07 January 2015

Je suis Charlie

They shouted "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad." Some useful idiot will claim it had nothing to do with religion. -- Richard Dawkins

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:

Lyon, France

Rennes, France

London, UK

Berlin, Germany

Barcelona, Spain

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.


Anonymous KanaW said...

I read the redstate Ron Paul posting. Aside from the gratuitous Obama-bashing, yes, I agreed also.

Off-topic addition:
Then like an idiot, I actually read a couple of other posts on redstate. I am here to tell you that I've lost 20 points off my IQ. 10 for each of the other posts I read before I managed to close the tab.

Those were some of the most bizarre A to B to 9 sequences I've ever read. I was sort of able to follow them from point A to point B, but how they got from B straight to 9 I don't know. They seemed to argue three subjects on both sides in every post.


Back on-topic:
I don't think I will ever understand how people can murder other people for something as arbitrary as 'blasphemy'.

So sad. My sympathies to the victims and their families and friends.

07 January, 2015 22:34  
Blogger Woody said...

Indeed, it will continue. We will keep hearing rather convincing talk from those in our countries, liberal or conservative, who have something to say about terrorism (particularly Islamic terrorism) performed in our back yards.
Hateful nuts keep blaming with blankets and annoying Muslim citizens at train stations and seemingly missing great points made here and by some of the thoughtful commentators on our television sets and radios.
Namby-Pamby, slimy slugs who think that extremism can be fought with love will keep piling on the crap which leads us all to question, again, and again, a fair balance between the freedom we love and the security we need.
What the fuck am I supposed to think!
What the fuck are any of us supposed to think!
Moderately religious folk are to be left well alone. Newcomers to our country are to be left alone and afforded as much if not more of the support and freedom that we love.
What is right?
The conservative inside me cries out ... rightfully.
The liberal inside me cries out ... rightfully.
But deep inside it's not about that, it's about how fucking slow authorities are to act and create laws against obviously foul threats to us. They are slow because they are so concerned about their 'spotless' reputation and how they may be perceived by their fucking voters.

I had to get all that out of my system, I appreciate your indulgence, Infidel.

All the best,

08 January, 2015 03:21  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

KanaW: RedState is generally tolerable only in small doses, or when they're bashing other Republicans for not being insane enough. I only read it to keep up my own awareness that, yes, there really are people like that out there.

A lot of Westerners find it hard to believe that anyone could commit murder out of religious outrage over blasphemy (see the update to the post). Really understanding that takes a grasp of religion which I think is out of reach for most secular people.

08 January, 2015 03:29  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Woody: It can't be fought with love, that's for sure -- not unless by "love" one means "giving in to every demand the terrorists make".

A backlash against peaceful Muslims or other Middle Easterners needs to be strongly discouraged and condemned, not because the terrorists were trying to provoke such a backlash (as the usual suspects are already claiming), but because they have nothing to do with the acts of these violent individuals and don't deserve to be targeted for them, any more than anyone else does.

Governments tend to react as ours did after 9/11, with more onerous security theater at airports and more spying on the internet, which does nothing to make us safer but protects politicians from accusations of "not doing anything". European countries have actually handled things better, by encouraging cooperation between police and Muslim communities against extremists. A lot of attacks have been prevented that way. Nothing is 100% effective, unfortunately.

It's hard to see what new laws could be passed which would be much help in situations like this. As I said, existing measures already prevent a lot of attacks. Hateful people do sometimes turn violent, and we can't keep armed guards around every newspaper office, movie theater, etc. The important thing is not to compromise our values of free expression. The goal of attacks like this is to intimidate. Showing the perpetrators that it works will encourage more of the same.

08 January, 2015 03:54  
Blogger Ahab said...

P.M. Carpenter's post reminds me of another important fact about extremists. Just as many people can't wrap their heads around the simple reasons why extremists kill, extremists rarely understand how their targets will react. Apparently, it never occurred to the gunmen that their violence would trigger global solidarity for Charlie Hebdo and strengthen people's resolve to resist extremism. Extremists, too, have trouble thinking outside of their own paradigms.

08 January, 2015 07:07  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

This piece by Jeffrey Taylor of Salon is worth reading:

"...we need to cease granting religion – and not just Islam – an exemption from criticism. If we do not believe the fables foisted on us (without evidence) by the faithful, we need to say so, day in and day out, in mixed company, and especially in front of children (to thwart their later indoctrination). We must stop according religion unconditional respect, stop deferring to men (and mostly they are men) who happen to preface their names with the titles of reverend or rabbi or imam, and de-sanctify the sacred, in word and deed.

Laughable absurdities – be they virgin births, parting seas, spontaneously burning bushes – deserve not oblique pardons (“We don’t have to take everything in the Bible literally”), but outspoken ridicule; courses in “religious studies” in campuses across the country might better be referred to as “lessons in harmful superstition, dangerous delusion, and volitional insanity.”

Sorry, hashtag activism – even the #WeAreAllCharlieHebdo campaign underway on Twitter – won’t do. To avert more deaths, we have to stand up in real — and sometimes risky — ways to noxious ideologies masquerading as salvific faiths. Pundits need to overcome their fear of being labeled “politically incorrect” and speak their minds. Politicians must come clean with their electorates and state, simply, “With Islam, we have a problem.” Better still, “We have a problem with religion. Let’s figure out how we are going to deal with it.”

Donahue, especially, needs to have these words: "We must stop according religion unconditional respect..." tattooed on his forehead. I'm sick of his nincompoopery on this subject.

08 January, 2015 10:01  
Blogger Woody said...

Hi Infidel,
i've just seen on TV, that the murderous terrorists in France have now taken at least one hostage. I have also learned that they have long been known by police as potential threats. One of them has already spent time in jail because he sought to travel and fight against American troops for Al Queada years ago.
The dickhead who pulled off the Sydney siege recently, who killed two Australians, who's name or image I would not dare to reveal (I wouldn't give the bastard that)
was also long known as an Islamic terrorism nut-bag, he first came to our country from Iran as a refugee.
He was quickly in trouble for writing offensive, abusive letters to the families of Australian service-men who had been killed in the mid-East. He was able to utilize our High court for his defence. A very expensive exercise that didn't save him but he got away with a slap on the wrist anyway. He was later charged with many indecent assaults when luring women with claims that he was a spiritual healer of some sort.
He got a slap on the wrist for this too and spent a lot of time ranting his nut-case hate on the internet, inciting a horrible version of Islamic hate that we are all getting to know better about.
He married a local Aussie girl who also indulged in anti-western messages on the internet.
He was receiving unemployment benefits for four years as all of this unfolded, the fucking grub.
Naturally he had been on a terrorism watch-list, an apparent list of concern to our legal authorities because of how he had conducted himself while here.
Over a year before his disgusting murderous actions in Sydney, he had somehow 'slipped off that list', whatever that means and however it had happened.

See what I mean about laws? Infidel? See what I mean about bestowing upon known crack-pots all the freedom we can give them?
And what is happening once we have done it?
This isn't about moderate Muslims, I couldn't care less about the seemingly nice, mature and responsible Muslims that live across the road from me, no more than I care about any of the other members of my community. I am a good (relatively quiet) neighbour to all of them.
This is about an apparent condition in our thoughts and common governmental policy practice that doesn't nearly provide the kind of protection to lawful citizen, here or in France, that they claim is their intention.
How many more will it take for the kind of change that I am calling for? Will it be a local body count that decides?
As unpopular as my words may be to many good, liberal souls, some of them are surely as disgusted as I am with the play we are seeing performed more and more these days in our local areas.
I know ... I know ... that rant was not very dispassionate of me, as is my usual desire and claim.

Thanks for letting me vent and ask some passionately driven questions,

09 January, 2015 03:59  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ahab: Very good point. And they're probably less easy to educate about the world outside their own mental bubble -- otherwise they wouldn't be extremists.

Shaw: Very true, and that's exactly what people like Hitchens, Dawkins, Condell, and (on a much smaller scale) me have been doing, despite the screeching from both fundies and accommodationists.

09 January, 2015 04:05  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Woody: It sounds like the problem is not with the laws but with the enforcement of them. He should not have been let off without serious punishment for harassing soldiers' families. He should have received appropriate penalties for assaulting women. The people in charge of the terrorism watch list should not have allowed him to "slip off" it. If those existing laws are not being enforced adequately, why should we think any new laws will be enforced any better?

I'm not saying new anti-terrorism laws are never the answer. Sometimes they are. But no system is capable of preventing 100% of violence in society, and I worry that we're in danger of crushing the life out of our free societies ourselves by trying to achieve that impossibility. The tendency of authoritarians to respond to public fear by enacting new measures that don't actually enhance safety, but give the state more power over individuals and access to their private information, is a long-standing and real problem. In the US it's been happening in very blatant ways.

What's proven most effective in Europe to prevent terror attacks is cooperation between the police and Muslim communities, which leads to a lot of useful tips. It works better than the kind of dramatic and draconian but ineffective laws that legislatures tend to pass under pressure from panicky constituents.

09 January, 2015 05:19  
Blogger Woody said...

Thanks Infidel, like me you want the best for everyone.
But as the live drama keeps rolling in France, I can't help but feel, didn't the pressure from masses of bleeding hearts help create the lax, all trusting atmosphere that has allowed those who have been shown already in the past to be clearly unhinged ass-holes, to get away with murder as easily as any of us citizens with no record to speak of?
People who were already on these so-called 'watch lists', who didn't somehow slip off it, are carrying guns into hostage situations.
Is it not a fair ask, that when someone is found guilty (by methodical assessment) of being a fucking extremist nut, that they immediately be considered as not worthy to walk our streets?
I see not just the good-hearted call for fairness, liberty and a pursuit of freedom, I see smarter ways to protect the people that trust us to protect them.
What do you see?


P.S. I am not known to any authority as a risk, so don't worry about me. I've got nothing to hide and no ancient vendettas to realize.

09 January, 2015 05:59  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I see smarter ways to protect the people that trust us to protect them.

That's what I'm talking about. Smarter ways, ways that have already been shown to work, as opposed to draconian new laws that won't be enforced any better than the existing ones, and to the extent that they are enforced, will damage the freedom we're trying to protect without making us any safer.

that when someone is found guilty (by methodical assessment) of being a fucking extremist nut, that they immediately be considered as not worthy to walk our streets?

Lock people up when they haven't committed a crime, based on somebody's assessment that they're potentially dangerous? If you can't see what handing that kind of power to the authorities would lead to, I have no words. Thanks, I'd rather take my chances with the terrorists.

09 January, 2015 06:26  
Blogger okjimm said...

someone is found guilty (by methodical assessment)......
Infidel....spot on. I would be so afraid of those who would make that assessment.....Least it someday be...Pat Robertson? Looney Gohmert...Chris Christie....

...we have courts of law that assess guilt...not vigilanties.

10 January, 2015 07:46  
Blogger Stupid Git said...

Your quote: "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."

While I agree with much of your excellent post I must respond to this one.

If you do not think they want a backlash you haven't been paying enough attention.

"All we have to do is send two mujaheddin [...] to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaeda" in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses." - Osama Bin Laden

As for America and it's reason for war, it's not hard to see our perpetual warfare has nothing to do with seeking peace. Currently our military is active in 74 countries.

A defensive mechanism is not something an individual uses to protect themselves from harm, it is something they use to protect their self from having to change. By using the same ineffectual technique time and again we prove our goal is not to have a different result but to perpetuate the conflict. Maybe that is not our conscious goal, but it is what we are doing. Same for them.

Terrorism is about being heard, about sparking fear, about claiming the other's attention. They want us to react, and like a good partner we do. And the cycle continues.

10 January, 2015 07:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Okjimm: I'm glad you get it. Courts can assess guilt when someone is suspected of having committed a crime, but letting anyone penalize people on the expectation that they might commit a crime in the future is opening the gates to totalitarianism.

SG: I don't think you understood the point. I was referring to claims that jihadists want to provoke a Western backlash against ordinary Muslims because they (the jihadists) want this to radicalize ordinary Muslims. Your response doesn't address that, and the claim is clearly false.

10 January, 2015 10:01  
Blogger The Shadowolf said...

...all those who quietly practice thier faiths should remember: My freedom of religion ends at YOUR front gate...
...but we HAVE to confront "religious" extremism, whether it be "Islamic" extremism or our own Reich-Wing Teahadist bunch...they both have similar MOs, similar intolerance...
I put Religious in quotes because terror groups, whether Al-Quada or the KKK have NOTHING to do with actual holy works...said works gotta be taken outta context, bent, twisted and misquoted to serve THEIR cause...
...cafeteria religions, picking and choosing the verses that might serve thier causes...me???
I call my own belief "Nonconformist Protestant" taking my "Marching Orders" directly from the teachings of Jesus Christ...
{The US Navy had a problem with that...I never got my dog tags}
I don't go to a church...don't need someone telling me what to believe...especially Political Preachers pushing a {mostly} reich-wing screed...

10 January, 2015 11:05  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shadowolf: Yes, extremists of whatever religion have that in common, that they don't accept that the writ of their religion stops anywhere, because it's the one and only true and righteous way of life, and any deviation from it by anyone else is intolerable -- as we see here, where Islamotards see fit to enforce their taboo on dissing Muhammad upon anyone, anywhere on Earth.

On the authenticity issue, though, I'm with Dawkins. It's bin Laden and the Taliban who are following the plain meaning of the Islamic doctrines, while it's the non-violent Muslims who have to distort those doctrines to make them fit into the pluralistic modern world. As for Christianity, I had my say on that here.

10 January, 2015 14:55  
Blogger Woody said...

I hear great concern for power given to government (as if they don't simply take enough of it already).
Likely this rises more angst and fear in some countries.
I hear concern about methodical assessment used by governments or systems of criminal management.
Fair assessment must be used, even if that word is not liked.
Anything like this must be methodical, even if that word is not liked.
Otherwise, if not methodical, it creates off-the-cuff conclusions completely open to the biases and whims of the assessors, something that should bother people of any persuasion more than orderly examination of evidence should!
I see a disgusting problem when those proven by their own words and deeds to incite hate in our communities, spread the foul doctrine of a violent religious extremism and publically rant against the lifestyle we hold dear, to be allowed to remain free in our country. If you don't see that , I have no words.

All the best folks!

10 January, 2015 18:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

No. If we start detaining people who haven't broken the law because we think they might break it in the future, then the West as we know it is already dead. End of discussion.

11 January, 2015 03:04  

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