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This morning in France twelve people were killed over a satirical cartoon poking fun at radical Islamists. The denizens of the Internet, and especially cartoonists, united in solidarity behind the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.

As you’ve likely heard by now, masked gunmen entered the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. Amongst the dead were the editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, and three cartoonists, Jean “Cabu” Cabut, Georges Wolinski and Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac.

Two police officers were also killed in. As of the time of writing, one suspect is dead and two men are in custody.

It Isn’t News Without A Hashtag

Nothing of note can happen without a Twitter hashtag What Do We Care About? The 7 Most Memorable Twitter Hashtags of 2013 What Do We Care About? The 7 Most Memorable Twitter Hashtags of 2013 From natural disasters to the death of a great man, from the end of an immensely popular TV show to a 5-year-old boy's biggest wish coming true, 2013 has seen it all. Read More so #JeSuisCharlie appeared to fill the void. For those don’t know any French,  it means “I am Charlie” — an expression of solidarity for the murdered cartoonists.

While countless tributes flood Twitter, the most poignant come from other cartoonists and satirists. The attacks today were an attempt to stifle free speech through terror. Through the Internet, they’re showing that they won’t be cowed. Joe Randazzo, a former editor of The Onion has written a particular good article.


Repeat Offenders

This is not the first time that Charlie Hebdo has come under attack. After running a caricature of Muhammad in 2011 their offices were firebombed. Following that, and other death threats, Charb was placed under police protection. The threats to his life didn’t stop his work at Charlie Hebdo. In a 2012 interview he said “I would sooner die standing than live on my knees”.

It’s worth noting that radical Islam was one of Charlie Hebdo’s many targets: the Catholic church, anti-feminists and French politicians were all equally likely to be the subject of a cutting cartoon.

The Streisand Effect

#JeSuisCharlie is only the latest example of the Streisand Effect in action.

Named after the singer Barbara Streisand, the Streisand Effect is the name given to the online phenomena where trying to suppress something results in it being spread more. As Chris explains towards the end of this article Avoiding Censorship: How Blocked Websites Stay Online and Accessible [MakeUseOf Explains] Avoiding Censorship: How Blocked Websites Stay Online and Accessible [MakeUseOf Explains] We've been hearing a lot about website-blocking recently, particularly with anti-piracy organizations forcing Internet service providers to block access to The Pirate Bay in the UK and elsewhere. However, when UK Internet service provider BT... Read More , pictures of Streisand’s house appeared online in 2003. Her attempts to have them removed from the Internet led to them getting far more publicity than they otherwise would have.

Charlie Hebdo is a fringe French newspaper. Their circulation is not measured in millions of page views per day but in thousands of readers per month. Yet, at the moment, it is hard to visit Facebook or Twitter without seeing something related to the attack. Not only is the offending comic being shared, but far more offensive ones are too.

What would have been seen by a small number of people in France is now being seen by millions of people around the world.

“I Would Sooner Die Standing Than Live On My Knees”

Freedom of speech is a common refrain on the Internet used to justify almost anything. Often what is hidden behind it is unpleasant Worse Than Hitler: Why Do Flamewars Happen? Worse Than Hitler: Why Do Flamewars Happen? Why are flamewars so common on today's web, and is it really a new phenomenon?  Read More . Posting private photos Reddit Bans Celebrity Nudes, Motorola Launches New Moto X & Moto 360, And More... [Tech News Digest] Reddit Bans Celebrity Nudes, Motorola Launches New Moto X & Moto 360, And More... [Tech News Digest] Also, Microsoft revamps MSN, Steven loves emoji, Google Glass lands on Google Play, and Wakie wakes you up with strangers. Read More is not protected speech.

But this time the Internet got it right.

Yes there have been some calls that Charlie Hebdo “had it coming”, but they’ve been few and far between.

For the most part, the Internet has recognised the murders today for what they were — a calculated attempt to suppress the freedom of the press — and reacted in the only fitting way: by shouting about it from the digital rooftops.

Taking It Offline

#JeSuisCharlie has now spread offline. All over France, Europe and the rest of the world, people are gathering to show that they won’t be brought low by terror tactics.

As terrible as the events of today were, they are showing the Internet at it’s best. Not only are millions of people around the world uniting in solidarity with the victims online, but a hashtag has also helped bring countless people into the streets.

Final Strokes

The Internet is a strange place. It brings out both the best and the worst in people. Today, in response to a horrible terror attack in France the Internet was at it’s best. As sad as the murder of twelve innocent people makes me, seeing millions of people around the world respond with empathy, compassion and righteous fury gives me hope.

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  1. dragonmouth
    January 14, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    "No. Not all views are worthy of respect."
    And who is to be the judge?! You are as intolerant as the Islamists. The world must accept YOUR views. Only YOUR views and beliefs are worthy of respect. Trying to explain the real concept of "respect" to you is like trying to explain the concept of "green" to a blind person.

    • Harry
      January 15, 2015 at 12:49 am

      I didn't say the world must respect my views. But in general beliefs that promote well being are good and beliefs that promote harm are less good. A belief that gay people should be hung can only promote harm so gets no respect. It's where the line isn't as clear cut that it becomes less about my view/your view. There are multiple counter beliefs that can all promote well being. Socialism and capitalism for example. It is very difficult to say which is "better" because both have the capacity to help and to hurt. Personally I'd lean more towards capitalism but I'd still respect the views of someone who leaned towards socialism.

      Stop being an idiot.

  2. dragonmouth
    January 10, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Obviously the concept of "blasphemy as a capital offense" was as foreign to Charlie Hebdo staff as the concept of "freedom of speech" is to the Islamists.

    Tolerance is a two way street. It not only means that our views, opinions and beliefs are respected by others but also that WE respect the views, opinions and beliefs of others, no matter how much we disagree with them.

    • Harry
      January 11, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      No. Not all views are worthy of respect. The belief that gays should be hung? No respect. Women are property? No respect. Blasphemy is a crime? No respect. Some beliefs, like that of free speech, are better than others.

  3. Jessica C
    January 8, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    It's unthinkable that anybody would treat artists, authors, and journalists like this. No person should get to decide that killing is the appropriate response to a piece of art or writing you don't like.

    I love how you ended this piece, Harry, with that last tweet there for Taking it Offline. Powerful.

    • dragonmouth
      January 9, 2015 at 12:27 am

      "It’s unthinkable that anybody would treat artists, authors, and journalists like this."
      Why should artists, authors and journalists be treated differently than other human beings?! It is unthinkable that ANYBODY is treated like this.

      "No person should get to decide that killing is the appropriate response to a piece of art or writing you don’t like. "
      Killing is NEVER an appropriate response to anything.

    • Harry
      January 11, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks Jessica, glad you liked it.

  4. killroy
    January 8, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Christian/Jewish people are not from a peace loving religion so they do not commit murder.

    • michel
      January 9, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      Stop trying to drive a wedge between people. This isn't about religion, it's about freedom of speech and murder.

    • dragonmouth
      January 9, 2015 at 7:51 pm

      It is precisely about religion! A fundamentalist version of a religion whose adherents are willing to kill to enforce their beliefs and eliminate any threats to those beliefs. Had the the cartoon been making fun of Mickey Mouse or Monsieur Hollande, I'm sure there would not have been any reaction from the Islamists.

    • Lamees
      January 9, 2015 at 11:19 pm


    • Sheeva
      January 10, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Faith is purer than religion - religion is a cult. Faith would never need to prove itself especially not like religions that through human history have always used subtle to extreme violence. This cowardly attack was indeed the result of a human religious cult mind set and not of faith.

    • Harry
      January 11, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      @killroy There have been plenty of murders by Christians in the past. Just look at the history of Ireland. From what priests and nuns did to children to the conflict in the North. The difference is religion is largely seen as symbolic by most people. The horrible parts of the bible that justify terrible crimes are still there, it's just not seen as acceptable to use them.

      @michel @dragonmouth Now Dragonmouth you're right! Even moderate Islam is significantly more radical than moderate Christianity. The vast majority of people attempting to bring Shariah law into Britain would never commit crimes like this but are still trying to create a culture that condemns free speech and places women and infidels as lesser people. This culture then supports, directly and indirectly, the true radicals.

      @Lamees Yes. Unfortunately #JeSuisAhmed wasn't a thing when I wrote this. Nothing is more indicative of the whole situation than that. Ahmed was a true hero. He was able to embrace his faith and the values of a liberal humanitarian society. The majority of harm done by radical Islam isn't to the West. It's to other Muslims. While ISIS has killed a few Americans and English journalists, they've slaughtered thousands of Muslims.

  5. Lamees
    January 8, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    As a Muslim i think these attacks are wrong. Personally, i think ignoring the sarcastic newspaper was a better response.
    But am still curious would mocking a christian/jewish symbol have gotten the same story!!

    • michel
      January 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      If 12 people were murdered over it, yes.

    • Chris
      January 10, 2015 at 5:27 am

      You say curious, indicating doubt? You know that these cartoonist do infact mock/ridicule/offend(or rather: make fun of) christian/jewish symbols all the time, so the anwser is as michel says, had people been killed, then yes! The thing is though that just does not happen, and when it does its the solo work of mad person, usually something will be ignored or taken to court (and lose).

      The real people to blame here is not even the attackers, its the once doing the mindwashing that we need to deal with, these terrorist grow up all there live with filtered satire that only portrays the insults to their god, that filtering is the blame for their oft extreem hate, and that is exactly why free speach is about the most important thing ever.

      Think about it, these "terrorists" were once perfectly normal people no one is born with hate, they are then trained in the same manner you train a dog, and then though filtering are shown that everybody is ganging up on them.

      Any human would kill any other "target" undet this condition, just in the western world you would be really hard pressed trying to keep people disinformed, thus it does not happen.

    • Harry
      January 11, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      Hey Lamees, as Chris said, Charlie Hebdo were pretty harsh on other religions. They had a cover that depicted Jesus having a three way with god and the holy spirit. And the pope being choked by his testicles by a Femen protester. They were in fact far more provocative to other groups than they ever were to Muslims. Radical Islam just handles it slightly worse than other groups.

  6. Doc
    January 8, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    "Today, in response to a horrible terror attack in France, the Internet was at it's best." "It's" always means "it is" or "it has." You needed to use "its" here.
    Otherwise, a fine tribute to those lost.

    • Harry
      January 11, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      As above, we were in a hurry to get the article out so some things slipped through. And thank you.

  7. n brown
    January 8, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Its not Barbara its Barbra u shmuck

    • Harry
      January 11, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Sorry! Article was written in a hurry to get it out. And anyway she was born Barbara. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

  8. dragonmouth
    January 8, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    While tweaking the beliefs of fundamentalists may be a noble gesture, it is also a futile one. Fundamentalists are so set in their beliefs that no amount of ridicule, satire, logical argument or even force will change them. On the contrary, any attempt at change will be perceived as an attack on those beliefs and only serve to reenforce them.

    While the staff of Charlie Hebdo did not "have it coming", "it" was inevitable and not surprising. You do not pull a mad dog's tail without it turning around and attacking you. To pull the beards of the fundamentalists and expect them to react in a calm, civilized manner is disingenuous.

    What did the satire achieve? People are unnessecerily dead. The polarization between the fundamentalists and the rest of the world is reenforced. At best, the status remains quo.

    • michel
      January 8, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      And what does Dragonmouth do? Blame the victim. The article is about "the internet at it's best" and you bring the worst. The murders are not the achievement of the dead.

    • dragonmouth
      January 8, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      "Blame the victim. "
      Whom should I blame? If these people died in an unprovoked attack, I would cry for the victims with you. The act was barbaric and I condemn it along with you. However, the people at Charlie Hebdo knew exactly what they were doing. If they believed, even after the firebombing of their offices, that the Islamists will not react, then they were very naive. Islamist reprisal are nothing new. There was a Swedish cartoonist some time back that published a cartoon unflattering to Muhammad. There were wide-spread boycotts and the cartoonist was killed by an Islamist assasin. There still is a fatwa against Salman Rushdie.

      If you repeatedly pull on a lion's tail and it turns around and kills you, should I blame the lion? Let me remind you that the Roman Catholic Church used to react the same way as the Islamists to anybody that even questioned their religion. Except the Church did not shoot the unbelievers, it burned them at the stake or it had them drawn and quartered. Different religions, the same reaction.

      What have these people achieved by their satire other than martyrdom and an early trip to the paradise of their choice? Have they changed any minds? When all is said and done, a lot will be said and very little done. The outrage will last a month or two and then the world will move on.

      " you bring the worst"
      Why? Because I refuse to march in lock-step with you? Because I have a different view point? We must be responsible for our actions and be prepared to accept the consequences of those actions. The Islamists are quite ready to die for their ideas, the people at Charlie Hebdo and their followers apparently are not. They just pay lip service to them.

    • michel
      January 9, 2015 at 4:57 am

      Absolutely not so. After the office was firebombed, Charlie Hebdo refused to buckle to threats. The put their lives on the line - perhaps knowingly, as you say, However, they did not shoot themselves. They expressed opinions. If you think that makes them responsible for their own deaths, you must not believe in freedom of expression. You believe that the terrorists were not responsible. You apparently do not hold one of the core beliefs of Western democracy. If someone kills you for expressing your opinion, will you be to blame? The terrorists are people, not unthinking animals. No one says you have to be all touchy-feely about it, but claiming the victims are responsible is denying one of the basic human rights and siding with the murderers.

    • Harry
      January 11, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Dragonmouth you're wrong. While the attack may not have been "unprovoked" the provocation didn't match the punishment. At worst they deserved to have satire cartoons drawn about them. Pandering to that sort of "don't pull tails" view gives the people who'd suppress free speech the power they need. The only way to tame a wild animal is to keep touching it until it's used to your touch. Defeating fundamentalism is the same. Keep prodding, keep chipping away, and while you won't win over the 0.0000000000001%, you'll reveal the unreasonableness of their position and win over the moderates. That's exactly what's happened to the Catholic Church here in Ireland.

  9. Nerdebeu
    January 8, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks you for your tribute. A french reader of MakeusOf (and Charlie Hebdo)

    • Harry
      January 11, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      You're welcome. It was a privilege to be in a position to write it. There are many people — like yourself — who's feelings are far more valid than mine but probably don't have the platform to share it.