The killings at Charlie Hebdo in Paris are filling the airwaves and pages today. It's been deemed a terrorist act since the perps have ties to Al Qaeda and the murders are apparently in retaliation for the paper's continuous satirizing of Mohammed, especially via cartoons. Creating a visual image of Mohammed is not allowed in the Muslim faith and the paper was firebombed years ago for this. The editor firmly stated something to the effect that he lives by French law, not Islamic law, and though it upsets many Muslims he will continue Charlie Hebdo's raison d'etre. It's known for biting satire and has had most religions in its cross-hairs on more than one occasion.
You can get more details in any paper, that's not what this post is about. Some in France have publicly stated that the editors and artists at Charlie brought this on themselves. Not that the murders are justifiable in any way, but the sentiment is more along the lines of how sorry can you be for a guy who gets gored after walking up to a bull and waving a red flag in his face? Was the Charlie crew foolish for repeatedly doing something that a religion finds very offensive? Especially when extremists from that religion made it very clear (yeah, a firebombing is a pretty clear message) that they won't stand for it?
Or is this a free speech issue? is it an issue of standing for principles against terrorism? Would it have really been "backing down" if they made an editorial decision earlier to maybe tone it down a bit on the Mohammed cartoons?
Sure, Boss Tweed must've been pretty pissed off at Thomas Nast for the skewering political caricatures he did. And I'm sure every politician has to have rhino hide to deal with some of the caricatures done of them. Remember when Nixon was in Watergate trouble? Talk about a cartoonist's wet dream...but none of them were gunned down in cold blood over their works.
Political cartoonists can wield a mighty sharp pen sometimes. I wouldn't be shocked if some of them were on the receiving end of a punch in the nose or an "accidentally" spilled drink at a political function. But not this. To kill over cartoons? To be killed over cartoons? Would the magazine have lost its readership or its edge if it chose to stop doing cartoons of Mohammed? and more importantly, would they be alive if they chose to stop? Maybe, maybe not - maybe it was already too late and their fates were sealed a long time ago. Would it have made someone a coward if they said, "Hey, these people are fanatics. They already tried to kill us once. Maybe not to us, but to them, drawing Mohammed is insulting. Let's still satirize them in every way we can as hard as we have been doing, but minus the cartoons of Mohammed." Do you think that would have been wisdom or cowardice?