One thing I must make clear at the outset is that I view the taking of the life of another who poses no direct threat to your own life as a crime and a heinous one at that. It is as objectionable when it happens on the streets of Donbass, Baghdad, Tripoli or Gaza as it is when those who lose their lives are the staff of a French magazine. And that’s about as far as I am willing to go when it comes to adding my voice to the tidal wave of public mourning and righteous indignation that has swept over much of the globe over the past few days. You see, I just don’t buy into the narrative being provided by the establishment media, whether it is the lionising of staff of Charlie Hebdo as paragons of journalistic integrity or the official accounts of the events of January 7th.
Freedom of expression
Turning to the publication itself, even using the most liberal definition, Charlie Hebdo hardly qualifies as satire. Over the years, its output has been fairly consistent. Consistently infantile with pretensions to being juvenile. It contained none of the wit, sophistication or the ability to play with words and ideas that are the hallmarks of true satire.
At its best, Charlie Hebdo’s content rarely exceeded the level of scatological humour and often made attempts to plumb new depths of bigotry and insensitivity, such as when they published a cartoon portraying the young women used as sex slaves by Boko Haram as welfare queens, with the caption “The sex slaves of Boko Haram are angry. ‘Don’t touch our child benefits!”. Charlie Hebdo was offensive for the sake of being offensive and certainly not in order to further any high-minded ideals of freedom of speech.
In the tradition of Voltaire, I fully support their right to free expression, including the right to be utterly offensive, even if I found their work puerile, distasteful and lacking in any semblance of intelligence. Publishing any material, even that deemed offensive or given the dubious label of “hate speech”, should not result in a sentence, be it a prison sentence or death sentence.
Even though I support the right of the Charlie Hebdo staff (and anyone else for that matter) to say or publish things that might offend others, I do not, unlike some commentators, view the “journalists” of Charlie Hebdo as having been virtuous, uniquely courageous or bastions of freedom of expression. I don’t share the views of anti-muslim bigot Bill Maher who is on record as having said that the staff of the magazine had “the balls of the Eiffel Tower. Their balls were bigger than Gerard Depardieu.” After all, this is the same Charlie Hebdo whose editor forced Maurice Sinet, the contributor of a piece about Sarkozy’s son and a Jewish heiress, to apologise. This supposedly “anti-semitic” piece that slipped through Charlie Hebdo’s editorial net resulted in an outcry and much tut-tuting in high places. I’m sure many of those who expressed their anger and horror at the idea that Sinet’s piece made it into print are now shouting loudly from the rooftops in support of the “freedom of speech” ideals that the publication supposedly represented. In 2000, Charlie Hebdo journalist Mona Chollet was fired after she voiced her objection to an article penned by editor Phillipe Val that described the Palestinians as “non-civilized”. This much vaunted “courage” and attachment to freedom of expression on the part of Charlie Hebdo seems to have taken a leave of absence on those particular occasions.
Charlie Hebdo was far from successful before the events of the last few days, with a print run of just sixty thousand. As of November 2014, they were in deep financial trouble. Left to its own devices, the publication would have died a natural death as its readership dwindled to levels that made its continued existence utterly unsustainable. Now thanks to the actions of so-called “muslim extremists” the future of the publication has been assured, as Google France is reportedly paying for a print run of 1 million of the “survivors edition”. French newspapers have promised to donate another €250,000 via the Press and Pluralism Fund. And if that is not enough, an Algerian has offered to buy Charlie Hebdo in order to “defend freedom”.
The French government has also decided to contribute 1 million euro of taxpayer’s money to keep the publication going. In a country still reeling from the effects of austerity, I’m not sure the French government’s munificence will be welcomed by those who have been worst hit by the savage cuts and the continued moribund state of the French economy. I’m sure the French government would justify this expense as somehow making a stand for the French ideal of freedom of expression, but this does not wash.
France is among a group of countries that have criminalised the mere act of questioning the holocaust. Under the 1990 Gayssot Act, anyone who “disputes the existence of crimes against humanity”, specifically those attributed to Nazi Germany, can receive a sentence of anywhere between a month and a year and/or be subjected to a heavy fine. French officialdom is perfectly happy to deny Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala his right to freedom of speech using charges of incitement to racial hatred or by labeling him a “threat to public order”. No such charges were laid at the door of Charlie Hebdo.
It matters not whether questioning the Holocaust or expressing a dislike or even hatred of other races is “right” or “wrong”. Either a French citizen is free to speak their mind or they are not. Freedom of speech that takes place within the confines of state-sanctioned boundaries is nothing of the sort. It is the polar opposite of liberté. Legislation that explicitly protects one group of people from being offended while allowing and even encouraging the wholesale demonisation of another group makes a mockery of the ideal of égalité.
The corporate media were quick to attribute the attack to “radical islamists” and to claim that the attack on Charlie Hebdo was due to their publication of a cartoon depicting ISIS chief and Mossad asset Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The only problem is that the image was tweeted a little over an hour before the attack took place, which suggests that those who carried out the attack knew well in advance that the image was going to be published on Twitter or that this cartoon was not the reason for the attack. Take your pick.
I’m more inclined to believe the former to be the case, and that the events of January 7th bear many of the hallmarks of a staged, Gladio-style operation, particularly given the rapidity with which “spontaneous” outpourings of solidarity appeared within hours of the shootings, as crowds gathered on the streets of European capitals, carrying what appear to be identical placards bearing the words “Je suis Charlie” in ISIS-style white on black. The rapid trending of the Twitter #jesuischarlie hashtag in the hours following the shootings are also suggestive of an orchestrated campaign.
In common with other such staged events, the suspects were apparently already known to intelligence services, who, once again, just happened to fail to anticipate their moves and prevent the carnage. Even if (and it is a big if) the perpetrators were truly radicialised Muslims and not just patsies, this could easily be yet another case of LIHOP, or “let it happen on purpose”.
The perpetrators seem to have had prior knowledge that there would be an unusually large number of people present in the building. A member of staff at Charlie Hebdo told French daily Le Monde that the attackers must have been informed that an editorial meeting was scheduled to take place that day, because at any other time there are not many people on the premises.
A security detail consisting of two police officers who had been assigned to protect editor and cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier for the past several years were present in the building and tackled the gunmen. Both were shot, one fatally. However, additional police protection that was normally present outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo and that could have prevented the assailants from entering the building was nowhere to be seen. Why was that?
Witnesses to the attack described the perpetrators as displaying a degree of skill and composure that “comes only from advanced military training”. Another witness further reinforces this image of the assailants as trained professionals when he noted “At first I thought it was special forces chasing drug traffickers or something.” This is echoed by security analysts Stratfor, who stated that the perpetrators were clearly well-trained “from the way they handled their weapons, moved and shot”. Simply put, there is no way a “radicalised” young person would develop such “skill” (and I use the term loosely) in the relatively small amount of time they spent marauding on the borderlands between Iraq and Syria. The expert marksmanship exhibited by the attackers and the calm, detached manner in which they went about their business suggest years of military training.
One element of the attack that makes no sense, except to further promote the narrative of muslims as rocket-launcher wielding crazies, is the inclusion of a rocket launcher amongst the weaponry brought by the assailants into Charlie Hebdo’s offices. Who in their right mind brings a rocket launcher along when carrying out an assassination?
Outside the building, the assailants were tackled by police, one of whom was reported to have run directly at the attackers before being shot and wounded by them. One of the attackers then appears to execute him with a shot to the head. The trouble is that neither the shots that apparently wounded the policeman nor the shot to the head that purportedly resulted in his death resulted in any loss of blood, as the video below shows.
Note that Youtube has been taking down this video as fast as people are uploading it, supposedly because it violates Youtube’s policy on “violent and disgusting content”. The video above is hosted on Liveleak, but may also be removed from there, so readers are urged to make their own copy.
Just to make sure that everyone knew who to blame for the attack, the perpetrators told a man in the street: “Tell the media that this is Al-Qaeda in Yemen.” Not the bogeyman-du-jour, the Islamic State, or ISIS, but a bogeyman from yesteryear, “The Toilet” or Al-Qaeda.
Before fleeing the scene, one of the attackers helpfully left their ID, in a plot element reminiscent of the “magic passports” of 9/11. However, it was not long before the owner of the ID had turned himself into police, with his friends claiming that he couldn’t have been present at the attacks, given that he was in class with them at the time.
The attackers escaped in a black Citroen, which is a strange choice of getaway vehicle in a city renowned for heavy and slow traffic. A motorcycle or scooter is the getaway vehicle of choice for such situations, usually paired up with a car conveniently left within easy access of a motorway.
Speaking of heavy traffic, the street in the middle of which the gunmen left their getaway vehicle appeared curiously empty for a working day in the centre of Paris. Anyone who knows Paris knows that there is no street in the centre of the city that isn’t wall-to-wall traffic on a working day.
The number of dead has continued to rise in the aftermath of the siege and shootout that reportedly resulted in the deaths of two of the attackers. One of the police assigned to investigate the Charlie Hebdo incident, Helric Fredou, apparently took his own life before completing his investigation.
Cui bono? (To whose benefit?)
One useful indicator as to who is behind such events is to look at who ultimately benefits. So who benefits from the mayhem in Paris? Is it the Muslim community, in France, or world-wide? Is it those who find Charlie Hebdo’s output offensive and puerile? No.
The Muslim community is now the target of a number of reprisal attacks and an increasing level of vitriol, ranging from demands to deport followers of the religion to calls for their mass annihilation. The fallout from the events of January 7th have further marginalised France’s Muslim community and made them potential targets for collective punishment, showing more than ever that French ideal of fraternité is little more than an word devoid of any real meaning.
Far from becoming a small footnote on the pages of history, as the publication’s dwindling revenues suggest would soon be the case, the future of Charlie Hebdo and its blatantly offensive, juvenile output is now guaranteed. It has gone from being something of marginal interest within France to a name that is familiar to half the planet.
Those who want to continue the propagation of the “crazy islamists” meme are the main beneficiaries. Chief among them is Benjamin Netanyahu who warned the French leader back in November of 2014 that “Recognition of a Palestinian state by France would be a grave mistake.” In December, France, along with a number of other nations, voted to recognise the legitimacy of the Palestinian state. What transpired on January 7th could well be payback for that decision. It may not be, but as things stand, it is the most plausible explanation. The “crazy islamists” meme is the very lifeblood of the Israeli state. It is the very existential threat that keeps its citizens united and stops it from falling apart. It also keeps the money flowing out of the pocketbooks of the US taxpayer and into the coffers in Tel Aviv.
Other clues as to who the beneficiaries are will emerge in coming days. Watch for legislation that expands the powers of the surveillance state and that seeks to muzzle those who dare to question the official narrative. Don’t be surprised if this “emergency” legislation is sufficiently detailed that it could not reasonably have been drafted in the time between January 7th and date when it is tabled for debate, because in all likelihood, it will have been prepared well in advance. After all, the solution to the “attack on freedom” on September 11th 2001 was to launch an all-guns-blazing attack on freedom by means of the Patriot Act, so we can only expect that the solution to this “attack on freedom of speech” will come in the form of an all-out attack on freedom of speech.
No, I’m most definitely not Charlie
While I will always condemn cold-blooded murder, no matter who the perpetrator or victim is, I refuse to become Charlie. For a start, I am unable to attribute any more significance to the deaths at Charlie Hebdo than I do to the deaths of civilians in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Gaza or Eastern Ukraine (to name a few), whose people are losing their lives on a daily basis, but whose deaths don’t warrant coverage in the establishment news media, let alone deemed worthy of a trending Twitter hashtag or a prefabricated display of public outrage.
I am unwilling to go along with the calls for collective punishment, that is, punishing an entire people or group for the actions of a few, as I view them as repugnant and barbarian. I am no more willing to blame all Muslims for deplorable actions that may have been carried out by a few amongst them than I am willing to blame all Jewish people for those despicable things that are done in the name of their religion and/or in the name of the state of Israel.
I am not Charlie and never will be.