Editor In Chief takes stance on Charlie Hebdo

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Jan. 21, 2015

By Michael Riley

As an aspiring journalist and consumer of an unhealthy amount of media, I tend to find myself at an intersection: trying to understand more about Muslims and all the stereotypical impressions involved with that, but also being an artist with an even more unhealthy amount of love for freedom.

I have never received a death threat or been physically hurt for something I have written or published, so I do not want to make it seem as if I understand the reality of the Jan. 7 attack on Charlie Hebdo that cost the lives of 12 people.

What I am no stranger to is pressured censorship from sources or threats by peers, professors or administration. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to weigh the question of freedom of speech versus a moral responsibility.

Michael Riley

Michael Riley

Charlie Hebdo’s staffers were killed by extremists in Paris; there is no denying that fact, but was the French satirical publication the most accurate, fairest or the most responsible newspaper in the world?

The answer is no. But does any human – ever – deserve to be targeted, harassed, threatened or murdered for simply expressing an opinion, no matter how distasteful or appalling it is understood by others? Again, it is my opinion the answer is no.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this in a journalism lecture in my four years at UW-Whitewater, I would have exactly $4. Dr. James Kates always makes this a point in his classes. Although this quote might be over-romanticized, it still should be the battle cry of every lover of freedom.

As a college student, I feel like there has to be another explanation for these deaths.
As a human being, I cannot comprehend how a fellow man could justify such acts.
As an artist, I mourn the loss of individuals who worked to provide a creative avenue for others to explore.

Violence and targeted attacks leave scars for generations, but if there is one thing that the international community has done is standing up for those innocent victims.

The photos, posts and hashtags give a more intriguing reality: hope and progress.

For now, I will do the only thing that feels right: continue to stand on the side of the ‘pens’ and let the ‘swords’ dig their own grave.