French media united against Charlie Hebdo attacks, but obvious cracks online

The shock across France during the terrorist attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the hostage-taking that followed were greeted with incomprehension. The barbarism of the deliberate assassination of ten journalists from a small magazine, which sells just tens of thousands of copies a week, follows threats, lawsuits and a firebomb attack on its offices in 2011 .

While the French press has been united in preventing its coverage of the attacks from turning into Islamophobia, the reaction on social media has been much more fractured.

The renowned journalists and cartoonists killed were symbols of the heady years after 1968, characterized by a bubbling of humor and ideas. A generation of French people grew up laughing at their visual jokes. At the heart of the reaction to events were debates about liberty and liberty, the foundation of a society that terrorists have now attacked.

Compulsive live coverage

The impact of the Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath has been reinforced by the unstoppable live media coverage of events. The French navigate between Facebook and Twitter, websites, radio and television to follow the developments and the marches that followed to show unity in the face of violence.

Thousands of people marched in Paris on January 11 to show their solidarity after the attacks.
Ian langsdon

Among these live blogs are the most shocking videos and images, including those of the murder of an injured police officer on the ground. The fury was constantly fueled by official statements, press conferences and anonymous witnesses. These are all watched closely, especially by those who have followed well-known cartoonists in their lifetimes. Their laughter turned to rage and pain.

If many French people remained stunned, unable to reflect and express themselves on the events, a line of professional speakers now fills the silence left by the reverberations of the Kalashnikovs. They are not necessarily very specific, but have spoken honestly about how free speech and democracy have been targeted and hurt.

Part of the press, like the one on the left Le Monde newspaper, called the events “September 11” in France. And much of the editorial commentary so far has focused on the scars that such attacks in the past have left on changing rights in our society, and how information can be sacrificed in the line of defense. .

Solidarity press

The press could have hesitated. In the past, Charlie Hebdo was seen as a marginal, even an outcast by some. His provocations against all religions, including Islam, have often drawn criticism.

Perhaps because they currently feel threatened, the newspapers have come together instead, immediately identifying with their colleagues who have suffered an onslaught of blind totalitarianism. Their lyrics were elevated even higher by a powerful social media movement quickly identified with a visual slogan: “Je suis Charlie,” using white text on a black background.

She became the picture on many Twitter accounts and quickly spread on Facebook even before people started protesting the violence. Just four or five hours after the attack, 100,000 people across France were in the streets. At its peak, the hashtag #JesuisCharlie was tweeted 6,500 times per minute.

A worldwide wave of support.
w0rd3r, CC BY-NC-SA

A wave of international solidarity world leaders – many of them during the march in Paris on January 11 – and civil society helped reassure France of its ability to resist the terror we have experienced – if not to suppress the pain. Charlie Hebdo has become a symbol.

And now his editorial team has run out has received support from artists, intellectuals and other press houses to ensure that the next edition of the magazine is published.

Its reporters arrived at the premises of the left-wing newspaper Liberation two days after the attack to start working on the edition. The Guardian Media Group in UK donated 100,000 €, in addition to € 250,000 of the Press fund for digital innovation, which gets funding from Google, among other donors.

The trap of Islamophobia still present

And yet, the political trap set by the terrorist group is still there, as the former Minister of Justice Robert Badinter immediately underlined. Whatever their motives, these attacks come at a particularly delicate time for French society, struck by doubt and pessimism about the world and especially about its own future. This doubt is eating away at France’s ability to connect and speak with everyone in the country. It is a doubt about values ​​and about cohesion.

The first hours of unit following the attack should be reassuring. For the most part, the early media reactions to the events avoided the obvious risk of fracture and confrontation between communities. This from a society which hardly ever speaks of the relations between the communities which compose it and denies their existence under the name of integration.

Social networks show a division

But multiple cracks have formed online and on social media, which are more numerous, if not as violent as the attacks on some mosques in the hours following the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office. These include questions about whether there has been government inaction faced with the threat of Islamist terrorism in France and if the journalists of Charlie Hebdo provoked the attack by their cartoons. Conspiracy theories also have started to swirl on the attack and the information disseminated in the media.

There has also been controversy outside of France, including an angry reaction to a tweet from media mogul Rupert Murdoch this implied that all Muslims were responsible for the Charlie Hebdo murders.

The trap of Islamophobia is a real threat. And it is now up to intellectuals, journalists and politicians to work intelligently and courageously to overcome it and fight it resolutely.

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