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Charlie Hebdo - Martyrs & Heroes of Free Speech

This morning the headquarters of Parisian comedy rag Charlie Hebdo was attacked. Masked gunmen entered the magazine's office and killed 10 employees and 2 French policemen who tried to intervene.

The gunmen escaped, and are apparently at large.

While there has yet to be a formal claim of responsibility, just about everyone with a news press or a TV camera believes that the perpetrators are Islamic militants. Hebdo HQ has already been attacked for publishing funny papers mocking the holy Muhammed; about 3 short years ago, the office was firebombed.

This blog o' mine is focused on fixing computers. Occasionally, we talk about how computers are used (and mis-used) to violate people's privacy. Rarely, if ever, do we get political; excepting once or twice when we have mocked US government attempts to abolish encryption. This post will be an exception.

I take free speech seriously. I have always enjoyed shooting off at the mouth. Moreover, the newspaper racket is somewhat of a family business. Growing up around journos, I have heard all manner of horror stories of people reading things in the funny papers they don't like, and trying to act tough to silence voices they don't agree with.

In the US, this tough guy act is usually limited to lawsuits and brief imprisonment. Its getting worse, though. While the US has occasionally imprisoned journalists in Guantanamo Bay or killed reporters by bombing news agency buildings, reporters here on American soil are relatively safe. The worst a newsman can expect on US soil can expect is getting their head cracked open or a brief stay in detention. When a journalist here is either indicted (like Barrett Brown) or threatened with jail (like James Risen), it tends to make big news.

As the situation slowly and inexorably degrades for free speech acolytes here in the States, so goes the rest of the world. That said, the US is the only country in the world with a First Amendment or anything even resembling it, so the downward trip has been much shorter for our friends abroad. When it comes to the idea that people should be able to speak their mind without fear of violent reprisal (from the state or from someone else), most folks just don't agree.

As such, this post serves as dual protest. First and foremost, I stand alongside the writers of Charlie Hebdo and will do my small part to ensure that violence will not silence their voice.

I don't agree with Charlie Hebdo's politics. In fact, we probably disagree on just about everything. But the staff of Charlie Hebdo has a right to speak their mind. In continuing to speak their mind in the face of continuing threats of violence, they have earned my lasting respect and admiration.

Secondly, and more generally, violence will never be a solution to unpopular speech. The gunman that so senselessly murdered those 12 people today are attempting to bully others into silence. They believe that with enough murder and thuggery they can create a world in their own image. A world that may not believe as they do, but is terrified to speak out in disagreement.

The crime of these men is two-fold. They committed a murder of individuals. And they have attempted to murder the market of ideas which is the hallmark of a free society.

The gunmen have succeeded in their first crime. They made their murder and effected their escape. In their second plan, they will fail. They will fail so long as there are women and men in the world who will speak out in the face of violence.

And so, to ensure that second conspiracy ends in failure to the best of my ability, I reproduce here each one of the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo that has inspired today's violent response. I invite you to share and circulate these images; not because you agree with the cartoons themselves, but because you agree that people should not be killed for ideas.