Monday, January 12, 2015

Je suis toujours Charlie

Maybe I was a bit complacent in my previous post. There is a sense of desperation out there. How does a bunch of people who have idealised radical Islamism as some form of liberation theology deal with the murders in Paris? Of course, they could change their mind, but that might be asking a bit much. No, instead they have used three tactics to justify themselves to themselves and to continue feeling virtuous.

The first tactic is sneering. There has been some horrible stuff written about the people putting "Je suis Charlie" as their Facebook status or on Twitter. It talks about how using the slogan is false, easily forgotten afterwards, achieves nothing and diverts people from real action, or, more insidiously, how it only resonates because it chimes in with their inner 'islamophobia'. I'll tell you what it really is a sign of - people who know right from wrong. It is a moral spasm. Faced with something recognisably evil, people did what they could. Changing an avatar is possible, changing the world is out of their reach.

Secondly, they mount a diversion. I keep seeing stuff urging me to demand that Muslims should not be asked to apologise for the massacre. Of course they bloody shouldn't. Rupert Murdoch might have gone off on one and I know it is fashionable to apologise for everything under the sun (maybe I should find an Italian and say sorry for Boudicca's massacre of the Romans at Camulodunum), but they had nothing to do with it! Murdoch's a tosser. That's it. Over and done with. Now how about what matters?

Finally, after the obligatory hand-wringing, they blame the victims. Let's all smear Charlie Hebdo. Here are a few examples. Anne Norton, author of a pretty good book on Leo Strauss and a dire one on Islam and politics, writes:
#jesuischarlie might be meant as solidarity. But it calls for an identity bounded by bigotry. Charlie Hebdo is a scurrilous rag, willfully offensive, that defended the powerful by attacking the weak.
Has she read it? Probably not.

Then there was an unpleasant cartoon from Joe Sacco published by the Guardian. It was what you would expect from a 'yes, but ...' piece. It conflates political Islamism with all Muslims (just as the right do), puts the blame for the attack on provocative cartoons rather than on a malign ideology, Abu Ghraib gets a spot, it implies that only Muslims are attacked and that Jews are given a free pass, and ends with a sideswipe at Zionism.  Predictable and wrong in so many ways.

And here's a piece that at least tries to add some historical perspective about the long French tradition of scurrilous and offensive satire. "At last", I thought. Then I read this:
Charlie Hebdo certainly trades in such racially incendiary images; a cover once depicted the sex slaves of Boko Haram as screaming, pregnant welfare queens. In their defence, the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo would say that they mock everyone equally. But in a racially stratified society, making fun of novelist Michel Houellebecq for his smoking and drinking is hardly the same as conflating sex slaves in Africa with welfare recipients in France.
Except they bloody didn't! That cover was attacking the French right for their accusation that refugees deliberately get pregnant to get welfare benefits. So they get raped by Boko Haram solely to get benefits do they? That's what Charlie Hebdo was saying. It is powerful, anti-racist stuff. There is another explanation of a frequently misrepresented cover here. Do these people think or do some basic research before playing follow my leader and repeating the same misinterpretations? Obviously not.

All three of these and many more are promulgating the line that Charlie Hebdo was a racist magazine that was, at best, apolitical and nihilistic, or, more commonly, racist and islamophobic, a right-wing anti-Muslim hate rag. How convenient. They obviously had it coming to them.

The only problem is that every word is untrue. It took an astonished, baffled and horrified French leftist to try and explain. Olivier Tonneau gets the critics' method spot on - "Charlie Hebdo, ... was often “analyzed” in the British press on the sole basis, apparently, of a few selected cartoons." Knowledge of French politics? Ability to read French? Clearly not required for authoritative punditry.

So, now listen to what he has to say.
It might be worth knowing that the main target of Charlie Hebdo was the Front National and the Le Pen family. Next came crooks of all sorts, including bosses and politicians (incidentally, one of the victims of the shooting was an economist who ran a weekly column on the disasters caused by austerity policies in Greece).  Finally, Charlie Hebdo was an opponent of all forms of organized religions, in the old-school anarchist sense: Ni Dieu, ni maître! They ridiculed the pope, orthodox Jews and Muslims in equal measure and with the same biting tone. They took ferocious stances against the bombings of Gaza. Even if their sense of humour was apparently inacceptable to English minds, please take my word for it: it fell well within the French tradition of satire – and after all was only intended for a French audience. It is only by reading or seeing it out of context that some cartoons appear as racist or islamophobic. Charlie Hebdo also continuously denounced the pledge of minorities and campaigned relentlessly for all illegal immigrants to be given permanent right of stay. I hope this helps you understand that if you belong to the radical left, you have lost precious friends and allies.
And the money line:
This being clear, the attack becomes all the more tragic and absurd: young French Muslims of Arab descent have not assaulted the numerous extreme-right wing newspapers that exist in France (Minute, Valeurs Actuelles) who ceaselessly amalgamate Arabs, Muslims and fundamentalists, but the very newspaper that did the most to fight racism.
Let's be clear about what happened. A far-right death squad broke into the offices of a radical left paper and shot dead unarmed journalists and artists. They executed a Muslim policeman, split up and took hostages ready for a shoot-out. One of them went to a kosher supermarket to kill Jews, purely because they were Jews - I've noticed that fascists seem to like that sort of thing.

And all these leftists and commentators can think of doing is excusing the killers and smearing the victims. And when they do, they are not just betraying their friends and allies, they are betraying the millions of Muslims around the world that these theocratic thugs are killing. They are betraying the Muslims who try and resist. They are betraying the thousands of Nigerians slaughtered by Boko Haram. They are betraying the murdered children of Peshawar. They are betraying the people of Iraq and Syria currently being overwhelmed by oppression, murder, slavery, rape and genocide. And they are betraying the basic moral decency of those who go and stand in vigils, write poetry, display pencils as a symbol, and write "je suis Charlie" wherever they can in countries all round the world.

Just what goes on in their heads?

UPDATE
A website has been set up to provide translations and explain the political context of Charlie Hebdo cartoons in order to answer the uninformed criticism. It can be found here.

3 comments:

Ursula said...

People seem to miss the actual argument in Joe Sacco's cartoon, possibly because they're too disgusted to read carefully by the time they get that far.

He literally says that it's 1933 and the Muslims have the place of the Jews back the. He literally says that if you find Mulsim responses to mocking Mohammad unacceptable then you have to drive them into the sea (and it visually adds picking up a torch and joining a fascist mob).

It literally says that you have only two choices, accept all limits on speech that some Muslims demand or participate in a new Holocaust and slaughter the Muslims.

The odd thing isn't that people who find Joe Sacco's attitude annoying don't hang on and read his whole argument, the odd thing is that people praise that horrible falacy of an argument without, apparently, admitting what they're agreeing with.

Muslims are all about to be massacred or ethnically cleansed in France? Really? Doesn't a claim like that demand some evidence?

The Plump said...

It is a bizarre cartoon, Ursula. I read the reference to 'driving into the sea' as reflecting his virulent anti-Zionism - Israelis driving Palestinians into the sea being rewritten on a larger scale - and saying that it will be the logical consequence of our pathological hatred of Muslims. Utterly bonkers. It is a desperate attempt to maintain that the real victims of the massacre are Muslims. He may claim to be sad about the deaths of cartoonists, but reserves his anger to vent on them.

Anonymous said...

'It literally says that you have only two choices, accept all limits on speech that some Muslims demand or participate in a new Holocaust and slaughter the Muslims'.

Which in itself is a completely deranged either/or argument that only a Guardianista can come out with.