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Jamie Kirchick on Time Magazine’s attack on Charlie Hebdo

Read this essay at Index on Censorship

It has thus been heartening to see this fundamental understanding among writers — that, no matter our political disagreements, we are all colleagues in a vitally important element of the free society — flower in response to a truly vile little excrescence by Bruce Crumley, the Paris correspondent for TIME magazine.

On Tuesday morning, the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were firebombed after it named the Prophet Muhammed its “editor-in-chief” for an upcoming issue. In an article entitled, “Firebombed French Paper Is No Free Speech Martyr,” Crumley taunted the paper’s editors. “Do you still think the price you paid for printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the logic of ‘because we can’ was so worthwhile?” he asked. Crumley, who would make an excellent propaganda commissar in Uzbekistan or Iran, chided French politicians for “denouncing the arson as an attack on freedom of speech, liberty of expression, and other rights central to French and other Western societies,” which is exactly what it was.

The original title of Crumley’s piece, still viewable in the website URL, was “Firebombed French Paper: A Victim of Islam, Or Its Own Obnoxious Islamaphobia?” If a reader, so offended by Crumley’s excuse-making for theocratic nutcases, bombs TIME’s Paris Bureau, would that make Crumley a “victim” of his own obnoxious cowardice? If there was ever cause to deport someone from the Republic of Letters it would be Crumley’s article, for in it he committed treason against his trade by showing himself to be a man eager to rat out his fellow writers and sell them down the river in a heartbeat.

Though he fashions himself a bold truth-teller, Crumley’s justification of violent extremism isn’t new. It’s just the latest iteration of a tired excuse for terrorism, expressed by everyone from Noam Chomsky to Ron Paul, which is that the victims of terrorism have it coming. What made Crumley’s entry into the genre singularly poisonous, and what I believe elicited the widespread disgust from journalists of all political stripes, is that it was written by a working journalist, not an academic, politician, or anti-“Islamophobia” activist.

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