Terry McCarthy, Council President, speaking on #CharlieHebdo

As you know, the Los Angeles World Affairs Council is a non-partisan organization and we do not take sides on the many conflicts that plague this world. In laying out the policies of this Council, our bylaws state in Section 3, subsection 2, Paragraph 1 – and I quote:

“This Council shall encourage free and fair discussion of any problem or issue pertinent to its purposes.”

I submit to you that the two men who ran into the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine with AK 47 rifles and opened fire on Wednesday morning were not engaging in free and fair discussion.

As a former journalist and current President of this Council, I am deeply troubled by such an assault on our fundamental rights of freedom of expression. Those who would try to silence with violence the voices of people whose views they oppose show a complete lack of understanding of what constitutes civilized society. Indeed they do not belong in civilized society. I trust the French police and penitentiary systems will see to that in short order.

From time to time various parties have put pressure on this Council not to feature a certain speaker, or to limit what a certain speaker might say. My answer has been, and always will be – NOT ON MY WATCH. I often disagree with what I hear from our speakers. But the freedom to say what you want overrides any individual point of view. It is such a fundamental right that we in the United States take it for granted most of the time, until someone tries to take it away. We must never give it up – not to religious extremists in France, nor to cyber hackers in North Korea, nor to autocratic governments in China, Russia or any other country that does not enjoy the rights of our very first constitutional amendment.

For that reason I join the many French people tonight who have taken to the streets proclaiming “Je suis Charlie” – I am Charlie. I won’t make any jokes this evening – I will leave that to the many cartoonists from around the world, who, as many of you have seen, have used their pens in the past two days to demonstrate with their humor and satire that our freedom cannot and will not be silenced by the sound of bullets.

-Terry McCarthy, President of Los Angeles World Affairs Council