#JeSuisCharlie: The Charlie Hebdo Attack

In this story, I take a look at the progression of social media responses to the January 7th, 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack.

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  1. On the morning of January 7th, 2015, two gunman stormed into the satirist magazine Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, France. The two men shot and killed 12 journalists and injured a dozen more in the building. The motive behind their attack, the defense of Islam against the offensive cartoons Charlie Hebdo often published, became a big part of the story as Islam and religion in general are hot button topics all over the world, and especially in France.
  2. The immediate response on social media was sadness, anger, and outrage that such an attack took place. The French expressed their grief online for the victims of the attack as well as the magazine they worked for. Fellow artists shared their support and emotion through drawings of their own, and others believed that an attack should never have happened over drawings.
  3. Shock and terror grew into worldwide support for the victims and their families as people around the world gathered and rallied in order to show solidarity.
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  5. Quickly the phrase "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie") swept social media. This hashtag became a rallying cry against terrorism and spread all across the globe. People began to identify with the victims and the magazine.
  6. But why? France has been struck with other terrorists attacks that did not elicit such a viral, global response. Why did this particular incident create such a phenomenon of support?
  7. Rather than just an attack on a specific group of people, the attack on Charlie Hebdo was seen as an attack of freedom of speech. They became much more than just shooting victims.The world began to see them as martyrs for and symbols of liberty of the press and speech. People began to rally around this idea, spreading the message that an act of violence would not be able to hinder freedom of expression.
  8. Actor George Clooney even took the time to show his support for the Charlie Hebdo victims and the idea they began to stand for during his Golden Globes speech. This moment is especially poignant as it is done by a person in a creative industry in front of fellow creators whose livelihood depend on their freedom of expression.
  9. The response from this attack was not always in favor of the magazine. The following Tumblr post expresses many people's feelings that the magazine itself did not achieve the satire it aimed to but instead spread Islamophobia and hate through their cartoons. The author of the post makes sure to express support for the victims of the attack but voices opposition against the publication and its values.
  10. avantblargh: Before social media sparks...
    avantblargh: Before social media sparks...
  11. Not only was the Charlie Hebdo attack an act of terrorism against a magazine in the name of a religion, but it also became a catalyst for a worldwide fight for the protection of freedom of speech and of the press. The incident and its victims became the symbol for this fight.
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