More on Charlie Hebdo

Lots of responses to the terrorist attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Some of it reasonable, some of it not.

Matthew Yglesias said almost the same thing I did:

Viewed in a vacuum, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons (or the Danish ones that preceded it) are hardly worthy of a stirring defense. They offer few ideas of value, contribute little to any important debates, and the world would likely have been a better place had everyone just been more polite in the first place.

But in the context of a world where publishers of cartoons mocking Mohammed have been threatened, harassed, and even killed, things look different.

Images that were once not much more than shock for its own sake now stand for something — for the legal right to blaspheme and to give offense. Unforgivable acts of slaughter imbue merely rude acts of publication with a glittering nobility. To blaspheme the Prophet transforms the publication of these cartoons from a pointless act to a courageous and even necessary one, while the observation that the world would do well without such provocations becomes a form of appeasement. And the infection quickly spreads.

Indeed! Ross Douthat, not someone I normally quote favorably, says it even better:

But we are not in a vacuum. We are in a situation where my third point applies, because the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

Exactly right.

For sheer gall, Bill Donohue’s remarks are hard to top:

“All I’m simply saying is this: These guys in Paris… the cartoonists, they’re not champions of freedom,” he said. “They’ve abused freedom for years, and we need to have a public discussion about what is the meaning of freedom. When you abuse freedom and trash other people’s religion with obscene portrayals so shocking you can’t put it on TV, there’s something sick going on.”

He noted that the newspaper’s murdered editor, Stephane Charbonnier, once told an interviewer that Muhammad is “not sacred to me,”

“Well he’s not sacred to me, either,” said Donohue. “But you see, in the little, small, selfish world of this man who was killed yesterday — tragically killed, my heart goes out to his family — but in his mind, he never takes responsibility for anything.

“So just because Muhammad is not sacred to him, therefore I can trash him? No, no. People ought to get it straight,” said Donohue. “Nobody has a moral right, even if they have a legal right, to insult people of faith.”

And just what, exactly, should Charbonnier be taking responsibility for?

If you have ever seen Donohue in one of his television appearances, you know he is one of the most vicious and insulting people in the business. He’s especially rude to atheists. If ever there was someone who has no business lecturing others on the morality of hurling insults, it is him.

But as a way in to what I really want to discuss, here’s Ezra Klein:

But this isn’t about Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, any more than a rape is about what the victim is wearing, or a murder is about where the victim was walking.

What happened today, according to current reports, is that two men went on a killing spree. Their killing spree, like most killing sprees, will have some thin rationale. Even the worst villains believe themselves to be heroes. But in truth, it was unprovoked slaughter. The fault lies with no one but them and their accomplices. Their crime isn’t explained by cartoons or religion. Plenty of people read Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons and managed to avoid responding with mass murder. Plenty of people follow all sorts of religions and somehow get through the day without racking up a body count. The answers to what happened today won’t be found in Charlie Hebdo’s pages. They can only be found in the murderers’ sick minds

If this were just a one-off attack then maybe I could buy into this. But the long history of precisely this sort of violence, Muslim extremists reacting badly to trivial slights, makes Klein seem rather naïve here. In 2011 Charlie Hebdo‘s offices were firebombed. In 2006 we had the riots over the Danish cartoons, resulting in two hundred deaths and extensive property damage. In 2005 we had the murder of Theo Van Gogh. And I’m sure no one has forgotten the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, which sent him into hiding for years, and led to the murder of his Japanese translator. These are just a few especially high-profile items.

We can’t just ignore this history. And we can’t keep pretending that it’s always about something other than Islam. The fact is that Charlie Hebdo was insulting and derogatory to every major religion, but it is only from Islam that they had to worry about violence. The terrorists here did not just go on a killing spree. They were not shooting random people on the street. This was a carefully planned operation, and they told us in no uncertain terms why they did it.

It’s not hard to find comparable provocations against other religions. The most popular musical on Broadway right now is The Book of Mormon. It is as vicious an attack on Mormonism as you can imagine. But if you go see the show, as I have, you will note only the most minimal security at the theater. Absolutely no one is worried about crazed Mormons shooting up the place.

Recently Lincoln Center, also in New York, presented the opera Klinghoffer. Many Jewish groups find the show to be offensive and anti-Semitic. The result was angry op-eds in the newspapers, and peaceful protests outside the theater. No one tried to disrupt the show, let alone storm inside with guns. Again, absolutely no one was seriously worried about violence.

Get the idea? Do I need to speculate about what would have happened had either of these shows been deemed anti-Muslim?

Now, this is the point where the self-righteous types will accuse you of Islamophobia. They will lecture you about blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few.

But no one is doing that, and they know it. Almost no one thinks that all, or most, or even a majority of Muslims have any sympathy for yesterday’s attacks. The problem, though, is that the attitudes underlying the attack are not those of a small, fringe minority. It is willful blindness to pretend otherwise. There are roughly fifty Muslim countries in the world, but there is not a single one where a magazine like Charlie Hebdo could even exist. Freedom of expression, in particular the freedom to criticize religion, does not seem to be something that’s valued in the Muslim world.

For example, consider this charming data point:

A Saudi blogger who was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes will be publicly flogged for the first time after Friday prayers outside a mosque in the Red Sea coastal city of Jiddah, a person close to his case said Thursday.

Raif Baddawi was sentenced on charges related to accusations that he insulted Islam on a liberal online forum he had created. He was also ordered by the Jiddah Criminal Court to pay a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals, or about $266,000.

Rights groups and activists say his case is part of a wider clampdown on dissent throughout the kingdom. Officials have increasingly blunted calls for reforms since the region’s 2011 Arab Spring upheaval.

Badawi has been held since mid-2012, and his Free Saudi Liberals website is now closed. The case has drawn condemnation from rights groups.

Here’s what I want to know: If that sentence was put to a public referendum, would it be upheld? How many people in Saudi Arabia would vote to let him go, on the grounds that, obviously, no crime was committed? Does anyone think the vote would go well for Baddawi?

Examples like this could be multiplied endlessly. I discussed other examples in this post.

Against this litany, it just seems silly to argue that it’s never really about Islam, or that every religion has its extremists, or that we’re tarring the whole religion with the acts of a few.

I heard someone on television today lament the fact that when a Muslim does something bad, somehow all Muslims are expected to condemn it. This misses the point. The issue isn’t what anyone is expected to do. It’s what moderate Muslims had better do, loudly and unambiguously and with no “buts” at the end, because right now the crazies are the public face of Islam. No one is concluding that something is wrong with modern Islam because two Muslims did a bad thing. The conclusion is based on the chaos and despotism and illiberal attitudes that seem especially rife in the Muslim world.

Comments

  1. #1 The Peak Oil Poet
    Thailand
    January 8, 2015

    i think that if we Christian west had not spent the last century or two decimating the Muslim peoples (or at least those sitting on our oil), supporting archaic undemocratic kingdoms (who happen to be Muslim and sitting on our oil but selling it to us)

    there would be almost no Islamic extremism

    when we continuously bomb the hell out of people, right back to the stone age, there’s little for them to hold on to, little for them to believe in

    except that we are evil beyond words and that the only shred of culture left to them speaks loudly against our acts

    no matter how bad the acts against us are

    first look at self

    and frankly, we are pretty nasty

    instead of yet again attacking Islam and yet again demanding as all bullies do, that those whose neck we have our jackboot on acquiesce to our view of fairness

    maybe we should really start bringing our war-criminals to justice

    if we were indeed fair in this way and stopped our genocidal treatment of these people then maybe in a hundred years or so they would forget just how evil we have been and go back to being what they were for most of the last thousand years – secular, hard-working and reasonable

    in the mean time take your jackboot off their necks

    and look at the evil inside yourself

    pop

  2. #2 Charlie
    January 9, 2015

    Just to be clear, I have no religious affiliation of any kind.. nor do I approve of the acts of the insane (or indoctrinated) killers

    You all speak some wise and lofty words. The simple reality of the matter is Charlie built his reputation and money on cheap and dangerous (for right or wrong reasons) scandal. I also think he understood the risks. On the personal level, his life was a terrible price to pay for his continuous clown act and it’s regrettable to be sure

    Also, be intellectually honest. Imagine anyone tried to publish a magazine with cartoons of homophobic nature in France. Right, was NOT going to happen!

    The only ones better off in the aftermath are politicians and the elites they serve. They will use this as an excuse to limit the very freedoms Charlie used in his creations, how ironic. They also routinely instigate wars for pure economic reasons where thousands people suffer and get killed and that generates far less public concern than this event

  3. #3 Charlie
    January 9, 2015

    So, to summarize, I’m sorry but Charlie did no noble act and did not died for our freedoms. Nor this killing is any better than droning random people in other countries (droning is worse for many obvious reasons)

    But yes, it’s nicer to live in the West. If I were to publish homophobic or KKK material or some other silly stuff I wouldn’t be risking to get 10 years in jail as that poor sod in Saudi Arabia. But I’m sure I would be harassed enough!

  4. #4 kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    People adhering to any religion should never take any insults directed towards religion personal because people have nothing to do with creating those religions, and therefore, should not act like they do!!! Who the hell do they think they are!!!

  5. #5 kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    Such barbaric responses to satire on religion are absolutely unjustifiable in a country protected by free speech. If you want zero criticism and sole veneration of islam, go live in saadi arabia. Otherwise, you’ll have to learn how to ignore anything you find discomforting and unpleasant in a free society where criticism of religion is allowed because it’s more liberal than it
    is conservative. It is too conservative to assertain that satire should or will necessarily provoke violence, and therefore, those who are not careful get punished for their mistake!!!
    Just like those muslims that cannot tolerate criticism of religion, conservatism is also something a free society does not need!!!

  6. #6 eric
    January 9, 2015

    Wow 0/3 so far.
    @1: oppression would be a reason to attack our governments and forces in the country being oppressed. The specific targeting of cartoonists in Paris simply isn’t consistent with the foreign oppression motivation. Instead, that targeting is a pretty clear statement about what those cartoonists are saying, not about French foreign policy. And it’s not jackbooted cultural imperialism to demand that people living in Paris acquiece to the French view of fairness or French law.

    On to more sane discussion. While I do think that religious intolerance and backwards religious proscriptions are at fault (along with other factors, but those are the two people often whitewash over and I am opposed to that whitewashing), given that there are millions of peaceful muslims in the west and billions worldwide, I think our most effective long-term strategy is figuring out how that peaceful, law-abiding reinterpretation or different interpretation of the same religious material occurs, and leveraging that to achieve the goal of law-abiding theists (of all religions). I think the approach that many atheists imply they support – i.e., go after religion, and peacefulness will follow – is something of a fool’s errand. Its much harder and largely unrealistic. I don’t see how it necessarily makes violent people nonviolent, and its an overengineered solution given that we empirically know that eliminating religion is not necessary to make peaceful citizens.

    Not many people are aware of this, but in the lead-up to 9/11 the US suffered a hundreds of low-level terrorist attacks. The majority were linked to right wing political extremism. Even today, the FBI considers the largest domestic terrorist threats to be linked to militias, white supremicists, environmentalists, and sovereign citizens movements (all of which are predominantly driven by political or racial ideologies, not religious ones). Yet you don’t hear anyone saying that if we could just eliminate political parties, the political ideological violence would go away. That sounds utterly silly, doesn’t it? As Americans we want people to have the freedom to hold and express political leanings. We want the freedom to form political parties. We don’t want political differences of opinion to go away. What we want to stop is the thought-process that says “it is legitimate to rob, bomb, and kill to protect and promote my ideology.” That’s what we should be going after with the militias. With the other groups. And I think that same approach should be the approach we go with when it comes to Islam and other religiously motivated violence.

  7. #7 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    @ eric

    [As Americans we want people to have the freedom to hold and express political leanings. We want the freedom to form political parties.]

    It is stupid to allow sociopaths like conservatives to form a party that is based exclusively on bullying, harassment, killing under false pretexes, torturing, hijacking people’s basic needs and capitalizing on them. This “party” also harbors racism, ignorance, hate towards minorities, discrimination, caters to Nazi ideology, or in other words a party, which only purpose is to mess with people and undermine and destroy everything that is good in the society, and on top of it, it was given the power to implement their views into reality, which effected lives of innocent people. By forming a party, a certian group of people gets access and control of the vital elements in the society. This can be extremely dangerous and disruptive, and can cause many problems. Just think how far, this country would’ve progressed in human rights and other areas, if it hadn’t been for conservatives. It’s even hard to define something like this a “party” and their sociapathic behavior as political learnings.

  8. #8 eric
    January 9, 2015

    By forming a party, a certian group of people gets access and control of the vital elements in the society.

    Oh gosh, we can’t have certain groups of people having a voice in government. Perish the thought!

    Cover it in noble goals and nice words all you want, left-wing authoritarianism is still authoritarianism. I oppose it. Political ideology should not be a bar to civic participation.

  9. #9 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    @eric

    [Cover it in noble goals and nice words all you want, left-wing authoritarianism is still authoritarianism. I oppose it. Political ideology should not be a bar to civic participation.]

    This attitude on your part also suggests that if islamic terrorists decided to form a party in the US, they, by all means, should be allowed civic participation with the right to act out on their views and beliefs. In that case, islamic terror attacks on free speech supporting cartoonists will become something completely acceptable and tolerated. Don’t you think such party would fail the morality test?! And what if people believing in the German Nazi ideology were allowed to form a party and act out on their views, what would be left out of our predominantly liberal society and people?

  10. #10 eric
    January 9, 2015

    This attitude on your part also suggests that if islamic terrorists decided to form a party in the US, they, by all means, should be allowed civic participation with the right to act out on their views and beliefs.

    Sigh. This is not rocket science. An islamic party should certainly be allowed to form, and even advocate for a change in the laws/constitution to make the country a theocracy if they want. Likewise a neo-nazi party. Likewise a conservative party, which you seem opposed to.

    Like any other US resident, members of these parties would not be allowed to break our laws against murder, etc. If they wanted to protest blasphemous cartoonists in a legal way, more power to them. The ideology is protected; there are (or ought to be) no mind crimes. Violent conduct is not protected. Get it?

  11. #11 eric
    January 9, 2015

    I should also add that yes, I’m aware that my position leads to the wierd situation of free speech laws protecting those people who advocate for the abolishment of free speech; that it allows them to try and eliminate freedoms through legal political channels. That’s part of free speech; I accept it. Our freedoms allow those who would take away our freedoms to advocate for that (in a legal, nonviolent way).

  12. #12 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    @eric

    [Political ideology should not be a bar to civic participation.]

    You forgot to add something to conclude your opinion in order for you not to look like a total idiot –

    Political ideolgy should not be a bar to civic participation, provided its policies are not on the ballot..

    …and a lot of unethical conservatives policies are.

  13. #13 eric
    January 9, 2015

    You think that political ideological policies should not be on ballots? How very democratic of you.

  14. #14 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    I also forgot to mention that conservatives constantly try to curtail true free speech and block certain people from voting.

  15. #15 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    @eric

    [You think that political ideological policies should not be on ballots? How very democratic of you.]

    I am talking about unethical political ideologies that fail the moral test and cause nothing but harm to innocent people and good establishments.

  16. #16 eric
    January 9, 2015

    Who decides which ones are the unethical ones and what moral test to administer – you? That does not sound like democracy, either.

    The crux of the problem is that people disagree on which politial ideologies are unethical. They disagree on which ‘certain groups of people’ should not be allowed to participate in government. And in terms of authoritarianism, your left-wing style of it sounds (to me) quite a lot like the right-wing style of it you seem to oppose. I don’t McCarthyism back, just with the group name changed from “communist” to “conservative.”

  17. #17 Kilnon
    January 9, 2015

    @eric

    [The crux of the problem is that people disagree on which politial ideologies are unethical.]

    It’s because some people have no moral compass set in place. Liberal ideology is benign in nature, and its establishments are geared towards helping people and not destroying them. You can use liberalism as a moral guide to help you with distinguishing between ethical and unethical because liberal ideology not only has morality in it, it also has intelligence, reason, humanity and many other good things that the society needs.

  18. #18 Walt Jones
    January 9, 2015

    Kilnon: Although I agree with your view of liberalism, you should realize that if for “liberalism” you substituted Catholicism, you would be expressing the view of close to a quarter of the U.S. population. (If not for your inclusion of “reason,” you could substitute religion and hit 90%.)

  19. […] was reading Jason Rosenhouse’s summaryish-type post on the Charlie Hedbo attack, and he quotes and expresses an idea that seems to be pretty common: that despite the fact that […]

  20. #20 kilnan
    January 10, 2015

    @18

    [Kilnon: Although I agree with your view of liberalism, you should realize that if for “liberalism” you substituted Catholicism, you would be expressing the view of close to a quarter of the U.S. population. (If not for your inclusion of “reason,” you could substitute religion and hit 90%.)]

    Too many catholics in the US eventually become or turn out to be atheist, with catholicism adapting its moral views in accordance with the developments in the government legislature as it goes. So liberalism does talk sense into catholics, and is a decent moral guide for them, after all.

  21. #21 Walt Jones
    January 10, 2015

    You seem to have missed my point.

  22. #22 Michael Fugate
    January 10, 2015

    VS, since I am offended by your post will you remove it?

  23. #23 DW
    January 10, 2015

    I’d like to go back to one of the contentions made by the original poster: that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons had no value and were simply offensive for no purpose, and only acquired value or became worth defending after the newspaper was attacked.

    I completely disagree. Offending religion is a public service, because it helps to free people who are oppressed by their religion. It says to them, “You’re not the only one who has noticed these people are hypocritical and violent and stupid. You could leave! There are people and places where you would be among friends even if you renounced your religion.”

    Best example: one cartoon depicts two men kissing, in a slobbery, over the top way. Of course the sight of two men kissing is offensive to Muslims. But guess what, the homophobia of Islam is offensive to homosexuals, and people die from it. If even one troubled and frightened young gay Muslim saw that cartoon and envisioned freedom for himself, the cartoon served a noble purpose.

  24. #24 DW
    January 10, 2015

    And I wonder if all of you who think that religion should not be open to ridicule, feel the same way about political cartoons or political humor, which often skewers its subjects quite mercilessly. We in the West generally accept the value of this, we don’t go around huffing that it has no purpose.

    Pretty much any public figure or public movement is open to ridicule in Western culture, and it seems to be generally agreed that while its targets surely don’t enjoy it, it serves a legitimate purpose in fostering public discussion, even when some of it is “over the top.”

    Why is religion still considered somehow above it all? Religious ideas and religious leaders often hold the happiness and safety and health and wellbeing of millions of people in their hands. They’re not above being brought down a peg or two when they act ridiculous, and certainly when they act murderous.

  25. #25 proximity1
    January 12, 2015

    Yours– JR– is one of the most astute commentaries I’ve seen or read anywhere on this topic. For francophone readers, I also recommend Natacha Polony’s commentary of Saturday, 10 January in Le Figaro– “Nous ne sommes pas tous Jean Moulin” [“We are not all Jean Moulin”] (See wikipedia’s pages if you are not familiar with that name.) (Sorry, it’s behind a paywall–but maybe your university or other library has open access to the print or on-line archive).

    Her analysis, while quite good as far as it goes, doesn’t make quite the same clear distinctions and connections you’ve drawn, above. After citing comments from Edwy Plenel’s commentary where he wrote (about laicism versus religous communitarianism in general–which is the huge elephant in the French living room) (translations are my own in all the following) …” Originally, laicity was not this sectarian laicism, a Trojan horse of the banalisation of racism on the part of our elites.” … “In playing with these hatreds, we produce the monsters which turn upon (attack) our fundamental liberties. We have created a climate in which these crimes are possible.”… Polony responds, aptly, : …”Well, then, let’s state it clearly: religious fanaticism is not the product of social and racial discrimination, even if these do exist. And what produces the monsters isn’t an over-doing ( “le trop plein” –the overflow, the being “too full”-ness) of laicity but rather its retreat. What produces the monsters is our having forgotten what makes (or ought to make) France: the foundation of a national community, one mixing (ethnic) origins and religions, around a common ideal, that of a laic and humanist society based on individual liberty, peaceful, unforced, relations between the sexes and the subscription of all citizens, from wherever they may come, to a history and a civilization.”

    A persistent problem, however, in France and in many other places, is just this: that anyone who would seriously assert, whether under cover of a right or of any notion of religious freedom or toleration, to live by and to actually enforce on others—even those outside the “fold” of his religious faithful!–a 6th century code of moral conduct–or one by fanatical Christians, a bastardized version of Christian morals ( one made, through an odd and twisting course which began in the 1st century) which attempts to mix the incompatible Old Testament morals with the supposed teachings of Jesus, or one by Jews of a similarly ancient, unreconstructed, zealot variety, those who adhere to the letter of Mosaic law and of the no less bizzarre Talmudic interpretations— to assert such moral codes today and to attempt to enforce them on others by all means including muderous violence, is to attempt to reverse and negate what meager moral progress human civilization can conceitedly suppose itself to have achieved.

    In their minds, such Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Hindu zealots have remained in the dark ages of the days during which their foundational texts were written. They seek not only to remain there but to force the rest of us to remain there with them–and they will use deadly force against us to achieve those ends.

    Against such a determined and coordinated effort, no amount of cheap and easy interfaith appeals to general and mainly entirely superficial gestures of love and tolerance will serve. Today’s “Whatever, just be nice and tolerant to folks and everything will be fine” Generation–and all its older fellow-travelers, from dope-smoking tie-dyed hippies to all the weird evolutions which have mutated since–with their fascination with communcations that are circumscribed by Twittering 140 or fewer characters–have not recognized that what they face are people who are driven by convictions which do not admit of negotiation or compromise. Once upon a time, those people included the vast exapnse of Christendom–and, if we allowed them to do so, a certain number of survivors of these would also return to Christendom’s pre-Enlightenment period of social and religious authoritarian control. (Under Elizabeth the First, heretic were still beheaded or burnt at the stake; her royal title was then not just a figurative but a deadly serious “defender of the faith” which, in her father’s early lifetime and all the time before it, meant nothing other than the Catholic Church of Rome–altered to the Chruch of England.)

    If the advocates of a more modern and civilized morality do not stand very resolutely against such efforts to restore such ancient and intolerant religious authority, then, with everything else that depends on them, science, too, shall be swept away by the crushing of modern civilized morality–only too recently and too feebly established in the long, bloody and violence-filled history of humankind.

  26. #26 proximity1
    January 12, 2015

    P.S.

    As for “our” official authorities, all of those Western powers, those same, who, for example, closed ranks firmly against the person of Edward Snowden and against the ugly poice-state truths he discosed, the murder of–the virtual decapitation of– Charlie Hebdo’s [Charlie Weekly’s] wickedly funny satiriical cartoonists spelled an undreamed of windfall: suddenly, a political elite which was suffering the most deserved and world-widespread popular opprobrium found itself offered the gift of the elmination of some of its harshest, most astute and most damning critics. For that is what Charlie Hebdo’s tiny niche publication (regular circulation approx. 60K) actually represented to virtually all people in authority of what place or form. CH stood resolutely for the unstinting ridicule of all authority–political, religious and economic, and routinely exposed the idiocy by which people in places of authority sought to excuse or explain or justify their disgusting and self-serving practices.

    Leaving aside all the bloviations of Suday’s officially sanctioned marches, tailor-made to rehabilitate the despicable political class, and done in so patently cynical a manner, none of the parties of their elite leadership shall acutally shed a genuine or sincere tear of regret for the deaths of their unapproved court jesters. Those dead cartoonists were serious thorns in the sides of–or, as they’d have put it, in the asses of–this same political elite which called for the choreographed display of official indignation at a violent act which, numerically, at least, pales next to the violence life, to rights and to civil liberties which each and every one of these sanctimonious hypocrites practices every other day of the week–the “forces of order” being their paid armed enforcers.

    Suddenly, we’ve conveniently fogotten or set aside all the attention to the vioemce of a brutal elite-serving set of economic austerity policies; forgotten that these, our official saviours, still operate an interlocking multinational police-state surveillance apparatus; forgotten that most of the time, the authorities hired thugs are not standing between us and armed terrorists but, rather, are the armed terrorists or their agents by second-hand.

    Add to this the fact that some of the state leaders come from nations which happen to have jailed journalists who’ve dared to write and publish drawings or prose which is critical of their rule.

    What the mass rallies did accomplish, it is true, is the open–and useful–demonstration of the fact that vast numbers of the general public are outraged by the violent attacks of last week. But that, really, is a very low bar to clear. The vast majority of those who easily “tweeted” the cost-free gesture, “I am Charlie” have never read, let alone purchased, a copy of Charlie Hebdo–or any other similar publication of trenchant political satire.

    Charlie Hebdo was a very big, very stiff, very straight, very rudely raised middle-finger. And some of the most insightful of those who attended the rallies came bearing just that in poster-board form because they rightly understood that this is precisely what the real martyrs in this affair would have most appreciated–that raised finger, held high in their names and in memory of them and the work they risked and lost their lives to do.

    There was much, much, sancitmonious hypocrisy spoken and demonstrated by many people attending the rallies in France on Sunday. I am grateful that the dead of Charlie Hebdo were not around to see it; I am embrarrassed and ashamed for those, their colleagues, who did survive the attack on their offices to live to see certain of the French public–and elsewhere–assemble in what had far too much of a self-satisfied air of complacent and superficial mutual back-patting in societies where deeply reactionary right-wing authoritarianism is clearly ascendant and about which the ruling elites have simply either no idea or no intention to do anything effective and lasting, for to do so would directly compromise or threaten their own cherished place and prerogatives which, for them, count above all else.

  27. #27 eric
    January 12, 2015

    Kilnon:

    It’s because some people have no moral compass set in place. Liberal ideology is benign in nature

    Your (particular brand of) liberal ideology would take away the rights of those who disagree with it to participate in politics and to hold office. I don’t consider that to be benign at all, and it is a sign to me that you have lost your moral compass.

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