Even after its offices were bombed in 2011, Charlie Hebdo kept its sense of humor


The Charlie Hebdo cover immediately after the 2011 bombing of its offices.

If your offices had been bombed by Islamic extremists, what would your choice of cover be?

The first cover after the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris were bombed by Islamic extremists in 2011? “LOVE IS STRONGER THAN HATE.”

The cover included, as you might have noticed, a Charlie Hebdo satirist and a Muslim man engaged in a very juicy kiss. You might not have noticed the background, where apparently the remains of the office smolder.

That’s devotion to satire as a cause.

Today’s attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices brought nausea to my stomach and tears to my eyes. In the minds of some, the only response to a satirical attack of paper and ink is a violent claim of authority made with bullets and bloodshed.

A violent, horrific, murderous claim of authority.

France hasn’t always been the best example of a free society, but perhaps the existence of Charlie Hebdo shows a reasonable concern for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are barriers against overreaching authority. Satirists seem concerned with nearly all claims of authority — at least the social impact of authority.

For example, this morning, an analyst on MSNBC’s Morning Joe said Charlie Hebdo has targeted everyone with its humor: not only Muslims, but Catholics, Jews, and atheists.

That “equal opportunity joking” won’t hold value for some people, and that’s reasonable and OK because satire doesn’t make Truth claims.

Instead, satire looks at social realities and social experiences — and blows them out of proportion so we can more easily see them.

Or, inverts them so we can more readily confront them.

Satire is a cause, and I might go so far as to say it’s  a noble cause, despite the crude and offensive covers on Charlie Hebdo over the years.

A free, pluralistic, democratic society depends upon satire that tells us when the emperor has no clothes.

Satire is brave. Satire is a corrective. Satire is the best way to tell the truth about some matters.

Satire can even tell us “LOVE IS STRONGER THAN HATE” — and show us an unlikely scenario in which a wronged character is loving his enemy.

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