On the morning of January 7, eleven staff members of the French satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, were shot and killed with 11 others injured in an act of retaliation by members of Al-Qaeda.  Charlie Hebdo is known for publishing extremely offensive cartoons and editorials in the name of revealing what they believe to be the truth.  This attack was not the first on the magazine:  In 2011, the offices of the magazine were bombed for their representation of Islam. 

Cartoons featured in Charlie Hebdo have included attacks on all organized religion, homosexuality, police officers and nuns among others.  In response to the bombing in 2011, the magazine refused to change its ways and claimed they would not let physical attacks influence them.  

Many groups in France agreed with the magazine, saying that the freedom of the press was an important aspect of their lives whether or not the works of Charlie Hebdo were crossing a line.  Other groups were of course outraged by the magazine, but did not retaliate with violence.    The magazine was sued for incitement to racism by two Islamic groups in France, but was acquitted by the Paris court.

After the shootings on January 7, the Charlie Hebdo publication became a global phenomenon.  In Chechnya, 800,000 Muslims marched through the streets in support of the Charlie Hebdo murders.  Thousands of people in Pakistan chanted “death to the government of France” in the main square.  

Millions of people on Twitter tweeted “#JeSuisCharlie” meaning “I am Charlie,”  as a sign of support for complete freedom of the press and against the attacks on the magazine.  These messages meant well, and support for Charlie Hebdo is undoubtedly justified. But did people really know what they were saying?  

Charlie Hebdo goes above and beyond freedom of the press—their intent is to offend and insult certain people and groups with its cartoons and articles.  If every single person that tweeted “#JeSuisCharlie” meant what they said, it would imply that all those people are willing to die for what they say.  Most of these people would not die for their opinions like those at Charlie Hebdo did. 

The Charlie Hebdo way of freedom of the press may seem great in theory. It is complete freedom for everyone, under any circumstance.  But, put into action it may not be such a great thing.  If everyone said what they were really thinking all the time, the world would be in complete chaos with constant protests, murders and maybe even wars.  Just imagine if everyone on our campus adopted the Charlie Hebdo mentality.  What would happen if everyone decided to say exactly what they thought in the most offensive way possible in order to have their voices heard? There would probably be countless friendships lost and arguments made.

It’s important for people to desire freedoms, but there is definitely a need for limitations.   Not under the law, but at least under our social constructs. Most people don’t want their newspapers to start publishing insulting cartoons about their political, social or religious groups, or their friends to constantly insult one another.  And that’s probably a good thing.

The world showed solidarity with Charlie Hebdo by saying that “We all are Charlie.” The fact of the matter, though, is that we’re not all Charlie, and many of us do not have it in us to be Charlie. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.