We are all reeling from the news of the attack on a Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, which has claimed the lives of 12 journalists. The death toll is expected to rise.

The killers shouted Allahu Akbar in what was a well-planned act of carnage.

We can’t help noticing that this vicious attack was perpetrated against a satire magazine. Satire, which requires freedom of expression, has flourished in France and indeed in the West in general from classical times until the present. So in a way the murder of these journalists is a peculiarly apt assault on our values and freedom to express our ideas.

I don’t know the magazine, though I gather that it has been an equal opportunity satirical publication, going after Christians and Muslims and anybody else its editors and writers deem worthy of a jibe. As Mollie Hemingway notes in a Federalist post, which I am going to quote in full, we have become lax in standing up for the freedom to express ideas, even if they offend, in the West:

Two years ago, a crude video against Islam was used as pretext by Islamists in various countries for riots and violence. Though that same video had nothing to do with the coordinated attack on U.S. outposts in Benghazi, resulting in the assassination of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, the administration claimed it did. The administration even rewrote talking points to blame an imaginary protest against the video as leading to those deaths.

Not long after, President Barack Obama spoke at the United Nations. Among good things he said, he also had this to say about people who mock Islam, such as the brave, now martyred, journalists at the satirical French publication Charlie Hebdo:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.

You can watch the context of those remarks here. The full speech, which includes some good commentary and more indefensible commentary in with this remark, can be read here.

Worse, the U.S. paid for ads in Pakistan that repeated untruths spoken by the President and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

President Obama claimed that in the U.S., “we reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” Hillary Clinton said of the U.S. government, “we absolutely reject content and message.”

Except that our country doesn’t reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. In fact, we state quite clearly that we believe everyone has the right to denigrate the religious beliefs of anyone they care to, from Mormon to Methodist to Muslim. And the U.S. government has no business weighing in on videos made by Americans and had no right to try to get Google to pull it down when people objected to it.

Charlie Hebdo brutally mocked Christians as well as Muslims. Because they made fun of Islam’s prophet, 10 journalists lost their lives. Many more are wounded.

The problem of such cowardly rhetoric in the face of Islamist violence certainly didn’t begin with President Obama and Hillary Clinton but they should be called to account for their tepid defense of free speech and freedom of the press.

The White House, meanwhile, reportedly has not determined whether this is a terrorist attack but wants you to know that, if it is, it will condemn it in no uncertain terms. Pathetic.