Je Suis Charlie— Well Sometimes, Unless it Offends Us


The killings in Paris shook the world. The outpouring of support for freedom of speech from the trending hashtag #JeSuisCharlie almost broke Twitter like Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscars selfie last year as activists in every corner of the globe tweeted, Facebook and protested in the streets.

Of particular interest to me was the outpouring of support from more than 40 world leaders who converged on Paris in support of freedom of expression— for the cameras of the world to see, arm in arm— such “beacons of freedom.”

The dog and pony show included none other than the prime minister of Turkey and leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt where “freedom of expression” will get you 100 lashes for blogging (as in Saudi Arabia) and jail time in Turkey— the unsafest place in the world for journalists.

And there of course (almost) front and center was Antonis Samaras, prime minister of the Hellenic Republic— representing the modern nation whose ancestral heritage gave birth to the Western ideals of freedom, democracy and liberty.

But back home in Greece, there was no #JeSuisPhilippos when Philippos Loizos was convicted and given a 10-month suspended jail sentence for a satirical Facebook page he created mocking an elder monk of the Greek Orthodox Church named Paisios.

The page was called Elder Pastitsios and replaced the monk’s face with a piece of the Greek pasta dish pastitsio. Loizos created it as his way of mocking what he perceived to be the over-the-top spiritual teachings, miracles and prophesies of the Athonite monk who had a huge following of faithful.

The case generated international attention and Facebook Inc. was even a participant in the case as the company released private user information to Greek prosecutors who were investigating the case and eventually took the page down.


So let me get this right— #JeSuisCharlie and let’s rush to Paris to defend a satirical magazine’s western right to express itself with cartoons depicting one faith’s leader (Mohamed) but back home, if we replace a Greek Orthodox monk’s face with pastitsio, we go to jail?

It’s OK to be blasphemous against the Muslims but not Ok when someone does it to a Greek spiritual leader?

Of course, the same happens here in America. We rattle and shake our freedom of speech sabers— until it’s something that offends us.

At the University of Illinois, a professor was fired after making a series of comments on the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality. After Howell explicated the Church’s view that homosexual acts are morally wrong in class, a student complained to the department’s chair and the professor was ultimately fired from his position. The LGBT community was up in arms at this professor’s “hate” speech, yet he claimed he was teaching a course on Roman Catholicism and was merely stating the Church’s official position.

At the University of Kansas, a professor was fired in October 2013 after an angry tweet about the National Rifle Association.

I cite these two examples strategically, I am both gay and very anti-gun. I certainly disagree with the Catholic Church’s beliefs about me and people like me and I think guns are an anathema on American society. But I will defend the rights of anyone who has an opposing opinion— even one that disparages me and my beliefs.

The Greek website Greka put it the best— “Philippos Loizos was given a 10-month jail sentence for his satirical Facebook page Elder Pastitsios. And none of the Charlies of this country came out to demonstrate.”

Photo from Greka Magazine (Dimitris Maragozis)


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