Not as some act of solidarity or anything

This is infuriating to read – a smug, detached, sniffy review in the Globe and Mail of Charb’s book Open Letter: On Blasphemy, Islamophobia, and the True Enemies of Free Expression. The reviewer is John Semley, who wants us to know how little he cares.

The night of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, just over a year ago, I went to a comedy show. Not as some act of solidarity or anything. Just because some friends were putting together a comedy show.

That’s a shit beginning. Don’t go thinking he felt any solidarity with other writers, folks, because he didn’t.

Like, I think, most people on Jan. 7, 2015, I was shocked and saddened by the attacks. Yes, it was a shock and sadness that has become, these days, so rote as to feel almost banal. But nevertheless.

Excuse me? It’s not rote at all. I can’t begin to express how not rote it is. I have friends who could be targets of Islamist murderers. I know people who have been targets of Islamist murderers. I could be one myself for all I know. There’s nothing rote about it.

I learned about Charlie Hebdo in the days (and even hours) after the attacks. I soon found myself at odds with sentimental liberal acquaintances on the Internet, who hastily championed the Hebdo jokers as martyrs in some imagined war against freedom of expression.

Imagined? How dare he? The 11 dead at Charlie Hebdo weren’t imagined; Avijit Roy wasn’t imagined; Raif Badawi is not imagined; Taslima Nasreen is not imagined; Salman Rushdie is not imagined.

And there’s nothing “sentimental” about objecting to what happened at Charlie Hebdo. What a loathsome thing to say.

It became increasingly difficult to square the image of the slain Hebdo staffers as secular saints with their crude drawings depicting the Prophet Mohammed prostrated on his stomach, splayed anus pointed at the reader, or Jesus Christ having anal sex with God, drawings that began to strike me as inciting, offensive, sometimes racist and, more than anything, just stupid.

That suggests he knew nothing whatever about Charlie Hebdo, and didn’t bother to find out – but feels quite entitled to shit on them anyway.

This is not meant to diminish their deaths, or the tragedy of it. But making an overstated case for the political, social and satirical relevance of the kind of infantile scribblings that you might find on a White Power message board online strikes me as oversimplifying. That Charlie Hebdo was racist and idiotic doesn’t justify the murder of its staff. But it doesn’t justify their work, either.

He’s that ignorant, yet he felt comfortable reviewing this book without remedying his ignorance at all. It’s shocking.

Then he calls Charb’s book facile and opportunistic.

What might otherwise have been distributed as a tatty, Xeroxed pamphlet plunked on Parisian newsstands is packaged by Little, Brown in a slim, hardcover volume, and tacked with a forward by The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik (who apparently studied the history of cartooning and caricature in grad school). Even in presentation, it’s a garish artifact targeted at the same schmaltzy liberal simpletons who hailed the Hebdo shooting victims as sacrificial offerings in the West’s war against both Islam and free expression.

How stupid of us; we should have said they were terrible and deserved to be slaughtered.

Then he says Charb asks “moronically reductive questions” and then stops messing around and gets really abusive.

Charb drapes his racism and intellectual feebleness inside basic counterintuitive inversions of logic, as if he’s playing the role of Baby Žižek. The basic thrust of Open Letter is, “Well, are not the real Islamophobes the ones who automatically assume that all Muslims would be offended by our silly doodles?” Again: no.

The late Charb would likely brand me as one of the “terrorized intellectuals, moralizing old clowns and half-witted journalists” who rail against Charlie Hebdo. That’s fine. Freedom of speech and all that. But a dashed-off leaflet such as Open Letter proves to me that the real clowns, and the real Islamophobes, are the ones who stir sentiments of racism, xenophobia and religious persecution while hiding behind their constitutional protections and civil guarantees of freedom of expression like giggling cowards.

This is the most disgusting thing I’ve read in a long time – and I read a lot of disgusting writing, as you know, because I share it all. Cowards! They knew they were threatened, and they refused to be silenced by that.

I notice that John Semley runs no risk at all by writing this sneering dishonest piece of crap.

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