The Dangers of Defending an Open Society Against Ideological Murderers

Editor's note: Read responses to the killings from other journalists and cartoonists here. 

On Wednesday in Paris, France, masked gunmen attacked the offices of a satirical newspaper that had drawn threats for lampooning Islam, killing 12 people and setting off a wide manhunt for the killers.

The newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was a kindred spirit to AlterNet, daring to speak uncomfortable truths about people, beliefs and institutions that were intolerant, driven by right-wing values, and did not hesitate to impose their views on others who did not share them. This deadly attack was not just on journalists but on ideas, competing perspectives and beliefs, and on the premise that democratic societies can sustain and respect differences.    

These kinds of violent outbursts against journalists, especially in Europe, are not new. They always do more harm than good in ways that the fundamentalists and their gunmen never seem to understand. They ignite prejudice and racial profiling against all members of the Islamic faith, whether moderate or conservative. They lead to police crackdowns, more intolerance, less dialogue, less of everything that lowers the temperature in the room, if you will, to de-escalate conflict.

More than anything, masked gunmen—hiding their faces and shouting "God is great”—show the appalling lack of confidence in their ideas, their ability to participate in public debates, to stand by their arguments, and return to the political process day after day if they suffer setbacks. This is why they are cowards, bullies, killers and yes, evil. This is one version of what evil looks like today.

The U.S. is not immune from this kind of intolerant violence, although the media has not been the target. Abortion providers in red states like Kansas have been threatened, targeted and murdered by religious fundamentalists.

There’s also a concurrent trend among America’s political conservatives to mask their identity while waging vicious political campaigns. That can be seen in all the so-called “dark money” political campaigns, where rich donors don’t hesitate to throw mud but don’t have the confidence to indentify themselves in public.

In France today, thousands of people took to the street to spontaneously show their support for Charlie Hedbo. Here in the states, at AlterNet, we pause to note this unnecessary and horrible tragedy on our peers.

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