PEN has now opened up a Web page for public debate on the matter, which has received some very wise comments (and a few unwise ones, in my view.) One of the wisest observations came from writer/lawyer Wendy Kaminer, who took issue with the suggestion that Charlie Hebdo did not deserve the award because it targeted the powerless (supposedly marginalized Muslims) rather than the powerful. Not only is this not true in general terms, but as Kaminer pointed out, Charlie Hebdo continued to publish its cartoons and articles against Islamic extremism despite death threats. That takes courage, as she pointed out:
"PEN protesters might respond that a courage award should only be bestowed on speakers who offend the powerful. It doesn’t take a lot of courage to offend people who can’t hurt you. Charlie Hebdo’s speech targeted the powerless, the 'victimized,' they assert. Not quite. If murder isn’t a definitive assertion of power, what is? The power of the sword has been wielded most effectively; we’ll never know how much speech has been chilled. Most of us are not that courageous."
I posted my own thoughts on this comments page, which I am reproducing here with a few changes (mostly to clean up my typos.) My main point is that Charlie Hebdo should not be defended in spite of what it stood for,