Charlie Hebdo: Still alive, kicking and insolent


The news from Paris continues to shock and awe.

Despite losing 12 staffers to murder and terrorism, Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper, has survived to publish another day. Now its latest issue is on its way to the book of records with a print run of three million copies, and two million more to follow. European newspapers have reproduced its cartoons as a gesture of solidarity.

When the issue came out on Wednesday (January14), buyers’ lines snaked for blocks as Parisians clamored for copies that sold out within minutes. Outside of France, demand for copies was equally huge, and will likely stay up until finally supplied.

Surviving staff members of the weekly worked day and night after the Jan. 7 attack to ensure that the issue would come out on time. With their offices still roped off as a crime scene, the staff worked out of a conference room at the left-wing daily Libération.

The issue did not disappoint; it had plenty to stir controversy. The 16-page edition brimmed with the sort of irreverent, off-color humor that made Charlie famous and infamous. No one is spared ridicule. Not Pope Francis, who is now in Manila; not German Chancellor Angela Merkel, not French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. There are nuns, priests, rabbis and imams sprinkled in its pages.

In one cartoon, two hooded terrorists are pictured in heaven, with one asking the other, “Where are the virgins?”

“They’re with the Charlie staff, loser,” his accomplice replies.

Another cartoon pictures a harried and exhausted cartoonist hunched over his desk, with a caption that reads, “Cartooning at Charlie Hebdo, it’s 25 years of work.” The next panel shows hooded gunmen mowing people down with a Kalashnikov, accompanied by the words, “For a terrorist, it’s 25 seconds of work.”

The conclusion: “Terrorism: A job for lazy people.”

Mother of all ironies
Atrocity is a horrible way to increase circulation, and I do not recommend it to the Manila Times as a strategy for recapturing its old pedestal as the Philippines No.1 daily newspaper.

Here’s the mother of all ironies.

The Islamic terrorists clearly meant to kill the paper by killing 12 of its staff members, including its editor. Instead it has propelled Charlie Hebdo’s circulation from 65,000 copies weekly to the stratosphere today. It will not lack of financing and advertising support from here on.

Hebdo will sire many copycats, which will strive to be as irreverent and impertinent. Which means that religious zealots will have more satirists to worry about.

This tragedy has given the profession of cartooning a big boost. More young people will henceforth take up fine arts in college. Cartooning could produce its own Michelangelo and Picasso.

With Charlie Hebdo, the goal is always to provoke, to stir debate and to make people laugh. Now, satirists may not be content with laughter. They may turn their sights on creative destruction.

The triumph of print
Here’s another great irony.

Before this tragedy, people were blithely saying that the day of print media is over. That newspapers like the Times will become extinct. That the Internet and social media, like terrorists, will kill everything in sight. That TV is supreme.

But then comes this irony.

With Charlie Hebdo, we are seeing the triumph of the press and the resurrection of print to frontline status.

People everywhere are jostling to get a physical copy of Charlie Hebdo. They’re not looking for the cartoons to be merely flashed on TV or replicated in social media in truncated form. They want the real thing.

If newspaper and magazine publishers have been totally demoralized by broadcast and social media, now is the time to rethink creatively their mission and their service to readers.

The truth is when we speak of the press, we’re really talking of print media. Broadcast media and social media have been piggybacking only on the heroism of print.

The time is coming when advertisers will realize where real journalism lives, and that they have been backing the wrong horse.

Pope Francis on free expression
Despite his busy schedule in the Philippines, Pope Francis has managed to insert a few words of comment on the Charlie Hebdo affair. He did so during his flight from Sri Lanka to Manila.

His holiness declared that there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

He dutifully defended free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.

But he emphasized that there are limits.

Many people around the world have defended the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in the wake of the attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris.

The Vatican and four prominent French imams issued a joint declaration that denounced the attacks but also urged the media to treat religions with respect.

Francis went a step further by saying that limits must be recognized when freedom of expression meets freedom of religion.

He said that it is an “aberration” to kill in the name of God and religion can never be used to justify violence.

As for potential threats to his person, in the wake of the Paris attacks, Pope Francis said he was concerned primarily for the faithful. He explained: “I am worried, but you know I have a defect: a good dose of carelessness. I’m careless about these things,” he said.

But he admitted that in his prayers, he had asked that if something were to happen to him that “it doesn’t hurt, because I’m not very courageous when it comes to pain. I’m very timid.”

He added, “I’m in God’s hands.”


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  1. & one day maybe the muslim world be shaken when the christians & other religions & non religious people suddenly stand up & say enough is enough & start doing the same to them. But the only answer to the terrorists is to kill them all. There is no talking to them, no reasoning with them, its their way or nothing. & the only top country that couldnt send a top official to the pardae to show their disgust of these terrorists is the usa lead by barrack obama. He had the top lawman in paris at that time & he was told not to attend. He should be the first us casualty of this war on terrorism & the american people should oust him & get a conservative government in power to get that country back on the right path to security & prosperity.

  2. vagoneto rieles on

    His Holiness Pope Francis, yesterday, strongly and unequivocally condemned the killing of ‘Charlie Hebdo’s’ staff. He also condemned the staff’s poking-fun at Islam, and the Muslim prophet Mohammad. So..where is ‘the right to free speech’ here? Well, there is least, not where religion is concerned, it would seem.
    Thinking on what His Holiness says, however, we might go so far as to say that we are free to do anything..up to a point. We may, for instance, drive our cars as fast as we like on the SLEX, so long as pedestrians and other motorists are not put at risk. That’s the reason for speed limits. We are free to build structures on our own properties; but not a rice mill in our lot in Ayala Alabang. That’s the reason for zoning ordinances. We are free to call a woman a slut in front of her husband, but we could be shot. No reason needed here. And,we are free to do anything we want, to our bodies, but not to stick a wire hanger up our uterus to end the life of what is in us..and end a pregnancy. That would be ‘killing’. Yes, we are free to do anything, but only to the extent that no one else is impacted.
    Freedom is, indeed, universal but not absolute.

    • So “Charlie Hebdo” still pushes out irreverent cartoons? “Charlie Hebdo” should close already, that’s what the Pope would want them to do.
      And I guess Pope Francis would want the same things to happen in Pilipinas. “Freedom of the Press/Freedom of Expression” should not be a human right. I guess the Pope will want Pilipinas media throttled like it is done in China. Maybe the next Pilipinas congress can change Pilipinas constitution so that the a group of imams or a group of Iglesia higher-ups get final say to censor what gets printed or what gets broadcasted on TV or the internet.