Opinion: Freedom of the press must not be abused by the media
Humanity has suffered too many tragedies in recent weeks. Mass slaughter by Boko Haram butchers 2,000. Ten-year-old girl with suicide vest kills 19 in Nigeria. Bombing in Iraq kills 38. Massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine and kosher supermarket kill 17 in Paris tragedies.
Much has been written and heard about Charlie Hebdo and freedom of the press; the world has come together in support. Millions marched in Paris in a great conflagration of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo including European and other world leaders. All this even though many don’t agree with the satirical theme of the disdainful cartoons or the sneering view of religion. But this is free speech and free speech means anything goes even if it’s inflammatory and offensive and may not be the best method of getting one’s point across.
And while millions marched in Paris no one that I have heard about marched in remembrance of the 2,000 black Africans slaughtered in Nigeria. Or of the pathetic image of a 10-year-old girl strapped with a suicide vest, strapped undoubtedly by some mad men in an insane diabolical vengeance for what? I can’t shake that tragic image. It haunts me to no end every time I see my grandchildren.
Frankly I’m glad President Obama didn’t go and march with people supporting the right to say any old thing they want with no regard. While the U.S. is fully aware of the necessity of freedom of the press for a democracy to function, we also remember what our mothers taught us, those finer points of love for fellow travelers of the world, politeness, and tactfulness. Charlie Hebdo doesn’t seem to be aware of this, but rather attempts to bludgeon their targets with cartoons and words to vilify and mock, offending all including the more moderate members of religions looking for peaceful solutions.
From the Book of Luke, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Charlie Hebdo has been given much: freedom of the press. Much is then required to earn the right to that freedom. I’m not worried about offending the extremists because they have already agitated themselves to being out of control. It’s the rest of the Islamic world that we should be concerned about. Charlie Hebdo’s methods are not helpful.
Islam is a young religion, much younger than other major religions of the world and still finding itself, still shaking out the kinks and adjusting its beliefs. Picking and choosing from the Koran beliefs and practices most appropriate for the world today. Christianity has a 700-year head start of doing that and has been through some tough times in the process. Thankfully the majority of Muslims are already well on their way to moderation.
It is clearly time for the West to be helpful and to push Islam to solve Islam’s problems. But, Charlie Hebdo has managed to arouse mass demonstrations by Muslims against the West, against the insults. Creating more tension, more war, more dead, more maimed children. Not helpful.
Freedom of the press is not free. Our freedoms are not free nor a given. They have been won by the blood of millions upon millions in the U.S. in Europe and elsewhere. Keeping these freedoms places an important responsibility on all of us. This responsibility cannot be ignored. This means using our freedoms in a conscientious way, in a humane way. With kindness. With persuasion.
Paul A. Stone
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