Despite Grandeur, Paris Demonstration Will Fail to Promote Change

By Jordan Turner on January 21, 2015

The media coverage surrounding the biggest march in French History where 1.5 million French citizens and over 40 world leaders marched together to show solidarity for the victims of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher supermarket was unprecedented.  The march was portrayed as a momentous event showing support for freedom of expression and free speech which are paramount to a democratic state and gave legitimacy to the old expression that the pen is mightier than the sword.   However, despite the sheer numbers at the Paris demonstration, it will go down in history as a missed opportunity and not a turning point in the fight for freedom of expression.

Many in the media have portrayed the Paris demonstration as a success with focus on the beautiful imagery of world leaders marching through the street of Paris with arms linked in unity.  However, what was the goal of the demonstration?  Was it a demonstration for freedom of expression?  Was it a demonstration against the radicalization of Muslims around the world?  Or perhaps it was simply a demonstration against the use of violence? Some will argue that the goal of the rally was for all of these points, while others will argue it was simply the latter.  The reality of the Paris demonstration was that there was no official message and there were no galvanizing speeches by any of the world leaders present.  The only point taken out of the Paris march was that people are very uncomfortable with what occurred at Charlie Hebdo.  It is difficult to say that Parisians were equally uncomfortable with the murder of the Jews at the Kosher Supermarket as it is obvious that demonstrations of this magnitude would not have been held had the victims been only from the Kosher Supermarket.   None the less, people demonstrated, world leaders marched, pictures were taken and the next day everything went back to the way it was before.

In the days after the terrorist attack the hashtag “#Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), surfaced all around the world as millions of people showed their solidarity online with those killed in the attacks.  Major news networks in Canada and the United States repeated this hashtag over and over again while emphasizing the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of the media.  However, many major news networks in their alleged support of freedom of expression refused to show the cartoons that were published by Charlie Hebdo that were the impetus to the terrorist attacks despite the fact that it was relevant to the story.  As quoted from some of the news networks defending their decision not to show the cartoons:

NBC News Spokesperson

“Our NBC News Group Standards team has sent guidance to NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC not to show headlines or cartoons that could be viewed as insensitive or offensive.”

CNN Host Carol Costello

“CNN will not show you the new cover, which depicts the prophet Muhammad, because it is our policy not to show potentially offensive images of the prophet.”

These are just two of the many media outlets that refused to show the cartoons with claims of respect to those who might find the depictions of the prophet Muhammad offensive.  They claim that their actions are a form of respect and sensitivity but it is clear that their actions are motivated purely out of fear.  On one hand the media tells the world that the terror attacks have nothing to do with Islam but then are frightened to publish the cartoons out of fear that they will also be targeted by the followers of radical Islam.  One can believe their argument of respect to a group of people’s sensibility towards their faith but that fallacy quickly unravels when you compare their policy regarding the sensibility towards other religious beliefs.  CNN, who is so worried to offend Muslims by showing a cartoonsdepicting Mohamed, is currently displaying a picture on its website of a crucified Jesus in a jar of human urine.  Why is CNN not worried about hurting the sensibilities of Christians by showing such an image?  CNN knows that a religious Christian is not about to barge into CNN headquarters and commit a massacre because Jesus was depicted in an offensive manner.  The media is so keen on reporting on Islamaphobia yet it is the media who are the Islamaphobes as they themselves are scared of insulting Islam and as a result become yet another victim of Islamic terror.

The Hashtag “#Je Suis Chalie” will eventually become just another hashtag that will come and go and will be forgotten within a very short time.  Remember when people were outraged when the Islamic terror group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school in Nigeria in April of 2014?  First Lady Michelle Obama posted the hashtag “#bring back our girls” which went viral and the media could not get enough of it yet ten months later over 200 girls remain missing and there is no longer any media coverage and  no one could care less.   The reason that why “#bring back our girls” and “#Je Suis Charlie” do not last is that they refuse to look at the root of the problem.  When the media and many individuals around the world show support for freedom of expression but then on the other hand sensor themselves for fear of sensitivities and reprisals, then they are only giving lip service to freedom of expression.  We have become a generation with a short attention span whose outrage lasts only as long as the popularity of the spur of the moment movement.

The demonstrations in Paris were an opportunity to show the world that radicalized Islam is unacceptable and that the free world will fight tooth and nail to combat it.  The demonstrations should have shown that tolerance is not just something that the West must use in respect to Islam but also what Islam must show to the West.  Muslims in their right for religious freedom can choose not to depict their prophet just as they can choose not to eat pork. They do not on the other hand have the right to dictate to others how to depict their prophet and to forcibly remove the freedom of speech that is the bedrock of Western democracies.  The sad fact is that despite 40 world leaders, 1.5 million French citizens in the streets and countless millions online, the demonstration in Paris failed to galvanize the  world to truly show how important freedom of expression is to the core of our democracies and how despite demands by many on the left in the Muslim world, it is non-negotiable.

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