Friday, January 9, 2015

Je Suis Tintin!

Yurp, has been all a-tither over the murder of Stéphane Charbonnier and eight other contributors to the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo.

Founded in 1969 and resurrected in 1992 by Charbonnier, the magazine was a mostly quip-and-‘toon rag that specialised in being “dumb and nasty” from a leftish point of view.  In fact, bete et méchant was the magazine’s motto cribbed from an early-on outraged letter to the editor.  Precisely!  Oui aux betises!

Charlie Hebdo’s trademark was cartoon covers

 Drawn in the French cartoon style of Asterix

Or Lucky Luke

and designed to give offense.

We chipsters never followed Charlie Hebdo all that much since political satire tends to be specific to its country of origin and, much as we love France, we do not (hélas) live there.
But even if we had we would not have because, on balance, Charlie always struck us as consummately jejune.  This is not to say that its editors were without esprit.  One has to smile at witticisms like Charbonnier’s remark that Charlie’s editorial viewpoint reflects "all components of left wing pluralism, and even abstainers"  (2010)

But on balance, the magazine reflected (in our view) precisely what is wrong with that mélange that passes for today’s leftish ideology.  Charlie Hebdo was, in two words, trite and superficial. It transposed serious and fundamental issues into the realm of style and “social choices.”

This is not to say that we did not agree with components of left wing pluralism.  It is rather to say that mere agreement is not enough.  Even dogs can agree.

Nevertheless, jejune as Charlie Hebdo may have been,  there can be no excuse or tolerance for the brutal murder of cartoonists.  The multiple-murder was an assault on our precious right to give offence.

But the brouha which has ensued is totally out of proportion to the deed.  From the rassemblements and huff-puffing one would think that France had just experienced another Fronde   Disgusting as the murder was, it did not shake the foundations of the state.   After all, France has seen the like before,

Has anyone noticed the contradictions?

The French government condemns the “assault on free speech” but who who was it that shut down the magazine for “abusing” free speech when, in 1970, Charlie Hebdo (then known as Hebdo Hara-Kiri) spoofed the death of former president Charles De Gaulle.

When, in 2006, Charlie published a cartoon ridiculing  Muslim fundamentalists the magazine was condemned by President Jacques Chirac for engaging in “overt provocations.”

Although the magazine’s editor was acquitted in the ensuing prosecution, he had still been put in jeopardy of a $40.000 fine and/or six months in jail for racial/ethnic “defamation”.

Both French and German law subject listed controversial and/or prohibited issues to heightened judicial scrutiny in a manner which would be considered chilling to free speech under U.S. law.   The condemnations from the political caste ring — if not hollow —  tinny.

The people shout “We are Charlie”  but have they noticed who their shoulder-to-shoulder neighbors are?

The murder has managed an alchemy which was previously thought unachievable: solidarity between the political establishment and the Front National

Across the Rhine, the established, German political class (including the ecclesiastical hierarchies) has arrayed itself against the  cross-spectrum, grass-roots movement known as PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization) which has been protesting the “islamization” of Europe.  “Anti-Fa” counter demonstrations were held by the  muliticultural social left.

PEGIDA demonstration

Overnight, the German political class now finds itself condemning “radical islam” or “islamo-terrorism” while the multicultural, pro-immigrant left is reduced to drawing subtle distinctions.

In a burst of Allahu-Akbar’s and rapid-fire, the gunmen have managed a radicalisation of the West which the anti-immigrant parties by themselves could not have achieved.

But far more threatening to free speech is the penumbral talk about increasing the scope of surveillance under the tried and tried rubric of “insuring that this never happens again.” 

Needless to say, just as it did hours after the 9/11 attacks, Israel has jumped on the bandwagon to identify itself with the victims.  Prime Minister Netanyahoo declared “Israel is being attacked by the very same forces that attack Europe. Israel stands with Europe. Europe must stand with Israel.”

More worrisome than such filched victimhood was his statement that “These extremists are part of a global movement and this necessitates a global response.”

How so exactly?

As we have said many times before, the problem with an amorphous “enemy” — an enemy that could be anyone anywhere — is that it requires an equally amorphous response.  It was precisely the same call  to respond to, to root out and prevent terrorism that led to the U.S. Patriot Act and the establishment of the national security state.

The problem with terrorism has always been that at bottom it is simply a criminal act, like any other criminal act. It consists in some prohibited conduct which could take place anywhere, anytime by anybody.  The blood-bath at Charlie Hebdo was no different from a serial killer shooting from a university tower or any murder in the bedroom.  Such criminal conduct can be punished after the fact once its perpetrators have been chased down and caught.  But it is impossible to prevent it without establishing omnipresent surveillance — which is a nice way of saying “without turning society itself into a vast prison complex.”

If someone had desired to trigger yet further police surveillance in Europe, the Charlie Hebdo massacre would have been the ideal false flag operation.

Europe does face cultural and social problems arising from its immigration policies.  Islam is (proportionally speaking) far more fundamentalist than watered-down and secularized Christianity.  Last but not least, the West can hardly expect to intervene, instigate insurrections,  invade, exploit and oppress Middle Eastern countries without there being predictable blow-back.   Religious slogans have always been used as flags fluttering over other causes and grievances.

But as difficult as these problems might be, Europe now faces the perils that ride upon waves of demagoguery and whipped up indignation.   The first rule of anything is to do no harm and the first rule of doing no harm is to do nothing.

Je suis Tintin!

©Woodchipgazette, 2015

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