Where are all the Charlies hiding?


I don’t think I need to explain with any more detail how the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks developed. Everyone with access to the mass media knows what happened on the 7th of January. We are all Charlie, after all… Aren’t we?

Regardless of how shocking the shooting was to the eyes of people from all around the world, some of the solidarity shown in social networks was, in my opinion, nothing more than a trending topic on Twitter and a proof of the ultimate hypocrisy of our society.

I would first like to point out that I am not defending the death of 12 people after a joke, nor am I trying to make the shooting seem unimportant. What I do believe is that people tend to be very selective on what they worry about and when, which leads to these sporadic phases on Facebook where everyone gets enthusiastically involved with politics and…. then what happens? Nothing. People get bored of using the famous ‘Je Suis Charlie’ hashtag. What about the current debate on whether the attack was by a radical group or if it actually represents a religion? Are we protecting religions over people here?

This is what sensationalism is basically about. Take a shocking event and make it even more shocking, keep people busy thinking about it and then meanwhile, do what it takes to sell tonnes of paper. In a certain way, this is also an insult to Charb and Cabu’s families. (What, you don’t know who Charb is? Funny.) All these famous newspapers have been defending freedom of speech, article after article. Which makes me ask myself: did they ever believe in freedom of speech in the first place?

Ever since I started to be interested in politics, I always knew that when something radical happened in a first world country, it would look like an apocalyptic scene. When it’s about thousands of families dying in Iraq because of an oil war disguised in “humanitarian intervention”, it’s fine. But when 12 people die in the lovely city of Paris, then everyone becomes a social activist for a couple of days. People couldn’t actually be that bothered after all, since nothing related to Charlie Hebdo has actually been said anywhere lately.

When I talk about ‘all the Charlies’ I don’t mean everyone who showed solidarity. There has obviously been remarkable action of many types to protest against terrorism and defend freedom of speech. The hypocrisy I am talking about specifically refers to the people who sit in their houses with their phones glued to their hands, writing #JeSuisCharlie in every single social network to show ‘the world’ how culturally and politically aware they are. Had any of those ever heard about the Charlie Hebdo magazine? Did they know what supposedly caused the attack? I wouldn’t be surprised if the general response to that was a big, underlined “no”.

I think freedom of speech is crucial in a democracy. However, the extent to which France actually lives up to its motto, “liberté, egalité, fraternirté”, makes me question if the republic is still safe. Immigration ‘problems’ have never been correctly tackled, the borders were never strongly secured (at least not as secure as in the UK), and political instability has unfortunately always defined their governance. I would even dare to say that the lack of a monarchy has created a government of king and queen wannabes. Needless to say how Le Pen has been rubbing her hands at the thought of the latest membership figures for Front Nationale, or how Nigel Farage took advantage of the attack to blame multiculturalism for events like Paris….

With all this I am trying to express how I feel about ignorance. As university students, we all have access to an endless world of information. It’s crazy how we can get news from the other side of the world in seconds. So how is true political awareness so rare? Are our lifestyles simply guided by pointless distractions or do we actually not care about the world in which we live? I think all the Charlies are hiding in a rather dark bedroom, with a pile of coursework to do, waiting for the weekend to come and be free again. We are not Charlie, we are just ourselves, but we should always defend freedom of speech and we should always fight against injustice.

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