How many here in the United States knew that name before yesterday?
Now we all know the name and that 12 are dead, and 11 are injured over freedom of the press and freedom of expression at a French satirical newspaper.
I remembered the name from the November 2011 fire-bombing of their offices after they ran a front page cartoon of the prophet Mohammed saying, “100 lashes if you are not dying of laughter,” while at the same time promising the revered religious figure would be the guest editor-in-chief for the next issue. The newspaper set off a fire storm literally and figuratively. It poked fun at all religions and had no sacred cows.
Their offices were burned out then, but the paper continued on.
Charb – the pen-name of the real editor-in-chief and famed cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier – told BBC that Islam could not be excluded from freedom of the press. “If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying.”
Charb was among those killed in yesterday’s attack.
Charb also felt that the 2011 bombing was the work of “idiot extremists” and not French Muslims. Unfortunately the people who shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” and “We have avenged prophet Mohammed,” were in fact home grown terrorists. Of the 3 suspected, 2 are brothers are from Paris and the other 1 is from Reims.
*Note* At the time this was published a Reuters correspondent named them as Said Kouachi, born in 1980, Cherif Kouachi, born in 1982, and Hamyd Mourad, born in 1996. A police source said one of them had been identified by his identity card which had been left in the getaway car.
Time and court will decide if these 3 are the culprits. But it raises the larger question of why and how this could happen, and what kind of people would do this?
The simplest answer is the straight line – the people who would do this hate the notion of others having the freedom to say what they’re thinking, especially if that idea offends them. I hate the fucking freedom card, but there it is in all its glory.
How this could happen? Well, now that’s a longer answer.
Part of that answer is ISIS, who has been around in various iterations since 1999. It is a group that pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda and propped up the insurgency in Iraq. And there’s the problem. The insurgency wouldn’t have existed if we hadn’t invaded a sovereign nation under false pretenses.
The invasion ruined their country and our finances. What a great deal for everyone involved.
The thing is, we went in, toppled a dictator that was no worse than most we deal with, and not as bad as some, and left an absolute vacuum of power when we offed him. That vacuum has led to the rise of the fine folks in ISIS, who want to return us to 10th century rule.
And now that beast is biting us in the ass.
Here’s the thing: It’s not enough to leave the extremists alone anymore and let them fight it out amongst themselves. They’ve brought the fight to Western Civilization. We won’t abandon our right to free speech or the right to practice religion (or not) under any circumstances. It’s the cornerstone of our societies. We swat down those who pretend otherwise. Although, I will admit that our own extremists pretend this is a Christian nation, but thankfully they are mostly overridden.
So, what happens then? It’s like watching a slow motion accident on ice – the cars slide toward each other and there’s no way to stop it. It goes forward and everything crashes together. That’s what’s going to happen here.
ISIS desperately wants a fight, and they’ll get it. They’ve been going at it asymmetrically, and it works for them right now. These things are horrifying and make us feel vulnerable, but ultimately they won’t win. When Western Civilization comes at them it will be with the wrath of technology and well financed nations.
They have neither the resources nor the power to win this round. But, it’s the collateral damage that’s worrying. They know they can’t win, but ISIS is only interested in creating chaos.
How we react is the big question. How are we, as Western Society, going to respond to the attacks and growing hostility from extremists who are not content to live their own lives in their own version of piousness, but instead insist that we live that way, too?
Will we push back against the extremists, or will we push against all Muslims?
I hope for the former and not the latter. We have enough needless hate in the world, we don’t need more. There are plenty enough people to actually fight against that we don’t need to make up more.
The only other thing I can say right now is:
Thank you Paris for caring.