The murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo


The murderous attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed ten journalists and two police once again illustrates the danger of the idea that anything should be exempt from examination, satire, even ridicule. The murderers are purported to have said that they were avenging their prophet in retaliation for the various articles and cartoons that the magazine has published over recent years that lampooned prophet Mohammed.

The magazine has a history of skewering all religions and all manner of sacred cows and remained defiant even after a bomb attack on its offices in 2011.

While the murderers must be sought and punished, what we should not do is to overreact out of fear, hysteria, and paranoia because that is the broader goal of such murderous groups. As Simon Jenkins says:

Osama bin Laden’s attacks on the United States, culminating in New York in 2001, were exceptional. Since he could not hope for an American capitulation, the intention must have been to scare the US into a hysterical reaction. As a result, all advice at the time was for America not to universalise its response to 9/11, let alone characterise it as a “war”. This would merely fuel the flames of horror, and lead on to God knows where. As Tom Paine warned: “Sanguinary punishment corrupts humankind.”

That advice was ignored, and years of war ensued, years that realised al-Qaida’s wildest dreams. Western nations plunged into battle, at a cost of some $3tn. Thousands of lives were lost and regimes were destabilised across the region. Democratic governments lurched towards authoritarianism. Almost willingly, it seemed, governments tore up many of the central tenets of their liberties. In the more belligerent states – the US and Britain – habeas corpus, private communication, legal process and even freedom of speech were curtailed or jeopardised. The forces of state repression suddenly found themselves singing the best tunes.

This monstrous attack should serve to arouse worldwide public opinion against the idea that religious beliefs, or any beliefs for that matter, should be exempt from satire or ridicule. This attack will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on media unless there is a concerted and global agreement among them that any attempt to suppress any particular view by threats of force will result in all the media replicating the offending material. This institutionalization of what is essentially the Streisand Effect may reduce the risk for any individual publication or journalist by creating too many targets but I don’t know if enough people will agree to create such a compact.

Comments

  1. Paulo Borges says

    As an European I’m extremely concerned with this attack mostly because it will just fall directly on the extreme right propaganda. The specter of the “Islamist lone wolf” attack which has been looming for months might be fueled by the reaction of governments and other groups in the next days.

  2. Dunc says

    Almost willingly, it seemed, governments tore up many of the central tenets of their liberties.

    “Almost willingly”? They were positively eager.

  3. says

    “Almost willingly”? They were positively eager.

    Some of them were prepared. I mean, you don’t think all 1200 pages of the USA PATRIOT act were written in the couple weeks between 9/11 and when the legislation was put in front of Congress?

  4. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    If Rush Limbaugh gets whacked by Islamists tomorrow, will we have to wade through a sea of “I am Rush” t-shirts? Charlie Hebdo was a racist propaganda rag on the level of Der Sturmer, and I see no reason to lionize these scumbags simply because some unknown entity decided to kill them. No one should have to die for being an asshole, but the US and Israel have killed dozens of real journalists not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians without some maudlin mass media schlockfest to bemoan the victims. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

    As for the identity of the killers, i would never rule out the possibility of agents provocateurs. That these attacks serve the interests of neo-con warmongers is beyond dispute. The almost instantaneous identification of suspects in these terrorist attacks based on all-too-convenient evidence like a passport surviving an inferno or an id allegedly left behind in a car should be a powerful red flag for thinking people. Either the terrorists are the dumbest fuckers on the planet or someone planted that evidence to implicate someone else in the crime. The question is who, and why?

  5. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Sean @4:

    Charlie Hebdo was a racist propaganda rag on the level of Der Sturmer, and I see no reason to lionize these scumbags simply because some unknown entity decided to kill them.

    That you purportedly believe this says much about your grasp on reality.

    As for the identity of the killers, i would never rule out the possibility of agents provocateurs.

    Conspiracies, conspiracies everywhere!

    <snicker>

  6. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    @ John Morales 5

    If you can’t tell that depicting Muslims as terrorists is racist then it is not my grasp on reality that needs work.

    “One cartoon portrayed France’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as a monkey. Another mocked the sex slaves of the militant group Boko Haram [by depicting them as welfare queens–Sean]. An issue that followed the death of Michael Jackson depicted the pop star as a skeleton with a caption suggesting he realized a dream to be a white man.”

    http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/08/media/charlie-hebdo-paris-manhunt/

    They have also been aggressive in promoting so-called “humanitarian” wars of aggression against Muslim countries.

    Conspiracies, conspiracies everywhere!

    Such accusations are a dog whistle for gullible coincidence theorists, nothing more.

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