The Day They Tried to Assassinate Liberté…

…and Fraternité stepped up to the plate.

A man holds a placard which reads "I am Charlie" to pay tribute during a gathering at the Place de la Republique in Paris

“The invention of the printing-press is the greatest event in history. It was the mother of revolutions. It was the total renewal of man’s mode of expression, the human mind sloughing off one form to put on another, a complete and definitive change of skin by that symbolic serpent which, ever since Adam, has represented the intelligence. In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, elusive, indestructible. It mingles with the air.”

– Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. This is the motto of the République Francaise. Yesterday, January 1st, 2015, armed gunmen tried to silence liberty when the office of a French satirical magazine known for its irreverent caricatures of various religions , Charlie Hebdo, was assailed. The rain of bullets left 12 dead, spread a flood of fear and tears and erected a sea-wall of humanity, bound together in indestructible determination to curtail the erosion of freedom by religious extremism.

France’s own Victor Hugo essentially wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame to express the importance of preserving art of all genres.  He believed that the ideas of an era are passed into perpetuity by its architecture, its literature, its art.  But what is art without freedom of expression?   Art, which has been described as a mirror to through which society regards its own countenance but also the hammer by which society is shaped, hinges on liberty just as freedom hinges on art.

The tactic of silencing artists to quell the ideas and passions of a society is as old as art itself. From the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1940s and 50s to censorship in the GDR, there have been sundry attempts to stave off our imagination and to keep us captive in deed and mind. Never to be outdone, Islamic extremists have taken, time and again, to spilling blood over art as though the sanguine substance would congeal to occlude our brains. As evidenced by an article on Joshua Keating’s article on , artists such as novelist Salman Rushdie, are high on terrorist hit lists. The New Yorker’s George parker hit the nail dead on the head when he wrote:

“…the murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society.”

Stéphane Charbonnier, editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo who lost his life in today’s heinous massacre, was quoted in 2012 by by  French newspaper , Le Monde, as having declared, “Je préfère mourir debout que vivre à genoux”. charb Jamais à genoux, Charb! Never on your knees! Charb, Cabu, Wolinisky, Tignous, Maris, Renaud, Honoré and each of the five others who were matyred, you did not draw your last breath yesterday. Your comrades in arms, from all corners of the globe, in dolor and defiance,  raised their swords of graphite in glorious tandem and gallantly etched you in you and all that you stood for for, all that your did not buckle for, into our psyches forever. Fraternité ensured the Liberté prevailed, that we may all enjoy Égalité. You were not silenced. We hear you louder than ever. We see you clearer than before. Because we are all Charlie. Nous sommes tous Charlie.


” I am Charlie”. Guns against graphite. By Jean Jullien. @jean_jullien on twitter

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“Cabu, Wolinski, Tignous, Charb A death stupid and mean…” By Le Monde cartoonist @zeptheworld on twitter


Tweeted by @loicsecheresse. The power and pain of the pen(cil)


Boulet (@Bouletcorp) tweeted this picture. The text translates to: “Ducks will always fly higher than guns”. Canards (Ducks) is French argot (slang) for “newspapers”.


@rafaelmantesso instagrammed this shattering image, staggering in its simplicity.

Francisco J. Olea (@oleismos) tweeted a gun of different kind. "Grab you weapons, comrades!"

Francisco J. Olea (@oleismos) tweeted a gun of different kind. “Grab you weapons, comrades!”


Fraternité. Illustrator Donald Robertson (@donalddrawbertson) instagrammed this image with the caption “Pass it on!”


An allusion to the famous Magritte painting of a pipe which reads in a similar font, “Ceci ne pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”), this image of a pencil reads, “This is not a weapon of mass destruction”. Surrealist painter, Rene Magritte ‘s piece was a comment on the the nature of things not always being what they seem and on the importance of specificity: his image was not itself a pipe, but an depiction of a pipe. The double entendre of this incarnation of the image that appeared in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy is amplified perhaps to a factor of three. The image reads, “This is not a weapon of mass destruction”. Indeed, it is a pencil that is pictured, not a gun. But, it is a weapon: one that wields the most power of all. So yes, this is not a a weapon of mass destruction– it is the image of one. The image of a peaceful weapon that destroys hate, tyranny, extremism and fundamentalism in a single stroke.


And this, by Banksy (@banksy on instagram). The regenerative power of art. It refuses to be broken.  In fact, in an attempt to silence a few, our voices have been multiplied.

Instagrammed by photographer @henryleutwyler as a "regram".  Matyrs all.

Instagrammed by photographer @henryleutwyler as a “regram”. Matyrs all.

 “Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”- Salman Rushdie

not afraid

About Natasha

Word- and dough-smith. Girl in search of "the illumination, that ecstatic flash, from which truth emerges".

One comment

  1. Julius

    Insightful queen.

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