Following Wednesday's horrific terrorist attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which killed at least 12 people, a former editor of the leading satirical publication in the United States has spoken out in defense of freedom of the press. In an editorial for MSNBC, one-time Onion editor Joe Randazzo looked back at his time at the heralded publication and how his beliefs did not differ all that much from the staff members of Charlie Hebdo. In fact, what happened in France, Randazzo writes, could have happened to The Onion in America.
Randazzo begins with anecdote about the one-time lone guard at The Onion: Its office manager, Jessie. "[W]e used to joke that she was the only thing standing between us and some heavily armed radicals," Randazzo writes. "Right now, that joke makes me sick to my stomach."
The former Onion editor continues:
They [the staffers killed] were cartoonists and editors and humorists. People whose job in life was to point at hypocrisy and laugh at it; to ridicule hate; to make us all try to see our own failings as humans. And they were killed for it.
For those who would trivialize the idea, this was what an actual attack on freedom looks like.
Randazzo claims that the "real threat" stemming from the attack on France's popular satirical publication is that "we’ll allow our fear, or our anger, to kill ourselves." The comedian then elegantly stated his defense of free speech and freedom of the press, calling satire "a necessity" that "must always accompany any free society."
On free speech, Randazzo continues:
Our society is possibly the freest that humankind has yet produced and that freedom is predicated on one central idea: the right to speech. That right is understood as a natural extension of our very existence. In America, free speech is so important that the men who wrote our Bill of Rights put it first, but followed it up with our right to bear arms. To me, that’s always been a pretty strong message: Say what you want and, here, take some guns to make sure no one tries to stop you. But in this state of widespread social change – probably the most profound in centuries – we need to make sure that the ideal of the second amendment never, ever trumps the power of the first. That brute force never negates ideas.
But you can't eliminate everyone who disagrees with you, Randazzo writes. "There are not enough bullets in the world for that."
Although no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's deadly attack, French officials believe the established yet controversial satirical weekly was targeted for its frequent politically charged cartoons, portraying the prophet Muhammad in crude circumstances. Lately, Charlie Hebdo has been focusing on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Just minutes before Wednesday's assault, the newspaper posted a prophetic tweet depicting suspected ISIS leader Abu al-Baghdadi saying, "Best wishes."
According to The Los Angeles Times, French authorities have opened a manhunt on the three suspects, who police have identified as two French brothers in their 30s, and a young man whose nationality is currently unconfirmed.
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