After Massacre at Paris Magazine That Mocked Islam, NY Times Tweets It 'Has Long Tested Limits' of Satire

January 7th, 2015 11:37 AM

After a massacre that killed at least 12 at the offices of the satirical Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, the New York Times issued this tweet:

The weekly #CharlieHebdo has long tested limits with its satire. A 2011 profile: 

So the Times is the self-proclaimed arbiter of satire, at least when it comes to mocking one specific religion, Islam?

Maia de la Baume and Dan Bilefsky reported the unfolding event from Paris on Wednesday morning.

As of 11:45am ET, the latest updated version of the Times' story has yet to contain a detail even the liberal Think Progress included in the first pagragraph of its report: "The shooters reportedly yelled 'Allahu Akhbar' ('God is greatest') during the assault and 'We have avenged the prophet' as they sped out of the office."

From de la Baume and Bilefsky's online report:

Masked gunmen opened fire in the offices of a French satirical newspaper on Wednesday in Paris, the police said, with initial reports saying that as many as 12 people had been killed and 10 wounded.

Xavier Castaing, the head of communications for the Paris Police Headquarters, said that 11 people had died, The Associated Press reported. However, a senior French prosecutor said the toll was 12, including two police officers, in the early afternoon.

The news channel France Info quoted a witness as saying that he saw the episode from a nearby building in the heart of the French capital.

“About a half an hour ago, two black-hooded men entered the building with Kalashnikovs,” the witness, Benoît Bringer, told the station.

“A few minutes later, we heard lots of shots,” he said, adding that the men were then seen fleeing the building.

Mr. Castaing, the police spokesman, said that the three armed men, wearing masks, had forced their way into the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and had fired indiscriminately at people in the lobby, hitting many. He said that they were carrying AK-47 weapons, and that the attack had lasted several minutes before the attackers fled by car.

The police said that an abandoned car used by the gunmen had been discovered by police in the 20th Arrondissement of Paris, a neighborhood with a large immigrant population.

("Large immigrant population" is Times-speak for "Muslim population.")

Charlie Hebdo has been attacked in the past for satirizing Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Its offices were firebombed in 2011 after publishing a cartoon of the prophet on its cover promising “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!”

The cover of the newspaper on Wednesday featured a caricature of Michel Houellebecq, a controversial novelist whose sixth novel, “Submission,” predicts a future France run by Muslims, in which women forsake Western dress and polygamy is introduced. On the cover, Mr. Houellebecq is depicted as a wizard and smoking a cigarette. “In 2022, I will do Ramadan,” he is shown saying.

While the Times finally got to mentioning "radical Islam," it first cited the "far-right" as part of the problem:

The book’s publication, ahead of presidential elections in 2017, comes as the increasingly influential far-right National Front has helped spur a loud and often acrimonious debate about immigration. The attack comes as nearly 1,000 French citizens have gone or planned to join jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria last year, further fueling concerns about radical Islam encroaching into France.


Charlie Hebdo, which prides itself on skewering a wide range of targets with garish cartoons and incendiary headlines, has long been vulnerable at its Right Bank headquarters, where it has weathered a firebombing, a lobby shootout and now a massacre.

The journal is part of a venerable tradition in France, deploying satire and insolence to take on politicians and the police, bankers and religions of all kinds, including this week a mock debate about whether Jesus existed or not.

Yet no one seems to suspect that radical Christians offended by the Jesus debate were behind the attack.

Hedbo has previously been the target of Islamic pressure and terror after publishing cartoons featuring the likeness of the Prophet Muhammad, forbidden under Islam.

In 2006 the magazine, a more politically provocative version of The Onion, published cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad and was sued by French Muslim groups, and its Paris offices were firebombed in 2011 after publishing a satirical cover featuring Muhammad.

In his report after the firebombing, Times reporter Scott Sayare took his time getting to the actual violence (this is the profile the Times linked to in its tweet):

Adored by many, reviled by some, offensive to most everyone, the French satirical weekly called Charlie Hebdo has long reveled in the arch, if simple, art of provocation. Its pages are filled with vulgar caricatures and caustic humor, lampooning politicians, entertainers and media personalities of all stripes, and the newspaper has found itself a frequent presence at Paris courts, accused on several dozen occasions of defamation or inciting hate.

The world’s religions have also been favorite targets of the paper, this being France, where state-mandated secularism is a sort of religion of its own. The cover page of one recent issue featured a cartoon of three rolls of toilet paper, labeled Bible, Koran and Torah, and the headline: “In the toilet, all the religions.”

But the most recent issue -- a special edition titled “Charia Hebdo” that was billed as being “guest edited” by the prophet Muhammad, who appeared in a cartoon on the cover -- was received with particular dismay among many French Muslims, who say they have felt increasingly stigmatized under the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Again the far right came in for blame before radical Muslims.

These moves are widely viewed to be intended, in part, to help him attract voters from the far-right National Front. Shortly before Charlie Hebdo arrived at newsstands last Wednesday morning -- with Muhammad on the cover promising “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!” -- a fire that the police said was deliberate gutted the newspaper’s Paris offices. The newspaper’s Web site was also hacked, displaying images of Mecca and a message in English reading, “No God but Allah.”

No suspects have been identified, but there has been widespread speculation by politicians and commentators that the fire was set by Muslims, angered at the publication of the likeness of the prophet, forbidden under Islam.

Sayare and Nicola Clark later returned to a related Charlie Hebdo vs. Muslim free-expression-controversy, sounding distinctly unsympathetic to the newspaper.

Calling itself a defender of free speech and a denouncer of religious backwardness, a French satirical newspaper on Wednesday published several crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, images viewed as a provocation by many Muslims and condemned by the French government as irresponsible at a time of violence and unrest across the Islamic world.

(This was during the riots over the video, “The Innocence of Muslims," that the Obama administration falsely fingered as the cause of the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi.)

French officials acknowledged the newspaper’s right to publish as it pleased, within the limits of the law, but deplored its choice to print images that might be reasonably expected to cause violence.

As if violence over images is ever "reasonable."

Times hypocrisy on "offensive" religious imagery is long-standing. The paper discourages such free expression when Muslims are offended, but supports it when Christians are the target.