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145 PEN Writers (Thus Far) Have Objected to the Charlie Hebdo Award – Not Just 6



Contrary to media accounts claiming that only 6 PEN members have objected to the group’s decision to bestow Charlie Hebdo with an award, the actual number is currently 145 PEN members (6 writers scheduled to be table heads at this year’s event have withdrawn, and the list includes writers who have served as table heads at prior events). Below is the letter drafted by several of the objecting writers, along with the current full list of signatories:

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April 26, 2015

In March it was announced that the PEN Literary Gala, to be held May 5th 2015, would honor the magazine Charlie Hebdo with the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award in response to the January 7 attacks that claimed the lives of many members of its editorial staff.

It is clear and inarguable that the murder of a dozen people in the Charlie Hebdo offices is sickening and tragic. What is neither clear nor inarguable is the decision to confer an award for courageous freedom of expression on Charlie Hebdo, or what criteria, exactly were used to make that decision.

We do not believe in censoring expression. An expression of views, however disagreeable, is certainly not to be answered by violence or murder. However, there is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons were
characterized as satire and “equal opportunity offense,” and the magazine seems to be entirely sincere in its anarchic expressions of principled disdain toward organized religion. But in an unequal society, equal opportunity offence does not have an equal effect.

Power and prestige are elements that must be recognized in considering almost any form of discourse, including satire. The inequities between the person holding the pen and the subject fixed on paper by that pen cannot, and must not, be ignored.

To the section of the French population that is already marginalized,
embattled, and victimized, a population that is shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises, and that contains a large percentage of devout Muslims, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering.

Our concern is that, by bestowing the Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award on Charlie Hebdo, PEN is not simply conveying support for freedom of expression, but also valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.

In our view, PEN America could have chosen to confer its PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award upon any of a number of journalists and whistleblowers who have risked, and sometimes lost, their freedom (and even their lives) in service of the greater good.

PEN is an essential organization in the global battle for freedom of
expression. It is therefore particularly disheartening to see that PEN
America has chosen to honor the work and mission of Charlie Hebdo above those who not only exemplify the principles of free expression, but whose courage, even when provocative or discomfiting, has also been fastidiously exercised for the good of humanity.

We the undersigned, as writers, thinkers, and members of PEN, therefore respectfully wish to disassociate ourselves from PEN America’s decision to give the 2015 Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo.

Chris Abani

Leslie Absher

Elizabeth Adams

Gabeba Baderoon

Deborah Baker

Russell Banks

Susan Bell

Naomi Benaron

Helen Benedict

Cara Benson

Charles Ramírez Berg

Susan Bernofksy

Eric Bogosian

Donald Breckenridge

Ami Sands Brodoff

Karen Brown Brooks

Janet Burroway

Helene Cardona

Peter Carey

Bryn Chancellor

Carmela Ciuraru

Patricia Clark

Tony Cohan

Teju Cole

Michael Cunningham

Emily M. Danforth

Tod Davies

Siddhartha Deb

Junot Díaz

Erin Edmison

Brent Hayes Edwards

Brian T. Edwards

Deborah Eisenberg

Hedi El Kholti

Trey Ellis

Eve Ensler

Elizabeth Enslin

Barbara Epler

Jennifer Cody Epstein

Ali Eteraz

Percival Everett

Marlon L. Fick

Boris Fishman

Stona Fitch

Peter H. Fogtdal

Seánan Forbes

Ashley Ford

Linda Nemec Foster

Lauren Francis-Sharma

Ru Freeman

Nell Freudenberger

Molly Friedrich

Joshua Furst

Gretchen Gerzina

Keith Gessen

Francisco Goldman

Conner Habib

Jessica Hagedorn

Katheryn Harrison

Jonathan T. Hine Jr.

Edward Hoagland

Laura Hoffmann

Nancy Horan

Marya Hornbacher

Sandra Hunter

Megan Hustad

Randa Jarrar

T. Geronimo Johnson

John Keahey

Uzma Aslam Khan

Dave King

Gilbert King

Robert Spencer Knotts

Ruth Ellen Kocher

Nancy Kricorian

Amitava Kumar

Rachel Kushner

Amy Lawless

Zachary Lazar

Jonathan Lee

Katherine Leiner

Ted Lewin

Ed Lin

Michael Lindgren

Julie Livingston

Craig Lucas

Ann Malaspina

Charlotte Mandell

C. M. Mayo

Patrick McGrath

Clarissa McNair

Deena Metzger

Thais Miller

Kyle Minor

Rick Moody

Skye Moody

Lorrie Moore

Dolan Morgan

James McGrath Morris

Idra Novey

Stephen O’Connor

Joyce Carol Oates

Peter Orner

Michael Ondaatje

Raj Patel

Chris Pavone

Francine Prose

Marcus Rediker

Adam Rex

Clay Risen

Roxana Robinson

David Roediger

Paul Rome

Mark Rotella

Gina Ruiz

Steven Schroeder

Sarah Schulman

Taiye Selasi

Danzy Senna

Kamila Shamsie

Jeff Sharlet

Wallace Shawn

Matthew Shenoda

Nancy Shiffrin

Russell Shorto

Charles Simic

Tom Sleigh

Holly Goldberg Sloan

Alexis M. Smith

Jill Smolowe

Linda Spalding

Scott Spencer

Emily Gray Tedrowe

Roy A. Teel Jr.

Michael Thomas

Ted Thompson

Kathleen Tolan

Joanne Turnbull

Chase Twichell

Padma Venkatraman

Jasmine Dreame Wagner

Eliot Weinberger

Jon Wiener

G. K. Wuori

Dave Zirin




Tag(s) : #lectures

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