Are You Charlie or Ahmed? Cultural Pluralism in Charlie Hebdo Response on Twitter

Abstract

We study the response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings of January 7, 2015 on Twitter across the globe. We ask whether the stances on the issue of freedom of speech can be modeled using established sociological theories, including Huntington’s culturalist Clash of Civilizations, and those taking into consideration social context, including Density and Interdependence theories. We find support for Huntington’s culturalist explanation, in that the established traditions and norms of one’s "civilization" predetermine some of one’s opinion. However, at an individual level, we also find social context to play a significant role, with non-Arabs living in Arab countries using #JeSuisAhmed ("I am Ahmed") five times more often when they are embedded in a mixed Arab/non-Arab (mention) network. Among Arabs living in the West, we find a great variety of responses, not altogether associated with the size of their expatriate community, suggesting other variables to be at play.

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