‘Charlie Hebdo’ Crosses the Line

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, January 20, 2015

Charlie Hebdo has gone too far.


Charlie Hebdo‘s latest depiction of the prophet Mohammed–a repeat of the very action that is thought to have sparked the murderous attack on its office–predictably has given rise to widespread violence in nations with large Muslim populations. Its irreverence of Mohammed once moved the French tabloid to portray him naked in a pornographic pose. In another caricature, it showed Mohammed being beheaded by a member of the Islamic State.

While free speech is one of democracy’s most important pillars, it has its limits. H.L. Mencken, the fabled columnist who described himself as “an extreme libertarian,” said that he believed in free speech “up to the last limits of the endurable.”


The most current issue of Charlie Hebdo again has Mohammed on its cover. This time, he appears crying under a headline that reads: “All is forgiven.” Well, apparently not. Ten people have been killed during protests in Niger, a former French colony. Other anti-French riots have erupted from North Africa to Asia. In reaction to all of this, Pope Francis has said of the magazine, “You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

The French, of course, are no more bound to accept the findings of the bishop of Rome than they are to be guided by the Supreme Court’s rulings on our Constitution’s free speech guarantee. But given the possible ripple effects of Charlie Hebdo‘s mistreatment of Islam’s most sacred religious figure, at least people in this country should understand the limits America’s highest court has placed on free speech.

In 1919, the Supreme Court ruled speech that presents a “clear and present danger” is not protected by the First Amendment. Crying “fire” in a quiet, uninhabited place is one thing, the court said. But “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

Twenty-two years later, the Supreme Court ruled that forms of expression that “inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace” are fighting words that are not protected by the First Amendment.

If Charlie Hebdo‘s irreverent portrayal of Mohammed before the Jan. 7 attack wasn’t thought to constitute fighting words, or a clear and present danger, there should be no doubt now that the newspaper’s continued mocking of the Islamic prophet incites violence. And it pushes Charlie Hebdo‘s free speech claim beyond the limits of the endurable.

Topics: , , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • E_Pluribus_Pluribus

    A country can have multiculturalism. A country can have freedom of speech. But not both.

    • Oil Can Harry

      That’s proven by this black writer Wickham claiming the First Amendment doesn’t protect those who disrespect blessed Islam.

    • OHDeutschePolkaConfederate

      Exactly. Freedom of speech is a Western notion. We agree to disagree, and allow those with disagree with to speak their piece, so long as they do so respectfully. Charlie Hedbo has a history of mocking strict Catholics and Orthodox Jews as much as Muslims, but we don’t see Catholics or Jews going to the Hedbo office and shooting the staff. It is only the Islamists who seem to think that satire merits violence. What more proof do we need, than the Paris terrorist attack at Charlie Hedbo, that Islam has no place in Western lands?? The violence never ends with the Islamists.

  • MekongDelta69

    Sorry DeWayne from the far leftist USA Today.
    You lose.
    First Amendment wins.

    I was re-reading the First Amendment to quadruple check that someone does not have the right to ‘offend’ some ‘perpetually offended’ and ‘(self-perceived) perpetually oppressed’ person or group. I didn’t find it.

    [I’m guessing that DeWayne is the latest Amish or Mormon or Buddhist name!]

  • Johnny Harper

    What a disgraceful coward Pope Francis has turned out to be. He is basically supporting Muslim terrorists attacking Cartoonists.

    Guess we won’t have a Charles Martel movement out of the Catholic Church. Dude will probably convert to Islam.

    • Lygeia

      Pope Francis is a PR guy meant to make the Catholic Church look nice and friendly in the wake of the financial and sexual abuse scandals, so we will forget all those bad things.

      • Johnny Harper

        He is from the “liberation theology” school of thought. After conservative Benedict got the boot, the Jesuits put in the liberation theology pope.

        He is making sure only other liberation theology people are becoming Cardinals these days.

        • DiversityIsDeath

          Yes, that’s the weird thing. Since Vatican Two, the top Catholics are practically Communists.

    • Oil Can Harry

      The Pope is correct to rip into the slimy cultural Marxists at Charlie Hebdo. They shouldn’t be censored but they deserve criticism.
      The Pope’s real and unforgivable sin is his cheering on the Third World invasion of the West.

      • Johnny Harper

        He supports the “cultural Marxist”. He is from the “liberation theology” school out of Brazil.

        He supports homosexuality, feminism and now Islam.

        Don’t be naive.

        • Oil Can Harry

          I’m not a fan of the disastrous pontiff Francis. However, he is correct to vilify the putrid Charlie Hebdo crowd.

          There’s also no evidence behind your conspiracy theory that Pope Benedict “got the boot”. He retired due to health problems brought on by advanced age.

          • Johnny Harper

            LOL I have spoken with people in the CC who are close to Cardinals. It is well known that the previous Pope was having a lot of trouble due to his conservative leanings.

            Lets not kid ourselves.

      • OHDeutschePolkaConfederate

        Yes. Western lands should only accept immigrants who are of Caucasian racial stock, and only immigrants who adhere to Christianity or Judaism. No non-Whites and no Islamists. Arab Christians and Israelis should be the only non-European immigrants accepted.

  • Here’s hoping DeWayne Wickham deposits himself in a random Muslim fundamentalist Middle Eastern country where he can be a good dhimmi and pay the jizya for the rest of his life. He should take Rand Paul with him so he can run around and bite his nails worrying about all the drone strikes killing all these “Amurrikan citizens.”

  • IstvanIN

    I am all for freedom of speech and believe that the murder of the cartoonists was evil and unnecessary, but with freedom comes responsibility. Is it really necessary to denigrate a religion, even one as terrible as Islam, in a crude and obnoxious manner. Being civilized we don’t go crazy when someone depicts Christ or the Cross in a disgraceful manner, but we do get upset and denounce the perpetrator. There is a difference between thoughtful discourse and just being rude. Just a thought.

    • Lygeia

      No. Islam is the one exception. It is totally necessary to denigrate their religion in a crude and obnoxious manner.

      • IstvanIN

        With all due respect being rude and obnoxious rarely adds anything to an argument. The cartoons probably wouldn’t even exist if the French government had not allowed Muslims into France because Islam would not be a critical Western issue. There was no point in tolerating Muslims once the French lost Algeria.

        • Anything that annoys them is worth doing very thoroughly. What are they going to do, murder us in our own countries? Oh, wait, I forgot; they do that already anyway.

          Where Islam is concerned, we’re all dead men in the end, so it really just doesn’t matter. Show them your teeth and never your belly.

        • KenelmDigby

          It’s really more a question of ‘good manners’, rather than ‘freedom of speech’.
          Basically the pictures were pictorial representations of obscenity.
          I’ve always taken ‘freedom of speech’ to mean the spoken and written word. My problem with the arguments against ‘freedom off speech’ is when scientists such as JP Rushton were shouted down by unwashed leftists. Rushton and his ilk were and are merely trying to increase the sum of human knowledge.

          • Daniel McGrath

            We are not free to discuss mass expulsion!

        • OHDeutschePolkaConfederate

          Exactly. Muslims do not belong in France. White homelands should not accept Muslim immigrants. Muslims need to stay in Muslim countries.

      • Daniel McGrath

        No. We need to calmly point out that they need to be deported.

    • cherrie greenbaum123

      Exactly. Try poking fun and depicting in caricature another “religion” where its adherents are depicted in an unflattering way.

    • Lenin

      Freedom of speech is not limited to discourse that others might find “thoughtful.”

      • IstvanIN

        Showing Muhamamed having sex is adolescent as well as vulgar. I am not talking government regulation so much as I am just wondering why people can not show a little restraint. Why must our society be so vulgar? It gets tiresome.

        • ElComadreja

          Why should Islam be exempt? Christians have had to put up with abominations like “Piss Christ” for years. Where was your outrage then?

          • IstvanIN

            Did you read my whole post? Or are you assuming I am ok with anti-Christian vulgarity?

          • I am OK with vulgarity, but I am also emotionally mature enough to understand it for what it is. I don’t draw cartoons of anyone at all, vulgar or otherwise (I’m good at stick-figures of chemical molecules). Even if I could draw anything else other than plans of things to build, I have too many other irons in the fire, or too much varnish drying on wood, as the case may be.

            Were the cartoons disrespectful? Yes, but the whole concept of “You be dissin’ me” is negrotic. I have no respect for them, either.

            I have lived abroad, and I assiduously tried to never discuss politics with the locals. In Australia, I was asked about shooting in the USA, and explained that I had about 80 rifles and pistols back home in Colorado, all old military pieces, for which I reloaded and case-formed my own ammo. After much criticism, I also said that Australian laws are for Australians, and that I would obey them while I was visiting. Engaging in political discussions in foreign nations when one is a visitor is uncouth, but so is telling a visitor what he ought to do once he has returned to his home.

            The fact that people really are different is one of the reasons why we have different nations with different governments and different laws.

          • OHDeutschePolkaConfederate

            You are right. The “you be dissin’ me” attitude is classic Negro mentality. Remember, most of the Islamists have significant Negro admixture in their genes from the Arab Islamists miscegenating with their harems of Negresses for so many generations. The attackers in Paris were Mulatto racially, as are most of the Islamists. These animals do not belong in White homelands. They are the reason Israel has to ffight constantly to defend their border.

  • David Ashton

    Does the Qur’an incite hatred against Jews, Christians and pagans, does the New Testament incite hatred against Jews, and does the Talmud incite hatred against Christians? This is the paradox of the sacred texts of religions. I would say: free speech for all, but violence for none, but the legal limits are not always easy to draw, Charlie Hebdo cartoons were nasty and childish, and Islamic terrorism is a major problem in any case.
    Do these thoughts help? No, I don’t suppose they do, but what we don’t want is ban on patriotism, on arguments against multiculturalism and immigration, on the defense of traditional parenthood, and on biological anthropology.

    In Britain the anti-terrorist legislation currently proposed is designed to prevent in universities and other public bodies “extremism” in turn “defined” as “vocal opposition” to “democracy” and to “respect [for] different beliefs”. The paradox of free speech. Christian Unions especially face bureaucratic checks to deter or prevent free speech on sexuality, fundamentalism, evolution, non-Christian faiths or atheism. Islam can be used as a pretext to impose a “liberal” totalitarianism, a secular silencing of free speech, association and debate, with religion restricted if at all, like homosexuality of old, as something permitted only in private in unadvertised and therefore offensively decorated buildings. The enforcement of laws will be selective. The model looks like the Stalin Constitution.

    • Lygeia

      I like this: “free speech for all, violence for none.” I’m going to remember this phrase. I encapsulates how civilized people behave.

      • David Ashton

        Thank you.

      • Sick of it

        When we were more civilized, we clamped down on a lot of things that people take for granted in modern decadent society.

        • TheHBD

          Yes…like immigration. I think the overall point here is that actions have consequences. You can’t invite a bunch of third-world savages into your country and offend them and not expect a violent response. The Left expects everyone to behave in a civilized manner…but they encourage people to participate in our society who are incapable of civilized behavior. Simple cause and effect…but they are ‘shocked’ when something like this happens.

    • CM732

      I think you have summed up my feelings exactly. Yes the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were offensive to some groups and we all find different things offensive but there is never an excuse for violence.

  • Luca

    Apparently in the Muslim world, eating with your left hand, women not wearing a veil or hijab, a bible, an infidel, an apostate, a depiction of a cross or the Star of David, or the mere sight of a Jew are enough to incite certain Muslims into a frenzy.

    Where shall we draw the line, oh wise liberal idiots?

    • Reynardine

      My idea of heaven:

      Right hand: beer. Left hand: bacon.

      A scantily clad vixen on my knee.

      • Heaven is what one has here, isn’t it?

      • David Ashton

        I don’t know where you can get 72 renewable virgins on earth even with the help of the likes of Jeffrey Epstein.

    • OHDeutschePolkaConfederate

      If we were smart, these Islamist lunatics would not be allowed in our White homelands. They need to stay in their Islamist slime pit homelands.

    • Sick of it

      Considering how muslims live, I would be deeply offended if I saw one of them eating with their left hand. I wash mine regularly, but I’m a white westerner.

  • Samuel_Morton

    The irony in this whole fiasco is that two of the worlds most totalitarian groups (Muslims and Cultural Marxists) are butting heads about who is allowed to say what.

    • David Ashton

      But still both butting the rest of us and what we are allowed to say, especially about them. So we must keep up the arguments against them both.

  • JustJeff

    A good case study on why people have much less faith in the lying press. They waste words talking about some picture and won’t even show the damn thing!

  • “The prophet Mohammed?” I’d like to see USNews refer to Jesus as “our savior Jesus.”

    The argument they use here would have our freedom of speech defined by the most violent sectors of the population. By that reasoning, it would be fine to insult whites – since whites are peaceful. But it would be illegal to insult blacks – since blacks are violent. Illegal to insult Muslims – since Muslims are violent, but illegal to insult Christians – since Christians are peaceful. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly the way it is these days.

    • John Smith

      Another example of media bias found within simple phrasing. Same as they refer to some authoritarian rulers as “right-wing dictators,” yet will refer to someone like Castro as the “Cuban Leader.”

  • As a Christian, I don’t like it when ‘Charlie Hebdo’ mocks Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Christians. But people, regardless of political, social or religious persuasion, must be allowed the freedom to say what they wish without fear of being gunned-down. This includes even the most vile depictions of one’s religion and holy men.

    I know that if I prevent others from saying what they wish, even if personally offends my most cherished religious beliefs, one day someone will prevent me from saying what I wish. The denial of free speech, no matter how unpopular, is a slippery slope.

    • CM732

      I agree with your ideas but they require a mature outlook on life. Unfortunately the loudest elements of our society (protesters, media, your neighbourhood dogooder) are the most immature and have the most influence on these matters. Time for normal rational people to openly mock these people with reason and wit (but we will lose if we resort to insults).

    • HE2

      No cow is too sacred to be milked, in my view.
      FTR, I do disapprove of blatant displays of easily accessible obscenely over the top kiddie porn. Should it be banned? I think so.

      • I agree that kiddie porn should be banned since underage children are being sexually abused and cannot consent. The matter is altogether different when it comes to mocking a religion, however distasteful it may appear to some.

        • HE2

          Agree, bluff. The kids used in the video shoots are the real victims in this case.
          Where are these vids shot? Who would stoop so low as to shanghai juveniles for use in kid porn?

          I am inclined to believe Asians or Middle Easterners.
          One assumes they must drug these poor kids.
          One of my SEAL cousins, veteran of 3 TDYs in the ME has told me harrowing tales about M.E. parents actually selling their kids for such things.

          • John Smith

            Many places consider excess children, especially girls, a burden. I know Thai peasants sell their daughters into prostitution, same as do some Indians. I suppose it might be worse to let them starve, but not by much.

          • HE2

            Right you are, John S.
            Reading today that U.K. doctors are now prevented from questioning therapeutic abortion seeking muslim women if they are seeking termination because the prenatal sonogram reveals a female fetus.
            That is almost always the cause, homicidal pressure from the husband who does not want an “inferior” female child.
            The doctor’s inquiry would be considered “profiling,” never mind the fact that this practice is female infanticide.
            Why are screaming fem-nazis not beating down the doors of medical establishments?
            FTR, I do not lament the loss of yet another muzzie birth, yet one knows the husband will continue impregnating her until she conceives a male.

        • John Smith

          It doesn’t need to be restricted under speech laws however, but rather as criminal evidence and those purveying it as aiding in the commission of a crime and conspiracy.

  • LHathaway

    I tend to agree the article. But I do wonder if we have the freedom to tell them to get the hell out of our country? Or would that be inciting violence? It’s a kind of circular logic that in the end only punishes and constrains white men? It is simply more of the anarcho-tyranny we have lived under for our whole lies? Freedom for them and constraints and education for us. In fact, the more depraved become the actions of people of color, the more the authorities are forced to crack down, on whites. We in effect become blamed for their violence.

    • Samuel_Morton

      “In fact, the more depraved become the actions of people of color, the more the authorities are forced to crack down, on whites.”

      Well said.

      I keep hoping that, eventually, the chasm between the narrative and reality will become too great to sustain.

      One can only watch so many videos of black misbehavior, read so many articles about the education gap, and hear so many pundits crowing about white privilege and racial inequality before something snaps, and you see reality clearly.

  • Michael Whalen

    It was elephant poo poo.

  • Peter

    Pope Francis is an idiot, period. And yes, I go to Catholic church every week, but I also learned a great deal from the Late Pastor Peter J. Peters of the LaPort Church of Christ, a Christian Identity Church. I believe Francis is a “wolf in sheeps clothing.”

    • Douglas Quaid

      Yep, Francis’ idiocy was confirmed when he was named “TIME’s man of the year”.

      • jaye ellis

        “Yep, Francis’ idiocy was confirmed when he was named “TIME’s man of the year”.”

        I noticed that – also noticed the new Libertation Theology Pope getting favorable press “on the Cover of the Rolling Stone”.

        Amren’s 2013 White Traitor of the Year Sen. Rand Paul was similiarly featured on the cover of Time as the most interesting man in American politics – this right around the time he was working with Al Sharpton to defend the Black mobs in Ferguson MO.

    • HE2

      I too think this pope is anti-Catholic.
      No, I will move the goalpost, anti-Christian.
      He should be removed.

  • Everything “crosses the line” with the muzzies. I don’t care about what angers them anymore.

    • Guest

      “muzzies” reminds me of “mozzies” – meaning mosquitoes.

      The word is apt, they’re annoying, persistent and blood-thirsty. Let’s try to propagate a new word for them, “musquitoes”.

  • The Dude

    So, by this logic, if people don’t like some speech, all they have to do is go riot and get violent about it for this speech to be consored under the “incites violence” clause?

    That same weekly lampooned both Christianity and Judaism on more than one occasion, and yet this didn’t “provoke violence”. All this has shown us is how Muslims are incompatible with Western values.

  • KenelmDigby

    You either believe in ‘freedom of speech’ – which means exactly what it says, or you don’t believe in ‘freedom of speech’. I respect both points of view.
    But, what I really, really, cannot abide is the sophistry and weasel words coming from certain quarters which tries to play both sides of the fence. Whenever you read the words ‘if’, ‘but’, ‘fire in a theater’ etc, you know you are dealing with a disgusting deceiver and liar.

  • KenelmDigby

    One thing that the editors and writers of Charlie Hebdo emphatically did NOT believe in was ‘free speech’.
    In fact that publication started a petition to ‘ban’ the Front National.
    Not only did Charlie Hebdo did not believe in ‘free speech’, it seems that they did not believe in the concept of ‘freedom’ itself.

  • ElComadreja

    Anything and everything sets Muslims off. No wonder so many of them are black or mixed. The Hell with them. They deserve all the mockery in the world.

  • Preparation HBomb

    Has anyone besides me noticed that adherents of Islam are (a) mostly uneducated chauvinist males, (b) mostly on a 3rd-world tribal level, (c) have no ability to stand any criticism of themselves or their “Prophet,” (i.e. are incredibly immature and thin-skinned), and (d) utilize the crudest forms of violence as their solution to everything they perceive as problems? HELLO?!? In other words, Islamists are primarily the lowest of the lower classes!!!! Why are we pandering to or catering to these scumbags for any reason whatsoever??? Moreover, how can Islam be seriously considered to be a religion when it advocates, even demands, the murder of any and all who (1) won’t convert, or (2) refuse to be 2nd-class citizens or “dhimmis”? No true religion advocates the murder of those who worship differently. It is insane, in my view, to give any credence or mercy to Islamists. They have already amply proven that they are the most vicious of killers. While it may be true that not all Muslims are terrorists, it IS true that all terrorists are Muslim!!! WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!

  • Joe Biden

    Islam is the problem.

    Everyone with half a brain knows it.

    But liberal/marxist ideology has paralyzed the leadership of the west – which is related to globalist ideology – a belief that all nationalities need to be destroyed to remove resistance to world government.

    I wonder how many elites and families of the elites must die at the hands of muslims before they wake up.

  • OHDeutschePolkaConfederate

    I object to those images as well. Jesus was racially Caucasian in his earthly body. A Chocolate Jesus is just more Negro worship garbage. Charlie Hedbo’s mocking of the faith of devoted Catholics is disgusting. While devoted Catholics are too strong in their walk to resort to violence, as the Islamists regularly do, these secularists and atheists mocking Christianity is sickening. Western lands need a complete revival of our true culture. This begins with Whites getting back in touch with their Christian faith.

  • OHDeutschePolkaConfederate

    The key point is that Islamists do not even belong in Western lands. Look at what life is like for Isrealis. Nothing but violence on their borders thanks to their Islamic neighbors. The only immigrants from the Arabic countries that should be allowed in Western lands are Arab Christians.

  • Hue Miller

    I just followed the link to the original article. I felt like writing a refutation but on seeing the name of the columnist i picked up a clue. Ah yes, it becomes clear. Wickham has his career and to all appearances is doing well in it – but – their logic is not our logic. In fact, they appear uniformly to be logic-impaired.

  • Albert

    How the far left loves to blame the victim.

    • John Smith

      Even their fellow-travelers.

  • Albert

    And yet we did not see hordes of Christians frothing at the mouth and screaming for infidel blood. Can you imagine the response were a depiction of Mohammed portrayed in such a distasteful way and displayed in a museum?

  • rentslave

    The only difference between Mohammed and Sandusky is 1400 years.

    • Not quite true: apparently Sandusky only liked little boys, while Mohammed was a switch-hitter.

      • John Smith

        He liked anything still warm with an orifice. Coincidentally, Islam permits you to have sex with a corpse for several hours after death.

    • Preparation HBomb

      Truly!!! Well, and Sandusky never wrote anything that I know of that anyone would consider worth following….

  • It requires a very peculiar sort of arrogance to move to a foreign nation and then demand the locals change their laws to accommodate one. Their protests are akin to me going back to Australia and once there insisting everyone drive on the right.

    • Preparation HBomb

      Point well taken.

  • Viking_61

    Charlie Hebdo were a bunch of communists who would no doubt love to see all of us roast over a pit of flames. The demise of several of their artists was of no loss to anyone except the extreme far left.

  • John Smith

    Ironic, journalists supporting restricting the 1st amendment when there are no issues of immediate physical harm or national security to worry about. These people are just shills for a far-left viewpoint and they seem to have little sense of irony, as regards to their habitual and continued insults of Christianity.