spiked’s response to the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo exactly a year ago, on 7 January 2015, was swift and angry. In a BBC radio interview just a couple of hours after the murders occurred, our editor Brendan O’Neill said this ‘horrific, barbaric attack’ was an assault not only on individual cartoonists and journalists but on ‘the right to be provocative, offensive and blasphemous’. He said we should respond to the attack, not by silencing ourselves or refusing to engage in risky debate, but rather by ‘reaffirming freedom of speech and our right to question and mock all belief systems’.
Brendan O’Neill on BBC Radio on 7 January 2015
In our editorial published on the day of the massacre, spiked warned against seeing the murders as an utterly foreign act, the work of a ‘faraway death cult’. We argued that ‘the tragic fact is that this barbarism fits a depressing pattern in modern Europe’: it is a ‘fouler, bloodier version of the PC urge to destroy material that offends people’s sensibilities’. On that ‘dark day for Europe’, we argued that everyone who considers him or herself progressive must now ‘embolden even further the right to be offensive, in memory of the journalists at Charlie Hebdo and in the name of freedom and enlightenment’.
In the days and weeks after the massacre, spiked noted the reluctance of many so-called liberals to stand up for Charlie Hebdo’s freedom to speak and rile and to draw whatever or whomever it pleases. In February 2015, Frank Furedi described the global outburst of ‘Je Suis Charlie!’ as ‘truly inspirational’, but he worried that it really meant ‘Je Suis Charlie, but only some of the time…’ He noted the way ‘free-speech fundamentalist’ was becoming a ‘term of abuse applied to those who are consistent in their support of free speech’.
spiked’s editor-at-large Mick Hume described the killers as ‘the armed wing of today’s You Can’t Say That culture’. He laid into those observers who say ‘Je Suis Charlie’ while at the same time supporting or even spearheading censorious clampdowns on the tabloid press, un-PC speakers on campus, and other modern-day heretics. Everyone ‘pays lip service to the principle of free speech’, he said, but ‘scratch the surface and in practice most will add the inevitable “But…” to button that lip and put a limit on liberty’.