Am I Charlie?

Andrew Hamilton, consulting editor of Eureka Street has written the following op-ed piece: The Martin Place killings and the Paris murders had one thing in common. They both generated hashtags.  #Illridewithyou and #JesuisCharlie (or #IamCharlie) focused popular response to the atrocities. Their simplicity allowed people to express instantly their solidarity with victims and their rejection of violence. But they also raised complex questions.

#Illridewithyou responded to the fear that in the aftermath of the Martin Place siege Muslim Australians would suffer vilification. The hashtag rejected divisiveness in the community and asserted solidarity with its potential targets. But some critics believed that it made a premature and ungrounded judgment of widespread xenophobia in the Australian community, and was even likely to create the response that it feared. Others claimed it obscured the connection they made between Islamic beliefs and the violence.


At its simplest level #JesuisCharlie expressed outrage at the killing of the journalists and solidarity with those who died. But it too could be seen to say something more. It could imply identification with Charlie as the fearless publisher of cartoons that mocked religions. And in the Australian context it could imply identification with the campaign to repeal laws designed to protect people from vilification on the ground of race. So the hashtag invited people not simply to take a stand but to name the ground on which they stood.

To identify with Charlie as the victim of violence and to express outrage that people should be killed and maimed because of what they think, say and express is simply right. It is proper to stand with the victims and not with the perpetrators of violence. #JesuisCharlie places people in solidarity with those killed in Martin Place, the journalists killed in the Charlie Hebdo offices, and the Jewish hostages killed in the Paris kosher supermarket.

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