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Je Suis Charlie : Journalism, PR, & Free Speech

Je Suis Charlie : Journalism, PR, & Free Speech

Je suis Charlie Hebdo

‘Image courtesy of Fabrice P on Flickr’

Sony was always going to release The Interview.

The story of a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the film is a bowl of provocations that is full of silliness spiced up with a splash of the satirical.

It watches like the less-hilarious cousin of the cult classic Team America, where Kim Jong Il, Un’s father, turned out to be a creepy slug-like alien dressed in a meat suit. Not seeing the funny side, North Korea responded by calling The Interview a ‘blatant act of terrorism’. This was followed by a series of cyber-attacks on Sony, which revealed important secrets like ‘not everyone loves Angelina Jolie’. Therefore, with increasing concerns about the safety of those involved, they briefly delayed the film’s release.

It could not be better publicity for a film than the potential for not being seen. Not to mention that the subject of the film was the thing that they were trying to ban it.

But they were always going to release it. More than the fact that appearing to give in to the threats of violence looked uncannily like a PR stunt, it is the right of James Franco and Seth Rogan to write, direct and make such a film.

The First Amendment protects them: the right to complete Free Speech.

Even when it offends.

It is also the same right that enshrines the rabble-rousing journalism of Charlie Hebdo, as laid down in the Declarations of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the European Convention of Human Rights. Not quite as liberal as the First Amendment, it still prevents censorship of any written publication. This is why, although the French government may not have always appreciated the cartoons or writings of Charlie Hebdo, they still defended their Voltaire-inspired, Enlightenment right to freedom of expression.

With the murders of two policemen and ten of Charlie Hebdo’s staff, including the political satirist Charbonnier, the threats against writers and their right to create art came into full relief.

Perceived as a deliberate attack on freedom, within hours Salman Rushdie had released an online statement. The world was reminded of the ten years he spent in hiding and the three translators that were killed, because of a death fatwa placed upon him after The Satanic Verses offended Iranian clergy.

Not long after, Neil Gaiman reposted a defence of free speech even when it’s ‘icky’, recalling how his own comic on based on the biblical Book of Judges nearly sent his publisher to prison, translating the attack in Paris as one aimed at making the world narrower, duller.

It reminded me of The House of Journalists.  A debut from Tim Finch, Director of Communications at IPPR, which tells the story of refugee writers finding sanctuary in an increasingly sinister House in the UK whilst the brutal backgrounds of his characters come frighteningly close to those of the Charlie Hebdo offices.

Interestingly, the narrative voice in The House of Journalists is the third person plural – ‘we’.

I’ve written a lot about this ‘we’ that now epitomises today’s socially extended sense of self and culture. I believe this ‘we’ will help Paris, and artists, and all defenders of liberalism and free speech because it is the socially-created, digitally-enabled PR response to these terrible events.

Across the world ‘Je Suis Charlie’ has trended. As hashtags, on signs, in cartoons and in articles: there is the same culture of ‘we’ witnessed when millions of strangers poured ice water over their heads, or when ‘I Will Ride With You’ was the reaction to the siege in Australia in December.

An expression of collectivity, ‘we’ focalises social solidarity. A single message.

Some will say that social outpourings of this kind are far from useful. Remember when ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ was ridiculed for being little more than public self-aggrandisement? And not everyone liked the Ice Bucket Challenge. However, when the first reaction of artists of all kinds, people of all religions, voices of all opinions, is to create a mantra reminding the world we are in this together, there is only one way to interpret it.

As Orwell supposedly said, ‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.’

Whilst the cartoons of Charb, Wolinski and Cabu were undeniably incendiary, they were also the epitome of those human rights that we so often take for granted.

It was journalism.

It was their job, as journalists, to write. Even when each word might contain a tiny revolution, or when printing might upset us as much as it might inspire us.

“Nous sommes tous Charlie.” After all, the world without freedom of speech would be a much duller place, even if it would be less offensive.

The Kimye Wedding: A Media Extravaganza


Image Courtesy of Fresh Fragrances, flickr. com

Image Courtesy of Fresh Fragrances, flickr. com

After long-awaited speculation and anticipation, the Kimye wedding has taken place and Kim Kardashian has finally become Mrs West, although the media frenzy surrounding the couple’s wedding is far from over. The location of the wedding, who designed the dress and if the likes of Jay Z and Beyoncé were to be attending the ceremony were just a few of the various topics being discussed globally throughout social media. With so much media attention surrounding what has been referred to as the ‘wedding of the century’, it has become more than just an exchange of vows between a couple. It has become a media extravaganza, with the family and friends themselves documenting every part of the lead up to the wedding on social media sites such as Instagram, inviting us in to have a taste of their lavish lifestyle.

In terms of PR, designers, restaurants and hotel owners are given vital opportunities to maximise their publicity and recognition, with the Kardashian clan’s every step being observed and published. The pre-wedding rendezvous was just as well publicised as the day itself, from a brunch held at Valentino Garavani’s Paris mansion, to a luxurious rehearsal dinner at the Palace of Versailles. Guests were then flown from Paris to the location of the wedding which took place at the Forte di Belvedere in Florence, Italy. With all of this being broadcast over social media, such locations are given the opportunity of boosting their credibility, as well as encouraging more tourism to these romantic European cities.

However, it is the fashion and glamour that never goes unnoticed, with the Kardashians wearing pieces by Valentino, Azzedine Alaia, Martin Margila, Givenchy and Balmain throughout the week leading up to the wedding, giving these designers even more of a global platform to showcase their designs. Of course, after much anticipation as to which high-end designer the reality star would wear on the big day, Kim did not fail to live up to expectations, opting for a custom-made Givenchy Haute Couture dress created by Riccardo Tisci. As well as the dress receiving great levels of media attention, the exchanging of the couple’s Lorraine Schwartz wedding bands have certainly not been ignored.

Despite the wedding having been and gone, this has not reduced the level of talk surrounding the couple’s celebrations, with attention moving forward to their chosen honeymoon destination of Ireland, staying at a luxury private estate in Munster. It is likely that Ireland will see an increase in tourism, particularly in the next few months, as a result of the media’s exposure of it as a romantic destination good enough for the power couple themselves.

So the Kimye wedding we have all been waiting for is finally over, but this doesn’t mean the frenzy is over too. The media will no doubt now be speculating and waiting for baby number 2 and the pregnancy fashion that is sure to follow…we can’t wait!