Are You Charlie Hebdo?

If you’ve been following the news recently you know about the Charlie Hebdo shooting. And you have probably read articles—both hard news and op-ed—about it. You’ve seen the personal blogs, and Facebook novels, and some people sporting the #IAmCharlieHebdo tag.

But you have also seen others with the #IAmNotCharlieHebdo tag. And some people aren’t sure what tag to use at all. Both come with a handful of very distinct connotations—assumed distinctions from the opposing side that might be a little too specific. Especially for those who choose to view things from a holistic perspective.

This post is not about celebrating one side over the other. This post is merely an attempt to look at both sides of the argument, see how they stand against each other, and how the Americans following the story with social media might need more of a gray space.

This is an attempt to promote some sort of meaningful dialogue.

Here is a diagram I made with a few (very) black and white connotations for both of the Hebdo tags on social media. Some opinions on this chart are highly exaggerated and are more than likely not the literal views held by most of the people engaging with the event. This is merely a way to show how polarized thinking develops in social media activism and poses some seriously outrageous miscommunication from both sides, hindering mutual understanding and compromise.


The diagram pictured above not only includes a set of perfectly reasonable explanations (white boxes) as to why those who identify with a certain tag do so, but also dramatizes their views of the opposite tag (black boxes) by removing individual preferences and potential gray space and creating boxes of extreme assumptions. Boxes that most people wouldn’t be able to fit into.

Freedom of speech and religious tolerance are both dialogues that are relevant in America—dialogues that make America what it is today. And because the issues upwelled by the Charlie Hebdo shooting are so close to home, it’s no surprise that such black and white opinions are being tossed around American social media. You might be thinking: “Well, no one actually thinks these things about the other side,” and they probably don’t. But on the internet, a place where everything is quick, fast-paced, and very punchy, most people don’t have the time (and in some cases even the space) to write a manifesto on the particulars of their view. So it looks like they believe it. They settle for the side of the argument they identify with the most and ride the wave. And as this continues, people from opposing opinions begin to assign extreme judgments and soon everyone is marginalizing everyone else. Our natural tendency to categorize things combined with the short-form, fast-paced media through which we choose to express our views make it easy for certain people to maintain a specific, cold-cut, overly simplified opinion and fight tooth and nail to validate it simply because they don’t want to admit fault in their reasoning.

But for many people, myself included, there is more to the issue and it is easy to see this when we separate ourselves from social media and simply talk it out with a friend. It becomes difficult for us to pick a side because there is so much to consider.

As a journalism major I am sensitive about the violation of freedom of speech and violence inflicted upon journalists. But as an ethnic minority, I am also sensitive to racial/cultural insensitivity in the media (even under the guise of satire) and violence inflicted upon people like me.

Yes, the people of Africa and Muslims have been persecuted in France, and yes Charlie Hebdo blatantly mocked their religion on multiple occasions despite being asked to stop. But that doesn’t mean I support tragedy, bombings, or shootings. Just because I don’t support the shooting does not mean that I support the opinions of Maher and Murdoch. I don’t think that the extreme actions of the suspects represent all Muslims and I certainly don’t think an innocent person should be likened to a terrorist simply because they are Muslim. Am I Charlie or am I not? Should I invest my solidarity in one side and not the other? I find it difficult to define my position in a single handle when I see small fragments of myself and my personal morals in both sides of the argument.

Social media needs a gray space.

It’s easier to find two similar shades of gray and mix them into a color of compromise, understanding, and multi-faceted viewpoints. But black and white (metaphorically) are such dissimilar colors that mixing them in the palette takes longer than most people have the patience to do in 140 characters or less.

Lauren About Lauren
The creator of the site. Read her posts and comment so that she doesn't cry or something.

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