Je Suis Charlie

Over the weekend, three to four million people showed up on the streets of Paris to express their sympathy for, and solidarity with, the cartoonists and editors of a satirical newspaper called Charlie Hebdo, who had been murdered by Islamic extremists.

Many carried signs reading Je Suis Charlie – I am Charlie. If that were only the case, but it is not. Perhaps it made them feel better but, if so, Charlie Hebdo would likely have mocked the hypocrisy and called bullshit deservedly.

The crowd was 50 to 60 times the circulation of Charlie Hebdo so, even if they had carried signs reading Je Lis Charlie – I read Charlie — it would not have been true. For most, especially Americans, the story of Charlie Hebdo was learned after the fact, like reading the obituary of an unheard-of public figure. I am in that number.

Next week Charlie Hebdo will publish 1 million copies and, chances are, they will sell out as collectors’ items. But, how many copies will Charlie Hebdo publish next month or next year? Likely, far fewer and that will tell us the sad truth that the Charlie Hebdo story had no legs. It did not capture our fleeting attention long enough for the lessons to take hold.

Our loss.

Charlie Hebdo was good at calling bullshit on those who deserved it. Since it is a left-wing newspaper, the right found itself in the crosshairs far more often than their opponents, but politicians of every stripe were lampooned by the sharpest of pens and brushes.

The murderers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, have been killed. An accomplice, Amedy Coulibaly, has also being killed after taking hostages in a kosher grocery store. His wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, seems to have escaped to Syria. Three out of four is better than nothing.

In an interview available on YouTube, the question was “peut on encore rire de tout?” – can we still laugh at everything? Unsurprisingly, the Charlie Hebdo editor’s answer was yes, but to the likes of Kouachi, Coulibaly and Boumeddiene that is not the case.

Obviously, the three or four killers are at fault for what they did, but they are not the leaders of radical Islam. Those leaders bear responsibility for the recruitment and training of the on-the-ground terrorists who serve only their own personal interests. These are not philosophers. These are not religious leaders. These are politicians who recognize the value of using stupid people to increase their own stature.

Those who do not wish to live with the possibility of periodic Charlie Hebdo massacres have little recourse against the terrorist leaders themselves. Where we do have recourse is against our own leaders who, in the name of inclusiveness, political correctness, tolerance or understanding, fail to call bullshit and take appropriate action.

Don’t look for any senior American officials among the world leaders who gathered in Paris. They were not there. After scathing criticism in the news and on social media, the White House has acknowledged that it made a mistake by not sending anyone.

Fumbling the optics is one thing but fumbling the solution is another. Western leaders, not least our own, bear significant responsibility for encouraging a climate in which barbarism is tolerated.

Please don’t say or think “Je Suis Charlie” unless and until it is actually true. For most it isn’t and never will be.

And that is truly our loss.


9 Responses to “Je Suis Charlie”

My sister helen, January 12, 2015 at 10:51 pm said:

Brilliant, Haven. This terrorist act just might have the legs needed to wake up the world. It’s certainly getting more attention than other atrocities, probably because it was aimed at the press. The U.S. official response was shockingly weak. Holder couldn’t walk the few blocks? They did fine without the U.S. cowards.
Nous sommes tous Charlie!
Tous excepte Obama et ces copains.


Haven Pell, January 12, 2015 at 10:53 pm said:

Good point about the increased reaction because it was directed against the press.


SellersMcKee, January 13, 2015 at 3:53 am said:

From some things I have read, I am not and never would have “been Charlie.” A loss? Probably not, at least if Charie’s banality and nihilism reported in some columns is true. It is also true this story has no legs (our own President attacks the First Amendment and the press regularly), and I do not care enough to fully investigate, but regardless can appreciate Charlie’s reported attacks on “bullshit,” even if overtly partisan. Seems to me that partisan attacks on bullshit are self-disqualifying, but that’s just me. If something is bullshit, it deserves to be called out regardless of origin.
Whatever the case may be, the magazine’s staff did not deserve what it got, but can they or we express surprise?
By the way, I read something about Obama’s having not too long ago called out Charlie on his attacks against the Prophet, but nothing about his attacks on “conservative” values or his nihilistic world-view. Again, I don’t have the facts, but would not be surprised, and if true, might help us understand the apparent absurdity of Obama’s MIA status yesterday. That and the NFL play-offs…


Russ Merriam, January 13, 2015 at 3:56 am said:

Sometimes I think you are the only sane voice on Facebook. In general, I am a passive Facebook participant, but every once in a while, I have to say “Bravo”.


Haven Pell, January 13, 2015 at 4:23 am said:

Thank you Russ. Tell your friends.


Dale Jenkins, January 13, 2015 at 11:58 pm said:

A brilliant piece, Haven. Everyone should see the Joe Lieberman op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning, Jan. 13. We as a world civilization can’t play defense. I think Lieberman is correct when he says the moderate and constructive elements must come together on a global basis to fight this evil – including the moderate Moslem leaders.

The moderate Moslem leaders have a way of not bring outspoken, and this allows the radicals to become the face of Islam. Leaders seen at this huge outpouring in France must take this outpouring and mobilize an international movement to isolate the radicals and not provide safe haven anywhere. Of course, when ISIS takes over a territory that may not be so easy, but in other areas a coalition of nations would be a powerful force. With that as a first step, ISIS and other radical elements would be increasingly isolated and diminished.

France in particular has a civil rights problem. Just as the US brought African people here as slaves, and only later gave them citizenship. France colonized countries and eventually gave those residents rights, including emigration to France. But the Moslem ghettos outside Paris and other areas of France are way behind the progress in civil rights compared to the US. France needs to look internally, and it is going to be a massive adjustment to reconcile the aftermath of their colonial period


Haven Pell, January 14, 2015 at 12:06 am said:

Thank you for a thoughtful comment, Dale


SellersMcKee, January 14, 2015 at 1:44 am said:

All is forgiven? We have to call out Charlie for the bullshit this time. Wonder how the families of the slaughtered staff feel about that? The remaining staff recasts itself as Jesus or the Pope and forgives sin? I’m too stupid to understand all this. I do know that the Muslim terrorists want to exterminate us and all traces of our culture. Are we just going to roll over with a bunch of rhetoric and talk show blather or are we going to do something about it? Obama just promised Pakistan another billion, so I guess we have our answer. It has to be the first time in history a country has “knowingly” aided and abetted it’s own demise.
Not sure I understand Dale’s last comment about civil rights in France. Seems to me they gave their former colonials a tremendous opportunity to join the modern world, but were surprised to learn they had actually invited the Trojan Horse into their midst. They are reaping the whirlwind. You bring in millions of people who have a world-view typical of the dark ages and expect what? All will be just fine? And somehow the civil rights of these people are more important than the safety and rights of “real” French? This will not end well…


Dale Jenkins, January 25, 2015 at 1:37 pm said:

Just a brief addendum about the jihadist leaders who recruit stupid people to carry out the plots. What is their real motivation? The deep-down core incentive? Some self-appointed experts consider this incident and others to be random attacks against Western civilization which they hate.

I think it is something else. I think it is the beginnings of an attempt to impose Sharia Law on the whole planet. It’s the beginning of the world-wide caliphate, which will run the world according to Sharia Law. A violation of Sharia Law, like an insult to the Prophet, will require retribution. Forget about free speech. We have our laws and they have theirs. They think they are justified in enforcing their laws anywhere. Understand Sharia Law and likely targets will be identified.

What do others think?


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