UPDATE: A staffer from the Financial Times responds. The piece has been updated:
— John Gapper (@johngapper) January 7, 2015
Victim-blaming on steroids occurred at the Financial Times Wednesday morning with the publication of a cowardly editorial from gutless free speech apologist declaring the French satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo “stupid” for publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed. The author of the piece if FT Europe editor Tony Barber.
Hours after 12 innocents were massacred by barbarians who identified themselves as Islamic terrorists, a Financial Times writer attacked the victims:
Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims. If the magazine stops just short of outright insults, it is nevertheless not the most convincing champion of the principle of freedom of speech. France is the land of Voltaire, but too often editorial foolishness has prevailed at Charlie Hebdo.
This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extend to satirical portrayals of religion. It is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.
Politico’s Dylan Byers was the first to catch this.
The cowardly obtuseness in the Financial Times editorial is almost beyond comprehension. Defending free speech is almost never about defending tasteful speech (see: Interview, The). Charlie Hebdo mocked every major religion with cartoons that could objectively be declared as offensive. This was not name calling, though. Charlie Hebdo was making a larger satiric point and taking a principled stand. The principle involved was one of freedom and the right to free speech and, yes, the right to offend.
Charlie Hebdo staffers knew the risks. In 2011 their offices were firebombed for poking fun at Islam. Two who died last night were policeman guarding the magazine’s offices due to threats.
What the Financial Times writer describes as “stupid” and “foolishness” was in fact a defiant stand for freedom in the face of monstrous bullying and intimidation. Satire is one of the most important weapons in the arsenal of free speech. The staffers at Charlie Hebdo knowingly risked their lives to stand up for that principle.
That is heroism, not stupid.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC