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It is not necessary for me to recount for you the events in Paris, the controversy that led up to them, or the consequences in the last week. This you already know. The whole world knows. It is enough to say that, in the name of Islam, terrorists murdered. In response to satire, terrorists, attacked. In the presence of free speech, terror tried to silence.
As the millions marching in Paris and other cities around the world yesterday attest, the free nations of this earth are not prepared to give up their freedom. Not just yet.
The artists at Charlie Hebdo may offend you. They may offend me. But they are free to do so. They were free to do so. And now that they have died in defense of that freedom, we must expect our own press to step in and with defiance reject the command to desist or die. There can be no better expression of that defiance than to reprint the images that so offend, or to create new ones. Because it is only in that act that you are truly defiant. An expression of solidarity is a toothless gesture without it. Moreover, if we are to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who would stand against terror and tyranny, then we must aid them in their defense, too, by spreading the risk around. The fewer who stand, the quicker they fall.
An artist in France, in keeping with that spirit, is compiling a project. He is reaching out to artists and editorial cartoonists around the world, asking them to submit their own tributes to Charlie Hebdo’s brave fallen; A noteworthy project that will probably garner much attention, including unwanted attention for those who participate. But participate they are. One of those willing to put his name and face in front of that cause is Mort Todd.
Todd is an artist living in the United States. He is notably a former Editor in Chief of Cracked Magazine, one of America’s own fearlessly satirical publications. You are also, no doubt, familiar with top Cracked competitor MAD Magazine. Perhaps in a show of common purpose, or perhaps with a bit of mischievous needling of his former competitor, Todd chose to make his homage in the form of an awesome satire of a MAD magazine cover.
Todd’s image is powerful for three reasons. In the first and obvious case, for the risk of depicting Mohammed, or indeed any part of Islam, in a satirical or farcical manner. In the second case, it is hilarious and pretty much dead solid perfect. It really feels like a MAD cover.
But the third is that it is not only a depiction of Islam, but a stab at the relative cowardice of American publications that have refused to show the cartoons for which the Hebdo victims died, in some cases, even blurring out the covers when reporting on the story of the attack.
That step, that concession to the demands of madmen is the first foot backward. To respect their wishes is to concede their morality. If you choose not to offend now, after murder and destruction, then you are choosing to concede not just defeat, but our entire point of view. It is saying the terrorists are right. It is saying they have a point.
Mort Todd doesn’t think the terrorists have a point. He is not laying down his pen. One hopes others will follow his lead.
Je Suis Charlie, they say. It has to mean something. If it doesn’t, it is an insult to those who have died at the hands of a hateful, vile, despicable ideology.
Find Caleb at RabbleWriter.com or on Twitter @CalebHowe.