Bad news from the continent. In an interview with the German weekly Stern, Laurent ‘Riss’ Sourisseau, the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, announced that he would no longer draw cartoons of any historical figure called Mohammed. This follows his former colleague Renald ‘Luz’ Luzier saying a couple of months back that he would no longer draw Mohammed either. ‘Luz’ announced that he was leaving the magazine shortly afterwards.
I don’t judge either of them for this decision. ‘Luz’ happened to be running late for work on the morning that the Kouachi brothers forced their way into the Charlie Hebdo offices and started shooting his colleagues. ‘Riss’ was in the office and took a bullet to the shoulder, bringing him to the floor where he lay – playing dead – while the sharia-blasphemy force finished off his colleagues. This would be enough to have made most people retreat into silence for the rest of their lives. But both men stuck with the publication through the immediate aftermath of the atrocity and asserted their right to keep publishing depictions of Mohammed.
Who knows why they have stopped now? Perhaps the jokes are a little less funny now there are so many dead bodies. The cost-benefits calculus of putting Mo in an issue would lead anyone towards wanting a slightly quieter life and wondering if it wouldn’t be better if, say, that potential Mo gag became another Pope gag. And I don’t doubt that there must be something sickening about most of the free world patting you on the back and saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’ only to show immediately and continually that they very clearly are not. But the reasons ‘Riss’ gives sound unconvincing to me. The reality is that intimidation and terrorism work. It is the reason why every major publication in the Western world failed to do what Charlie Hebdo had done. And it is the reason why, from Copenhagen to Texas, the people with guns keep making themselves felt and everyone else keeps backing down. Of course we all say that they won’t win (‘Je Suis Charlie’). But they are winning, and at this rate they will win.
Speaking of Copenhagen – this September is the 10th anniversary of the publication of the first ‘Mo-toons’ by the Danish paper Jyllands Posten. For the occasion I will be speaking in the Danish capital alongside Flemming Rose (who commissioned those original cartoons) and other free-speech defenders including Mark Steyn. The event will be in the Danish Parliament apparently because it’s the only place in Denmark sufficiently secure enough that – we hope – the now traditional gunmen won’t be able to get in and shoot everyone.
Like Mark Steyn I’ve been doing these ‘defend free speech’ gigs for some years now and as Mark recently mordantly observed, I also sometimes wonder why I keep ascending up the running order only to realise that it’s because everybody who used to be ahead of me is either in hiding or dead. Well there’ll be four of us in Copenhagen in September and I hope any non-jihadists who are still interested in the subject of free speech will consider swinging by.