Is it wise to exercise our right to free speech by mocking and antagonizing a man we are told is mentally unstable, thinks of himself as a god and has nuclear weapons at his disposal? Is it wise for our president to make a speech in which he implies that it is almost a patriotic duty to support Sony Pictures by watching a crass and tasteless movie that mocks and antagonizes Kim Jong-un?

Do we think highly of men who use their freedom of speech to provoke a fight?

And how about Charlie Hebdo?

Yes, we all acknowledge Charlie’s right to publish whatever it likes, but where would we be today if John Kennedy had responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis by sending Khrushchev a caricature of a bald fat man being sodomized by Robert McNamara? Well, many of us would likely not be anywhere at all. Fortunately, we had a man of wisdom, courage and integrity at the helm in that moment of crisis.

If you’re not sure what Charlie Hebdo is all about, do a Google image search. Next do a search for Islam and blasphemy. Mix the two of them up and ask yourself if what you have might not be rather explosive.

Are we to take seriously the threat posed by idealistic but angry young men who are willing to die for their convictions? If not, I don’t know what this never-ending war on terror is all about. On the other hand, if such men do pose a real danger, is it wise or courageous to publish things simply to antagonize them?

Do we consider it an act of wisdom and courage to antagonize a rattlesnake in the path?

Terrorism is, perhaps, the ultimate expression of free speech. Murderers keep their crimes hidden. Terrorists want all the world to see. They have a message for us, and a video of a beheading gets that message across much more powerfully than, let’s say, a video of an extended middle finger.

Yes, we should stand in solidarity with the French people at this difficult time. And, no, we should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by acts of terror. We must never be made afraid to exercise our Constitutional rights. But I do wonder if it isn’t time that we discuss what it means to exercise those rights in a responsible manner.

Je suis Charlie? Non, Monsieur, not I.

Dan Pietsch


  1. Most people with the attention span of a goldfish, simplify most issues. Every story needs a victim, a hero and a monster, and wrap it up with a sugar coated happy ending. So the victim is the newspaper crew, the monster are the shooter, typically the police, medics fire dept are the default hero. the feel good award goes to the supporters with the sign.

    My opinion is that these “terrorists” are basically like organized crime mafia. Would a Chicago newspaper make insulting cartoons of Al Capone or Don Corleone or Tony Soprano? The newspaper has security guards on staff. They knew they were poking the wasp nest, and stirring up hate.

    They have the legal right of protection in court, but karma doesn’t stop bullets.

    This seemed so unnecessary to create hate under the cover of free speech.

    They would have gotten my support if their free speech was used for the greater good or to expose criminal activity.

    But I equally do not endorse hate speech in the press, just as much as I don’t endorse assassinations of anyone.