Firstly, it needs to be unequivocally stated that any murder, violence or threats of violence need to be condemned, and repeatedly condemned, until such actions no longer occur on this planet. Violence in any form is a primitive and non-productive way of achieving one’s aims. Because human beings are predominantly social beings, intra-species violence cannot create long-term positive outcomes for either party.
The killings by religious extremists of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists/ journalists and subsequent deaths in other parts of Paris, purportedly because those cartoonist’s denigrated the Prophet, are an abomination, and certainly appear on the face of it, to be designed to inhibit further ridiculing of Islam, or more probably, to incite disenfranchised white males to commit crimes against local Muslim populations to again encourage French muslims to rise against the French state.
But there are, in my view, three things to consider here:
One, is the equity of the Western public and media response to these killings in comparison with the ongoing murders of thousands of people in the Middle East by Western state war-machines. Just one example of this hypocritical perspective is the disgusting and appalling treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state to which every Western country has not only turned a blind eye in the last 67 years, but almost all have actively supported the ongoing atrocities against that imprisoned population. Where are the “je suis une Palestinian” mass rallies I wonder? or where were those demonstrators when the United States for instance delivered “targeted strikes’ into the hotel rooms of Al Jazeera journalists while they were staying in Baghdad in the second Iraq War ? These organised Parisian mass rallies, with their identical laser printed placards, smack of hypocrisy , selective judgement and useful scapegoating.
Secondly, why is the media so keen to portray these killings as organised, premeditated killings by well-trained terrorists?. Losing your ID card in the getaway car does not particularly strike me as the work of a well-honed hit -squad. More than likely (as with so many other “terrorist” attacks) , these pathetic young men were likely supported and encouraged by (in this case) French intelligence services. And before you snarl about “conspiracy theories”, it is worth noting that much of the “terrorist” activity during the French/Algerian war was in fact undertaken by French intelligence; they are no strangers to false flag operations. As The Intercept notes, many Western “law enforcement” agencies have provenly been active in the past few years in recruiting and fomenting “terrorist plots for their own ends.
This blog has noted many times the multitude of advantages to state security apparatus of hyping up some “existential” threat to the population. And if, as some reports suggest, the killers had recently been in Syria fighting with the rebels, then they are most certainly the product of Western tactical and resource support for anti-Syrian government rebels.
This attack also comes at a convenient time, when the President of France , the inept ‘socialist’ Francoise Hollande, appeared to be weakening in his resolve to support U.S. demands for continued sanctions against Russia because of the deleterious impacts on the French economy of those sanctions.
Thirdly, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists were, and are, hardly the epitome of Western liberal tolerance and fair-play. Their cartoons are often racist, and inflammatory. That is of course, no excuse for violence against such bigots, but neither does it provide a rationale to eulogise such people. Western democratic values presume that everyone has the right to insult anyone on the basis of their actions or beliefs, with the opportunity to address outstanding concerns in a court of law. This is largely a civilised approach to working through dis-harmony: one to which Western governments publicly subscribe to in the media, while in reality wreaking indiscriminate destruction and murder in other parts of the globe. The assumption of a “free” media in the West, is however, by and large, true. Notwithstanding Slate’s narrative that “despite its 18th-century constitutional provenance, the First Amendment did not play a significant role in U.S. law until the second half of the 20th century. The First Amendment did not protect anarchists, socialists, Communists, pacifists, and various other dissenters when the U.S. government cracked down on them, as it regularly did during times of war and stress, non libelous anti-government points of view, are in most cases, allowed free dissemination. Western governments rely on the fact that wide spread dissemination of news requires large amounts of financial resources. Those financial resources, by definition, come from those who support the status-quo. Non status-quo points of view are therefore in the vast minority and largely invisible to the public. Status-quo views, even when blatantly and obviously lies, can steam-roll the public to accept them as truth through the sheer volume and multiple sources of the “un-truths”. George Monbiot’s recent examples on Canadian and UK media’s “selective journalism” illustrates this argument well.
Charlie Hebdo journalism falls into that category of being some what right -wing and subtly supporting the conservative status-quo, with simplistic judgements of those who are different from “us”. Interestingly however, Stéphane Charbonnier, who was murdered in the attack, described the newspaper’s positions in 2012 as left-wing, secular, and atheist.
As noted in the Common Dreams article below. As the late great Molly Ivins said, “Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel — it’s vulgar.”
I for one, am not a “Charlie”.