In the wake of the Paris attacks, there’s been much earnest discussion going on, in those quarters of the internet where earnest discussion always hangs out, over whether Charlie Hebdo‘s political satires were, in fact, racist, anti-Muslim, and so forth, or whether they were part of a long-standing tradition in French political expression (Daumier keeps getting brought up, for example, and pre-Revolutionary cartoons about Marie Antoinette), and about whether Charlie Hebdo was punching up, or down, or sideways. These are arguments I’m not going to get into, because, one, there are few things more impenetrable to the outside observer than another country’s political humor, and two, from where I stand as a free-speech absolutist, it shouldn’t matter whether Charlie Hebdo was punching in the right direction, punching in the wrong direction, or spinning madly around in all directions like a punching top . . . shooting up a bunch of people because of something they said, or wrote, or drew is just plain wrong.
Shooting up a bunch of unarmed people is wrong to start with, for heaven’s sake. And doing it because they were saying, or writing, or drawing something that the shooter wanted to silence is a heaping big plate of wrongness with wrong sauce poured over it and a maraschino cherry of wrong on top.