View From The Side: Satire For The Sake Of It?

It's time we got real about what the point of all this is.  And while it might figure that a gargantuan tragedy is a surefire way of focusing minds on reality, the early evidence suggests that rather too many people have moved further away from it, and perhaps too far away to respond positively.
The reality as I see it – and I'm not exactly the only person saying this – is that satire for satire's sake can be a more useful weapon to those that it is meant to poke fun at than those that are actually doing the poking; so I am filled with dread by the news that they will be selling a million copies of the next edition of Charlie Hebdo.
I cannot think of a more stark measurement of the size of the bandwagon than a 970,000 hike in circulation, backed by google.  But just to be clear, if that was my commercial decision to make, I think I'd have done the same, and if I was French, I'd want to buy a copy.  
My dread comes more from what I think that million figure symbolises, and that's plain old defiance.  If you agree with the above point about how poking fun can play into sinister hands, then defiance in the minds of satirists and journalists is the last thing we need at the moment.  Obviously grief and well wishing is part of what gets it to a million copies too, but defiance is in there somewhere.
To me, if any good is to come out of this tragedy, it is that there is an opportunity for the peddlers of satire and controversy to improve their quality control.  It should not be used as an excuse to blindly embolden what they did before.
Charlie Hebdo cartoons
More than ten years on and I can still remember being nauseated by the earnest discussions about free speech at journalism college – that even before the age of employment, rather too many of my contemporaries had this notion that we were the future harbingers of truth and that there should be absolutely no restriction on what we put in print, as long as we honestly believed it.  Self regulation of the UK press was also the right thing, apparently, because we thought people in the media were such good judges.
And yes, every day, news is broken by journos who have the greatest of integrity, and among them there are some true heroes who risk their lives in pursuit of the right to tell the truth; but let's be honest, most of us are not on the front line of news gathering.  Somebody else has already done it, so people in our position should think a bit differently about free speech because we have more time to – we are following rather than leading.  In that case, there should be no excuse for our own right to always say what we think overriding the right of our audience to draw something useful from our product.
I do, however, totally sympathise with what I think satirical 'defiance' is trying to do, which is to make the point that we should not just roll over and "let the terrorists win".  Thanks to anti-terrorism laws, I've spent more time than is healthy roaming the supermarkets of Ibiza looking for my favoured brand of shaving foam… why shouldn't I have the right to pack it in my hand luggage?  But I do also have the option of thinking a bit more laterally and just packing 100ml of it. 
Not that I'm saying that this tragedy occurred because journalists, cartoonists and satirists were not thinking laterally.  In fact, I don't want to say too much about the specifics of what has already happened in Paris – there is more than enough rolling news for that.  So what am I saying?  
That those of us who are lucky enough to be in media organisations that have not been attacked by terrorists should think twice before exercising our right to be controversial – or if we thought twice already, think four times.  And that might mean that we're even more certain that we should go ahead and be controversial – that we're quadruply sure that what we're about to tell the world is really funny and/or really insightful.  It certainly doesn't mean: "you might get shot by them crazy terrorists if you're not careful".
But we need to remember that exercising our right to be satirical is not always the automatic victory for freedom and goodness in the world that we may have hoped it to be; so at this difficult time, satire should not be used instinctively as a weapon for counter attack; it should instead be used as part of our ongoing defence of journalistic quality.

Article: Mike Boorman (follow him on twitter)