Via Mediaite, this is a lame answer but not as lame as some commenters in Headlines are treating it, I think. They’re not backing away from the Pam Geller event because they’re afraid of being targeted by jihadis. These guys will be targeted forever, whether or not they continue to blaspheme Islam, and they know it. Jean-Baptiste Thoret, the magazine’s film critic and the man in the glasses here, told an audience a few days ago that the surviving cartoonist who drew the “Je suis Charlie” cover is now a de facto prisoner with constant armed protection even though he’s sworn off drawing Mohammed anymore. Tonight’s PEN event, where Thoret and editor Gerard Biard will receive an award, is being guarded by the NYPD’s intelligence unit and a private security firm, with background checks conducted on all of the 800+ guests, simply because these two guys will be there. They gain nothing — from jihadis — by distinguishing themselves from Geller. They’re still on the hit list, in perpetuity.
What’s driving them, I think, isn’t fear of violent reprisal by hugging Geller but maybe some fear of class reprisals. They’ve been criticized by dozens of dopey left-wing PEN members for their “racist” cartoons disparaging supposedly powerless Muslims, a minority position within the literary world (I think) but one with some influential adherents. If they made a show of solidarity with Geller, a right-wing provocateur and critic of Islam who’s detested by America’s political class, it would feed the idea that Charlie Hebdo is less about slaughtering sacred cows across French culture and more about being anti-Muslim. Muslims may already see them that way, but for the literati to swing around to that position would leave Charlie Hebdo with no friends except on the right — a lonely place to be in a country as left-wing as France, especially for an editorial staff as left-wing as CH’s. The point of this answer is to signal (a) that Charlie Hebdo aspires to something more highbrow than Geller’s Muslim-baiting, even if their mode of satire is often lowbrow, and (b) they hold no special animus for Islam, their willingness to defy Islamic norms notwithstanding. All of which would be fine, except that it was literally just yesterday that Biard was grousing, justifiably, that the western world can’t expect Charlie Hebdo to shoulder the load of defending free speech and the right to blaspheme alone. Well, here’s Pam Geller willing to help shoulder that load, at considerable personal risk to herself. A little recognition and appreciation of that fact, at least, would have gone a long way here.
The full interview airs tonight. We’ll see if they manage to commend her at least for trying to help fill the void created by the same western publications that have abandoned the field to Charlie Hebdo by blacking out images of Mohammed in their own pages.