News Views: Humour us

Satire is the canary in the coal mine, a test of free speech

From the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo in Paris rises a lesson in democracy.

Freedom of expression is not dead.

Masked extremists took the lives of 12 people on  Wednesday and injured others.

Assault rifles were used to combat images and opinions in a war of ideals.

It’s not a fair fight.

But war doesn’t usually make sense.

The values of democracy do, though, which is why we must continue to speak up for them.

Weapons and words can both harm, and in satire – the lifeblood of the French magazine – they are meant to.

As pointed out by Joe Randazzo, former editor of The Onion: satire is essential to democracy.

“Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter,” he said.

“It is, in many ways, the most powerful form of free speech because it is aimed at those in power, or those whose ideas would spread hate. It is the canary in the coal mine, a cultural thermometer, and it always has to push, push, push the boundaries of society to see how much it’s grown.”

Not enough.

Satire is a form of opinion, which sparks debate, keeps the wheels turning.

It’s not so easy to share an opinion. Often people don’t agree. And you don’t have to. You don’t have to respond, either. But if you do, it should not be with fists.

To kill people for speaking their minds is an unthinkable act of cowardice, meant to instill fear, to silence them.

That’s not democracy.

To protect it, we need to keep speaking freely.

Humour us.

– The News


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