Nothing angers me more than the arrogance of people or groups of people who consider themselves exempt from criticism. This arrogance can often perpetuate itself in the form of violence and attacks towards those unwilling to point out their faults. When we take ourselves too seriously, and the ignoramuses of the world refuse to accept that just maybe they aren’t perfect we hinder our ability to improve as a society. There are two instances that have occurred recently that have been at the center of this debate.
The first instance occurred when hackers, widely suspected to have been employed by the North Korean government, hacked into Sony Pictures database, in retaliation to the planned release of their film, The Interview. The film attributes a lot of mockery toward leader Kim Jong Un as well as providing a scene depicting his assassination. The hack included the release of sensitive information about some of Sony’s employees. Sony, and certain theaters, subsequently decided not to publicly show the movie out of a fear of safety. Sony later released the film online.
A few weeks later, a despicable attack was made on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which culminated in the deaths of 12 people, including cartoonists and the Editor-in-Chief of the publication. The attack was motivated by a desire to retaliate for the publication of cartoons that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
The response to the deaths of these martyrs from around the world, and the publication itself, was admirable, including the barrage of cartoons from other cartoonists defending the magazine and mocking the extremists who carried out the attack.
But most impressive, in my opinion, was the release of the magazine itself, a few days later, with the same satirical style that had been used before the attack, depicting an image of Muhammad. This act was not an act of hate or an act of war against all Muslims, it simply and heroically screamed that the magazine would not be intimidated by anyone and anything. It may sound cliché, but I cannot state emphatically enough, especially after their response to these attacks: Je Suis Charlie.
But where was this response to the attacks by hackers on Sony? The writers of this film needed to be backed up by others in the film world, but more importantly the company they worked for. There needed to be some form of showing the oppressive North Korean regime that terrorist attacks (and I usually like to use this word lightly, but it could not be more precise in these two situations) like those committed by the hackers in North Korea and Islamists in Paris will not frighten us to an extent where we stop speaking out against what we believe to be wrong. As scary as it may be, we need to stand up to extremists and oppressive regimes and make it clear that we will not succumb to terrorism.
If a journalist publishes a cartoon of Muhammad, to attribute criticism about the way a set of ideals has been used to promote violence and murder by a very influential group of people, it is not Islamophobia. This word has become a defense mechanism used to deflect criticism and any criticism thrown toward this set of ideals, and I cannot stress enough how dangerous that is. When we fail to criticize those who deserve criticism, like violent Islamic extremists, or oppressive dictators, then we fail to push each other to improve and shun those who damage our society.
What is wrong with these two groups of people is evident in their reactions to this criticism. Any civilized or intelligent person would counter using articulated debate or otherwise put, as we are all taught in the most rudimentary stages of our education, to use their words. These two groups had no argument, so instead they used terror tactics to try to silence this criticism.
If we truly care about improving our society, it is important that we counter these detriments to society by only making the criticism louder. We can’t allow ourselves to be intimidated by barbarians. Acts like these, and people who try to deflect any criticism put towards them or their ideals, and intimidate the critics, need to be told their actions and attitudes don’t have a place in democratic societies. They can’t silence all of us.