Charlie Hebdo attacks: are the reactions right?

Charlie Hebdo

The terrorist attacks in Paris have shocked the world, but are the reactions to the attack right?

Words by Matt Denby and edited by Rebecca Pates

Over the last week, the world has been in shock after a terrorist attack at French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The Paris attack left 12 individuals involved in the magazine dead in the assault including the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Stéphane Charbonnier. The satirical magazine reacted to the attack by publishing comical photos, including images of the Prophet Mohammed, on the front cover of the magazine, selling 5 million copies in France within hours with another 1000 available within the UK.

Many have reacted through demonstrations across the globe stating their lack of fear from these terrorists. “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) has become the slogan behind a movement that is fighting for freedom of expression against the violence.

However, in a digital response to the gruesome attacks on Charlie Hebdo, an activist group involving hackers, known as Anonymous, has officially declared war on ISIS, Al Qaeda and other extremists, who do not want to uphold freedom of speech and particularly, the freedom of the press.

While many countries are forced to remain within the walls of their bureaucracy, Anonymous is perhaps the voice of the people who are more determined to work outside the law in search of justice. They declare that war on freedom of the press has begun and they will do everything in their power to uphold the freedoms we are so privileged to have. In a press release, a French member of the “hacktavist” group promised the world that they would attempt to eliminate anyone preventing this freedom of expression. Being the voice of reform, the activists launched their first confrontation against those who want to enforce Sharia Law, a body of Islamic law, on democracy.

In addition, Anonymous declared their first victory after hacking and shutting down a French extremist website, announcing their success on Twitter. #OpCharlieHebdo or Operation Charlie Hebdo has been Anonymous’ latest media attack on protecting their ideals on freedom of speech. Their main weapon is a method called DDos (distributed denial of service), which overcrowds websites to the point where the website is shut down or suspended due to an overload of trafficking. In some ways, this way is a sort of viral protest that leads to the downfall of a webpage – very fitting for the activist’s style and agenda.

However, by making online death threats and preaching their ideals, we need to question whether Anonymous are a vigilante group seeking justice or another reflection of extremism out of control . Although they preach in support of the freedom of speech, they are shutting down webpages that speak the ideals of certain groups. On the other hand, we may judge that Anonymous is in fact a voice of justice as they seek to maintain order and democracy. In the past, the group have posed threats to numerous agencies that include: the Westbro Baptist Church, child pornography sites, and policies that violate freedom of speech.

Anonymous are obviously very aware of this as they released a statement on @OpCharlieHebdo explaining the principles they wish to uphold:

“Anonymous has always fought for the freedom of speech, and will never let this right besmirched by obscurantism and mysticism. Charlie Hebdo, historical figure of satirical journalism has been targeted. Anonymous must remind every citizen that the press’s freedom is fundamental to democracy. Opinions, speech, newspaper articles without threats nor pressure, all those things are rights you can’t change.”

With sales of Charlie Hebdo skyrocketing and the people of France and those involved in the magazine and shouting out “we are not afraid!”, it is clear that many perhaps agree with the actions of Anonymous. The ideas that Anonymous hold are immoral as the meaning behind their marks but they are ideas and in the immoral worlds of the Wachowski Siblings: “Ideas are bulletproof”.

See the press release mentioned in this article of Anonymous’ response to the Paris attacks here.