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Citing Ridicule of Islam, Writers Boycott Charlie Hebdo 'Courage' Award


Citing Ridicule of Islam, Writers Boycott Charlie Hebdo 'Courage' Award

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

A number of prominent literary figures are publicly protesting the decision by the PEN American Center to honor the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo with its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award, arguing that it is not courageous to ridicule an oppressed minority.

Writers Michael Ondaatje, Peter Carey, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, and Taiye Selasi are among those boycotting the award ceremony at the PEN Literary Gala to be held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on May 5.


Glad to see this. Freedom of speech and of the press are vitally important but cultural chauvinism is not the best example. Speaking truth to power is and that remains repressed by the very folks that condemned attacks on Hebdo. Recognizing the folks at The Intercept would be far less hypocritical.


Relentless attacks on the Catholic church? By whom? When the Catholic church has been a safe haven for criminally deviant behavior of the worst kind for decades, if not centuries, Charlie Hebdo might have a Catholic priest buggering a young child depctied on its cover. Maybe that could be called courageous, highlighting abuse and corruption in the world’s most powerful religion. As it stands, they targeted a miniority population that everyone has agreed it is acceptable to detest. I’m glad writers are boycotting PEN’s Courage award.


Lionizing the loathsome


RIP satire and freedom of speech.


“Five cartoonists had just been killed by a death squad, and many on the left and the right seemed uncertain about which party had committed the greater offence.”
by Justn E.H. Smith, Harper’s Magazine, April 2015


If Charlie Hebdo artists/writers only attacked Muslims you could make an argument that they were bigoted against Muslims, but looking over their cartoons (Google Images) it looks like it would be difficult to find a group they didn’t offend.

Christians, Jews and Muslims were all targets.

So I’m glad they got the award for courage and hope they continue offending everyone - including the anal gland in this thread who ‘expressed’ support for another attack on them.


It’s interesting to me that all of the comments, so far,are about about Charlie and not about PEN and Suzanne Nossel. She “…came to PEN after a year’s stint as Executive Director of Amnesty International, USA (AI), in 2012. Before that she served in Hillary Clinton’s State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. …”
Perhaps everyone has forgotten that there was controversy when she was appointed Executive Director. I recall reading Chris Hedges describing why he resigned his membership.
Here are some reasons why the issue of PEN under Nossel is a story worth keeping in mind. An article by John Walsh and Coleen Rowley gives some background regarding the periods relevant to Nossel. "…AI’s “Shadow Summit” featured a number of panels at a Chicago hotel with the main speaker at the first panel former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, …What was such a person doing at an AI event? …Coleen Rowley and Anne Wright, who resigned from the State Department in 2003 to protest the war on Iraq, along with a handful of fellow antiwar activists attempted to attend the panel but were refused entrance …AI then allowed the group to enter, but in an apparent lapse of concern for free speech only if signs opposing NATO’s war on Afghanistan were left outside…how easy it was for these U.S. government officials to use the ‘good and necessary cause’ of women’s rights to get the audience into the palm of their collective hand — just as the CIA’s ‘strategic communication’ expert predicted!”
One has to ask what is afoot when a former State Department official takes over an organization like AI, which then neatly fits its approach into that of the U.S. government. A few months after the appearance of the Rowley/Wright piece and complaints by other members and donors of AI, …Nossel is often credited with coining the phrase “Smart Power,”2 which Secretary of State HillaryClinton repeated interminably in her Senate confirmation hearings to characterize how she would run State. Nossel defined the term in a 2004 article in Foreign Affairs as “assertive leadership —diplomatic, economic, and not least, military.”

IMO, Charlie is a small-minded bigoted magazine that did not fire its satire at all comers. It was far closer to a lapdog of the ruling paradigm. But PEN is an organization that ought to stand for the rights of all, representing all writers and public intellectuals with an independent stand. The co-opting of this organization should not be overlooked.


Lenin said:

It is particularly important to bear in mind: The need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries; … the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.


You believe expressing an opinion should result in a brutal death penalty? You are a dangerous person indeed. I can see why you sympathise with Islamic nutjobs who believe the same.


Wow. I would never have thought “progressives” would be against freedom of speech, or advocate or be ok with killing others because of their speech, even if it was tasteless or offensive. I suspect that this article would never have been written if Hebdo had just ridiculed Christians. So, add “hypocrites” to the list.


Matt Heins,

Just who does Charlie Hebdo aim to transform with its cartoons - Westerners? How does Charlie Hebdo disabuse us of false notions? It’s like satirizing the KKK. Duh. CH can publish as it pleases, just as Larry Flynt does Hustler; but neither show courage, so much as fearlessness, and perhaps aggression.


I know the experience! We have to accept all kinds of clunkers when participating, and it’s humbling. You’ve reminded me of the experience of having attended a memorial service on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki. One of the speakers was a local minister whose congregation had hosted many anti-war protests and candlelight vigils leading up to the Iraq invasion. We’d heard him give stirring sermons against war. When he spoke about bombing Japan, however, we heard a new side. He said we had no choice, had we not bombed them, he wouldn’t be standing before us, because the war would have continued, increasing the likelihood of his being killed. At the time, I was utterly soured by this blatant self-interest. Now, I just try to be more forgiving and press on. And hurray for you going to that protest!


So did you sympathise with those who were murdered then, and their familes? Or do you think, as not feeling the normal human reaction of sympathy to a death would indicate, that they got what they deserved?

Racist dogs!? You may claim not to sympathise with Islamic fanatics but you use very similar language which betrays a similar manichean, emotional extremism.


Wow, that was a long winded way of evading a question!


Yeah, Communism has worked so well in the past. Good luck with that.


Wow One…I will give you an “A” for persistence! My Knowledge of history is actually excellent…I have a degree in it and have been known as a walking history encyclopedia by my friends since childhood. But I digress. I’m not sure what a step by step elimination of equality means…I thought that was the whole point…everyone being equal. I honestly do not see how your system can work. It works for termites…it works for honey bees…and ants…but I cannot see how it would work for humans. To believe that human beings would not want to get ahead by hard work seems to go against how we are wired. You mentioned the failure of the Chinese and Russians because they kept the capitalistic monetary system. I guess to a certain point that is true. Saloth Sar (Pol Pot) tried to introduce “pure” communism in Cambodia without a “capitalistic monetary system”…actually no money at all. Only took him three years to kill a third of the population. So no, I think I understand the utopia very well…and It could only be achieved over mountains of dead bodies, if at all. That is just my opinion. Best Regards.


A powerless group is effectively a minority regardless of size.


Capitalism is also a feudal system. The older feudal form was based on land tenure and wars of conquest. Capitalism just substituted trade, and then bought the land.