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Former Charlie Hebdo Editor: “Silence Must Not Win”

My rage only grows at the murder of cartoonists, artists armed only with wit, by masked gunmen shouting Islamic slogans in Paris today. The bursting slogan, Je suis Charlie, says "I am Charlie." If you speak, if you question, if you criticize, if you ridicule, you are Charlie Hebdo.

Philippe Val was very much Charlie. Comedian, singer, journalist, Val also helped resurrect the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 1992 and edited it until 2009. He now directs radio station France Inter. In an interview on France Inter today, he said, "I have lost all my friends today." He proceeded to eulogize his friends and demand a memorial of fearless defense of art, speech, and liberty. (He spoke in French; I translate and accept responsibility for any errors.)

These were people so full of life, whose hearts' desire was to bring pleasure to others, to make them laugh, to give them fertile ideas. They were good people. They were the best by far among us, like all people who make us laugh, who are for liberty, like all people who believe we should be able to come and go freely and in security. They were assassinated. It is intolerable butchery.

We must not let silence settle in. We must really help. Now we must come together against this horror. Terror must not put an end to the joy of living, to liberty, to expression, to democracy—all of that is at stake. It's this type of brotherhood that makes life posssible. We must not let this go; this is an act of war. Perhaps tomorrow it would be good if journalists would call themselves Charlie Hebdo. If we all would call ourselves Charlie Hebdo. If all France were Charlie Hebdo. That would show that we're not o.k. with this, that we will never let laughter be extinguished, that we will never let liberty be extinguished.

We can't let this go. These were absolutely magnificent people. Cabu was a genius, a genius of kindness, of talent. Charb, all these people, they are all dead, my friend Bernard Maris, all. We can't let this go. We should form a front, we should stand quite united. These weren't evil people; these were people who just wanted everyone to live happily. These were people who wanted humor to have a place in our lives, that's all. That's all, that's it, and that's what they were assassinated for.

This is just not tolerable. We must act. I'm sorry for speaking like this, but all these years, the media haven't been on top of this radicalization. Lots of Muslims should be devastated by this. They are in danger themselves. We haven't discussed enough this increase in fundamentalism in France. We haven't sounded the alarm enough. We've done what we could. We've often been alone. Today, I'm practically all alone. All my friends are gone. And they didn't die for some bad cause; they died just because they wanted everyone to be able to live, they wanted children to be able to come and go without danger.

There, it's horrible what's happened. This event marks a before and an after. Our country will no longer be the same. They've wiped out a certain way of doing journalism. They've wiped out all the people who could make us laugh about such grave ideas. It's an appalling death that descends upon us, but silence must not win. Elisabeth Badinter said of the [2007] lawsuit of cartoons, "If they are condemned, it's silence that will beat us down." So today, more than ever, we must say what we think.

I don't have religion. It's too bad; I would like to have religion today. If I did, I would say to my friends that I love them. I'd say how indispensable they were to my life, how indispensable they were to everyone else, how indispensable they are to all who need liberty to live.

(Nicolas Demorand): They made us laugh.

(Philippe Val): We laughed so much. Today laughing is very difficult, but that's the perfect weapon. Laughter is that weapon of brotherhood. We must let people laugh, let them ridicule the bastards. We must hold our ground, we must all be together. What has happened is very grave. We cannot live in this danger. We cannot live in fear.

[Philippe Val, radio interview with Nicolas Demorand, translated from transcript, Libération, 2015.01.07]

Nous sommes Charlie—we are Charlie. We must not be silent.


  1. Porter Lansing 2015.01.07

    "I am Charlie."

  2. jerry 2015.01.07

    All three shooters in custody. Two brothers and a mutt. The mutt has done time before.

    Report: One Suspect Previously Jailed On Terror Charges
    The AP reports that one of the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack, Cherif Kouachi, was tried in 2008 for helping funnel fighters to Iraq and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

    Kouachi told the court at the time he had been outraged by the images that revealed torture of Iraqi inmates by U.S. guards at the Abu Ghraib prison.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2015.01.07

    Thanks for the link to the NAACP bombing in Colorado Springs, it was on my mind as the events in Paris played out today.
    The FBI is likely investigating this as a Hate Crime plotted against innocent civil rights workers working for justice and equality. Thank "God" no one was injured.
    An immediate profile of those would be that they are KKK, white supremacists, or skin heads that hate blacks.
    As we all know, these groups all operate under the mantra that the white god is just for them and all others are not worthy. They are not just a cult, they are a form or religion.
    From the news reports that I have read, the NAACP did not send out a newsletter mocking anybodys religion or faith, yet they were a target of domestic terrorism and possible death.
    Some will talk about how Islam needs to clean up the radicalized fringe groups that are causing death and destruction around the world, I would argue that America needs to clean up their hate groups that have targeted black people simply working on a just cause.

  4. larry kurtz 2015.01.07

    Roger: i am not convinced that the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires were not weaponized for political purposes.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.07

    2 Things:

    1. The murderous attack was a terrible thing and freedom of expression must not be abridged.

    2. I'm concerned about a Muslim couple I often see at a coffee shop, Sahra and Moha. They are very nice people. He quietly and unobtrusively offers his prayers from a corner of the coffee shop. She is a studying fool working on her Ph.D. It would be equally wrong if something happened to either of them.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.07

    Deb, I share your hope that Sahra and Moha can continue to work, study, sip coffee, and pray unharassed. I hope they find their faith as unshaken by my existence as my worldview remains unshaken by theirs.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.07

    Thank you, Dan. That link provides a good selection of poignant responses from artists. Every religion should take non-violence as seriously as those artists do.

  8. Jaka 2015.01.07

    we can all be Charlie

  9. jerry 2015.01.07

    The building in Colorado Springs looks like the Planned Parenthood building in Rapid City that was almost bombed several years ago. Same kind of on the room type attempt. As I remember reading, there was a propane gas canister that was wired to explode.

  10. John 2015.01.08

    Like in France and Europe, the right wing's anti-immigrant vitriol is going mainstream. In European some nations it turned from a wing-nut issue to a significant voting minority with ballot-clout to partner in European government coalitions (3.5 min, note @ 2:10+).

    For the full discussion consider (1.5 hrs):

  11. Bill Fleming 2015.01.08

    I saw a 'reformed Muslim' woman on a news program last night (Chris Matthews) predicting that there will be more instances of violence like this for the ironic reason that the fundamentalists know they are on the losing side of history and that in a couple more generations, their way of looking at the world will be gone. Matthew's comment was that losing causes are always the most dangerous.

    Like they say, it's always darkest before the dawn.

    BTW Cory, from what i can tell, the actions of these butt heads have been soundly and unequivocally renounced by the vast majority of the Muslim community.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.08

    Death throes of a dying worldview, Bill? Is ISIS the Muslim world's Tea Party, just with less restraint when it comes to violence?

    Indeed, Bill, I'm seeing those denunciations from the Muslim world as well. That's encouraging.

  13. Liberty Dick 2015.01.08

    So what are you all going to do about this? What needs to change? What can you do? Awareness has been raised and it is time to act. Can an ideological war be won with bombs? I'd bet dollars to donuts these guys were trained in a place built with U.S. taxpayer dollars. Will you lobby to stop the military aid to the middle east? What will you do?

  14. jerry 2015.01.08

    @Liberty Dick

    So what are you all going to do about this?** Work hard on issues here in the United States, like race, social injustice, poverty and the great divide of income inequality.*** What needs to change? **How we view of fellow citizens and how we allow disparaging remarks about them to go unchecked** What can you do? *** Be and advocate of what I believe in***Awareness has been raised and it is time to act. Can an ideological war be won with bombs?*** Never, that is why and how we have lost every war since World War II ** I'd bet dollars to donuts these guys were trained in a place built with U.S. taxpayer dollars. Will you lobby to stop the military aid to the middle east? ** You would win in a way. It looks like these guys got on the job training in the Syria bloodletting. The fix is in, in what we have in Washington and it is not about to change anytime soon. South Dakota elected Rounds to the senate. Rounds is a toad to Israel and proved that with who he put in charge of his office there. As long as there is no questions about how Israel is destroying the Palestinians, then there can be no dialog. The EU is now in chaos about this murder and maybe that is how it was designed to be. Remember the EU had voice strong support for a two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. *** What will you do?**Support those voices that have the power to reach out to my fellow citizens who want more of what the rest of the world wants.

  15. jerry 2015.01.08

    Exposing the double standard of American involvement in the Mid East is always something we should strive to do. Liberty Dick and I are supporting ethnic cleansing in Iraq now with our tax dollars, along with the rest of the taxpayers.

    We do that openly and without comment. In Syria, we do just the opposite and we do that openly and without comment. The parties on whom this is inflicted take notice of that indiscrepancy to use against us with many comments. Now chickenhawks see the Paris attack as an opening for further US taxpayer involvement there with Iraq 3.0, the new and improved war. Guaranteed to bring more heartbreak to the few families that have a stake in this fiasco with the loss of their loved ones while the rest of America goes to the mall.

  16. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.08

    I'd say Dirty Darth Cheney and his Neo-con Crooks friends are more similar to the militants Islamists than the Tea Baggers are.

    It's interesting to think about how the TBs might behave if the lived in a more lawless place. Would they employ more violence?

  17. bearcreekbat 2015.01.08

    Deb's comment reminds me of Christianity's role in our war in Iraq:

    This seems to be substantial evidence that some Christians (aka the Bush, Cheney crowd) have relied on their religious views from the Christian Bible to justify the mass killing of Iraq citizens.

    "Nearly half a million people have died from war-related causes in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, according to an academic study published in the United States on Tuesday."

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.08

    Liberty D, Charlie Hebdo is all about the idea that we can win an ideological war without bombs. Help me out: explain further where your rhetorical questions are headed.

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