I’ve taken down the original version of this post because after further considering Charlie Hebdo’s output, the circumstances surrounding the shootings, and the extremely varied responses to Charlie Hebdo and the shootings among people with Muslim backgrounds, I became increasingly unhappy with it.
I have reached the conclusion that my original emphasis on hate speech, and the right of people to fight hate speech is the wrong emphasis. I say this only because I don’t think the killings had anything to do with fighting hate speech. This is so even if you take the alleged killers’ reasons for the shooting at face value, which I don’t.
Fundamentalist objections to blasphemy and secular objections to Islamophobia are almost entirely different things, each originating in a political tendency completely at odds with the other. It now strikes me as wrong-headed for non-Muslim leftists to conflate the two, as if the fundamentalist shares their anti-racist and anti-imperialist objections, but lacks the sophistication to analyze and articulate them in the same way.
This is not to exonerate Charlie Hebdo. The case against them for racism and Islamophobia is stronger than I’d even originally thought, though opinions on that among non-extremist Muslims appear to be all over the map. It’s not a trivial matter, since the extent of Charlie Hebdo’s racism is the measure of #JeSuisCharlie’s depravity. However, I think the discussion of Charlie Hebdo’s content and the limits of satire are out of all proportion to their relationship to the shootings, the most important aspects of which are the political and social forces that brought them about and the ways in which power has exploited, and will continue to exploit them.
Can We Have A Smarter Conversation About Free Speech?
Greenwald’s Free Speech Absolutism and Twitter’s Foley Ban
Authoritarian Asshole Erik Loomis’s Free Speech Problem
Holmes’ famous, “freedom for the thought we hate” was a reference to the Communist, socialist and anti-war speech the case was about. Such beliefs have never prevailed in this country.
Such beliefs didn’t prevail with Holmes previously. He was quite content to throw Debs in prison when his case was before the court. It was only after a personal friend was caught up in the maw of the state in circumstances similar to Debs that he found a new respect for freedom in a later case.
Have you looked at Charlie Hebdo’s history before making blanket statements such as the one you just made? They were attacked by everybody for making fun of “revered” institutions, be they religions, political parties, or intellectuals.
Moreover, they themselves never saw themselves as free speech heroes or propagandists, but as satirists.
I found Gawker’s history of their controversies sufficient for my purposes, particularly the bit about how they fired someone for an anti-semitic jab at Nicholas Sarkozy’s son. So I guess it’s not really everyone.
“They make fun of everyone” and “It’s satire” are non-sequitors that I feel no obligation to engage with, except to say that I don’t believe in making fun of everyone, because the impact varies depending on the target’s place in society.
Therefore, I say without any moral confusion, that the objects of hate speech who are the potential objects of violence and colonization that hate speech, not incidentally, but deliberately, fosters, are within their rights to take any measures to discourage, suppress and punish it.
Great, glad there is no moral confusion. “By any means necessary” was the earlier formulation, no? Therein lies the seed of mass slaughter. One should be extremely careful about sowing this particular wind. One never knows if it might blow back in one’s own direction.
Were I not going for brevity, I might qualify with language about involving innocents. Considering the context, the implication is clearly I don’t mourn murdered racists. Propaganda against colonized people is an instrument of war and oppression. In other words, it’s a weapon. No crime in taking up arms against someone who has taken up arms against you.
As for wind blowing back in my direction, pretty sure violence as a solution is established enough that anything I say here is of no consequence at all. In any event, being unjustly murdered for inciting violence against colonized people is not among my greatest worries. Seems to me there’s more mass slaughter emanating from the colonizers, but don’t let evidence inform your priorities.
“Were I not going for brevity, I might qualify with language about involving innocents.”
Why would you qualify it? If we accept that the colonized people can answer with violence in this instance then what, in your mind, makes “innocents” really innocent? Assuming they’re all of voting age, they all tacitly accepted their govts policies and reaped the benefits of it.
I would qualify it because while we are all implicated, there are variable levels of direct complicity. I don’t regard myself as “tacitly” accepting the government’s policies since I don’t believe I can exert any influence over them. Being an outright propagandist is worse.
Are you saying that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were racist, imperialist provocateurs that deserved to be murdered by people defending marginalized, oppressed and colonized people?
I am certainly saying that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were racist, imperialist provocateurs. What do you call them? What’s your name for the drive to now rub the Muslim world’s noses in their cartoons, as if all Muslims are implicated in their deaths? What do you make of the ACLU jumping on a bandwagon beside the National Front?
The motive of the people that murdered them is subject to question, but I have no problem with Muslims using extreme measures against imperialist propagandists. I don’t think attacks of this kind are tactically prudent, but that’s a separate matter. Propaganda is as indispensable to colonization and genocide as guns. I find the hyperventilating over this incident — as if it is simply a free speech matter predicated on the interesting idea that Muslims are oppressing The West — revolting. It’s imperialism and islamophobia flying under cover of provisional fealty to free speech principles.
I’m just getting up to speed on this and trying to understand you. I’m barely an hour into it. I’m not motivated to rub Muslim noses in cartoons. I’m not sure what to call that. It’s difficult for me to empathize with Muslims on the cartoon thing. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m not marginalized or oppressed that prevents me from being able to imagine any fucking cartoon that would motivate me to go out and kill someone. Or maybe it’s that I’m an atheist.
Assuming the murderers motive was to defend themselves from being marginalized, oppressed and colonized, are you saying they were justified?
What if we assume their motivation was purely religious, were they still justified?
Hold that thought and also consider that reducing the matter to “one fucking cartoon” is kinda inaccurate, to put it charitably.
Well, the diplomatic answer is that I don’t believe colonized/oppressed people are obliged to take their colonizers advice on how to remedy the problem of their oppression and colonization, nor do I think there is an inalienable right to foster oppression and violence without consequences.
If you are someone making a living by fostering oppression and violence with hate speech I absolutely do not care what those consequences are, because fostering oppression and violence against people with less power than you is undiluted malice at best. So yeah, I guess I’m saying that in the same way it was fine to hang Julius Streicher for lubricating genocide with his newspaper, I think it’s fine for oppressed people to take matters in hand before a post-genocide reconciliation process begins, contingent, of course, on what the specific offense is. My objections to measures like shooting hate-mongers are likely to be purely tactical. The point is, I am in favor of the targets of hate speech taking steps to suppress it. Certainly non-lethal ways of discouraging hate mongering are best. Feel free to recommend some. I think insisting people should just suck it up and take whatever the dominant population dishes out — which is certainly the implication of all the free speech bloviating — is disgusting.
If it were an uncomplicated matter to separate hate speech from intentionally provocative blasphemy against a colonized people’s religion I would say no. But it’s not. The fact remains that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are hate mongers, so regardless of motive, I am indifferent to their “martyrdom.” I don’t care about the trials and tribs of racist propagandists generally.
Charlie Hebdo also fired a guy for making an anti-semitic crack against Nicholas Sarkozy’s son, so, as ever, the equal opportunity offender card is bullshit.
This common sense point is routinely ignored. “The best remedy for bad speech is more speech” said the rich, white guy with a big platform to a person with no platform.
i want to link this specific comment to Popehat because Mr. White usually has some facility of self-awareness in this regard.
as an aside, here is his latest post:
Popehat: More smug, libertarian antfuckery. Yuck.
missed that the first time; well emphasized. even the most celebrated misanthropes don’t have the energy/time/catholicity to truly spread it “evenly”.
Excellent analysis once again. My first thought was ‘what happened to Freedom Fries ?’
also2 for all of the “Free Speechers” Azhar Ahmed
I’m sure this outpouring of support in France for freedom of expression will result in a speedy repeal of the French Parliament’s ban on the wearing of the niqab, the burqa, and other religious gear in public, won’t it?
Similarly, I’m sure all these people participating in this charade were just as angry when France banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations last summer.
Tarzie, this is so powerful. To reiterate a point Sourstein made chez lui, your Free Speech writing has been, if not prescient, so useful for seeing through all the performative bullshit obscurantism. Just last month we had a grotesque spectacle in which “free speech” meant worshipping some imperialist propaganda garbage. It’s a testament to the power of propaganda that Americans in particular can go on about “not understanding” the defilement of religious symbols (as if that’s what this was chiefly about) when all these insipid events involve the endless, fetishistic invocation of a supernatural thing called “free speech” like some kind of civic-spiritual totem.
Yeah, exactly. Everything about our political life is religious, even atheism.
one of my first glimpses of the ensorcellment of several of GG’s more respectable stalwarts was the way ‘da Constitution’ (or some Amendment in particular) was pretty much fetishized, as indicated.
You had me at “ensorcellment.”
without my vocabulary, i am nothing.
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Just out of curiosity, do you speak French? Have you ever read a Charlie Hebdo, or at least held one in your hands?
Are you a Muslim? Do you speak Arabic? Ever held a Koran in your hands?
I guess boning up on the cartoons and reading translations is insufficient for having opinions about them. But here’s a guy who lives in France and likely speaks French who thinks the cartoons are hateful too.
Asking whether I’ve held an issue in my hands as if that’s relevant is really rather stupid.
You are confronted with these cartoon because of the terrorist attack, not because you choose to read trash humour.
In the context of France and knowing the willingness of Charlie Hebdo, they don’t want to be harmful and racist.
Under attack, of course they continue to do the same but their work is most widely spread.
Do you know that Charlie Hebdo guys are anarchist, left wing, against foie gras (i learned this today and almost left the demonstration in Paris (joking) because i love it), and anti-american, establishment. I saw and heard directly today the survivor of Charlie Hebdo saying the demonstration were for something more than themself. They were joking that pope prayer for the killed one was a way of making fun of them.
Are you interested in a deaper debate with me ? I think i don’t understand you, and most of the people on this forum doesn’t want to understand my point of view.
Do you think the Charlie Hebdo publication should be banned for hate speech?
This post supports the right of colonized people to take direct action against propagandists.
I have mixed feelings about hate speech laws but I am not a free speech purist, so I wouldn’t find some state prohibitions on very extreme hate speech particularly objectionable. I see no inherent worth in hate speech and I don’t think restricting it in specific ways leads inexorably to prohibitions on other forms of speech. I believe people have the right to sue certainly if a connection between certain hate speech and a hate crime can be demonstrated.
So its the efficacy rather than the morality of the killing that you object to?
Are there no moral limits to how one can resist, even if resisting itself is justified?
Additionally, is it proportional to respond to the weapon of propaganda (on the scale that you see Charlie Hebdo as having deployed it) with guns?
I don’t think anyone is obliged to tolerate hate speech against them, so it is with the objects of hate speech where my sympathies lie. I find conversations where colonizing people lay out the terms by which colonized people resist kinda distasteful, really, so I will not waste too much effort on this.
I think if you can discourage propagandists by non-lethal means, that’s the course you should follow. Charlie Hebdo had previously been firebombed and their website hacked. The hate speech continued. I don’t weep for dead propagandists. Propaganda is as integral to war and genocide as guns. See Julius Streicher.
What do you think is the appropriate response to hate speech from marginalized people who have no platform from which to articulate a speech defense and who have already fired shots across the bow?
“I find conversations where colonizing people lay out the terms by which colonized people resist kinda sickening, really.”
I generally agree, but I think some tactics should be condemned. The killing of the cartoonists/propagandists was wrong in my opinion.
On the subject of whether they were propagandists or not, my current take (I’m not familiar with the publication’s written content) is they were free speech ideologues / purists that put their agenda ahead of cultural sensitivities. I think any overlap with war on terror / imperial propaganda objectives were coincidental rather than intended.
“I think any overlap with war on terror / imperial propaganda objectives were coincidental rather than intended.”
I don’t agree with this but I also don’t think their intentions matter much. Putting aside the War on Terror, it is reckless and cruel to caricature Muslims in a society where they are vilified and discriminated against. Also, Free Speech purism as an ideology favors power because of differences in access to the public sphere. The failure to realize this is ethically equal to more intentional complicity.
“Free Speech purism as an ideology favors power because of differences in access to the public sphere. ”
I guess its a form of free-market ideology where markets are portrayed as democratic when capital is unevenly distributed.
I think that’s an excellent observation, which might explain why so many libertarians seem to be free speech absolutists.
Tarzie, may I reblog this piece?
God this whole spectacle is sick. Western countries have *never* held freedom of speech up as a universal right in practice. Ever. Whether it’s black civil rights leaders being murdered for having the gall to speak out against white supremacy (Fred Hampton, MLK Jr., Malcom X, etc), Emma Goldman being thrown in prison for passing out information on birth control (and eventually deported), or someone like Tarek Mehanna getting 18 years in prison for translating jihadi works, freedom of speech has always been a privilege, not a universal right, and this is true in every western country that crows so loudly about it.
Like any other spectacle, the gap between rhetoric and reality is an absurd chasm that we’re supposed to pretend doesn’t exist. The ability to speak without repercussion, like the ability to assemble or to practice a religion or any other supposed ‘right’ is directly tied to social status, proximity, or usefulness to power.
The other part of this besides the whole free speech debacle that truly bugs me is the sheer bullshit cock waving of western culture as the pinnacle of society versus the ‘savages’. The U.S. empire, for all of it’s supposed love of freedom, has directly killed 20-30 million people (http://www.sott.net/article/273517-Study-US-regime-has-killed-20-30-million-people-since-World-War-Two), and that’s not even taking into account the millions and millions more killed indirectly (whether it’s garment workers making cheap Walmart clothes for pennies a day dying in a fire from unsafe working conditions, famines, etc). This presentation of non-western cultures as backwards, savage, etc in the face of the sheer death machine that is the U.S. empire (and the British empire before it) is reaching peak absurdity.
Finally, on the comment of motives: assuming the gunmen were Muslim (as everyone seems to be, which in and of itself is colonialist bullshit in the absence of facts), I’ve seen variations on the above comment over and fucking over on twitter, and it’s utter horseshit:
“What if we assume their motivation was purely religious, were they still justified?”
Tarzie makes the point above that it’s irrelevant, which I agree with, but to further that it also is an absurd question to begin with. Religion is a social phenomenon. Period. When I see ‘new atheists’ or whatever the fuck Dawkins’ boot licking cadres are calling themselves this week falling all over themselves to hold up Islam as the source of this, it’s some of the most egregiously disingenuous dreck. Islam in it’s current form has a 1300 year history of interaction with Christianity, western cultures, etc. Even if you could somehow prove that attacks like this are solely based on religious fanaticism, that there weren’t any direct oppressor/oppressed dynamics at play here, you can’t escape the fact religious interpretations *themselves* are unavoidably filtered through cultural norms; and the religious cultural norm of Islam has been that it’s been treated as dangerous, heretical, etc, by every western government in it’s history. I’m not a fan of blowback theory, because I think it’s dumbed down black and white thinking (and entirely orientalist), but there’s no denying the kind of impact that 1300 years of animosity from western culture will have on a religion and it’s followers.
this is (in part) a point Jonathan Haidt made about explanatory shortcuts taken by [e.g.] Dawkins and Harris, that Belief translates directly to Action with nothing else in play. that was ~2012 (‘the righteous mind’) and though i’ve only given Harris’ neuroscience thesis (‘the moral landscape’) a once-over, it didn’t seem to refute that particular charge of oversimplification; ‘free will’ was much closer to clarifying, and a much quicker read – and also one more dividing line where people who can’t see the point of tackling far-reaching issues philosophically will become far less willing to touch Harris with the proverbial 10′ pole. but as usual, i digress. i’ve heard far more from Dawkins than i’ve read from him.
lucid critique at its best. thank you.
thanks. I figured I got it wrong
Jacob, you are so persuasive as Tarzie, the Indefatigable Gay Champeen of Distraction. Have you found a new boyfriend yet via the Tarzie gambit?
If you really are IOZ, I wish you’d go back to posting recipes once in a while. Your cacio e pepe is the best!
Regrettably, I am not, which should be obvious.
i was remembering when Iran’s supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed a fatwa calling for the execution of British writer Salman Rushdie for his ‘blasphemous’ novel, The Satanic Verses…the ensuing riots, book burnings, there were many deaths, when it dawned on me that most people in the world don’t even consider free speech to be an inalienable right at all and that many of them look over our way and just see hoards of misguided Christians.
Yep, the minimizing and degrading of the inner core of a human, ….millions of humans – Cartooning – is a stunningly deadly weapon. Funny that a person who kills their neighbor for continually, and DELIBERATELY, Cartooning them, is not considered a terrorist, just someone who unfortunately snapped; yet, when a whole culture, which entails millions of humans, is continually, and DELIBERATELY, Cartooned in order to justify the ongoing WAR AGAINST THEM, that’s considered EVIL.
And, certainly, it should be no surprise that making a living off of such – Editorial Cartoons – continues, to this day, to be limited to white males willing to shut their mouths when their ‘Cartooning’ crosses a line which THE STATE and its main benefactors find unacceptable (of course a certain amount of Anti State ‘Cartooning’ is not only allowed, but required, as to be believable).
sorry, under cancer med fog, didn’t quite complete that above thought in my written words. To clarify, in bold face:
…yet, when a whole culture, which entails millions of humans, is continually, and DELIBERATELY, Cartooned in order to justify the ongoing WAR AGAINST THEM, and less than one handful of humans kill less than one handful of humans who have been continually maligning them to such a point where their lives have become near unbearable, absolutely un fuckingy livable ..in any “enlightened” definition of the world “live” (liv),…… that is considered EVIL? …..REALLY?
for just one, excellent example, of how insane equating a less than handul who take out a less than handful to A GLOBE WIDE EVIL!!!!!!!!: how may humans outrageously and unnecessarily died sans real health care yesterday, in the UZ, despite and/or because of The Affordable Care Act ™. Where’s your mother fucking outrage there? …for all the lunatics lurkin in the house.
So another commie idiot can’t take a joke without calling it Nazism. Julian Streicher writing the Nazi party mouth piece paper during Nazism. Great parallel but you forgot to mention how France is currently engaged in legalized genocide, not mere collateral damage on wars (racist wars). Your analogy is missing half its punch ! Why did you hold back, kids?
Best part of watching all the chicken littles run around defending the powerless and saintly muslims is when they call out mockery of religions as counter Enlightenment.
Yeah, France is racist and the #JeSuisCharlie tweeters are racists and of course The Guardian and Google are up to no good donating a million bucks but this call to ignore bombing of cartoons just because they’re racist cranks up to psycholand. I get asked why I’m a libertarian instead of an anarchist commie and it’s because anarchist dumbocrats are corny dimwits.
Here’s an idea, let’s send France to the ICC not for joining in on Libya and Mali, but for allowing republication of Der Sturmer because it’s racist and one neonazi might find inspiration and kill a jew before the police arrest him and give him a life sentence for a hate crime murder.
Greenwald isn’t perfect but you tweeps need to lighten up senseless leftier than thou junk. The world could use less censorship, maybe guys like you would learn how to make some logical conclusions, if only you could see the full picture.
It appears you didn’t read my post, since this condescending stream-of-consciousness thing you’re doing is entirely non-responsive, but thanks for commenting anyway!
“I’m a libertarian”
Ah, that explains the stimulating mix of point-missing and preening self-regard. We can leave it there.
Calling a response to your post on the topics discussed in your post and by commenters, “non-responsive”, cost: 1 blog author response.
Ad hominem against libertarians to teach me how to get the point, intellectually:
Would-be Dictator says what?
So the guy who opens with “So another commie idiot” is pointing out ad homs. My fave libertarian trick.
I’m loving how I get called authoritarian because I don’t think dominant classes of people have an inalienable right to beat on marginalized, oppressed and colonized people, not least because it fosters violence against them and because I find the idea of Muslims impeding the sacred Free Speech rights of Empire — that is, *oppressing* their colonizers –as ridiculous as it is sickening. Have you noticed how many fascists and imperialists are with you on Charlie Hebdo? Quite a few, like the National Front, for instance. Maybe it’s because hate speech is the lingua franca of fascism. Ain’t it funny how these free speech crusades are so often on behalf of reactionaries and bigots?
Of course this is the first time ever that libertarians crawled into bed with fascism. Oh wait a minute, no it isn’t.
Incipient fascist says what?
We can start over and actually respond to each other’s claims — you first have to make some that relate to what I actually wrote — or you could just go the fuck away and marinate in your entirely unwarranted self-satisfaction.
If Hebdo were alive, they would tell you that they are avowedly anti-racist, with sympathies with communists, anarchists and other parts of the left. Huge enemies of the xenophobic French far right, as you know. They published many images containing sentiments that I suspect you’d agree with and find funny. Should we deem these dead people racist because we’re English-speaking and we failed to “get” the satire, and reacted instinctively? Because they caricature racist caricatures as a means to denounce racism (as ineffective or controversial as that is)? That would seem to be the worst kind of cultural ignorance. All I’m suggesting is let’s not delete all background and erase their nominal anti-racism. But seriously, we should take the time to research what Charb claimed his views were – egalitarian and pro-immigrant – before labeling them as imperialist. I’ll allow you the effect of certain speech and its connection to oppression.
I’ve read up on them from people who “get” them. This is a non-starter. The meta-racism defense was lame five years ago.
I’ve been to Europe, including France, and one of the things that struck me instantly about liberals and lefts there is how racist they are. They object to North Africans for wonderful left reasons. “They’re sexist!” “They’re homophobic!” “They’re backward!” I heard this in conversation after conversation. Yes, of course these people — including Charlie Hebdo — have many views with which I agree. That doesn’t make their constant provocations against Muslims any better.
Only a coward wouldn’t publish Julius Streicher in these grave times and attacks on free speech. We need to show everyone that We Are Not Afraid, and we will publish propaganda Just Because. I don’t agree with it, I’m just expressing Solidarity, or something. Obviously Tarzie is a coward. Otherwise, he’d publish Charlie’s cartoons and other assortments of fascist and/or racist propaganda.
“I don’t believe I’ve personally ever encountered so many “free speech” militants who object so vociferously to exercising free speech.”~billmon
Guilt by association too. Oh this is too much funny around here. I said they were racists and I didn’t say I was in with them. And I did NOT say they have inalienable right to beat down but a right to publish.
My point was this line of free speech moderation can work in the appropriate context. Blog brought up Nuremberg tribunal to point out that hate speech is punishable by death. Publishing by itself is not beating down. Imperialist propaganda rules the news business but before you say I’m defending a socialist paper’s right to promote imperialism you might want to stop at the part where I point out that such imperialism is not the same as Hitler and that publishing in a de nazified and post-Marshall Plan country like France is not tantamount to abetting ethnic attacks. France has deep racist problems and a colonialist history that aren’t caused by newspapers. Free Speech is not a hate crime, even pro censorship lawmakers don’t call hate speech a hate crime.
You go too far in order to make a point. #JeNotSuisCharlie, me too. But #JeNotSuisAQ either. I don’t suppose that commies who call the French government’s lack of million €uro condos provided to Muslims on the French Riviera an oppression would stop to notice that as far as shutting down provocateurs and incitements to Islamophobia, these terrorists, who advertise themselves as terrorists instead of afflicted North Africans, have got the whole French military economy some serious coin and have made the internationalist war on terror more attractive. Once again.
That means even pacifists, not just fascists, will be in there with me, because mocking religion is an intellectual right and a duty, while pogroming and exclusion are acts of imperialism and racism.
Fallacious dude, heal thyself. Probably shouldn’t open with insults if you want this critical thinking act to be taken seriously. But while we’re on the subject, I don’t think pointing out the interest fascists have taken in Charlie Hebdo is fallacious. There is a paradox built into a free speech purist defense of repressive speech, which is pretty much the only thing free speech purists are ever defending. I think this paradox warrants the suggestion that people marching alongside The National Front probably shouldn’t call other people dictators.
No, blog brought it up to indicate that no less an authority than the Nuremberg military tribunal saw the relationship of hateful propaganda to violence and took it seriously enough to hang someone for it. It was not a recommendation to execute anyone for any hate speech act.
How interesting. Hateful propaganda only leads to violence, discrimination and the lubricating of imperialism in officially fascist countries. I had no idea! So I guess there has to be a genocide before any serious action can be taken against the propaganda that’s indispensable to it.
I didn’t equate Charlie Hebdo with Nazis. I believe that’s called a Straw Man, critical thinker. Oh this is too much funny…
I made allowance in my post for the possibility that the people doing this shit could have varied intentions. I also distinguished the ethical merits of direct action against propaganda from tactical merits. I don’t think the attack on Charlie Hebdo was sound tactically, as a matter of fact. But this is beside my main points which are as follows: free speech purism serves dominant classes ALWAYS; among contested forms of speech, hate speech is privileged, at least in the US; there is no demonstrable slippery slope between action against hate speech and authoritarianism; colonized people have a right to fight back against propagandists, including with violence; the implication that Muslims are oppressing the West’s basic freedoms is repellant.
The New anti-theism makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Anti-theism has penetrated the mainstream in the US — the single most religious country in the world — because of the way it singles out Muslims as uniquely awful. Put another way, atheism has paid its way in via service to imperialism.
As I said in my post, blaspheming the religion of a colonized people for the sole purpose of provoking and marginalizing them cannot be clearly distinguished from hate speech. Since Charlie Hebdo also traded in hateful caricatures that went beyond simply mocking the religion, it’s irrelevant anyway.
When you go to the Charlie march, say hi to your fascist friends observing *their* intellectual right and duty to mock religion, and make sure you single out Islam as uniquely bad, because singling out a particular religious group for extra abuse is a right and a duty too and has absolutely no relationship to pogroms and exclusion or hate crimes or imperialism or discrimination or disproportionate incarceration or Naziism or…
“there is no demonstrable slippery slope between action against hate speech and authoritarianism”
While I agree that hate speech is more privileged than other type of contested speeches I think you’re placing way too much trust in how hate speech laws would be used in the US, a country where people are still routinely fired for being “antisemitic” just because they made mild comments against Israel policies.
You could be right; I don’t know. But this post is about the targeted communities taking action themselves.
I know, but it is something that you have mentioned a few times before and I thought it was curious and maybe you had an answer to that escenario. I don’t think hate speech laws are the solution to the hate speech vs. marginal political speech. I can only see them marginalizing much more political speech.
Tarzie, I’m curious how you reconcile the idea that “free” speech as it exists in the West– roughly, as a tool to deflect blame from bigots punching down while the state still suppresses speech it deems threatening- with your own belief that speech should be regulated by the state, inevitably with an enforcement arm, if it is speech deemed too inflammatory or threatening? Isn’t the slippery slope of state power and enforcement self evident?
Less significant to me but still interesting, if you feel state authority has its role in policing speech then what is the functional difference between your own belief system and the average libertarian who despises state authority but still sees its value in, say, resolving contract disputes?
I see this touched on in this thread but I would like to see that distinction more fleshed out.
I don’t ardently advocate state regulation of speech, though I don’t ardently oppose it either. My main point has always been that we should simply abandon the magical thinking of Free Speech doctrine and look at it more critically. For me, that results in the conclusion that the speech problems of bigots (and also corporations) should not be a concern for the left. In fact, I think we should hope that in most cases they lose. I have also advocated oppressed people taking matters in hand on their own, like disrupting and attacking fascists and racists attempting to organize.
Your question betrays the magical thinking underlying free speech absolutism. The state will regulate speech regardless of whether anti-fascists/anti-racists attempt to get a piece of the action or not. I think that, in the same way that courts sometimes make good decisions, forces come together to produce reasonably good laws. For instance, I think state laws against cross burning are good. There is even greater likelihood that small publicly funded institutions like universities will produce decent rules. I think the rule under which the Oklahoma frat boys were expelled is a good one.
I don’t think recognizing this increases the likelihood of these bodies producing bad rules and laws. That potential is always there. The state has the final say, regardless, either through the courts or through legislation. The absolute most idiotically stupid aspect of Free Speech Absolutism is that its adherents think they are removing the state from speech regulation. How the courts interpret the First Amendment is regulatory. The most conspicuous outcome of Free Speech Absolutism so far is the great benefits it has produced for corporations, which are using it as a deregulating mechanism.
I don’t have strong thoughts on how libertarians think that the proper function of the state is to facilitate their business dealings except to say that I am not a libertarian and have very little use for most of them. I do think free speech absolutism is akin to the libertarian free market religion in its elision of critical disparities between the participants. This is one reason why I find uncritical enthusiasm for it on the left so very stupid.
What is the number of times I have to call the people who are #JeSuisCharlie racists before it’s acknowledged that my interest in defending free speech is from a different play book than the Front National ?
I am in the unfortunate position of having to defend free speech with principle while condemning the violence of those that are defending it without principle. I guess I’m screwed.
You are in haste to lump a principled defender of free speech with someone singling out Muslims as solely deserving of “sacred cow attack”. I think Charlie Hebdo is as racist as most of France and is as fixated on Muslim invasions as the rest of France. They still had the right to publish it since there is no danger of pogroms and the Muslim community can fight back in ways that fascist states in early stages of ethnic cleansing would not permit. Not by shooting dumb racists for their dumb racist cartoons. That’s granting beaucoup to your claim that it wasn’t about attacking religion but a proxy for racism. I think another thing can be claimed: that politically correct socialists today would sooner leave Muslim communities to their own problems and never criticize them, in some self congratulatory circle jerk about how anti imperialist they are, while Muslims who don’t like their religion’s dictates suffer in isolation.
Have it your way: commies looking like gratuitous censors, justifying the bigotry of those who want to turn this into an excuse for yet another bombing campaign on Muslims and still more police invasion of Muslim communities. Commies of a feather, go together. Police must have been invented by socialists.
Zero, since I never said your interest was the same as Front National. I am simply saying that your interest places you in coalition with them. This is why I find amusement in people calling me a fascist because my sympathies are overwhelmingly with the targets of hate speech rather than the purveyors of it. Fascists are clearly very interested in free speech crusades on behalf of white people attacking dark people. Now why oh why do you think that is? And why are you on such easy terms with making common cause with such people?
Unfortunate? From where I sit that’s the most common position and also the most self-serving. You can wring your hands over everything — making you an all-rounder virtue wise — and disoblige yourself of making any recommendation at all about how marginalized people without platforms are expected to contend with hate speech.
I don’t think marginalized people are required to be on the precipice of a genocide before taking action against propagandists who are most certainly implicated in the perpetuation of their marginalization, especially when you consider that Europe is in no way immune to resurgent fascism, and that islamophobia will feed it. I do not see any inherent worth in racist speech — glad we agree that that’s what we’re talking about — and I will continue to find insistence on people’s right to spew it unpersuasive until I am shown the good it imparts to anyone but racists.
See I think your free speech fetish is kind of a religion. It’s constructed of articles of faith and little unproven bromides you’ve had shoved down your throat since you were a kiddie that you now recite like little prayers. It’s never occurred to you that, like religion, it serves power — which is why we are expected to support it on faith alone — so it’s never occurred to you that people might have an inalienable right to live without hate spewed at them, whether it’s conducive to genocide or not. LOL at you, you silly little religious primitive, thoughtlessly reciting your little power-serving superstitions at me.
Oh mercy no. We want to demonstrate how all their problems trace to their silly, uniquely bad religion. That is, after we’re done lecturing black males on being more responsible. It’s Le Pen and co who really want to help Muslims. I bet the guys at Charlie Hebdo wanted to help them too.
Says the dude marching beside Le Pen. Jesus fucking Christ, this is getting ridiculous. Like I said, I don’t endorse the shootings from a tactical perspective. My objection is primarily to the idiotic, fucking free speech RELIGION that is guiding this idiotic fucking crusade for Charlie Hebdo and against Muslims. A religion that *idiotically* regards as sacred truth the notion that disobliging marginalized people of hearing hate speech and ridicule every fucking day from white, male, wealthy fucking assholes who own and control all the speech platforms is the upper limit of authoritarianism.
Nope. They were invented by the same kind of people who get the most advantage from free speech absolutism. Calling people commies makes you sound like a primitive right-wing asshole by the way. At least dress it up.
I approve of those calling Charlie Hebdo racist but condemning the murder as well. Both in that it was counter productive and excessive. I don’t agree that racist cartoons of the sort CharlieH trade in are a cause of pro war sentiment. They are a reinforcement of bigotry at home at most and there’s no proof that it will lead to anything remotely resembling pogroms. There is neither proof that their bigotry is in fact directed at excluding Muslim communities from French society, but Muslim practices. They may truly just find Islam today, in its more conservative varieties, redolent of Christian repression and Church power of a century ago or more.
Atheism in America is a reaction, and a very intelligent one, to the Republican Right, you are confusing fake atheists who fixate on Islam with true atheists who hate every religion for their institutionalized reactionary prejudices.
We aren’t all Dawkins. But I don’t have to prove I’m not a Dawkins devotee or unaware of violence done to them by Islamophobic policy by making a special criticism free zone for Islam, either.
Oh. So a true atheist is one who hates every religion for their institutionalized reactionary prejudices. And here I thought I just didn’t believe in god. I think the term you are looking for is “true evangelical Atheist”. Which, frankly, is not that far from Dawkins’ fake evangelical Atheism, really.
That’s a good point. They’re evangelists. That’s why they’ve always struck me as religious in their own way.
By themselves, probably not. However I don’t know how you can possibly exempt them entirely from the imperialism the totality of anti-Muslim sentiment most surely fosters. But again, you have placed us somewhat beside the point: I don’t think hate speech has to foster war or genocide before its targets are entitled to fight it. And you know what else? I honestly don’t care whether oppressed people’s response to being shit on every day is proportional or not. If one doesn’t want to be a target of a disproportionate response to being a racist shitstain, maybe a rethink of how one uses one’s talents for humor and illustration is in order. I think hate speech is a disproportionate response to people with vastly less power and influence than you have.
Which, when you consider the relative influence of Christianity a century go and the influence of Islam in France right now, would be a really fucking stupid thing to conclude. Context matters. Ridiculing the religion of a marginalized, colonized people whose home countries have been and still are the targets of imperialist murder and pilfering, and who experience high levels of discrimination and state repression when they emigrate, is different from ridiculing the religion of the dominant population, especially when your ostensibly anti-authoritarian/anti-theist attacks on the marginalized group are harsher and more numerous.
I don’t know how you can possibly know this but I also don’t care. This is a deeply religious countury where an idea as previously fringe-y as atheism has to pay its way in to mainstream culture with something more lovable. Do you think it’s some fucking coincidence that all the atheist celebrities — Harris, Dawkins, Bill Maher, for instance — single out Islam as uniquely primitive and violent and devote considerably more rhetoric to it than other faiths?
No, you don’t. And I can’t think of a better way for an atheist to spend his time than banging on the religion of a people under constant attack on both the global and local level, and grist for the fascist mill of Le Pen and others. Fight on, freedom-lover. That your views are far more nuanced and compassionate than the fascists and imperialists you’re fighting alongside makes all the difference.
PS: Read this.
I often disagree with tarzie but not this time – excellent blog. Amen to everything you’ve said here! Also, not sure if you’ve read it, but Diana Johnstone’s piece in counterpunch on Hebdo is a very good corrective to the current narrative as well http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/01/07/what-to-say-when-you-have-nothing-to-say/
Why I am not Charlie
I’d clarify a point you make implicitly and say that the primary problem is when the hate speech is linked to power and oppression, often via formal mechanisms of the State.
Discussion on Democracy Now! last night missed this point entirely – tried to frame the issue as not only free expression, but as one of motives: Charlie is a provocateur who gores all ox.
But its not just motives that matter, it impact and effects.
The other key point is how the framing as a free speech issue masks cultural anti-Muslim bigotry.
The whole debate is improperly framed, and your analysis is an effort to shift it in the right direction
Which I think it always is. Hate speech is deployed by dominant classes: whites, men, heterosexuals, non-Muslims etc. This is why it’s so much more ardently defended than the speech of social and political marginals. Like Sassy said in his excellent post on the same topic: there was no #IAmTarekMahenna.
I guess a hair-splitter might say a Black person calling whites crackers is hate speech, but I think the power differential precludes it.
Trzie – what’s your take on the quasi-fascist coup by the NYC police?
Where were all these free speech advocates in denouncing the police for their obvious attack on protest and speech against police violence?
If there is ever social capital to be had from denouncing the NYPD, they’ll denounce the NYPD.
There are a number of great posts on this, here: http://angryarab.blogspot.com/
Good piece at Al-Akhbar.
Fuck these free speech fundamentalists. I used to think these yahoos were clueless about power and class dynamics. Now I’m not so sure. Most of them probably understand exactly why they kick it up for liberal democracy’s version of freedom of speech.
I’m a free speech absolutist. But only in the sense of an ideal: everyone should be able to have genuine free speech, and if that involves holocaust denial, or homophobia, so be it. Naturally, this free speech exists in another world, not the one we live in. The one we live in allows free speech up until the point it bothers rich white dudes. At which point, measures are taken, in the usual manner.
I come to this thread mostly because I despise the MSM and all it’s infernal mendacity. Tony Abbott talks about defeating death cults at their source. A more clear example of racist hate speech it’s hard to imagine – I guess he could say he hates ‘niggers’ or some such – but he will never be called on it. Here is an analogy: Hitler. Hitler ordered his troops to invade Poland. Poland DID NOT invade Germany. NATO has invaded several Muslim countries and fucked shit up with a bizarre lack of care for the last decade. These Muslim countries didn’t invade us. Poland – did not invade Germany. But in the world of the MSM, Poland did invade Germany. And the infernal Poles, well they are evil.
If my paragraph is confused, so am I. I certainly mourn the deaths of the cartoonists, because I don’t think they were state actors, or, as Streicher, party propagandists. But I’m also a white dude living in a rich country, and have a (small) awareness of the horror we have unleashed in Muslim countries. If we knew the truth about Iraq, I suspect Famous Names would be given the Mussolini treatment, live on Democracy Now. And if the truth about Tony Blair was ever released, he’d probably be in a psychiatric facility.
Basically, we have to stop invading Muslim nations, no matter what we think of their rulers. We could just buy their oil at market rates, after all.
another excellent reason to discourage any one person/family/’family-of-companies” from owning/investing in, say, a massive publishing conglomerate and anything else.
I would think that as a satirist one would want to be thought provoking and not just crudely provocative, to put way too it nicely. The following is what I believe to be an on target response to this whole thing from a satirical magazine – exquisite in its simplicity:
Yeah, that’s good.
Je suis Jack’s complete lack of surprise.
I think the end of his previous post is the distinctive marker of any human worth talking to and the reason we are fucked (its rarity, that is). The capacity to live and work with self loathing… indeed, leave it to the “lesser” beasts
Are you aware that Charlie Hebdo journalists have been sued often by France’s fascist National Front and would just not understand
Are you aware of the work of association like LICRA and SOS Racism ? Would you be interested in debating with me about the fact these association are useful or not enough ?
Maybe you should think before designing your foes. Foes of foes are not always friends (look at Syria).
Are you aware that: non Charlie Hebdo cultures; non white humans; many ‘white’ males and females; are still repulsed by either: their prior knowledge of Charlie, or, last week’s visual imagery of Charlie Hebdos’ legal and venal ‘Cartoonery’ Collection?
(hint: legal and venal = condoned by The $TATE and its ancient mentor$ (there will be no firing of those “Cartoonists” who do not attack Big Daddas).)
Woahhhhhh ‘sir’ …read your blatant and overt threats to a young man serving coffee in a coffee shop for a living …to sue him for calling out the Free Speech!™ Lie/Cesspool.
And, only the well connected and protected feel free to share their contact info (along with having their own LAWz MENz in their pockets), of course you already knew that while harassing him for his email address under threat of THERE ARE $TATE LAWZ FORBIDDING YOU TO FREELY SPEAK FOR YOURSELF ….I’M WELL CONNECTED WITH GLOBAL LAW MENZ!!!!!!.
(yes, Tarzie, I’ve at least temporarily found a work around for the meant to obsolesce, directly after warranty, keyboard issues.)
Calling to make a judiciary claim is not a threat for what I know. It is just the only and last way to get our rigth, isn’t it ?
I have spent quite a lot of time on your kind of blog trying to understand your point.
I do not understand all of your point, neither all the vocabulary.
I am very interested in your debate, but I think to be more solid it should start with true statement.
And congrats for your new job, I’d be glad to have a coffee if I visit the city where you are working (if I know where it is).
You may not understand it, but I am quite shocking by reading that Charlie Hebdo is racist and imperialist. I don’t think it is correct to state this.
I don’t neither understand which kind of world would be ideal.
Good luck, thus
tarzie, kudos. superb.
I have mixed feelings about this post.
In Tarzie’s view – consistent with his recurring point that genuine threats to the power structure are not tolerated by definition – there is a whole sub-class of what goes for ‘free speech’, which is really hate speech if the unwritten rules for it were rigorously applied – but which passes for free speech because it either doesn’t threaten the power structure or actually supports it. The excellent example given above is the so-called New Atheism, which is really a sort of British imperial neo-bigotry. (Dawkins with his pasty-faced fervor would easily pass for an English cleric a century or two ago.)
This analysis – that it’s really about power – is supported by the fact that there are flagrant double-standards and all sorts of inconsistent rules about what counts as ‘hate’ speech and what does not. Meaning like everything else, it’s all about a certain power differential and not about the ‘things themselves’ (in this case, speech) at all.
But whose power differential? This is where I believe the post falls down. The idea that:
“Hate speech is deployed by dominant classes: whites, men, heterosexuals, non-Muslims etc.”
seems to forget that old truism that all [power differentials are] local. If you read ‘hate speech’ alongside ‘media’ – which is at least appropriate in this Hebdo case and certainly many others – you could easily say that the ‘hate speech’ employed by Hebdo belonged to the dominant class inasmuch as poor Muslim immigrants aren’t running French magazines.
At the same time, ‘hate speech’ is a kind of floating designator that shows up in all sorts of other places. Political correctness, especially in American universities, involves a set of often inconsistent rules on the use of ever-changing euphemisms which is less about the rules or the euphemisms (again) than obedience to power itself: the very shifting nature of the rules’ framework that keeps one in a state of fear and anxiety – always observant. I recall studying a 1920s black protest song with a music professor who was aghast that the black protagonist appeared in the form of a now-verboten stereotype. Yet the very content of the song was *against* the ill-treatment that directly led to the stereotyping. Nonetheless, the professor was terrified that any of his colleagues in surrounding offices might hear the song.
The same goes for the story from the late ’90s of a white mayoral assistant pressured out of his position for using the word ‘niggardly’. One supposes that the predominantly black power structure of local DC politics was making itself felt.
One can even go back to the pre-civil rights era South where poor whites routinely used what would today be considered patent ‘hate’ speech against blacks. Would a trio of illiterate barefoot whites be considered members of the ‘dominant class’? Relative to the black man they might be cruelly tormenting at a certain moment, yes. Could they waltz into the state capitol building and drink champagne with their fellow overlords? Certainly not.
It isn’t at all clear to me that the prescriptive offered in the post – to the extent there is one – of determining and dealing with ‘hate speech’ based on a straightforward reading of overall power differentials – is in any way an intelligible one. It is certainly consistent with a certain leftist militancy – and here at least it’s better than Greenwald, whose defense of ‘free speech’ just moves the truly forbidden speech into some other blind-spot. But it relies on the static categories of identity politics. Within those categories are their own differentials (wealthy Muslims dominating poorer ones, for example). Trying to use the categories that come to us from today’s narrative of identity politics to name classify and locate each injustice and to define what is hate speech is like herding cats: as soon you define one rule or generalize in one way, along comes some other case that the categories are ill-suited to map.
Thanks for taking the time to comment so thoughtfully.
Before I address specifics, I want to say that my main interest is in simply exposing the power-serving fraud of Free Speech mythology and the privileging of hate speech. Where taking action to suppress is concerned, I feel the speech really has to meet a strong test for severity, and my preference is for action taken by the offended group itself and their allies rather than appeals to the state. I have a lot of ambivalence about hate speech laws and codes and, while I feel I know too little about them to oppose them altogether, feel no enthusiasm for them.
I share your misgivings about identity politics, but I’m not sure that simply taking an inventory of where power resides puts us deep inside them. I don’t think the categories of different treatment that identity politics focuses on are artificial, and I have no problem with these categories shifting as society changes. I don’t concede that these categories are as ephemeral, ever-changing and situational as you insist they are.
I don’t find this particularly compelling. Black people are not immunized from racism in scenarios where they constitute a majority. The dude that got fired for saying “niggardly” still enjoys significant advantages overall in relation to a black man who is in every respect his equal. Had he called someone a n*****, it would have been appropriate to take action against him. Yeah, it sucks that he was the object of trumped up charges for genuine non-offense, but trumped up charges for non-offenses didn’t arrive with speech codes, and the guy got re-hired anyway.
I hear you on the way in which this shit gets flattened out and context gets omitted, but I don’t think that’s baked into the project we’re talking about. I have no difficulty disliking hate speech and this decontextualizing, literal-mindedness at the same time. Perhaps it’s impossible to deal with hate speech and not have this kind of thing, but I’m not convinced that more sensible norms can’t be established. Europeans have hate speech laws *and* look upon the so-called political correctness of Americans with scorn. Perhaps taking hate speech more seriously, such that you would even pass a law against it, encourages the establishment of sensible prohibitions.
This is a non-starter. Yes, of course, everyone is less powerful than someone, but in your own example the black man’s tormentors *are* indisputably more powerful than he is. So I am at pains to identify the conundrum here.
The wealthy Muslims are not immunized from racism and Islamophobia by their wealth, though they might feel it less keenly than Muslims further down on the food chain. Your point eludes me.
“[M]y main interest is in simply exposing the power-serving fraud of Free Speech mythology and the privileging of hate speech.”
There I’m with you entirely. There’s a confusion though in the discussion that might be approached by the question: whose hate speech?
Whatever you think of the ‘speech’ involved in this case, there seems a fairly improbable use of a certain kind of housing law in order to convict and imprison someone for what under other circumstances be covered by free speech. Yet here is a white male – ‘privileged’ according to many of the usual metrics – being put in jail. I think that not only are the categories of identity politics themselves ephemeral, ever-changing, and situational, as you say (what is ‘white’ this year may be European-American two decades from now, just as ‘black’ encompasses slightly different meanings than ‘Negro’, ‘African-American’, ‘Afro-American’, ‘biracial’, etc.) – more importantly, the power differentials as they form and re-form on the social landscape shift in real-time and exceed any normative discourse.
If I understand you right, you often make the point here on this blog that if something is an actual threat to the power structure, it is not allowed to flourish; it is stamped out. Whereas merely apparent, but not actual threats are allowed to carry on. This is obvious enough when it comes to a Greenwald who tries to refurbish an old journalistic template in a narcissistic way – he is harassed, but tolerated; whereas the full potential of a Wikileaks full-style disclosure movement is quashed.
From this standpoint, how would it look to take a newer, no-holds-barred analysis of the broad power differentials in a given society, and then use hate speech laws to protect those who need protection? I would submit that, first, no such analysis would ever make it pristine into the books without being co-opted by the existing power structure. But second: by the time the co-opted form did make it into the books, enshrined in law, even if it arrived mostly intact, because the map is not the territory, that analysis and the categories of identity supporting it would lead to other injustices.
Take the case of the old white bigot above. It’s facile to suppose that because he ‘deserved’ some sort of ill treatment, there is no further problem, just as it’s irrelevant that the aide to the DC mayor got his job back: both indicate the disposition of a given power-structure. Now, in days past, the old white bigot might never have been touched by a given law, but today he is a target for the power structure. But what changed?
My point is that – as history shows, and as is abundantly clear by everything around us – the power differentials are constantly shifting because the desire to commit injustice to one’s fellow man is rampant and constantly evolving for itself new opportunities. I don’t think there is any normative solution to the problem of injustice against groups at a given moment. Because as soon as this new ‘truth’ about who needs protection gets finally accepted, it becomes dogma – a weapon to be used against others. At one time, after all, and not even long ago, making bigoted comments against Jews was acceptable. Today, it is one of society’s great taboos – to the extent that one has to make public apologies if one privately criticizes Israel, even though criticizing Israel and anti-Semitism are not the same thing.
So, in summary, my problem with identity politics in the service of determining free/hate speech is less about the arbitrariness of the categories – though they are historically contingent and somewhat arbitrary. It is more about what happens when you translate those categories into ‘protections’ or prosecutions or what have you. This inevitably becomes a question of power – it has to, to the extent that you want to use the state in any way.
However, this is not to advocate for the equally false position of ‘free speech advocate’. While it is possible to radically distinguish between speech and acts, I don’t trust anyone remotely connected to the power structure to do so – not Greenwald or anyone else. My point of view is simply that as long as people have the desire to wrong one another, there is not only no perfect means to counter-act that – there’s not even a good means. We’ve seen how political correctness began (arguably) as a way to supplant coarse and mean-spirited language in everyday speech and now is used as an instrument of power. The same would happen if we took your more honest analysis of power relations: by the time it became law, the facts would have changed and the new schema of who needs protection would be used as a weapon.
I agree with a lot of this, particularly the bit about how the implementation of hate speech law would be as governed by the existing power structure as anything else. However I think you are better at declaring the utter impossibility of navigating the shifting sands of inequality than you are at demonstrating its dealbreaking effect on fighting hate speech. I don’t find the categories of black/white queer/straight man/woman Muslim/Christian as arbitrary as you apparently do. Certainly the power difference between Charlie Hebdo’s staff and French Muslims is unambiguous. You do all of this in the context of arguing against regulatory measures, which is something I’ve already said I do not strongly advocate. It’s a valuable contribution nonetheless.
well said, for defeatism. i still haven’t seen a ‘je suis charlie’-ist willing to explicitly cop to the extrapolation from
(a) bad, bad Islamism/extremism for this utterly disproportionate retaliation
(b) if they’re really reacting to a greater sphere of phenomena (e.g. imperialism), the ~proportionate~ response would be to send three mobile gunmen up against a proper military installation!
Yes and no. I don’t argue against regulatory measures. I merely indicate that they do very little to correct injustices and, in the end, end up creating them. When it comes to the categories of identity politics, it’s best to remember that they belong to identity *politics*. As much as they provide emotional self-havens and ways to understand ourselves, they are just as often used – perhaps as their primary purpose – to delineate between self and other. This means Me and Who Threatens Me. As you pointed out earlier, someone is always less powerful than somebody else. Yet if so, how it is possible to say simultaneously that the power vector between Charlie Hebdo’s staff and the whole of the French Muslim population is ‘unambiguous’?
My view is that precisely because it is always ambiguous, taking up the cause of this or that group is always tactical at best. French Muslims may be oppressed by France’s power structure, yet it may also be true that oppression of French Muslim women by French Muslim men is rampant (perhaps, perhaps not). If so, who are we championing?
I think the idea that there is an absolute calculus for determining who has less or more power is naive. Power is relative, and the best we can do is react whenever we perceive an injustice is being done. So rather than declaring an impossibility, I’m advocating for a guileless view of the difficulties.
Right. This is like your barefooted racists example. I don’t find it difficult to imagine a world where Muslims as a group fight hate speech directed at them as *Muslims*, and women who fight oppression directed at them as women. In fact, that’s the world we have. I am simply talking about refinements that take account of how speech rights are contingent. I certainly hope you’re not trying to argue that the kind of caricatures CH traded in have anything to do with genuine feminism.
Uh, because in net terms the French Muslim population is on the defensive against an oppressive French white majority. Again I fail to see the utter impossibility of rendering a judgment about, say, caricatures of Muslims with long noses and flies buzzing around their heads simply because some Muslims are more powerful than others and might even, in some ways, be more privileged than smug, upper middle class white satirists. Upper middle class white satirists do not suffer systemic oppression at the hands of Muslims.
I’ve been on the road so my failure to respond is not from lack of interest.
If I say there is more agreement than disagreement here, it’s not for the usual reason of trying to beg off from confrontation. What you’ve written above here agrees with me very well, leaving me having to recast the differences where they exist in this way: do we fight against injustice because it is injustice? Or do I choose to fight against injustice out of self-interest (when it is against my group) because I am gay, Muslim, etc.?
The fundamental point here, which I don’t think you really miss other than from the temptations of argument, is that all people have an interest in opposing injustice because it is injustice for a variety of reasons. You seem to flirt with dismissing as mere ‘example’ what is a very intellectually coherent point: if you enshrine certain kinds of injustice as privileged in a dominant narrative of social justice, that will inevitably exclude others whose oppression will be thoughtlessly believed justified since they aren’t a part of the sacred narrative. In my comments, I simply account for the very circumstance you highlight: French Muslims, for example, are a group against whom injustices can be committed with very little public outrage. Why is this so? How can it be that ‘hate speech’ against Muslims is tolerated in France while anti-Semitic remarks are prosecuted?
It seems obvious to me that as soon as injustice as such is no longer opposed, but only certain types of injustice, you enter into a world of total hypocrisy. This is what we have today. What you try to deride as my point about the ‘utter impossibility’ of making a judgment is *not* about making an individual judgment at all. But about making a public judgment especially when it is supposed that making laws or taking institutional action against ‘hate speech’ directed at groups *now* will somehow ‘fix’ the injustice problem. And when the stories we tell ourselves about that collective or institutional action will let us settle into a false sense of security and we become convinced that we ourselves are just. (I give simply as an example the surprising tendency to many African-Americans to resent the growing numbers of Latinos in the U.S. and even to hold bigoted views against them. While a very small number of militants at the core of the civil rights movement remain who are committed to the principle of equal treatment, many ordinary African-Americans might be said – like so many human beings – to have wanted proper treatment only provisionally – for themselves. You see the same turnaround today in Israel where a once-oppressed group now engages in the slow-motion genocide of another.)
It’s a question of the amount of emotional investment we want to put into the types of action available. I don’t have trouble seeing French Muslims as being oppressed compared to white French cartoonists, but it is not because this formula is laid out in any political discourse or identity politics narrative about whose suffering is more important relative to whose. While I don’t necessarily ascribe this point of view to you – I don’t know you – it’s quite clear that many people only sympathize or treat their fellow man as human when a certain political calculus tells them to do so (that it’s permissible). It’s possible to read (or misread) your post as a plea to change that calculus – to substitute one calculus for another – which I would view the same as re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. However, your comment above, in which you present a more complex view with injustice being opposed on every front, is one with which I fully agree.
This is the first time I have commented here although I have visited several times, usually when Arthur has referenced you.
I agree with your general thrust on this one although, in practice it is drawing a line through a grey area. I think most would agree that promoting a lynch mob mentality is an undesirable thing especially if it results in strange fruit hanging from the trees. Strange fruit that can’t be put back the way it was when the mob realises they got it wrong. Where the line exactly should be drawn is difficult for me to say and you also it would seem, from what you have written so far. We have incitement laws but I am not a lawyer and not too sure how they work, although I have a feeling that if anyone had gone into Charlie Hebdo two weeks ago and accused them of incitement to cause an offense, they probably would have been laughed out of the office.
There is a little known fact concerning the overall Charlie Hebdo incident, the second highest poice officer in the whole of Paris, committed suicide (or was suicided) on the night of Wednesday / Thursday in his office at about one-o-clock in the morning. I have no idea how significant or insignificant this is in relation to the whole thing. What I do know is that there was a total media blackout concerning this incident. Global Research is the only one who had the guts to publish it. It can be found here:
So if any of you who are banging on about free speech; freedom of the press and duty to publish would like to get in touch with the French press; AP, AFP, Reuters, Deutsche Welle, etc and ask them why they supressed the story and then let us know here we would be extremely grateful. As the article says “ So much for “Je suis Charlie” and ”Freedom of Expression” in journalism.”
I would like to point out three facts :
1. It was the number two of the judiciary police (SRPJ) in Limoges not in Paris.
2. All the policemen of the SRPJ were working this wednesday night on Charlie Hebdo killing.
3. Local news pointed this info : http://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/limousin/2015/01/08/limoges-suicide-d-un-commissaire-de-police-626916.html
I don’t see here concrete element that can makes this information has weird.
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What happened to your Update 2?
I reconsidered it in light of new info. It’s all still valid but I feel it’s not hugely important.
welp, for those human mammals in the house, attempting to stay on top of the difference of responding to another mammal, versus responding to software/an algorithm: witness (above!): Victor Reutenauer, (take your time trying to figure out how much its’ (Victor’s) commentary does not make any sense, no matter the human language spoken.).
Well Victor, that was an exercise in missing the point. Yes I did know it was Limoges and I wrote Paris, a mental typo if you like. My mistake but moving on, according to the Global Research article, Police Commissioner Helric Fredou had dispatched his officers during the day of Wednesday to carry out investigations connected with the Charlie Hebdo incident in Paris. Limoges was a region where one or more of the suspects attended high school. At some point during the day Commissioner Fredou had a meeting with the family of one of the suspects. The police team returned some time later and were debriefed after which he wrote his report. Later, at one in the morning Thursday whilst still in the police station, he died by gunfire, reportedly by his own hand. A small article in Le Parisiene reported the death and dissociated it from the Charlie Hebdo incident. Also as said, France 3 local news in the Limoges area reported it. At best, this could be described as limited hang out. It is within the bounds of possibility that the death was unrelated to the ongoing investigation and that to pursue this line is a red herring. Maybe he was overworked and burned out and his colleagues never saw it coming but to offer this as a reason for missing his part in probably biggest story to hit France in decades does seem rather lame. To paraphrase the famous Mandy Rice Davis “ They would say that wouldn’t they”. They are damned if they do say it and damned if they don’t.
It is also well known that the press are information vultures and any advantage they can glean over their rivals is hard fought for. If you take any ‘terrorist’ attack or high school or university shootings, the press want to know every detail they can find about the perpetrators’ lives so that they can build some sort of amateur psychological profile for their readers. Everything is important, from who their friends and associates were, where they used to hang out, what their interests are, even to what sort of food they eat. If this sort of information is important to the police then why is it not interesting to the press? Which families were interviewed by the police last Wednesday and what was discussed? Why have the press unilaterally decided this is unimportant? What happened to Commissioner Fredou’s report? Was it made public and if so why was it not reported? Was Fredou somehow connected to the perpetrators? These are the questions that freedom of journalism are supposed to answer but in this case the press largely decided that their public would not be interested. It does appear that freedom in journalism, that a million and a half people turned out to defend, is a selective process.
Diane, thanks for watching my back.
Davidly, Arthur is one of the intellectual giants, good isn’t he.
The “immediate instrumentalization of solidarity” was an exercise in seeing how easily the dog could be wagged. Now that is real information that can be used.
Thank you for your update SATS.
None of these report are supposed to be released as public.
Maybe Mediapart or Le Canard Enchaine are able to get access to these report and will publicize them if they are of any interest.
I think you could try to see in the death of Kaouchi brothers and Coulybaly also a polemical element as witness of error in the police and secret service work.
Thus I am convinced policemen are trying to do their best and no political men is smart enough to manage to manipulate these terrorist with the aim of getting profit of them.
Look for example at the behavior of people in the vip demonstration of last sunday, being on the first line of the photos are the most important stuff political manage to do.
For the rest, free market, free speech makes their work too complicate to let them manipulate us and build some useful conspiracy for them.
well, I hardly did anything, but you’re more than welcome. Humans who actually clearly care about other humans who are suffering en masse, every day of the week over algorithms.
Charlie Hebdo was the humor magazine, which was revealed by ’68 Movement. It was leftist-anarchist at that days. It was closed in 1982. When Cold War ended in 1992, it returned to broadcasting. Magazine began to follow politics, which is not avoiding provocation in any issue as appropriate to the neoliberalism “ethnic scratching” policy mostly over Islam. These editions facilitated the growth of right-racial movement in France.
An interesting similarity; during the famous Dreyfus case in France, in 1894, there were cheap racist publications, which were encouraged anti-Semitic agitation. At that time, the Jewish officer Dreyfus had been the subject of cartoons which were provoked to the public, as a way to hate the Jews. Of course, all those to get the public support of politicians. In last 100-years period, the politicians have been received the public support for the colonies; and nowadays, it provides basis to so-called security laws, so I mean “big brother” laws. The mankind has not changed, it appears that it will not change.:)
I came to check if the discussion had changed since the contextualization of a lot of the images, and to comment on something that you mentioned here. If anything, the slew of pieces with titles like “What everyone gets wrong about Charlie Hebdo and racism” drove home that the only thing people got wrong about CH’s Islamophobia is underestimating the degree. The details enumerated in that resignation letter you shared, and their publishing of liberal imperialist Muslim collaborators’ “Manifesto of the Twelve,” really belie the idea that CH was publishing from a position of reflexive leftist anti-clericalism, and prove that they were committed to the framework of a civilizational war between “the West” and “radical Islam.”
As for where the Muslims are who object on leftist, rather than religious grounds, I think this is a function of both a climate of fear and the structure of media. Left-wing Muslims I know have intimated to me that there’s very little reason to speak up and plenty of reasons to keep their heads down at a moment like this. One friend shared Greenwald’s piece and then imposed a social media moratorium, and he’s American; I can’t imagine what it’d be like for a Maghrebian in France. People are terrified, and who could blame them? As far as the media, I think it’s common to feature critics from the right but none from the left. It takes less air time to say “this is blasphemy” than it does to explain why the narrative over Muhammad cartoons is reductive, misleading, and power-serving. There’s also no real incentive for the media to humanize Muslims or illuminate their objections to their treatment. This is where the common (idiot’s) complaint of “why aren’t Muslims condemning this” comes from, the fact that the media has no reason to publicize Muslim humanity.
I agree with everything in your first paragraph and you put it very well. I don’t feel the same way about the rest.
I don’t doubt that fear and the structure of the media have an impact. Fear, however, has not kept some Muslims from telling reporters that Charlie Hebdo was blaspheming Islam and had it coming. I can’t imagine how it’s easier to say this than to offer a more secular complaint wedded to the usual repudiation of the attacks if the reporter has promised you anonymity. The idea that “this is blasphemy” simply lends itself to soundbite constraints doesn’t make sense to me. Complaints about blasphemy and complaints about islamophobia have very different political origins. They’re not interchangeable.
There is a good chance the media is filtering out less extremist complaints, but I’m not seeing much to supplement it online. To the contrary, I’ve seen Muslim intellectuals mocking the idea that Charlie Hebdo was racist and taking offense at any implication that they and Muslim extremists are in common struggle. Have you seen this answer to Oliver Cyran’s piece by a woman of Muslim background who works at Charlie Hebdo? I didn’t find her persuasive simply because she didn’t really address Cyran’s specific complaints, but clearly she thinks he’s full of shit.
I don’t doubt that CH were committed to the framework of a civilizational war between “the West” and “radical Islam.” What remains open for me is whether or not a critical mass of non-extremist French Muslims find that framework as objectionable as American leftists. Perhaps they see it the same way and align themselves with The West, though perhaps they use a different name for the values that come under that heading.
I am uncomfortable being sure about a critique that I am not finding *anywhere* but among European and American non-Muslims.I wrote my new introduction in part to elicit input from people of Muslim background either directly or by way of links to stuff that’s already out there. I don’t object really to taking a position based on what your eyes tell you heedless of what French Muslims do or don’t say, but I think you’re pushing it when you literally fabricate a scenario that puts *your* words in French Muslim heads based largely on speculation. The most persuasive part of your argument is your anecdotes about actual Muslims who object on non-religious terms, though Greenwald’s piece was simply about hypocrisy (as usual).
I hadn’t seen that person’s response, and I also haven’t been too aware of what the French-language discourse around this is. That’s a fair point about diligence in soliciting opinions, though I didn’t think I was projecting or putting words in anyone’s mouth. However, I see how extrapolating can be precarious.
I think when you explain the lack of correlation between your critique and the critiques of the people on whose behalf you’re speaking as due to simple non-representation, you are coming close to projecting.
I suppose a reasonable, even interesting, question is how much does it matter if it turns out our take isn’t widely found among French Muslims? Our take on things isn’t widely found anywhere.
Religion’s place among race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc in the discourse on rights has always been troublesome. Islamic extremism takes that tension near the breaking point. This would be more clear cut certainly if we could swap in a Muslim left where the reactionaries are.
Thanks for that reply Victor
The site was down for some time yesterday and I was not able to respond.
I think it is unlikely that you will be able to get that police report, maybe it is possible because of the publicity surrounding the events in Paris but they would probably claim confidentiality of third parties. That and it doesn’t always go down terribly well when you tell the police they work for you and they should be completely transparent. The reason I was interested in it was to asses Commissioner Fredou’s state of mind before he died since he had spent most of the day busy with the Charlie Hebdo case. The tenor of the report could reveal much about his feelings at that time in a similar manner to which Maralyn Monroe’s final communication has been studied.
You know, this post is about where controversy ends and incitement begins and where the balance point should be in a healthy society. We managed not to get drawn into side alleys for example whether insurrection is a good or bad thing or more thankfully into the knotty subject of censorship and who should be doing the censoring. It is because of respect for Tarzie and the post that I don’t want to be deflected from the post subject. Since you have brought up further issues, I will answer them briefly so as not to duck them but I don’t want this to develop into an ongoing discussion.
I have no idea if the deaths were in error or not. I know there will now not be a show trial, as there was not with the Tsarnaev Brothers. How desirable this is I do not know.
If you want to discuss the nobility of the world leaders assembled for last Sundays rally I would point you to Arthur Silber’s latest post. He has dealt with this in much greater detail than I could. Davidly and me gave a passing acknowledgement to this earlier.
Your last paragraph about the world having free markets and free speech and this would prevent any regime or authority being able to pull the wool over our collective eyes, is a nice sentiment but it just isn’t true.
The all American hero and man of the people Ron Paul, speaks openly about the Gulf of Tonkin False flag incident in which the USA claimed the US Maddox had been attacked by Vietnamese gunships whilst sailing in international waters. This was the gambit which led directly to the Vietnam war. A war that was instigated, we were told, to prevent communism sweeping down through South East Asia and reaching Australia. After hundreds of thousands of deaths on both sides, America lost and communism didn’t reach Australia. It has now been admitted that no American ships were attacked by North Vietnam but those who wanted their war got it despite free speech and free markets.
In chapter 10 of Mein Kampf, Hitler breaks ranks and exposes The Big Lie, alternatively known as a false flag event. He admits to starting the fire in the Reichstag so that he could blame it on the communists and rally support for his National Socialist Party. It is because there was free speech he was able to get away with it although I will admit that the free market, such as it was, was not doing terribly well at that time.
Whilst I am on the subject of burning down parliament buildings, the English gunpowder plot was another false flag, perpetrated by King James in order to finally get rid of the Catholic question once and for all. Poor old Guy Fawkes was the patsy. The hot head who was wound up by the King’s men and pointed in the right direction, in much the same way, I suspect, as the Kaouchi brothers and Coulybaly may have been.
There are a couple articles on the reactions of French Muslims:
They’re a beleaguered and largely immigrant population so they’re not exactly inclined to make waves, and if they were reticent before, in the wake of the jingoism surrounding this catastrophe, they’re probably less liable to voice a radical opinion now than ever.
you‘ve asked for feedback on the whole CH thing coming from people of Muslim background. Here are some links to (in my view, absolutely remarkable) reactions from Muslim people.
This one comes from Shailja Patel, a Kenyan poet living in America. After having waded through exhausting bulks of CH-related opinion pieces written by white people, her short text came like a revelation to me: it hit me by its simplicity, her plain way to make things comprehensible (see how she relates Mohammed jokes to AIDS jokes). The last paragraph is so striking, so awesome that it put me in a state of complete silence, just nodding my head in kinda shock of simple truth.
Next there is a link to muslimmatters.org, featuring the fabulous ‚Muslim iCondemn App‘. Read it, enjoy it and slap it into everbody‘s face who bitch about an alleged lacking sense of irony on behalf of Muslim people.
Finally, there‘s a masterpiece of Muslim sharp-tongued, very snarky satire on Western fears of getting overwhelmed by Islamization (= the latest horror trend in Germany, please search für ‚PEGIDA‘ if you‘re not familiar with that dubious popular movement). It‘s Sulaiman Masomi, an Afghan-German rapper and poetry slam artist. His show was recorded just a few weeks before the CH attack, relates mainly to the PEGIDA phenomen but is now, at this point of time, an absolutely great reality check on how some inspired Muslim folks are able to strike back in terms of satirizing the whole paranoia thing. (Unfortunately, it‘s in German language.)
Last not least, lots of thanks to you from a longtime reader in Germany. Your blog is a precious source of mind- and soulfood. Keep it going, please. Thank you.
If there was a smily for shaking your head, I would put it in.
Interesting to see who and who is not publishing the latest cover
Yeah, that is interesting. Fox, Blaze, New York Post, Buzzfeed all Yes. That Charlie dude demanding that everyone reproduce their latest deliberate provocation needs to take a pill.
Keep shaking your head, because there appears to be even more to it: The French newspaper Le Figaro asked some semiologists about the hidden messages of the latest CH cartoon, and here it comes:
„Il faut retourner l‘image. Ici ce n’est plus la tête du prophète qui apparaît à l’envers mais un phallus, le turban étant l’équivalent des testicules et le visage allongé du poète devient une verge.» Coïncidence? Maladresse? Il en doute.
C‘est à dire, just look at the cartoon up-side-down, and you‘ll get the full pornographic message of it. It‘s all about the sacred French satire culture and its (so-called, allegedly ingenious) „iconoclast“ tradition. That‘s what they‘re particularly proud about. At least the article says.
As I said, keep shaking your head.
Their stature in inversly proportional to their self esteem.
I will admit having to look up “semiologists” though, that was a new one on me.
Iconoclast, huh, I don’t remember Andrei Rublev ever doing work like that.
That New Inquiry piece hit the nail on the head but I will bet it doesn’t get the same exposure as CH. Seems we live in a world of instant soundbites. Don’t bother to think for yourself, we will do it for you. It is called convenience.
‘The case against them for racism and Islamophobia is stronger than I’d even originally thought, though finding no wide agreement on that among non-extremist Muslims’. FWIW, in my french-speaking part of the world, ‘no wide agreement’ can be found in large part because they’ve chosen not to make their views on this matter public lest they should be singled out and made to pay for their lack of gratitude. That doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling the burn deep, deep within. the ‘freedom of expression’ crusade only makes their silence all the more necessary and painful.
“‘no wide agreement’ can be found in large part because they’ve chosen not to make their views on this matter public”
Yeah, people keep saying that and I don’t consider it sufficient grounds for leftists to project their views onto them. In any event, I think the emphasis on Charlie Hebdo’s racism is misplaced, though I don’t think their racism is irrelevant. It’s just that though they were Islamaphobes, I see no evidence that that’s what they were murdered for.
“Yeah, people keep saying that and I don’t consider it sufficient grounds for leftists to project their views onto them.”
Fair enough, but I think it would be reasonable to say that at this point in time, the sharks with the laser beams attached to their heads are trained on anyone even remotely casting a shadow on devout free speech and expression absolutism. The environment in France (and the EU in general) is certainly not conducive to a more reasoned approach to the role racism and hate speech play as evidenced by the backlash to the pope’s latest comments.
“However, I think the discussion of Charlie Hebdo’s content and the limits of satire are out of all proportion to their relationship to the shootings, the most important aspects of which are the political and social forces that brought them about and the ways in which power has exploited, and will continue to exploit them.”
Are they still so completely “out of all proportion”. I just don’t see this as being so clear cut. I have found numerous conflicting reports on the killers themselves. I have not found any that I could use to clearly separate anti-racism/anti-imperialist and fundamentalist motivations from each other in this case. Besides, there are numerous examples of the message of terrorists being co-opted just as much as the attack itself.
What immediately comes to mind is the 9/11 bombings canard of “They hate us for our freedoms!” when in actuality, the motivations were pretty clearly expressed – just drowned out and marginalized – that it was the continued occupation of Muslim land and countries. This is a much more direct anti-imperialist motivation steeped in a fundamentalist mindset.
Anyway, kudos to you for the rewrite. Its a testament to you as a writer that you are willing to pull a provocative piece and offer a more reasoned and reflective one.
This is undoubtedly true, but I don’t think it’s a sufficient explanation for the heterodoxy among people of Muslim background. It doesn’t explain, for instance, why a Turkish satire magazine came to Charlie Hebdo’s defense. It doesn’t explain why some Muslim commenters scoff at equating Islamophobia with resistance to fundamentalism.
I’m open to all possibilities, but I haven’t seen anything suggesting motives apart from punishing blasphemy and even that may be secondary to deliberately aggravating tensions between France and its Muslim population. These guys are plugged into Saudi-funded takfiris which owe their existence in part to symbiosis with U.S. Imperialism. I’m not going to shed any tears for Charlie Hebdo, but I am also not going to see their executioners as more anti-imperialist than reactionary without good reason. If they’re primarily driven by anti-imperialism, there are far better targets than an ostensibly left-wing magazine with a circulation of 60,000.
At first glance, that’s a reasonable objection, but after digesting a lot of the rhetoric on this, and looking at my own more closely, I don’t see the projection of left anti-racism and anti-imperialism onto these AQ and ISIS assholes as any more warranted. Yeah, they oppose *this* empire but the fact remains these are fascists — backed variously by US and Saudi elites — who are as inclined as empire to violently impose their will on Muslims. I think it’s more useful to read what they say and do at face value, as well as considering their alliances and effects.
Having reached this point, I have trouble seeing the deliberations on the extent of Charlie Hebdo’s racism as something other than attempts to decide the extent to which they had it coming. I don’t find this objectionable on moral terms the way so many others do. I just don’t think it’s relevant to an attack by elite-supported reactionaries that will undoubtedly be more injurious to French Muslims than to anyone else.
deliberately aggravating tensions between France and its Muslim population.
Personally, I think this was the likely motivation for them, and I don’t think they acted alone “lone wolf” style. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was done at a time when European fascism is on the rise.
Speaking of free speech and fascism, the NYT thought it was a great idea to offer Marine Le Pen a platform on their pages.
Oh but it doesn’t mean they endorse her! They’re just open minded! The article by a Muslim Marxist is up next!
Christ. Certainly the creepiest thing about the past 12 months or so is the normalization of fascism.
Which Turkish satire magazine came to defense of Charlie Hebdo? I didn’t undestand what you mean. All Turkish humor and satire magazine were near by the tragedy side this event. And the other side, in Turkey and in Russia, soap humor, gallows humor and satire can be exsist in the same magazine. Only literal sense, if it published as prose, they both separated from each other. Otherwise they are intertwined. Besides, if you mentioned about Cumhuriyet and its publishing muhammed caricature with Charlie Hebdo, Cumhuriyet is not satire or humor magazine. It is a about 100-years newspaper.
Leman, Uykusuz and Penguen are the caricature magazines. They all and the most others published special issue showing solidarity to condemn the attack. And they have got millions readers. If we mentioned about the satire, (and satire can not be identified with only caricature, it is a thought, which is expressible with writing, theatre or etc,) in those lands, so eastern lands, satire history based on very old dates. For example Russian satire example started at 14th-15th centuries, “Повесть о Ерше Ершовиче” is first example for this. Turkish satire has started well known Hoca Nasreddin, who lived in late 14th century. Intresting point, oldest satire examples belonged the Persian and Arabian in 9th centuries after Roman Empire.
My point is, when the imperialist west had no idea what the satire is, the eastern world knew very well. And today, if the east don’t like too much talk about that, because of that they can see the real satire is. Satire emerges from suffering, it is not laugh for simple benefits.
European Muslims appear to be between a rock and a hard place. They sit between the bully boys who purport to represent their interests but regard them as weak revisionists and the backlash that these hard cases cause amongst the peoples where many Muslims have chosen to live. It is kind of ironic that the Muslim men who live in the West are now experiencing what it is like to be a Muslim woman. They now largely keep their heads down and try not to get noticed because they know if they draw attention to themselves they are going to get fucked by someone. It’s no wonder they are confused. A whole people, some of whom, in recent have years instigated riots in their host countries, have been cowed and all for the relatively acceptable price of twelve deaths (It was never going to work unwithout casualties).
“These guys are plugged into Saudi-funded takfiris which owe their existence in part to symbiosis with U.S. Imperialism. I’m not going to shed any tears for Charlie Hebdo…”
Not that it should be a revolutionary idea, but I touched on the symbiotic nature of the putative partisans, how religion is just an excuse (you read so often people who make the claim that without religion there’d be no war), and I also stole a bunch of images to make a more fitting cartoon:
It’ll be interesting to see how long their circulation windfall holds. I’m guessing they won’t be selling millions next time, but who knows. I certainly do not expect them to see how their usage of imagery to mock both Le Pen and sentiment that is nearly indistinguishable from what makes her popular is not at least partially responsible for the current mood. Just blame the idiots for not “getting it”.
It will be interesting to see if CH start to nakedly pander to their new readers. I don’t think they’ll hold them otherwise. With so many of them dead, hard to say where it will go.
I wonder how they’d suss out who the new readers are.
Thanks for your reply above.
I do think its unfortunate that the deliberations of the extent of CH’s racism get morphed into a veiled attempt at victim-blaming. I guess that comes with the territory of our diseased culture of identity and solidarity. It’s just so much easier to stand with someone who looks like you do, ya’ know? I found the New Inquiry piece above such an excellent example of the counterpoint to racist propaganda being peddled as “free speech” and how it affects individuals.
“I just don’t think it’s relevant to an attack by elite-supported reactionaries that will undoubtedly be more injurious to French Muslims than to anyone else.”
I definitely see your point above as well as with the ” *this” ” empire remark. I simply was trying to allude to the deeper ramifications of fascist assholes being financed by governments and organizations installed and supported through a myriad of ways as subsets of the overall system of imperialism. It was definitely a waaaay to big of a brush I was painting with there.
In France, and coming soon to the USofA, bastion of growing unfreedom, a new law was passed last November that criminalizes speech that supports terrorism – a broad category indeed, and conveniently ever-broadened by subjective and prejudicial interpretation.
Despite your taking down the original piece, Tarzie, an irony emerges – that in France you could be arrested and thrown into prison for the title alone that you’ve left standing.
It’s easy to support ‘free speech’ when that speech conforms to our own idea of what is good and right. But supporting the free speech of those we don’t agree with is the difficult part. That is why it is so important to recognize and uphold the PRINCIPLE of free speech, ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ Freedom of speech protects freedom of thought, and, by extension, freedom of conscience. That is why it is itself protected by the First Amendment. That is also why the Elite wish to circumscribe the notion of freedom of speech to conform more easily to their wealth-accumulating agenda than to maintaining the freedom of individual humans and of their natural groupings together in various cultural and societal cohesions.
When you call for the suppression of certain speech, you don’t eliminate it at all – you drive it underground where it gains strength by being ‘off limits’. It the waits for an opportune time to reemerge but much stronger than was before its suppression. And that plays into the hands of the Elite.
The Elite do not want people to understand that freedom is an essential element of enlightened ethical human behavior. It informs the ability to act towards one’s fellow human with respect for their dignity and with empathetic understanding of their humanity. This is not in keeping with the values of endless profit-producing war and cruel, dominating power over the whole of the human race.
Voltaire also said, ‘To learn who rules over you, simply find out what you are not allowed to criticize.’
Upholding the principle of free speech changes nothing. Power sets the terms. If you have no leverage to defend your speech from those who would suppress it, you have no speech freedom. What free speech doctrine amounts to again and again is a defense of contested speech that serves power: hate speech; speech for corporations etc.
Wrong again. Speech gains strength by being normalized. Like-minded people can’t coalesce if they can’t speak publicly. Why do you think the French government wants to outlaw speech that supports terrorism in France? Because they don’t realize that driving it underground will strengthen it?
“Why do you think the French government wants to outlaw speech that supports terrorism in France? Because they don’t realize that driving it underground will strengthen it? ”
Exactement! Yes, of course, they wish to strengthen it, just as they wish to strengthen anti-Jew sentiment, anti-Catholic, because you know the new atheist religion’s holy trinity is money, power, money. These corrosive divisions among humans serve to increase the power of the state and the wealth of the Elite. That’s why I do not agree with the act, with even the idea, that any government should restrict, curtail, limit in any way, freedom of speech. Only actions should be regarded as crimes when they are crimes in fact. Murder is crime, but merely speaking, as you have done, “I Do Not Mourn the Deaths of Racist, Imperialist Provocateurs” should not ever be criminalized as it has been in France and will be soon here in the US.
“Speech gains strength by being normalized. Like-minded people can’t coalesce if they can’t speak publicly.”
Very true. That is precisely why it should not ever be restricted. Open and free discourse among people brings understanding and recognition of unity of interests, i.e. desire for peace and the right to be allowed to practice one’s philosophical, religious, spiritual or artistic considerations without the overt constricting judgment and interference from others (backed by state power) who wish to harm anyone for her/his beliefs. When fear-filled bigotry is engaged in discourse with genuine, compassionate humanity the result is usually that bigotry gives up the ghost.
The majority of the world’s people wish for peace and prosperity. Freedom of speech would allow them to realize that about each other, to turn away from brain-washing by their governments and their cultural institutions. In the US open discourse could break through the insularity of American culture that regards other cultures, other peoples as inferior to us. Obviously, those in power want to preserve control over discourse and prevent such openness and the potential it carries to create unity. Calling for restrictions on free speech only aids them.
BTW, I absolutely support your freedom to speak the sentiment expressed in your headline despite the fact that I heartily disagree with it. My personal philosophy relies upon the notion that there is nothing worth killing another human being for, save the imminent need to preserve one’s own life. Another idea I find of value is the recognition that most of the power citizens ever had regarding their governments has been usurped by the Hyper-wealthy Elite who control our political bodies, so it seems it is self-annihilating to view the everyday citizen as the or even a source of corrupt power. What empowers and dominates via the War Machine and the Terror it exports from mostly white countries to mostly non-white countries is sourced in greed for money and power, godlike Power. To kill ordinary citizens going about their business, shopping in the market, publishing satirical magazines, sitting at desks in school, does not serve the interests of the real people who comprise humanity, it serves the interests of greed and hunger for power. It serves the select few, the corrupt and corrupting Elite.
Why is it, Tarzie, you want to limit free speech, divorce it from its principle? After all, the speech most often criminalized by the PTB is that which tells truth.
It’s not so much that I want to limit free speech — though I don’t oppose it in theory — I just recognize that it will be limited anyway. My point — which thoroughly indoctrinated free speech advocates keep missing — is that support for the *principle* of free speech does not keep the PTB from criminalizing it when it suits them. Demonstrate where it does or STFU.
I refuse to lend support to free speech struggles that do nothing for me or the things I care about until I see evidence that doing so has a rippling effect to everyone else. As I keep saying, free speech doctrine, more than anything else, ropes good people into supporting shit. I won’t play. Let white supremacists, homophobes and corporations defend themselves rather than propping up their necrophilic ideologies *on principle*.
Do you ever wonder why we only have these public dialogues on speech in relation to contested speech that serves power? Do you ever fucking wonder about that???
You continue to completely contradict yourself, on one hand still insisting that prohibiting speech strengthens it, and in the next breath agreeing with me that keeping it public strengthens it, “which is why should not ever be restricted.” Which is it?
Certain kinds of speech are already criminalized in the United States just as certain kinds of speech are criminalized everywhere else.
reminded of those who derive off-kilter lessons from (e.g.) the ‘underdog’ rise of Christianity. it’s more like an anecdote test than a Lesson of History, but they let that be obscured by the predominance of the (nominal) majority ideology[-label]. ties in again (or rather, i’m just reinforcing my own dot-connection) with the anti-theist flavor of anti-Muslim ‘thought’.
This is a great post with some interesting comments. In the spirit of some of the comments that expanded the topic slightly, I would like to pose a few questions/thoughts:
1: If we accept, and this appears to be a personal choice, that the data shows that free speech and how the typical liberals interpret it is supporting the power structure and neglecting/damaging the powerless, what other laws, policies, or social norms are handled in a similar manner?
2: Is it reckless or irresponsible to suggest that an inverse relationship should exist between wealth/power and rights? The idea behind this is that in the US wealth/power grants access to tools that radically expand ones rights, therefore to maintain any sense of equality some effort must be made to curb this trend. Should this be codified? How?
2.1 Pulling in the police – It would seem obvious that one who is charged to “Serve and protect” granted access to carry and discharge loaded weapons, and where citizens are not allowed to “fight back” against and actually must capitulate to police, that there should be a set of laws that establish a threshold for maleficence significantly above that of a criminal as criminals are not granted such rights. Additionally, evaluation of wrong-doing for officers should be transparent and fully freed from anything even appearing to be a conflict of interest.
2.2 Pulling in the politicians – Ditto (police info)
“support for the *principle* of free speech does not keep the PTB from criminalizing it when it suits them.”
So, Tarzie, you advocate chucking the principle because supporting it does not prevent the PTB from criminalizing speech they don’t like? Isn’t that rather nihilistic, or colloquially, cutting off your nose to spite your face? Truth is, by allowing them to criminalize speech you or I don’t agree with, we ourselves chucked the principle and opened the door to speech we agree with being criminalized.
“You continue to completely contradict yourself, on one hand still insisting that prohibiting speech strengthens it, and in the next breath agreeing with me that keeping it public strengthens it, “which is why should not ever be restricted.” Which is it?”
From what I’ve observed of human nature I believe humans respond to love and respect for their dignity and wholeness. They want to live peacefully in a world where the environment too is respected and protected. When they are free to speak with one another, learn
each other’s interests and concerns, listening with empathy, love, and hope, humanity grows stronger. Empathy and hope are stronger than lies and thirst for war and domination over others. As such they spread more easily and more quickly than hate. But we must get ourselves off the habit of limiting our thinking to conform to PTB created polarities that reinforce thinking and behavior that accrues to their benefit solely.
It’s not an either/or proposition. Over the last 50 years the polarization of American politics has been scrupulously strengthened by the
MSM, the two *opposing* parties, the lobbyists and all the politicians save a very few truth tellers most of whom are now dead by natural means or not, and a few highly publicized vocal citizen-zealots of limited kinds. The result is that we tend towards seeing everything in terms of opposites, and so we miss the most important nuances and subtleties that are far more meaningful than the superficial familiar, lazy attractions of opposition.
When hate speech is freely discussed in an open society it meets with cogent and rational argument against it, proving its lie and its source in fear. But something else happens too. Sometimes we find the speaker has information the PTB has kept virtually secret from the people’s general knowledge of recent histories by shrouding it in the Hate category, yet when we explore that information we sometimes find that were that knowledge disseminated it would expose the world’s situation today as rooted in crimes committed a century and more ago. Such knowledge would expose the Powers to scrutiny with FACTS they could not refute. It would also empower those people who wish to act for the good of humanity.
But by criminalizing that speech it renders those facts insulated from public debate. And criminalizing it has a secondary effect – it stimulates perverse interest in those who hate for hate’s sake, without any commitment to exposing the facts of the PTB’s crimes, but simply of enjoying their own indulgences in prejudice and hate, focussing blame on the victims of those crimes rather than on the perpetrators. Thus, when hate speech is suppressed its hate aspect is accentuated and the questions it poses regarding the PTB are abandoned leaving only a field where truth goes to die amidst the rancorous noise of blindly opposing forces.
By signing on to the polarities that serve the PTB we have surrendered our freedom bit by bit, a little at a time, almost unnoticed, losing what we once were taught by our elders to cherish and protect. By not supporting the principle of freedom we fling open the gate, effectively saying to them, “Hey criminals, come on and get it all!”
Oh God. Who’s “allowing” anything? Who has the power to? Speech is constantly being criminalized and “we” had nothing to do with it.
Try responding to something I actually wrote if you want to continue, and spare me the liberal boilerplate. Try some facts. Prove the slippery slope from “us” “allowing” “them” to criminalize speech to “speech we agree with being criminalized,” but first prove that anything the ruling class does is contingent on principles “we” uphold or don’t.
Some comments from Larry Holmes of the WWP on Hebdo, alignments, and imperialist framing. Hebdo comments start at about 17:00.
thank you once again, tarzie, for your framing the issue. i admit i had religiously (heh) avoided everything Hebdo save for the baffling headlines. until…
yesterday morning i ran into a newish documentary that included never-before published photos and brief videos from abu ghraib prison. there were a few interviews with alleged ‘survivors’ of the many brands of torture, one o whom has actually reconstructed a life (in aid of helping other survivors or the families of those who were murdered there).
i realize that it may seem to be a wild leap for many, but the islamophobic torture ‘protocols’ that were so entwined with sexual degradation…and the sadistic pleasure that was at the root of it all…reminded me of some of the worst Hebdo cartoons i’d seen, although i’d be hard-pressed to explain it fully.
so i thank you for giving voice to any number of themes here, including the supposed reason for good satire: to undermine the powerful, not just (in this instance) further degrade Muslims, or create more hatred of them as ‘american sniper’ seems to have done. you also might enjoy this short transcript bruce dixon did on BAR radio, although they have several other good pieces up on the subject:
Very late to this post and may not get seen. However, thanks Tarzie, for your usual refreshing perspective. I have been overwhelmed with family & work issues, plus traveling overseas, so was sort of “out of the loop” when this whole Charlie Hebdo killing came down. My very limited observations are this:
1. The murder of these “satirists” was (predictably) immediately scooped up by the global corporate fascist propaganda organs (aka, the usual suspects), and one could instantly predict the “party line” in how this event would be PR’d. And PR it was/is. The whole “but but but Free Speech!” angle was particularly puke-making… like as IF the fascists give one iota of a shit about “Free Speech” for the 99s… only when it suits them & mainly when it can be twisted to serve the needs of the wealthy & powerful.
2. The dog ‘n pony show photo op (proved absolutely to be ONLY a photo op) of so-called “world leaders,” including despicable genocidist Nettenyahu, lining up to show their “solidarity” allegedly with the 99s??? Pull the other one, Charlie… PR machine perhaps not quite at it’s most hypocritical but pretty damn close. Of course the predictable caterwauling by so-called “conservatives” in the USA that Obama didn’t attend this photo op was also quite hypocritical coming from that mob, and, ironically, Obama’s non-attendance is one thing that I thought Obama was correct in not doing (albeit who knows why he didn’t go; probably not for any reason that would match mine, but I digress).
3. The 99s in France and elsewhere reliably getting their knickers in a knot and then reliably having their “outrage” directed at the dastardly evil vile disgusting horrible savage murdering Muslims! And of course, bc “Free Speech,” “Satire Rules” blah de fucking blah blah.
I’ve only just recently had time to start sorting through this bullshit, and probably now it doesn’t matter all that much as the brain dead global populace (in the westernized part of the planet) are most likely on to the next bright shiny object…. and all this ginned up totally ersatz “outrage” and “grief” over the murdered Charlie Hebdo staff will be but a faint glimmer in their collective memory banks.
It’s all about ginning up emotions to high volume, and then turning the page so we can move on to the next outrage du jour. All whilst distracting us from the really truly outrageous things done in our names and with our tax dollars.
While I don’t believe that the Charlie Hebdo staff “deserved” to be murdered, given that they enjoyed a white privileged (mostly/all male) status in imperialist nation engaged in oppression and murder of Muslims in other nations, as well as in France… well, that was my thought… who are these privileged white males to stand on their high horse and pontificate to those oppressed by their nation? Yes, yes, we hear/learn that the staff of Charlie Hebdo was allegedly “multicultural” (by virtue, I think, of having one lone Muslim on their staff); we on the so-called “left” have also been chastised and adjured that “Charb” and the other staff were allegedly “leftists,” “anarchists,” fighting the good fight for the 99s and other blather. The latter may well be the case, but still… Who WERE they, after all, to pontificate in such a fashion to the oppressed in the name of “freedom of speech” or whatever other nonsense has been bullshitted out there.
Well I’ll stop now. That’s enough. I need to read and reflect more, but suffice it to say that I feel (personally) damned uncomfortable with anyone from a westernized, imperialistic, oppressive and racist nation taking a high horse stance in re to Muslims – either their faith/religion or to the people as a group/tribe/whatever. Who are WE in the west to be in a position to call them out, diss them and/or their religion?
Saying: well, that’s what the French DO, and they have a long history of DOING just that is insufficient and disingenuous. Yes, yes, the French have been outrageous satirists for centuries, but this is/was/will be perhaps a bridge to far.
I am certainly NOT Charlie Hebdo. And I am not supportive of their style of satire. That’s just me, but that’s my take. And all this blathering about freedom of speech is bogus.
Thanks for the blog post, Tarzie. Also some very interesting commentary, too.
One can recognize that Charlie Hebdo was indisputably a racist, imperialist publication and that the attack on their office was not an anti-racist, anti-imperialist act. That is precisely what this post does, but then why read when you can irrelevantly jerk off in comments.
The idea that cultural producers like cartoonists can’t be implicated in imperialism is deeply stupid. How else are racism and imperialism domestically promoted than by bourgeois culture you fucking moron?
You are a hypocrite opportunist. However I had saved your article, and here’s a quote from it: “I feel no ambivalence in judging as supremacist and imperialist the overwhelming emphasis that the chattering classes place on the suppression of reactionary, power-serving speech vs. the myriad, entirely ignored forms of repression visited on oppressed people and marginalized political movements by states and corporations every day.
To now lionize the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists as ‘martyrs to free speech’ whose deaths ‘retroactively ennoble the original decision to publish the cartoons’ as if the Muslim world is repressing The West rather than the other way around is repellant in the extreme, as are calls from across the political spectrum to rub the whole world’s noses in the cartoons by indiscriminately publishing them. This emphasis is yet more evidence — though none is needed — of the top to bottom rot of the dominant political culture — particularly the ready common cause the alleged left increasingly finds with fascism — and of the complete futility of engaging with it.
Vas te faire enculer Charlie!”
And here’s a very good article by Ajamu Baraka (titled “The Charlie Hebdo White Power Rally in Paris: A Celebration of Western Hypocrisy – how do you like that title? I loved it!) : “The people of France mobilized themselves to defend what they saw as an attack against Western civilization. However, the events in Paris did not have to be framed as an existential attack on the imagined values of the liberal white West…”
And another great article by Palestinian Ramzy Baroud: “When Islam was introduced to Arabia many centuries ago, it was, and in fact remains, a revolutionary religion. It was and remains radical, certainly the kind of radicalism that, if viewed objectively, would be considered a real challenge to classism in society, to inequality in all of its forms, and more importantly, to capitalism and its embedded insatiability, greed and callousness…”
I don’t know what your point is. I was hiding nothing. I stand by most of what you quoted. I just felt that it wasn’t applicable to the Hebdo affair for the reasons I gave. I think a lot of people on all sides of the question are seeing what they want to see in both the Hebdo cartoonists and their murderers. I tried not to do that with my updated version.
I have edited your comments. Please do not reproduce entire posts from other blogs on mine. Thanks.