Statement on Charlie Hebdo

It is always sad to witness the murder of journalists. Killing the messenger is never a solution if you don’t like the message.

The murder of 10 Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists by Islamic extremists was a violent hate crime with no justification.

The perpetrators of this outrage seek to clothe themselves in the garb of Islam and claimed to carry out the murders in the cause of defending the Prophet.

They failed in that aim.

Instead, all that the murderers have achieved is to strengthen the resolve of Western powers to prosecute their own war on the people of Aghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

Intensifying the US-led bombing raids (in which Australia is a willing participant) against Da’esh or pouring more Western military aid into the hands of illegitimate governments in Yemen and the Arabian peninsula, will not reduce the threat of further attacks like that against the French satirical magazine.

Only three things are certain as a result of the Charlie Hebdo incident:

1. Western governments will use it as an excuse to continue prosecuting the so-called “War on Terror”, which, by all reasonable accounts is an abject failure and the major cause of increased terrorist attacks inside Western nations

2. Despite all the moralistic outrage gushing from the pages of Western newspapers and dripping from the lips of Western politicians our freedom of speech, our freedom of assembly and our freedom of thought will be further curtailed by the so-called guardians of liberty.

3. The hypocrisy of those in the West now calling for the re-publication of some of Charlie Hebdo’s more racist and vilifying cartoon front pages will know no boundaries; but they will pretend it doesn’t exist.

Charlie Hebdo was no saint. But satire alone is not a defence for racism and misogyny

Charlie Hebdo was no saint. But satire alone is not a defence for racism and misogyny

I will attempt to explain these three points quickly and then link to some of the better commentary on the issue.

It is the war on terror that means we are not safe

The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, despite being a Rhodes scholar, is not renowned for his grasp of subtlety, nor his vast intellect.

As a general rule he knows to reduce everything to a lowest common denominator sound-bite and when an event as complex as Charlie Hebdo comes along, that is exactly what he can be relied on to do.

According to Abbott, terrorists attack because they do not like “our way of life”; this plays nicely into the narrative that terrorism is an “existential” threat to the West and it deliberately ignores the long-recognised truth that the threat of terror attacks is directly linked to the 15 year war that started with the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and that was extended in 2003 to an occupation of Iraq that has killed an estimated 500,000 Iraqis.

Since the middle of 2014 the Western war in the Middle East has again been extended into western Syria. Western troops have been on the ground continuously in Afghanistan since 2001 and Iraq since 2003. Western forces from many nations have committed war crimes–far more than the handful that have been reported and punished. Hundreds have been locked up in Guantanamo Bay without trial; hundreds have been subject to torture–not just Abu Ghraib, but in renditions to all parts of the world.

Men, women and children have died in their thousands from gunshot wounds, airiel bombardment and from preventable diseases that have resurfaced in the wake of poverty; a lack of clean drinking water and basic shelter. Hundreds of thousands of children have had their development disrupted by these various military adventures as schools, hospitals and homes are systematically destroyed.

Now, we send drones after them and indiscriminately kill more civilians in the name of defending them from terrorism. Is it any wonder that millions in the region think we are the terrorists?

We are, in all probability these drone attacks are illegal and constitute war crimes, ie they are ACTS OF TERRORISM

Now we need more vigilant!

You’ve seen the pictures and video of hundreds of heavily armed cops and soldiers on the streets of Paris. Get used to it. Life in most big Western cities is going to become even more militarised in coming weeks and months.

There will be more body searches at airports, more CCTV cameras on every street corner and more general surveillance of our lives, phones and social media presence.

Every terrorist attack–no matter where and no matter how trivial–leads automatically to calls for more power to be given to the security state as fear is ramped up by the alarmist tabloids and by the well-paid liberal shills in the so-called quality press too.

The common response from political leaders - less freedom of movement

The common response from political leaders – less freedom of movement

These people know that they don’t have anything to fear. Their comfortable bourgeois lives will not be too harshly interrupted, but for anyone who works and travels around the city for a living will be affected.


Make no mistake. You are being monitored.

Don’t laugh, we’re Jewish

Only one of these panels is remotely funny!

Only one of these panels is remotely funny!

Then, of course there is the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel and most recently Israel’s deliberate destruction of Gaza.

Israel’s attacks on Gaza were a genocide that did not generate the same moral discomfort among those who now shout the loudest about the Charlie Hebdo outrage.

Israeli forces killed at least 15 journalists during their 2014 incursion into Gaza. I don’t remember the outrage last time. One of the few organisations to protest was Index on Censorship.

The pumped up little Hitlers at The Australian didn’t give a toss at the time and that newspaper’s chief op-ed cartoonist Bill Leak was feted for his racist anti-Arab cartoons too.

Oh how we laughed at his keen sense of satire. Do you remember this one?

1428_leakOr this one:


Apparently, this is just funny, no racial stereotyping going on here.

But, do you also remember the outrage when this cartoon was published?

1428_lelievreThis cartoon, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, caused the Australian Jewish lobby to burst a gasket. The paper apologised and said publication had been a mistake.

But compare this to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and then try to explain to me why they are OK and “satire” while this one by Glen Le Lievre is racist, anti-Semitic and NOT FUNNY.

Now, the exact same champions of the double standard are calling for the republication of cartoons offensive to Muslims on the grounds that blasphemy is important and a cornerstone of free speech.

At least we know where the NewsCorpse zombies get their ideas from:

murdoch tweets

Here’s some news — get the f–k over your self-important “my s–t don’t stink” hubris and admit that either:

a) you were wrong to complain about the Le Lievre cartoon, or

b) you are a hypocrite, or

c) most likely both.

Still not sure how you should respond to this? Well, let me introduce you to Glenn Greenwald, he has made it quite clear.

I Like what Greenwald writes on The Intercept and he’s also published lots more blasphemous cartoons for your viewing pleasure (or to further your outrage if that’s the path you choose).

Here’s a taster:

Is it time for me to be celebrated for my brave and noble defense of free speech rights? Have I struck a potent blow for political liberty and demonstrated solidarity with free journalism by publishing blasphemous cartoons? If, as Salman Rushdie said, it’s vital that all religions be subjected to “fearless disrespect,” have I done my part to uphold western values?

When I first began to see these demands to publish these anti-Muslim cartoons, the cynic in me thought perhaps this was really just about sanctioning some types of offensive speech against some religions and their adherents, while shielding more favored groups. In particular, the west has spent years bombing, invading and occupying Muslim countries and killing, torturing and lawlessly imprisoning innocent Muslims, and anti-Muslim speech has been a vital driver in sustaining support for those policies.

So it’s the opposite of surprising to see large numbers of westerners celebrating anti-Muslim cartoons – not on free speech grounds but due to approval of the content. Defending free speech is always easy when you like the content of the ideas being targeted, or aren’t part of (or actively dislike) the group being maligned.

Glenn Greenwald

Nah, I don't get it!

Nah, I don’t get it!

And if you are genuinely concerned about freedom of speech and want to protest against barbarism in the Arab world, then do something about this little problem.

That hurts doesn’t it. Go on, go to Get Up right now and start a petition to save this man’s life.

Tweet your life away with the hashtag #jesuisraifbadawi

Feel better? I don’t care!

Imperialism 101

You think that Islamic extremists kill cartoonists because they hate the Enlightenment and the fact that McDonald’s is not Halal?

Don’t be so stupid. Don’t fall for the lies of your government and its paid shills in the mainstream media and the halls of academe.

Pick up a history book and learn something of political economy.

And, in particular understand the bloody history of imperialism.

Here’s a piece by the world’s best non-Arabic journalist on Middle East affairs, Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent:

Algeria. Long before the identity of the murder suspects was revealed by the French police – even before I heard the names of Cherif and Said Kouachi – I muttered the word “Algeria” to myself. As soon as I heard the names and saw the faces, I said the word “Algeria” again. And then the French police said the two men were of “Algerian origin”.

For Algeria remains the most painful wound within the body politic of the Republic – save, perhaps, for its continuing self-examination of Nazi occupation – and provides a fearful context for every act of Arab violence against France. The six-year Algerian war for independence, in which perhaps a million and a half Arab Muslims and many thousands of French men and women died, remains an unending and unresolved agony for both peoples. Just over half a century ago, it almost started a French civil war.

Yes, those wonderful Gallic heroes of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité have blood on their hands too. There is a new civil war in Algeria which is pitting French fascists against a local Islamist-led insurgency. This has as much to do with Charlie Hebdo as Da’esh and Al Qaida in the Arab Peninsula.


Don’t be a right(wing) Charlie

So, you think that, for a few minutes, hours or days, you can be Charlie Hebdo?


Think about it again. Do you really want to be?

Have you actually checked out the magazine’s editorial policies? Have you downloaded and translated all the cartoons that you can’t quite understand?

Have you checked the bios of the Charlie staff — do you really want to be them?

Perhaps not.

Maybe #jesuicharlie is just a way of expressing sympathy or a sort of poorly-understood solidarity.

Or maybe, to give you credit for your own thinking, you actually are like that.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. If you think you need to be Charlie Hebdo in order to be outraged at the murder of 10 journalists, some police officers and a some unlucky shoppers, then you need to read this.

You don’t have to be Charlie to show solidarity, but you do have to know what you are solidarising with.

paper birdTo abhor what was done to the victims, though, is not the same as to become them. This is true on the simplest level: I cannot occupy someone else’s selfhood, share someone else’s death. This is also true on a moral level: I cannot appropriate the dangers they faced or the suffering they underwent, I cannot colonize their experience, and it is arrogant to make out that I can. It wouldn’t be necessary to say this, except the flood of hashtags and avatars and social-media posturing proclaiming #JeSuisCharlie overwhelms distinctions and elides the point. “We must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day,” the New Yorker pontificates. What the hell does that mean? In real life, solidarity takes many forms, almost all of them hard. This kind of low-cost, risk-free, E-Z solidarity is only possible in a social-media age, where you can strike a pose and somebody sees it on their timeline for 15 seconds and then they move on and it’s forgotten except for the feeling of accomplishment it gave you. Solidarity is hard because it isn’t about imaginary identifications, it’s about struggling across the canyon of not being someone else: it’s about recognizing, for instance, that somebody died because they were different from you, in what they did or believed or were or wore, not because they were the same. If people who are feeling concrete loss or abstract shock or indignation take comfort in proclaiming a oneness that seems to fill the void, then it serves an emotional end. But these Cartesian credos on Facebook and Twitter — I am Charlie, therefore I am — shouldn’t be mistaken for political acts.

Finally, we need to be reminded that terrorism comes in many forms and flavours.

A couple of days before Charlie Hebdo took all our attention, the headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Colorado Springs, Colorado was firebombed. The FBI consider this a terrorist attack.

The largest terrorist attack in Europe for many years was carried out by Anders Brevik who killed 77 young people in Norway in 2011. Everybody said Brevik was sick and a monster, nobody blamed the entire Christian religion for his crimes. In fact, the mad mayor of London, Boris Johnson actively discounted Brevik’s own ideological manifesto to claim he was “just” a mentally-ill young man. Anyone who attempted to defend the Charlie Hebdo killers along those lines would be howled down.

Seek out the sensible and avoid the Stupid

It is easy on the inter-webs to find lots of Stupid.

Much of it comes in the form of ill-advised and poorly-constructed journalism as practised by the mainstream media.

Read and view their coverage with a large dose of the skeptical salts.

But, if you look and read with some discernment, you will find loads of sensible too.

Here’s a brief list that compliments the links above:

We should condemn the Paris killers, but that doesn’t mean we must circulate the work of Charlie Hebdo. You can uphold their right to safety without endorsing the racialised stereotypes they published, writes Jeff Sparrow.

Jeff Sparrow writing in The Drum

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.

Why David Brooks of the New York Times is not Charlie Hebdo

Be careful that your support for #jesuischarlie doesn’t lead you into the arms of the racists who will attempt to capitalise on this sad event.

Don’t just knee-jerk your way through this. If Fox News says something that sounds right to you, go away and check it. If you don’t you will end up making another contribution to the Stupid.

When you are reading the thundering editorials claiming the “right” to satirise Islam with offensive stereotyping and caricatures that would not be tolerated if they were about Jews, remember too the story of Steven Salaita.

No job, no future, NOT FUNNY

No job, no future, NOT FUNNY

Being recruited for a tenured faculty position at a major university is no small feat, nor should it be; tenure represents the pinnacle of an academic career. In my case, it involved numerous interviews with faculty in the American Indian studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an intensive review of my scholarship, pedagogy and professional service.

I survived this rigorous review and, having accepted an employment offer from the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, resigned my tenured position at another university and prepared my family to move. A few weeks before classes were to start, and without any warning, I received a letter from the chancellor, Phyllis Wise, informing me of my termination.

How did this happen?

Where were the heroes of free speech when it came to defending his job and his right to speak?

What is satire

Many people have come to the defence of Charlie Hebdo by arguing that it is “satire” and therefore should be acceptable as a form of political humour.


Some have even gone so far as to say we need more blasphemy and anti-religious satire, not less.

This is from Cass Mudde writing on Open Democracy:

So, how do we move forward in a constructive manner, strengthening our liberal democracies rather than weakening them by authoritarian knee jerk reactions. Rather than narrowing freedom of speech further, by limiting it to ‘civil’ speech or by broadening anti-discrimination legislation even more, we should live up to our slogans and truly embrace freedom of speech for all, including anti-Semites and Islamophobes! Similarly, we should criticize and satirize all, from atheists to Christians, from Jews to Muslims, and from Greens to the far right. This requires not only that we all speak out against extremists, but also that we defend those who take them on… even before they get threatened or even killed.

This seems like a noble argument and one that not many people could disagree with, but there is a reason to quibble.

As a political weapon satire works best when its targets are the pompous and the powerful. That is how it was first intended and now its most effective handlers have disemboweled their targets.

Oscar Wilde was very good with satire and even used it effectively against journalists.

Unfortunately the thin-skinned preciouses at Newscorpse can’t take a joke, so don’t try it on them.

However, when satire is aimed at stereotyped and racialised targets — who are usually the least powerful and most marginalised in any society — then it loses its humour and political bite. It becomes (and this is what happened to Charlie Hebdo) a vicious and nasty form that humiliates weak targets on behalf of a powerful cultural opponent.

This cartoon by Joe Sacco is a good summary


That was a bit of a marathon, well done. If you’ve done this before you know that EM always rewards diligent readers with a musical treat.










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