When the magazine was started in Paris in 1970 under the name of Hara-Kiri it proudly adopted the subtitle "Bete et Mechant" - stupid and mean - and 45 years later many still considered Charlie Hebdo to be. The Catholic Church has sued the magazine 17 times for offensive depictions. The French government prevailed - unsuccessfully - upon the magazine not to publish inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. But for all its vulgar provocation the magazine stood against racism, social injustice, greed, religious extremism, oppression, and, most of all, repression. No erring person or institution was untouchable for Charlie Hebdo. It was "Mad Magazine" on steroids.
Charlie Hebdo had been a target of Radical Islam for years. In 2011 terrorists firebombed its Paris office and editor Stephane Charbonnier was on Al Qaida's most wanted list. And yet Charlie Hebdo continued to skewer the deserving. Editor Charbonnier once said, "I'd rather die standing than live on my knees". He also made the point that no one who didn't like the magazine was forced to read it.
Islamic terrorists thought they'd killed Charlie Hebdo when they murdered 12 people in the Paris office last Wednesday. And they might well have, as they took the lives of Charlie Hebdo's editors and four most famous cartoonists. Two of the cartoonists, one 76 years old and another 80, had been drawing for the magazine since its founding in 1970.
But extraordinary things have been happening since that terrible event.
People all over the world have been uniting in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. People who normally would have found the magazine offensive are expressing outrage and grief. The Parisian Muslim community, always critical of the magazine, has expressed sorrow for the killings.
A number of French newspapers including Le Monde have rushed to the aid of the surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo, offering financial and logistical support so that the paper might continue. France Television and Radio France have offered any help that is needed of them and the French Ministry of Culture has met to develop a plan to offer support for the continuation of the magazine.
Cartoonists from around the world have been expressing their grief and their defiance by drawing cartoons in support of Charlie Hebdo, vowing to produce hundreds of satiric cartoons for every one lost by the death of Charlie Hebdo's artists.
And we the rest of the world have been showing our solidarity and our sorrow for those whose lives were taken and voices silenced in the words "Je suis Charlie" - I am Charlie.
Because, in truth, we are all Charlie. We all want and are entitled to freedom of expression that does no harm to another and as allowed by the laws we've collectively created. I believe that the Charlie Hebdos, Seth Rogans, Matt Stones and Trey Parkers of the world are entitled to their voices as we all are. And so, as18th Century French satirist Voltaire, the Charlie Hebdo of his day, expressed it, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." None of us wants our voice silenced and a threat to one is a threat to us all.
As for me, I agree that much of the artwork of Charlie Hebdo was mocking and provocative.
But I also believe that any leader, any group or organization that practices or preaches tyranny, oppression, injustice or harm deserves to be mocked and provoked.
And so I, too, say:
*We are all Charlie