It’s been a week since the Paris shootings and we’ve all had some time to think about what happened. Here are some things that have been bouncing around in my head:
Freedom of the Press is a sacred right in France, but we shouldn’t confuse that with free speech. In France, hate speech is prohibited. Holocaust denial is prohibited. Political candidates are not allowed to make disparaging remarks about other candidates. In fact, Charlie Hebdo has had several run-ins with the law over the years. A free press is a key to preventing totalitarian government, but it should respect that freedom and use it for its intended purpose. Mocking religious and political authority is a fair use of that freedom.
We also have a free press here in the U.S., but our news is “self-censored”. Organizations like the New York Times say they don’t print material when the author’s primary goal is offending others. They say that’s not news. It would be nice to think that such self-censorship is founded on lofty goals, but here in the U.S. we must always remember that reporting news is a business. Newspapers print what is good for business and censor what is bad for business. When they say they don’t want to offend, they mean their advertisers and subscribers. This is why you see Fox News offending just about everyone except their white audience— it’s good business for them. Newspapers and TV outlets tell people what they want to hear. That’s good for business, but not our democracy.
Many people, myself included, jumped on the “Je Suis Charlie” campaign to express fraternity with the staff at Charlie Hebdo. Additionally, many jumped on the “Je Suis Ahmed” campaign to express empathy with Muslims like Ahmed Merabet, the police officer who was murdered outside the Charlie offices. There was still a third campaign “Je Suis Juif” to express empathy for the French Jews after four Jews were murdered in a kosher supermarket on Friday. That last one got very little traction. While people are quick to associate themselves with murdered writers, cartoonists, and assimilated Muslims, not many will associate themselves with Jews. When Jews are murdered there is always an underlying assumption that they somehow deserved it— that they brought this on themselves. Pick your raison du jour, but this has been going on for 2,000 years. Perpetrators always feel their reason is authentic and unique, and thus there’s no reason to believe this ever will stop.
Some people have since rejected the “Je Suis Charlie” mantra, instead saying that they support free press but that Charlie has abused its privilege. Others say that citizens have no right not to be offended. If you don’t like what someone is saying, turn it off, don’t buy it, walk away. I find a certain amount of hypocrisy with Americans who say “je suis Charlie”, and yet are offended by just about everything. My FB and Twitter feeds seem like an endless stream of people and publications saying, “can you believe he said that?!!” Americans may be the most easily offended people on the planet, and so we invented political correctness. Everyday someone feels a need to apologize for something. Yesterday it was congressman who used the names Hitler and Obama in the same tweet. Don’t dare say you hate Brussels sprouts!
I find an interesting paradox with labeling of terrorism in America. If murders are committed by Muslims, they are terrorists. If a white man murders people at a Jewish community center, he committed a hate crime. If a white man detonates a pipe bomb at an NAACP office, he committed a hate crime. And if tea partiers murder cops in Las Vegas… well, we just pretend that never happened. The use of the different language is meant to say that Muslims all work together to terrorize Americans. Whereas, white racists who commit acts of terror are lone wolves who have mental illness of some kind. Was there ever any doubt that the goal of the KKK was to terrorize blacks, Jews, and Catholics? They still exist, and yet, our news organizations will not call them terrorists. Neither will our police and political leaders call them terrorists. At the Bundy Ranch in Nevada, tea partiers aimed automatic weapons at federal agents who were planning to evict them. No one called them terrorists. More self censoring and political correctness so that they don’t offend (whites).
Israeli PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu elbowed his way into the Paris march on Sunday. His motives are solely political. There is an upcoming election and it’s not clear how he will fare. So he was quick to associate himself with murdered Jews. Aside from using the massacre for campaign purposes, I was dismayed by his statements to French Jews that Israel is their home and they should leave France. Yes, of course, Jews all over the world know that they can flee to Israel when they are in danger. But the clear implication in his statement is that French Jews aren’t really French. This plays right into the hands of neo-fascist groups like Front National (FN) who claim that Muslims, Jews, and Roma aren’t really French. This Euro-tribalism is ominously spreading throughout Europe. It is even present in relatively progressive states like Sweden, where the Sweden Democrats party has about 14% of the parliament. By encouraging support for the FN, Bibi’s speech makes life more difficult for Jews who stay in France, but that is the least of his concerns.
The shootings in Paris won’t stop Charlie. They are already back in business. But it could further an exodus of Europe’s largest Jewish community. While Zionists call for all Jews to return to Israel, many Jews like life outside the walled city. And they are serving a purpose. Diaspora Jews have been labeled as the “canary in the coal mine”. That old phrase described miners using canaries to detect poisonous gas. The death of the canary signaled imminent danger to the miners. A mass exodus of French Jews could signal danger for all of France.