They should go ahead and publish the cartoons

I have changed my mind. It is time to throw complexity out the window. All newspapers in Europe ought to publish those Charlie Hebdo images. No, I don’t know which ones precisely and I don’t know why I just said Europe and didn’t include Africa or Asia or Latin America.

Anyway, all newspapers in Europe, including: all those that support capitalism and the rule of the market; all those that are owned by rich white men; all those with a history of publishing scare stories about Muslims; all those that generate consent for the bombing and occupation of predominantly Muslim countries by Western forces; all those that are indifferent to the systematic unravelling of Europe’s democratic fabric that was forged through decades of struggle from below, and through the struggle against fascism; -I think I’ve covered about 90% of newspapers and media outlets here- all these, and the rest, should publish those images.

When I say they should publish those images, I make no demand for them to provide any kind of background information about the original context in which they were published. They have no duty to inform in this regard. I make no demand for them to consider the effect their publication might have on people who may be interpreted as being represented in the cartoons. Not on Muslims in general, not on Muslims living in areas where their mosques might get bombed, and certainly not on people whose appearance might lead them to be identified with a picture of pregnant Boko Haram slaves demanding their government benefits. No: to make any such consideration would be a betrayal of free expression, the bedrock of our free society.

In calling on newspapers and other outlets to publish these images, I make no demand that any thought should be given to the way newspapers and other media institutions actually shape public opinion. I make no demand that any thought be given to suggestions that the ruling powers in countries like US, France, and the UK are only too happy to present themselves as beacons of civilisation, and their weapons of war as the means of bringing democracy, enlightenment and freedom of expression to other benighted regions. I make no demand of the rich men who own newspapers that they or their employees bring any history into it other than the history of attacks on free expression perpetrated by Muslims. Those perpetrated by the governments of the European countries in question, for example, are not the issue here. Also the history of Western imperialism, colonialism and racism need not be spoken about here. As a white European, I should know.

I should also stress, in calling on these institutions to publish these images, that they make no effort to distinguish between the people and the State. Britain is David Cameron. France is François Hollande. Germany is Angela Merkel. Whatever they say is good enough for the whole of the people they represent. The threat to free expression is so urgent, so overwhelming, that any plurality, diversity or dissenting views could prove fatal.

Then, once the images have been published and freedom of expression has been protected, we need never speak of any of this again, and the world will be safe again for satire. Do not fail us, journalists!

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