Teri Orr: The ilk of the ink
January 9, 2015
Je suis Charlie… I am Charlie, instantly became a kind of international shorthand on Wednesday. The twelve French journalists murdered for their irreverent, often-tasteless look at politics, in France directly and beyond, worked at the paper Charlie Hebdo, started first in 1969 until the late ’80s and reborn in 1992.
Threats had existed against them repeatedly. The editor and cartoonist, Stéphane Charbonnier, had been under police protection for some time. Making fun of bullies, even in a childish, crass way — be it the Sony folks who produced "The Interview" or the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo — is still so infuriating to bullies it can incite everything from hacking to violence — even murder.
And the year is what? And the actual religion taking credit is who? The world is changing so fast that a tribal mentality no longer understands the landscape — be it Afghanistan or a newspaper. And while this may sound a bit woo woo — the vibrational level of the planet is changing so fast there is no longer room for us and them. We have to learn — it is just all us. We need to learn how to live together on a planet with shrinking resources and water and air and kindness. Rapidly shrinking levels of kindness.
If twelve journalists were killed in Park City it would be the entire reporting staff of KPCW and the entire reporting staff of The Park Record, including the columnists, and the entire staff of the Park Rag. All the people here who speak truth to power.
Freedom of the press is a tenant we pride ourselves on as a country but it must become an international standard for the planet to fully accept differences and find commonalities and fix global problems by sharing global solutions. Not all journalism is good — i.e. almost any time spent on FOX is at the very least, for me, head-scratching, if not outright offensive. But we must fight for the right of everyone to express their opinion. With words, not guns.
"I am on a mission to civilize," said television character Will McAvoy in the final season of "The Newsroom." It was a bit of the windmill-chasing stuff that Don Quixote expounded upon 400 years ago. He was a crazy old man and he fought for his impossible dream. Will wanted to make people think about who was making the very decisions that affected their lives.
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Be informed. Be brave. Be unflinching in your desire for the truth. Question "authority." It was, maybe, writer Aaron Sorkin’s very best work.
Speaking truth to power is always dangerous but it is far more dangerous to keep quiet. The past informs the present and we can look just at the Holocaust, the Japanese interment, the Civil Rights movement, Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, Edward Snowden, to be reminded. People who live in the dark hate it when you shine a light there. Exposing liars and thugs and bullies is the work of the brave, even when they are only armed with a pencil.
We can’t care more about a glass on Kim Kardashian’s ass than we do about real people being denied real basic human rights. The hedonistic world we live in has produced the culture we see. Change the dialogue (and you), hange the story.
And while all the discussions center on all the religions involved (Charlie Hebdo makes fun of the pope with equal ink strokes as the prophet) this may not be about religion at all. But it certainly is about morality.
According to The New York Times, on Friday, the 25 journalists of Charlie Hebdo went back to work — two days after their coworkers and friends and comrades were murdered in front of them — at the offices of French left-wing daily, Liberation, who had sheltered them before, after a firebomb attack in 2011. They announced they would say what they had to say, in eight pages, when they went to print next Wednesday, but right now, they wanted to work in silence. The Prime Minister is reported to have said, "The strongest response is to say, ‘let’s continue.’"
When the cartoon-filled paper started in 1969 and chose the name "Charlie" in the title, it was an homage to the series it carried inside, "Peanuts," with the lead character Charlie Brown. That, and a slight dig at then-president, Charles de Gaulle.
A UK cartoonist, Magnus Shaw, published one of the hundreds of cartoons that circulated the net on Wednesday. But instead of showing the weight of the weapons — guns versus pencils, as so many cartoonists did, his was simple. It was Charlie Brown, sitting on a bench with his head bent and his chubby hands in his eyes.
All the tanks, all the planes, all the special ops and night-vision equipment in the world doesn’t stand a chance against the truth shining and being shared on the ground. We need to keep asking questions of whoever is making the rules. We need international freedom of the press to be as sacred as any organized religion.
And just for a moment, this Sunday in the Park, we need to hang our heads and rub our eyes with the same exhausted, world-weary sadness as Charlie Brown, as we remember the journalists murdered in the line of duty.
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.