Why #IAmNotCharlie is a trending hashtag on Twitter

A new hashtag has emerged: #IAmNotCharlie, reflecting a backlash against the support for France's satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. 

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
A woman shows a banner reading “I am Charlie” for the victims of the shooting at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris during a demonstration of thousands against the right wing PEGIDA movement, 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West' in Duesseldorf, Germany, Monday evening, Jan. 12, 2015.

The new hashtag #IAmNotCharlie is gaining social currency on the original tag #JeSuisCharlie – indicative of an emerging alternative perspective to the initial solidarity tweet. 

 Today those who begin to type in the original tag have found the Twitter predictive algorithm automatically altering the words “I Am” to “I Am Not.”

After last week's attack on Charlie Hebdo, Al Jazeera’s English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr sent out a staff-wide e-mail in an effort to shape the coverage of the organization by urging anchors and reporters not to take the Western approach to the massacre at the French satirical magazine, according to the National Review.

The London-based Khadr wrote Thursday, an internal e-mail leaked to National Review Online urging journalists there to question if this was “really an attack on ‘free speech’” and to discuss whether “I Am Charlie” is an “alienating slogan.”

“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” Khadr wrote. “Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response — however illegitimate — is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.”

Since the leak, which included Al Jazeera journalists bandying the words “I am not Charlie” back and forth to each other in an inter-office conflict over Khadr’s initial email, the new hashtag #IAmNotCharlie has begun to rival #JeSuisCharlieHebdo and #IAmCharlie on Twitter.

Some anti-Charlie posts point out, as did The New York Times, that prior to the attack the Charlie Hebdo brand of satire had little traction in the U.S. or among mainstream news outlets.

While many tweeting under the new counter-tag express abhorrence for the violence committed at the office of Charlie Hebdo, the majority are unified by a common theme of anger and frustration which borders on jealousy over the outpouring of unity for the French – and point to bombings in Syria, hunger threatens Africa, and Islamaphobia reaching a fever pitch.

Still other posts claim the slogan, meant to convey empathy, promotes racism and bigotry.

Former Charlie Hebdo Cartoonish Maurice "Sine" Sinet, allegedly fired for anti-Semitism from the magazine after a comment about the son of French President Nicholas Sarkozy, has also become a central figure in the new hashtag’s campaign.

One of Al Jazeera’s Qatar-based correspondents Mohamed Vall Salem, who reported for Al Jazeera’s Arab-language channel before joining its English wing in 2006, wrote: 

“I guess if you insult 1.5 billion people chances are one or two of them will kill you,” said Mr. Salem, in one of the leaked emails, according to the National Review. “And I guess if you encourage people to go on insulting 1.5 billion people about their most sacred icons then you just want more killings because as I said in 1.5 billion there will remain some fools who don’t abide by the laws or know about free speech” [sic].

“What Charlie Hebdo did was not free speech it was an abuse of free speech in my opinion, go back to the cartoons and have a look at them!” Salem later wrote. “It’ snot [sic] about what the drawing said, it was about how they said it. I condemn those heinous killings, but I’M NOT CHARLIE.”

Included in the leaked email exchanges is apparently a note from former BBC journalist Jacky Rowland, who is now Al Jazeera English’s senior correspondent in Paris to Salem: “#journalismsinotacrime.”

National Review also reported another Al Jazeera journalist Omar Al Saleh, a “roving reporter” currently on assignment in Yemen replied to Ms. Rowland, “First I condemn the brutal killing. But I AM NOT CHARLIE. JOURNALISM IS NOT A CRIME [but] INSULTISM IS NOT JOURNALISM AND NOT DOING JOURNALISM PROPERLY IS A CRIME.”

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