishers – such as Jyllands-Posten – is why the tiny publisher was so easy to single out as such an easy target.

You would think journalists would have learned their lesson by now, and some – like Radio-Canada – have. But the majority of English news outlets in Canada have learned nothing, and are just as cowardly and contemptible as they have always been. They reported on the murders, including copious details of the handiwork of the killers, while deliberately refusing show the handiwork of the victims… literally what they risked their lives and died for.

CBC’s David Studer, director of journalistic standards and practices, tried to justify the CBC’s decision… to no avail. His arguments – that the content of the cartoons is irrelevant to the story, that the censorship is okay because Muslims are really sincere about wanting it, and that they can’t show the cartoons because it would mean “taking sides” – are all hollow, incoherent, and ultimately self-serving.

One thing some of my readers have asked me to do in 2015 is to try to include better “bite-sized” quotes and images, so that others can easily quote the “gist” of what I write. I’ve always resisted being pithy – I prefer carefully thought-out and well-reasoned posts over inflammatory soundbites – but I’ll give it a try here. Let me see if I can summarize the bottom line of this post with a pithy quote and an image.

First, the summary image:

CBC/Charlie Hebdo

And finally, the pithy quote:

In refusing to even show the cartoons that the Charlie Hebdo staff were willing to risk their lives – and ultimately died – for, the Canadian English-speaking media has cravenly and despicably served the aims of the killers. Even though they should not have had to, the cartoonists and staff at Charlie Hebdo showed bravery and integrity that Canadian English-speaking journalism outlets clearly lack.

To all the news media outlets that refused to reprint the cartoons the staff at Charlie Hebdo risked their lives and died for, I say:

I am Charlie… you are not.


***UPDATE (2015-01-20 02:00) *** Veronica alerted me that Jerry Coyne is also on the CBC’s case.

29 thoughts on “The Canadian English-language news media has betrayed Charlie Hebdo, again

  1. Wow. Outstanding.
    You’re right…they’re willing to show all kinds of other content on screen that may be offensive to others. In many cases of fictional stories they’ll even give a disclaimer about what the content coming up might mean to some people. Like violence or adult situations or course language etc. So yeah…give your little warnings and then go ahead and show the relevance of what the whole meat of the story is.
    Oh right…chickenshit cowards because THIS particular audience has been known to commit heinous violence to assert their offense. Yes… if ALL outlets wouldn’t capitulate to the offended then it would get to a saturation point where hopefully they would simply throw up their hands and give it up and grow a pair and shrug the offense off like mature adults do.

  2. When I see how quickly media outlets cower in fear it reminds me of the mongol tactic of obliterating cities that did not surrender. I guess fear works.

  3. Wonderful post – and dead on.

  4. Brilliant article which I am still too angry to slow down and read in it’s entirety, but I shall. I absolutely agree with the statement that the English media, along with CBC and Stephen Harper just do not get it at all. We need to press our comprehension of the fallout which can come from this issue unless things change.

    Firstly I am ashamed to be an English Canadian at this moment. I am proud, however, to be associated with French Canada and it’s press for having the immediate right reaction and printing the Charlie Hebdo so-called ‘offensive’ cartoons. Brilliant !

    I am incensed at CBC’s mistaken rationale (that they represent a ‘plurality’ of Canadians and do not wish to offend them.

    Unfortunately, by mollycoddling his ‘plurality’ (voters) it is done at the expense of one large portion of that plurality, namely those of us that are trying to show the real facts to the world, namely atheists. There was a time in bygone eras when early humans could be forgiven if they projected their fantasies onto the real world. Theye did not have the knowledge not the power to see how vulnerable their place in the physical world was so inventive members of their tribes invented sometimes highly elaborate scenarios to explain natural events.

    it didn’t take long to see how these abilities could be turned to power sources along with the ability to control and manipulate tribes peoples.

    Every day those of us who do understand that religions of all kinds are manufactured ‘mythologies which may have served a purpose at one time but which, in a world and civilization that we are rapidly destroying, we cannot afford to follow. For me religions need to be classified along with movies, for they serve pretty much the same purpose. They should, in no way, be built into our political or social framework and should pay their own way, along with all other escapist mechanisms.

    The problem is that politicians and rulers are heavily invested in maintaining these outdated concepts or, in the case of Communist countries, eliminating them.

    Both CBC and Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper have lost all sense of balance and now are advocating that they control any opposing views to religions (and cultures) all in the name of some form of uber-liberal protective sentiment, forgetting that by doing so they shut the various doors (to the churches, to Israel etc) and marginalize/ mute millions of us that want no truck with it.

    Worst of all, Harper today stated that ‘..Jihadists declared war on those that disagree..’ whereas that is what he and CBC are exactly doing to our own people.

    Both we atheists and Charlie Hebdo have an inalienable right under our countries’ charters of Free Speech, to criticize, question, attack and ridicule religion.

    France , thank goodness, gets that !! Why doesn’t Canada ?

  5. I’ve been looking for someone who was articulating how I felt about the cowardly press in English Canada. I very much appreciate this post. I’ve just now seen a call for restrictions on Free Speech by a Muslim Cleric http://www.examiner.com/article/muslim-cleric-anjem-choudary-blames-free-speech-for-charlie-hebdo-murders

    Some Muslims are not sophisticated enough to hide their agendas. This Cleric openly states that he (and presumably his followers) have no use for free speech. This situation cries out for the ridicule that Charlie Hebdo heaped upon zealots like this. It is critical that we defend the basic rights like free speech vigorously and I for one think the Editors of every news outlet that didn’t show the cartoons should hold their heads in shame.

  6. Jesus Charlie!

    At least part of the answer may be just as simple as that people are also becoming a bit War Weary, despite your own indefatigable enthusiasm.

    And can you blame them? Since inevitably they come to understand the wider complexities involved, or at least start searching to understand them once the preliminary platitudes wear out?

    • Two things.

      First, a prerequisite to war-weariness is actually being involved in a war. If mainstream journalism media could be called “weary” of anything, it’s *avoiding* this war, not being involved in it.

      Second, it seems a little ridiculous to call most mainstream journalism media “war-weary”. Watch them for 24 hours… do they *seriously* look like they’re tired of wars and conflicts?

      I cannot imagine that the CBC doesn’t get *thousands* of letters and complaints every time they show something provocative – “offensive” to *someone* – on air. They weather those somehow, and continue to show provocative imagery if and when it’s appropriate… at most, they’ll add a content warning before the segment. That’s true for just about every kind of provocative imagery… *EXCEPT* images of Muhammad. Why that exception? I doubt it’s because Muslim feelings are somehow more sensitive than the feelings of all those other people hurt by provocative imagery.

      The only answer I can see is that it’s because *that* is the only kind of provocative imagery that they can reasonably fear a violent reprisal for. In other words: they’re afraid. These paragons of journalistic integrity have been cowed by the threat of violence, a threat that the people at Charlie Hebdo stared down bravely – and ultimately paid the cost for because they were virtually alone in their courage, abandoned to the wolves by mainstream journalistic media like the CBC.

      And if the threat of violence is all it takes to cow a journalistic titan like CBC News, how much time is it until some other group realizes all they need to do is get a few wackos to shoot up a newsroom or two and they, too, will be immune from journalistic scrutiny?

      • I’m not sure I understand how you can conjure such blatant obliviousness, nor how you can manage to justify it, particularly given the just posted article above, railing against the same class of obliviousness.

        By most counts the “War on Terror” is at the very least in its 15th birthday, and they’ll actually debate whether it is in fact in it’s 24th year, or somewhere therein.

        I have not heard that the “War on Terror” has ended.

        During that time, it has done nothing but gotten worse by the day and by all measures.

        The 2000s have been universally acknowledged as the most lethal and pernicious period for the journalism profession.

        I think those are all valid reasons for a bit of war weariness, not just by journalists but from most of the slightly less “fervent”.

        Of course, this is all offered merely as something extra for you to mull.

      • I believe you are correct. My first reaction was: because so much of the CBC’s hierarchy has been colonized by Canada’s largest religion (and largest property holder) that these old stalwarts felt obligated to protect others who might be slighted by disrespectful rationalists. They stand with those who stand in fear of atheists’ hilarity.

  7. Fabulous article! You’ve said it all – no more for me to add.

  8. Seriously?? With all the other information and journalistic angles this story presents, and this needs to be made an issue on TOP of it all? Was the author left out of the original scrum and had to find something on their own? Creating divisiveness at a time of tragedy and mourning is more of a cowardly act than not printing the original cartoons. Should every media outlet shown the associated and collected works of them just to ensure nothing was missed? I think this article is the real travesty of modern journalism.

  9. MAYBE THE CBC COULD SEND THEIR PEOPLE OVER TO THE OFFICES OF CHARLIE HEBDO STAND ON A SOAP BOX WITH CAMERAS ROLLING AND REPEAT THE WORDS OF DAVID STUDOR FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE AND HEAR. THERE MUST BE SOME PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO THINK LIKE YOU. THEY MUST BE GLAD THE CBC IS ON THEIR SIDE. I DIDNT KNOW THE CBC TOOK SIDES AND ARE PAID TAXPAYERS MONEY NOT TO OFFEND ANYONE.

  10. I used to believe we needed a public broadcaster to cover those edgy stories the commercial broadcaster wouldn’t. That is obviously not the case with CBC. By the way I went to the Studer website link you give and CBC has taken down the Studer interview. UNBELIEVABLE COWARDICE.

  11. They simply recognize that the people have the right to see these images, and a right to NOT see these images. It doesn’t matter if they are Christians, Muslims, or Jews. If people wanted to see the images they can look them up easily. Or, maybe even subscribe to the magazine (which didn’t seem to be very popular in the first place). I wouldn’t want these images on the TV for kids to see, but I feel comfortable looking them up and forming my own opinions about them and what Charlie Hebdo really stood for and represented (which doesn’t really seem to be what everyone currently believes).

    If they wrote an article about nasty things going on in porn, I wouldn’t want to see images of nasty things going on in porn on my TV… where my kids can see it.

    I’m an atheist, but I don’t shit on other religions. The reason for not depicting their prophet makes sense (and you should care to look it up). The extremism doesn’t make sense. I am by no way saying that the killings are justified, but I am saying that Hebdo shouldn’t be celebrated.

    Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t be a martyr. A martyr should be fighting for ideals. They weren’t really fighting for free speech in the first place.

    I’m sad that this website has the word “Canadian” in front of it.

    • The point of publication is not celebrating Charlie Hebdo’s work but that you actually have access to form your opinion in the first place; the point is that religious people, organizations, institutions and governments often feel they have special status to silence, intimidate, threaten, harm, assault, torture and kill others.

      If everyone followed the lead of not publishing, whether as a result of fear of violence, fear of customer or public complaints, or even fear of snarky blog comments then you wouldn’t be able to look them up to form your opinion.

      “Je Suis Charlie” is not an indication that you celebrate Charlie Hebdo…but an acknowledgement that you are as vulnerable to the forces who would silence you as were the people who were killed.

  12. Just a quick, early morning update:

    In some of its follow-up reports to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the CBC has:

    * published – unedited and complete – the video made by one of the killers explaining his motivation for the attack; and
    * quoted from a video by the Islamic State calling for the murder of “kuffar” (which is *literally* hate speech under Canadian law, though of course the CBC can’t be charged because they’re merely airing it in a journalistic context);

    but they *still* won’t show the harmless, silly cartoons that Charlie Hebdo’s staff died for.

    They continue to broadcast the perspective, handiwork, and opinions of the murderers – including actual threats and hate speech – while silencing the silly but benign voice of Charlie Hebdo. That’s beyond mere cowardice, it’s fucking disrespectful.

    • I’d also like the CBC to spend more time reporting on how this
      gruesome “War on Terror” that has brutally taken the lives of huge swathes of civilians around the globe, and for which the vast majority of casualties everywhere have been civilian, will finally come to a conclusion.

    • “…but they *still* won’t show the harmless, silly cartoons that Charlie Hebdo’s staff died for”

      “…benign voice of Charlie Hebdo”

      I think you need to really think about what actually happened that day and reconsider these words you wrote. They obviously weren’t impotent images. And to refer to the murder of human beings as “handiwork” is disgusting.

      In response to Eric Adriaans:
      How did you see the images? Access is everywhere. I restate what I said before: The public has a right to see the images and a right to not see the images.

      Is CBC perfect? No. Are they the best we have? Yes. Honestly we should be proud of their work overall. Probably the best in North America.

      • I have looked over my words again, and I stand by them. Your “objections” are dishonest and idiotic.

        The cartoons were and are harmless. They’re not even hate speech – they don’t advocate or encourage the harming of anyone. The only way one of those cartoons could harm someone is if you chiseled it onto a stone tablet and threw it at them.

        I didn’t say they were impotent. I said they were harmless. *You* said they were impotent. Don’t put your clueless and dishonest words in my mouth.

        And if you’re disgusted by referring to the murders as “handiwork” – which is frankly fucking ridiculous; you’re really stretching to manufacture your faux outrage there – more than by the murders themselves or the media’s cowardice, you are seriously messed up in your priorities.

        As for that bullshit about people having the right to “see and not see” the images, the public have a right to “see and not see” everything the CBC puts on the air. Your “point” is incoherent and nonsensical.

        The CBC chooses what to put on the air and what not to put on the air, and that choice *should* be based on what is necessary for Canadians to get as clear and as full a picture as possible of what major events are going on in the world and why. They put a hell of a lot of violence and horror on the air, along with *tons* of offensive actions and statements made by people all over the world. In this case, that is not true – they have chosen *not* to show things that are vital to understanding the context of a world-shaking event, allegedly for the sake of protecting the hurt feelings of one particular minority group… while, at the *exact* *same* *time*, showing images that offend dozens of other groups. I doubt anyone seriously believes the CBC cares that much more about Muslim feelings than about the feelings of any other group; the obvious explanation for their choice is cowardice.

  13. That’s great — thanks for your insightful response. How about you try to not open your response with insults and we try to have a meaningful conversation on this website for once.

    I’m just going to lay out a few points for you:
    1) impotent was a word I used and I never said you used it. But if my use of it doesn’t sum up what you meant to say about the Hebdo images I would like to see your justification for that. I thought you were saying they were harmless, or had no power, or had no influence, or had no effect. But if you weren’t I must have understood you incorrectly or you mistyped, and you can clarify your point. They certainly had an effect. Whether it was intended on not. They were not harmless, evidently.

    2) Anyway, I think the Hebdo case pretty much falls under hate speech:

    “Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” (if this definition is not agreeable we can change it for the sake of conversation and understanding)

    Given the history of past attacks, they probably had a pretty good idea about what they were doing and who they were lighting fires under. No one truly knows their motives, of course. But they are not true heroes of free speech. They are not martyrs, and they weren’t really fighting for ideals.

    3) simply saying a point doesn’t make sense doesn’t justify your position…

    “…the public have a right to “see and not see” everything the CBC puts on the air. ” is a true statement. I make a choice to turn it on, as do you. I have a choice to come here to look the images up. I have a choice to watch violent movies and I have a choice to watch children’s shows. I have a choice to read a book etc. etc. If you could please clarify on why that argument doesn’t make any sense I would be happy to listen.

    ” I doubt anyone seriously believes the CBC cares that much more about Muslim feelings than about the feelings of any other group; the obvious explanation for their choice is cowardice.” I don’t know what your point is. We never had any reason to believe that the CBC cares any more or any less for Muslim feelings than any other group. Charlie Hebdo didn’t just offend Muslims. Have you actually seen their publications? The CBC decision doesn’t have to be about Muslims any more than it does Christians. Just because they were secular doesn’t mean that atheists should follow them blindly. There is goodness in this world that should be celebrated. I don’t see any goodness coming out of Hebdo. I don’t see them moving society forward, or improving understanding between groups of people for the better. I don’t understand why anyone should celebrate what they call art. It’s just plain mean and done in bad taste.

    If it is cowardice? Who or what could the CBC possibly be afraid of? There is no reasonable answer to that question. They didn’t have to show them and they didn’t. I never heard a verbal description of an image that improperly described the actual image. The images were fully accessible by other routes. Why did they have to show them? The argument that the people needed to have them shown to them via CBC doesn’t work.

    Anyway, let’s try not to curse next time.

    • What facile PC nonsense.

      “If it is cowardice? Who or what could the CBC possibly be afraid of? There is no reasonable answer to that question.”

      Seriously? Was this some sort of rhetorical question? Maybe the same type of wack jobs that shot up a newspaper in France the other week? And if not them the useful idiots like yourself who throw around ridiculous allegations of “hate speech” so carelessly?

      “Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.”

      Most ridiculously broad definition of “hate speech” I’ve ever seen. So basically “hate speech” is anything I find offensive. What nonsense.

      • You can provide a definition of hate speech if you would like to support a conversation that moves forward. Does this one work?

        Source: http://www.cjpmo.org/DisplayDocument.aspx?DocumentID=759

        “What is hate speech, and what laws pertain to it in Canada?
        Hate speech lacks a formal international definition, but is usually described as written or oral
        communication perceived to disparage a person or group of people based on their social or ethnic group.
        The danger of inciting violence or prejudicial action against such groups is also often mentioned. Two
        sections of the Canadian Criminal Code are relevant, first Section 319, and then Section 318.1

        Section 319 defines “public incitement of hatred” as an indictable offence:
        (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any
        identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of
        (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
        (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
        (2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully
        promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of
        (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
        (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction. ”

        You just let me know if that definition works for you and we can move forward.

        Do you think the CBC would be afraid of an attack? Please try not to read that question in a sarcastic or mean tone — it’s just an honest question. Is that something that they would have to worry about here in Canada? And do you believe that that influenced their decision to not show the images?

    • > How about you try to not open your response with insults and we try to have a meaningful conversation on this website for once.

      “I think you need to really think about what actually happened” with your own tone before you try to play tone judge for others.

      > impotent was a word I used and I never said you used it. But if my use of it doesn’t sum up what you meant to say about the Hebdo images I would like to see your justification for that.

      My justification for the fact that what I wrote doesn’t mean “impotent”… is that I didn’t write “impotent”. End of justification.

      Do you really seriously think you can put a word in my mouth then demand that I defend myself against it? That’s as stupid and dishonest as if I were to accuse you of being a racist because of some warped interpretation I put to your writing, then demanded that you justify you’re not. I will justify what I wrote; I will not justify what *you* wrote – and I will not justify what you say I wrote but didn’t.

      If you don’t understand the difference between “harmless” and “impotent”, it’s not really my place to educate you. However, try these kinds of analogies: Helium is harmless, but it has the power to lift blimps. The breeze on an average day in Ontario is harmless, but it has the power to generate megawatts of electrical power. A woman’s bare breast is harmless, but the mere sight of it has the power to lift the penises of just about every adolescent heterosexual anglophone male in the world (which is a hell of a lot of mass in man meat).

      > “Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” (if this definition is not agreeable we can change it for the sake of conversation and understanding)

      This is not the definition of hate speech under *any* legal or ethical system I have ever heard of. This sounds like the kind of crap you get from the Internet, from people who might mean well but generally haven’t put much thought into what they say.

      Instead of using some out-of-context phrase you found on the Internet, why not use the *actual* definition of hate speech in Canada, as in section 319 of the Criminal Code: anything that “incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace” or “wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group”.

      Or if you have a problem with Canada’s laws, why not the definition in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 20 part 2 describes hate speech as “[a]ny advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

      All *real* definitions of hate speech share something in common: hate speech is not merely “speech that offends”. That would be a ridiculous definition – it would mean speech without hate would magically become hate speech just because it pissed someone off, which kinda defeats the point of using the word “hate”. Hate speech is speech that *incites*, or advocates, violence, threats, or discrimination against a particular group. Nothing in Charlie Hebdo ever even came close to that.

      Further evidence of the absurdity and wrongness of your claims is that France has hate speech laws, too, and a Muslim group actually tried to have Charlie Hebdo convicted for hate speech. The courts found Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons weren’t hate speech. (And even if you want to shrug off France’s interpretation of hate speech, Canada’s interpretation is notoriously strict. If Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons were hate speech, they would have been banned in Canada; they’re not.)

      > simply saying a point doesn’t make sense doesn’t justify your position…

      I wasn’t justifying a position. I was pointing out *your* position is pointless and incoherent.

      If you have a coherent rebuttal to the points I made, go ahead and make it. “[The CBC] simply recognize[s] recognize that the people have the right to see these images, and a right to NOT see these images” is just meaningless gibberish.

  14. hopeless.

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