Free speech
What if Charlie Hebdo had been published in Britain?

What if Charlie Hebdo had been published in Britain?

It would have been crushed. Here’s how.

Week 1: Magazine’s editors and staff get No Platformed by the National Union of Students on the grounds that their publication has been ‘identified by the NUS’s Democratic Procedures Committee as holding racist or fascist views’. They are forbidden from all campuses.

Week 2: Individual student unions ban the sale or display of Charlie Hebdo anywhere on their premises in order to protect students from feeling the need to ‘succumb to media pressure to fear and loathe Muslims’ and encourage students instead to ‘celebrate Muslim students for their academic achievements and countless other talents’. Unions across the country justify the ban as ‘an important symbolic step towards creating a culture of ethnic and religious parity on campus’.

Week 3: A petition is created, calling on supermarket chains to ‘Stop Selling Charlie Hebdo’. A different petition is launched, by a campaign group called Muslim Eyes, demanding that supermarkets hide Charlie Hebdo in black plastic bags so that Muslims and others will not feel offended by its front covers. Supermarkets are called upon to ‘promote the right environment in store’ and not allow the open display of ‘offensive material’.

Week 4: A Twitterstorm builds in support of the petition of supermarkets, with hundreds of thousands of tweets using the hashtag #CoverUpCharlie to demand that the magazine be put in black bags. A member of parliament backs the campaign. Supermarkets relent and announce that some stores will remove Charlie Hebdo from sale while others will put it in black plastic covers and on the top shelf next to the porno mags.

Week 5: One of the magazine’s editors decides to defy students’ ban on him speaking on campus. He turns up at Cambridge to give a speech about satire. Four hundred students waving ‘instruments’ and hollering ‘fascists not welcome!’ greet him. He has to be escorted off campus by the police.

Week 6: The Independent and the Guardian publish a series of high-profile comment pieces slamming Charlie Hebdo for its ‘racist provocation’. They accuse it of ‘unpleasant Islamophobia’ and say it is provoking real-world violence against Muslims. The printing press that produces it ‘should be ashamed of itself’, they argue, and should publish ‘more Muslim-friendly magazines instead’. The comedic magazine Chortle says Charlie Hebdo is a ‘racist murderer’s almanac’ - ‘it might not provide racist killers with actual knives, but it has contributed to a prevalent predatory culture that reduces Muslims to nothing more than pieces of shit’, Chortle says. Forty-four comedians and satirists sign an open letter saying Charlie Hebdo is not only ‘unfunny’, it is also ‘inflammatory and dangerous’. All these articles are tweeted thousands of times by the #CoverUpCharlie movement, which now changes its name to #StopCharlie.

Week 7: A roving Guardian reporter devotes himself to exposing the private foul views held by Charlie Hebdo journalists, as expressed in emails to one another. He publishes a series of exclusives under the running headline ‘Their Racism Is No Joke’. He will later be awarded Private Eye’s Paul Foot Award and GQ’s Maverick of the Year Award for his role in exposing and harrying ‘the truly gutter press’.

Week 8: Anti-fascist campaigners march on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, demanding: ‘Close down Charlie Hebdo!’. They argue that the fact that the state and the police allow Charlie Hebdo to continue operating shows just how Islamophobic and racist they are, too. The police start to guard Charlie Hebdo’s offices and make it clear to the staff that this is a drag on police time, with one police commissioner asking in an interview with the BBC: ‘Is this magazine really worth all this hassle and money?’

Week 9: Muslim campaign groups, backed by liberal lawyers, take legal action against the magazine under three different laws: incitement to racial hatred, malicious communications, and public disorder. The police stop guarding the mag’s offices and start investigating it for speech crimes.

Week 10: The staff of Charlie Hebdo call an emergency editorial meeting. They discuss their publication’s future. ‘We aren’t in supermarkets. Students are banned from reading us. The hatred from the press is too much.’ Sorrow is expressed. Tears are shed. Later that evening, the editor of Charlie Hebdo appears on Newsnight, in sombre black polo neck and jacket, fitting the occasion, and apologises for any offence his magazine might have caused and then makes an important announcement. ‘Charlie is gone’, he says. ‘It isn’t coming back.’ Twitter celebrates with a new hashtag: #RIPCharlieLOL. The Guardian publishes a feature the following day headlined: ‘These Charlies aren’t laughing anymore.’

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For permission to republish spiked articles, please contact Viv Regan.


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