Je suis Charlie
After today's eruption of religious barbarity in Paris, protesters and bloggers around the world are declaring "Je suis Charlie" in defiant assertion of the supreme right of free expression. P M Carpenter has been particularly insightful:
I needn't point out the irony, but I will. Earlier on CNN I heard a correspondent note that Charlie Hebdo is a meagerly read publication. That won't be the case for long. Islamist extremists have done for the weekly paper what years of other publicity efforts could never do: They have made it an internationally known martyr to the sanctity of free expression. What was once obscure scribbling is now an honored monument to the folly of religious violence and ignorant censorship.
Read him also on the Dawkins tweet above and on the hypocrisy of calls for self-censorship. From Iran, Kaveh Mousavi reminds us not to let Islam off the hook. Green Eagle re-posts the cartoon that started it all. Frank Moraes points out some inconsistencies in the jihadist attitude. And here's a collection of cartoonists' responses.
This, on the other hand, led me to do two things I never imagined possible -- to despise Ron Paul even more than I already did, and to agree with a RedState posting. Many actual Muslims (predictably not including extremists such as ISIS) condemned the attack. Huge crowds demonstrated for free expression not only in Paris (image above) but many other cities:
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Let no one doubt that we have the resolve to assert our rights against these thugs. And never forget that such murders are not the actions of those who are confident. This is the lashing-out of fanatics who know they are losing the culture war -- not just in Europe, but in the Middle East itself. They are standing athwart history yelling "Stop, or we'll kill you!" They will fail.
Update 1: We're already seeing some of the predictable reactions that bubble up from predictable quarters every time something like this happens. There are the Islam apologists pointing fingers of distraction in all directions, essentially saying "this, that, and the other thing are as bad or worse, so let's talk about that instead". They are trying to draw attention back toward problems originating within their own societies, which they feel more comfortable talking about, or to shut down discussion of the specifically Islamic nature of this particular atrocity. They can simply be dismissed with the contempt they deserve.
Then there are those who claim the attack was some sort of jiu-jitsu maneuver whose goal was to provoke a backlash against Islam and drive Muslims generally into the arms of the extremists, rather than what the attackers plainly intended -- an act to punish blasphemy and deter any more of it. This is related to the kind of narcissism I posted about here and that Sam Harris observed in the wake of similar reactions after 9/11 -- secular Westerners find it very hard to grasp that religious fanatics act out of motives of religious fanaticism (even when they say in plain language what they're doing), and thus search for some underlying "real" reason for the attacks which makes sense in secular Western terms rather than in the terms meaningful to the people who actually carried out the attacks. There's also a natural tendency for a writer to claim that whatever reaction he himself would most object to is what the terrorists wanted, as a tactic for discouraging that reaction.
Sorry, but violence by Islamic fanatics is not meant to "provoke a backlash" any more than violence committed by the US (or any other country) in wartime is. The purpose of violent attacks like this is to create "shock and awe" and intimidate the target into abandoning whatever behavior the assailants object to -- in this case, exercising our freedom of expression. In defying this, it's the protesters above, not the people who are tying themselves in knots by over-thinking something that is actually quite simple, who are reacting appropriately.
Update 2: The equally predictable and even more revolting blame-the-victim response has begun too, from a not-unexpected quarter.