Thursday, January 15, 2015

No, I am not 'Charlie'


NO, I am not 'Charlie'. And if  this nonsense continues much longer I might have to seriously consider changing my first name!

I am NOT 'Charlie'.  And if you want to know why I am not joining those generally good people who have unthinkingly hastened to identify with that awful magazine, here is one reason why:

I learnt a new French word from this cover. Les Allocs, from les allocations familiales, family allowances, and roughly translatable in a current British context as 'Benefits'.  We are used to British media and politicians whipping up hostility against so-called "benefits scroungers" and immigrants, but not to anyone suggesting the papers that target both are somehow left-wing or anti-establishment.

The 'Charlie Hebdo' cover refers to the "sexual slaves of Boko Haram", a subject whose humour is a bit above my intellect, then depicts a crowd of ugly women in Muslim attire, all heavily pregnant,  screaming "Hands off our 'Allocs'(Benefits)".

Tres drole, and very amusing.

Of course, I may not have grasped the hidden subtleties of this cartoon, nor be sufficiently au fait with sophisticated French thought and humour to understand that this was really aimed against racism and misogyny, rather than appealing to both; and to the age old bitterness against the lower orders and lesser breeds living and multiplying - "parish-fed bastards" as was the cry of the Yeomanry at Peterloo.

I don't know whether the liberating aim would have been what the thugs had in mind who attacked a pregnant Muslim woman in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil last Thursday, tearing off her veil and headcovering, and kicking her in the stomach for good measure. The young woman suffered a miscarriage and lost her baby on Monday. I don't know whether she appreciated the irony.

I had been going to add another 'Charlie Hebdo' cover featuring a black-clad bearded Orthodox Jew with an extra-long proboscis talking about the Holocaust , which I had seen posted on the internet, but it appears this was a spoof-cover produced by supporters of the antisemite Dieudonne.  I don't know whether 'CH' itself has done anything as unpleasant, but I note that friends who are normally sensitive to anything resembling antisemitism elsewhere were trying to find excuses for this caricature,  so long  as they thought it was genuine.  Such was the wave of enthusiasm for unrestrained freedom of speech.

I am not "Charlie", and nor am I any kind of apologist for the gunmen. Since they are dead, we don't know for sure what their motives were, or those of whoever sent them.  I don't buy the "lone nutters" theory, for these killers were either well-briefed and efficient, or very lucky, managing to strike at the CH office just when an editorial meeting was taking place. Perhaps if the French security services had been as effective at surveillance of those who'd already come on the radar, and stopping them getting guns, both the 'Charlie Hebdo' attack and the supermarket siege might have been prevented.

Still, I don't want to indulge in armchair detection, still less to be smug about those inferior French cops.  The two worst shooting incidents in Britain, at Hungerford (1987) and Dunblane(1996), were carried out by local characters, both white and neither of them Muslim, obsessed with guns, and with legally held firearms. Since then the law has been changed. But Nigel Farage, who blames events in France on "multiculturalism" , said last year that the restriction on hand guns should be scrapped. Maybe those journos who hang on Farage's every word should remind him and his fellow gobshites that culture and headscarves don't kill, guns do.

As for the disgusting media baron Rupert Murdoch, who wants us to hold all Muslims responsible for the killings in France, I don't recall him as a 'born-again Christian' apologising for the actions of his co-religionist Anders Breivik in Norway, any more than for the Inquisition, the Nazi Holocaust, or the massacres of mainly Muslim people at Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon, and Srebrenica in Bosnia, committed by men proud to wear the cross.  But I do remember that it was one of Murdoch's former minions, ex-Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, who blamed Breivik's victims, comparing the young people at a Norwegian Labour Party summer camp to Hitler Youth.

The gunmen who attacked 'Charlie Hebdo' were not "representatives of the oppressed", however, and there is no point in misguided leftists appointing themselves defence lawyers, and dragging in everything from bombing of Iraq to joblessness in France to "explain" if not exonerate the gunmen.
As for those who killed customers in a kosher supermarket, their crime did nothing for the Palestinians, but came as music to Mossad ears, boosting Netanyahu's effort to persuade Jews to leave France so he use them to reinforce his armed camp. The real hero of the day, and some would say, true Muslim, was the young shopworker Lassana Bathily, from Mali, who helped people hide and saved their lives.

Had the CH gunmen, or whoever sent them, really cared about France's Muslims, or been confident of their support, they could have mobilised a popular campaign against the paper's insults, instead of relying on guns. It might even have had longer-lasting results. But that would have involved convincing people, persuading them to act, and that their actions count. Once they are mobilised, they might want to take up other issues, like unemployment or exploitation. And as they gain confidence, and allies, they might be less likely to stay within the bounds of religion or outmoded authority. Who knows where it might end?

There are of course plenty of French Muslims and innigrants who are politically articulate and as capable of organising as anyone else. It is my guess that the last thing whoever planned these gun attacks wants is to encourage mass organisation or participation in politics. That two supposed heroes could find nowhere to hide among an estimated five million Muslims is significant. It also symbolises the kind of isolation their mentors would like to see imposed on the entire Muslim community.

That so many of my friends on the Left are torn between "free speech" fundamentalism and deferential respect for 'Charlie Hebdo''s intellectual pretensions on the one hand, and a
patronising assumption that the gunmen are legitimate expressions of an otherwise cowed,uneducated and inarticulate poor community on the other; with no attempt to look critically at either terror or bourgeois 'freedoms'.  These are two faces of the emptiness that lies today behind so much phrasemongering and "theoretical" erudition.

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At 12:24 PM, Anonymous London John said...

Best article on the subject I've seen.


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