Today, on the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks which happened one year ago in Paris, police shot dead a knife-wielding man. The attempted attack took place at 11:30 a.m., the Paris prosecutor’s office said—a year to the minute since the Charlie Hebdo killings. In that attack, two gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of the French satirical magazine, which had angered Islamists for its irreverent approach to Islam and publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

In support of free speech and in solidarity with the journalist victims many people utilized the slogan, “I am Charlie Hebdo.” It so happened that the next day was the second class of my Peace and Justice Issues course in which we would be discussing the role of the media in local and global events. Many of my blogs have to do with peace and justice issues and I begin this year with a series of “I am…” blogs that will hopefully provoke some thought outside of the classroom.

The “I am Charlie Hebdo” phenomenon caused me to think. What is free speech? Should we be able to say anything we want about anyone in public? Many issues collide when we think of journalism, free speech, and mass media in an age of instant global communication by anyone who has access to the internet. During that class I presented some ideas from the minds of Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky on the mass media. Here’s one quote for your consideration:

“The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.”

Check out my blog from one year ago [January 12, 2015] on this same subject.