Joyce Carol Oates explains PEN award protest of Charlie Hebdo
After the editors of Charlie Hebdo took home an award for the weekly’s courage at the PEN Gala earlier this month, 145 writers signed a letter in protest of the decision. Joyce Carol Oates, Junot Díaz and Teju Cole were among the group who disagreed with Charlie Hebdo receiving the Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award, and Friday, Oates expanded on her objection via Twitter.
The American author wrote that the most disheartening aspect about the Charlie Hebdo situation “was not basic misunderstandings — which might have been eased through discussion — but immediate name-calling and denunciations; disrespect for a dissenting opinion, in the very name of ‘freedom’ of speech.”
Oates believes she and the other writers have the write to dissent with PEN’s decision to give the French satirical newspaper the award, and does not understand why her protest has caused a stir. “If six people out of thousands of PEN members wished to register dissent — why was this so threatening?” Oats writes. “Have we no tradition of dissent?”
Over the course of a dozen tweets, Oates goes on to discuss her perception of freedom of speech, the differences between French and American tradition, and “blasphemy” throughout history.