Satire has been around for a long time. In Rome there is a statue called Pasquino that has been used for centuries as a billboard to post anonymous comments in the form of satirical poems, lampooning ruling classes and more often than not, the Pope du Jour. For more about Pasquino see the Congregation of Wits.
From the plays of Aristophanes and the novels of Mark Twain to television’s The Simpsons and The Colbert Report, satire has been civilization’s constant bedfellow. While it usually serves to entertain, its more valuable purpose is one of social criticism. Charlie Chaplin understood the power of humour and satire when he turned his little Tramp into The Great Dictator. If you can hold a harbinger of terror up to ridicule, if you can mock those who seek to oppress, if you can laugh at the ugliest of human behaviours, conventions, beliefs and traits, you diminish their power to terrorize, control and censor.
The barbaric attack on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday was the work of savage, primitive, uncivilized zealots. They didn’t represent a race or religion; they represented ignorant, brutal unenlightenment. They wielded Kalashnikovs against people armed with pens and paper. They shot to silence, they shot to instill fear, they shot to destroy freedom, they shot to polarize society, they shot to stifle free speech and they shot to still laughter. They deserve to be contemptuously laughed out of existence. Remember the boggart in Harry Potter – that nebulous monster lurking in the darkness, waiting to take on the form of your deepest, darkest fear? The only spell to defeat a boggart was one that turned it into an object of derision; something utterly laughable. Remember the spell?