"I am Charlie" image used on social media in support of the victims of the Paris attack.
"I am Charlie" image used on social media in support of the victims of the Paris attack.
Bertrand Hauger

PARIS — There's a nice trompe l'oeil mural on rue Nicolas Appert here in the 11th arrondissement. I once stood in front of it for a little while on my lunch break, trying to make sense of the artist's visual tricks.

Today, making sense of what happened on that street feels impossible: Twelve people, among them some of France's best cartoonists, with plenty of visual and rhetorical tricks of their own, were gunned down at the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Just a three-minute walk from where I myself work with words and images to try to make our own, different kind of sense of the world.

I should confess from the start that I've never been a regular reader of Charlie Hebdo — hell, I don't even think I've ever bought it. All the same. Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Wolinski: Familiar names and faces, drawing styles that a bande dessinée lover like myself could instantly recognize and appreciate. And though I sometimes have found that Charlie Hebdo provokes just for provocation's sake, never has it been clearer that their right to do so is sacrosanct.

In their own idiosyncratic and immediate way, cartoonists can be considered the front line of free expression in France, le pays des Lumières. Today we see just how much was at stake, and at risk, from where they stood.

#CharlieHebdo pic.twitter.com/15O4YC2KWg

— Ruben L. Oppenheimer (@RLOppenheimer) January 7, 2015

The more straightforward media I work for, Worldcrunch — though produced in English — is based in Paris not just by chance. The French capital's cultural, ethnic and political melange, and its distance from the traditional Anglo-American viewpoints, makes it the perfect place to cover the world.

So this attack hits home. Not only because of its geographic proximity to our offices, but because it crosses a new line in the way that people are increasingly targeted for their ideas and for their work delivering information. When American war correspondent James Foley was killed and decapitated in Syria in August, it was horrible of course, yet somehow remote to those of us working in supposedly safer parts of the news business.

We don't know yet who carried out this morning's shooting. Regardless, it is scary to think that the ramifications of intolerance are such that they can wreak havoc in a quiet, nondescript Parisian street, and that people can be killed for making drawings on paper.

Can't sleep tonight, thoughts with my French cartooning colleagues, their families and loved ones #CharlieHebdo pic.twitter.com/LqIMRCHPgK

— David Pope (@davpope) January 7, 2015

I worry about the devastating effect on some people's opinion on Islam, tainted by a few extremists, and what it will mean for that singular way we've always managed to live together in Paris, whether you come from East Asia, East Africa ... or like me, a small town in eastern France.

I will go to the demonstration in Place de la République tonight. Not because caricaturing Muhammad makes me laugh. It doesn't. But I want to stand alongside people who also think that others have the right to do so. Also, I have always found it strangely comforting the way demonstrations can pack thousands of strangers close together in peace — and right now I could use just that kind of comfort.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

"You Ass Tulip!" - What Turkey's Creative Swearing Culture Can Teach Us

Profanity is a kind of national sport in Turkey. But it can also be risky business, sometimes leading to lawsuits or even death. One political scientist researching Turkey’s unique way of conjuring curse words explains what the country's inventive slurs reveal about its fears and prejudices.

Street scene in Istanbul

Marion Sendker

ISTANBUL — “Take your mother and get lost!” That’s the literal translation of what Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the authoritarian Turkish president, once said to a farmer 15 years ago when the man complained about economic problems.

The Turkish people were shocked by his choice of words, but it was the farmer who was led away by police and later forced to make a televised apology. As he recently explained in a newspaper interview, he is still dealing with legal proceedings as a result of the incident because he is accused of insulting the president, not the other way round.

Erdogan’s behavior was certainly unusual for a head of state, but many Turks also saw it as honest and authentic. “In Turkey, working-class people often use rude words, which are seen as more straightforward and sincere,” explains Ahmet Özcan, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University, who is currently working on a research project about Turkish slang.

Keep reading... Show less
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ