There has been a lot of talk here today about whether we should stand with "Charlie," the French weekly satirical magazine that delighted in holding no one sacred, and basically offending everyone on an equal opportunity basis.
I stand with those defending free speech, no matter how distasteful it may appear to our American eyes, for several reasons.
First of all, I simply must as a journalist. I respect those who found some of the cartoons offensive, and I understand the reasons why. It's fine to question the tastefulness or effectiveness of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, especially as seen through an American lens (I do!) with our own particular histories and points of cultural reference.
But is frustrating to see these satirical cartoons, intended for a very politically aware leftist French audience (who would have immediately recognized the skewering of Le Pen and his ilk), presented out of context, without the relevant history and back story, as if this were a magazine run by French RWNJs.
I've lived in both France and the UK, and humor didn't always translate very well even between British and American sensibilities. Social and political satire translates even less effectively...and the Charlie Hebdo stuff is not subtle. It is shocking and 'in your face.' It is meant to be.
I think most people in France, including my North African friends, would be mystified to learn that CH was a 'racist' publication, given that it has a long, long history of just the opposite. I also see how these cartoons 'look' to casual observers here in the States and it breaks my heart. I think it would break the artists' hearts as well from what I have read about them.
That is just my take, though, and I thought it might be relevant to reproduce the words of slain editor Stephane Carbonnier here, in defense of racism charges (by a rag paper) in 2013.