The Meaning of Charlie

After the events of 7-9 January 2015, without hesitation, I posted a “Je suis Charlie” message on social media and marched on 11 January in the streets of Paris, alongside friends and millions of others, French and foreign, young and old.

As the days went by, the process of analysing what had happened naturally began to replace the raw emotion that so many felt (and displayed) on 11 January.  Part of that analysis has focused on the simple message in white text on a black background that spread across the web, including my own Facebook page.  Dissenters, for a great variety of reasons, claimed they were not “Charlie”.  They objected to the contents of the magazine, they felt too cowardly to replicate Charlie’s provocateur stance or they objected to what they saw as mindless groupthink.

I began to think about why I had displayed that message on my page.  A small act; smaller even than being one of millions on the streets; insignificant and with no perceptible impact on the world.  And yet two questions persist: why did I say that week that I “was” Charlie; and why this week have I declined to buy the first edition of Charlie Hebdo since the attack? Continue reading