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“Je ne suis pas Charlie”

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charlie-hebdo-une-14309_w1000Translations: CzechNorwegianPortuguese, Spanish

Like almost everyone else commenting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre I know next to nothing about that publication save for the publicity it has received subsequently. From what I can gather it appears to excel in satirical cartoons of a rather blunt and not terrifically funny variety. Despite the fact that I would be opposed to most of its editorial viewpoints I still feel that what happened in Paris on January 7th is terribly sad. But then there was already something sad about a magazine put together by aging leftists who perceived themselves to be located on the cutting edge of political radicalism.

Another establishment cartoonist with similar delusions of outsider status is The Guardian’s Steve Bell. His response to the massacre was to draw the murderers wearing silly clothes and asking, “Why are the fuckers still laughing at us?” No one is laughing, Steve. I suppose it might provoke a titter from a five-year-old who still finds clowns funny but the fact is that there is nothing especially worthwhile or laudable about this particular strain of caricature. If it also fails to be funny then it begins to seem like an exercise in sad frustration.

Perhaps I’m missing the point. I quite like Calvin and Hobbes, and my exposure as a child to the work of Charles Schultz gave me a depth of philosophical understanding that I have never quite been able to recapture as an adult. Cartoons that straddle the void between innocence and experience can evoke a Blakean sense of the lost paradise of childhood, and momentarily provide relief from the stress of everyday life. The cartoons of Charlie Hebdo, by contrast, seem to embody the very worst aspects of childhood, being puerile, offensive, and spiteful. Childish rather than child-like.


Of course, many will object that my personal taste in cartoons is irrelevant; that the significant point is that we should all stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo in the face of this brutal assault on our freedoms. But I regard this position as deeply flawed. Firstly, I would question the nature of the ‘freedom’ that is being defended. As others have pointed out, there is absolutely no freedom of speech in Europe for those who wish to say something radically divergent from the prevailing multicultural narrative. This is true both for Islamists and for the radical right. The freedom of speech that those who have adopted the “Je suis Charlie” slogan advocate is freedom for a broad leftist milieu who support multiculturalism, not for dissident views.

Secondly, I disagree with the world view put forward by Charlie Hebdo and their ilk. Some might see this as short-sighted in the face of the very real Islamic threat. But I would argue that it is the building of false alliances that is short-sighted. The staff of Charlie Hebdo and the wider leftist milieu have never supported anyone from the dissident Right who has been jailed for their views and they will not start supporting them now. This is not a minor disagreement within a wider broad church. I disagreed with the politics of Charlie Hebdo before January 7th, and I still disagree with it now. I will not alter my world view in response to murderers.

Thirdly, I do not support the publication of material deliberately designed to offend people’s religious sensibilities. Perhaps I should rapidly add that I do not support censorship of such material nor the murder of those responsible for it. But neither can I accept the elevation of such material to the summit of Western civilization. To hear our politicians talk you would think that the crude baiting of the most intimate part of Muslims’ religion is the end point to which Western culture has been evolving for two millennia. Never mind the fact that Nick Griffin was put on trial, and wholly condemned by all mainstream politicians, for saying things relatively mild in comparison to the case of Charlie Hebdo. The hypocrisy is stark but not in the least surprising. But this is the difference between Left-wing freedom of speech and Right-wing freedom of speech. They will never make an explicit distinction but it is there whenever you look for it.

Some have suggested that the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo should be admired for their courage and I would agree with this. Their actions seemed designed to provoke Muslims and they knew that this was a dangerous path to tread. They certainly showed bravery in this regard. But the most admirable quality is courage combined with wisdom, and Charlie Hebdo was certainly lacking in the latter quality. Their sense of radicalism consists of a hollow “fuck you” gesture aimed at an establishment that withered away sometime soon after ’68. It is the radicalism of the Monty Python generation, forever patting itself on the back for an iconoclasm that was already dated some years ago.

The leftists and multiculturalists who are now so determined to protect bourgeois values such as “the freedom to offend” turned their backs on the working class youth of Europe a long time ago. Their priorities are now clear to see. Rather than engage with the difficult task of building a future for their youth they prefer to play silly and irresponsible games, throwing around their sole Voltaire quote in a pique of self-righteous narcissism. It all has less to do with noble ideas of freedom than with the self-indulgence of a bored elite. The working class youth of Europe have more urgent issues to deal with, as the case of Rotherham (to give only one example) showed.

I cannot join in the clamor to claim “je suis Charlie” because I think that such a position is schizophrenic. The supporters of free speech support that right for those who advocate multiculturalism, but they support jail and censorship for those who oppose it. And in pursuit of this faux freedom of speech we are all expected to support the puerile rudeness aimed at those whose integration within multiculturalism is proving to be most difficult. It is as though the multiculturalists do not really, deep down, believe in their own rhetoric, and wish to undermine their own project through a petulant, yet repressed, act of childish provocation. It is literally insane. Je ne suis pas Charlie.



  1. Posted January 9, 2015 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    D’accord. I was long familiar with Charlie Hebdo and sometimes bought it in Paris so I could copy the loose drawing styles of the cartoonists. But I never read anything edifying or innovative there. As the writer suggests, Charlie belongs to the same gratuitous-filth school as the Grauniad’s Steve Bell, another snoring-boring Lefty whose willingness to outrage was briefly mistaken in Clerkenwell for “satire.”

  2. Podsnap
    Posted January 9, 2015 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    I have read perhaps 20 articles about the Charlie Hebdo massacre and this is the best – bravo – exactement.

  3. Posted January 9, 2015 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Excellently put in every respect.

  4. James O'Meara
    Posted January 9, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Excellent piece. When you say:

    “But the most admirable quality is courage combined with wisdom, and Charlie Hebdo was certainly lacking in the latter quality.”

    This of course is Aristotle’s point. Courage is the mean btw cowardice and foolhardiness, the latter being uninformed by truth. This is behind the debates over whether SS soldiers buried at Bitburg or Islamists blowing themselves and other others up can be said to have acted with “courage”. The usual thing is to sneer at them as “cowards” but however satisfying as abuse it misses Aristotle’s subtlety and is thus counter-intuitive. It all depends on whether you accept their underlying ideology. The Judeo-Christians, for example, revere Samson, the first suicide terrorist, while the Philistines (and any rational Aryan) would disagree.

    So, as for Charlie H, I deplore their worldview and its hypocrisy, so they had it coming.

  5. James O'Meara
    Posted January 9, 2015 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    “The supporters of free speech support that right for those who advocate multiculturalism, but they support jail and censorship for those who oppose it. ”

    Huysmans had their number in the 1880s: “The free-thinkers who demand freedom for their own thoughts, so as to acquire the power to suppress all others” or something like that, in Against Nature.

  6. Hadrian
    Posted January 9, 2015 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    That photo is very telling; a bunch of dreary physical wrecks holding up signs which basically say that they too are willing to be killed by Muslims in their own land. Rarely has weakness- both intellectual and physical- been so well-captured in a single photograph.

  7. Gladiator
    Posted January 9, 2015 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    The Left is falling on its own sword mes amis.

  8. MTN
    Posted January 9, 2015 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Génération Identitaire has a rather good alternative social-media campaign: ‘Je suis Charlie Martel’.

  9. Avery
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I think this article is spot on in calling Charlie Hebdo an elite publication. But I don’t think it is a useless relic: I think that French cartooning, despite being superficially childish, really does have a wisdom with its courage. I’ve written a detailed rebuttal to such claims here:

    In response to the commentator saying that “Charlie Hebdo had it coming,” please consider that France is about 10 percent Muslim!! And one of the police offers defending the offices was Muslim. These Muslims, many of whom are citizens, would have seen Charlie Hebdo on their news stands every week for years. But as a result of this attack, it’s quite likely that offensive Charlie Hebdo images will be distributed throughout the Arab World, and Europe WILL be put onto clash of civilizations track. This was a very effective spiritual strike at the heart of European culture.

  10. Posted January 10, 2015 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I am very happy to see such an article. I made a very similar point the day before this appeared on American Renaissance. I would like to add that it’s my last suggestion, how the European right can exploit this event, that should concern us going forward. Below is my original comment:

    The emptiness of Je suis Charlie is fathomless. What angers a man says a lot about the man. Contemporary Europeans hold vigils and sanctify free speech when a bunch of professional defecaters (to coin a term) are killed by terrorists, but these same people say nothing, do nothing, or actually approve of incarcerating any of their own countrymen who question the body count of certain historical events, or who make unpolitical comments about gays, Muslims or certain other religious groups, or hold patriotic ideas that the state deems dangerously populist fascism. What free speech are they talking about, exactly? If a Frenchman states that a Muslim woman with four children does not belong in France, he can be fined or even imprisoned; when one of those children grows up and kills some sleazy cartoonists for mocking a religious icon, then it’s all about free speech. Free speech for trash; censorship for serious thought.

    Nevertheless, the European right must use this event for worthwhile political ends.

  11. Jules
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    You just copied The Saker’s blog on the subject.

  12. Michael Woodbridge
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    It is worth pointing out that one of the journalists at ‘Charlie Hebdo, ‘Sine’, was sacked for making a mildly anti-Semitic remark when Sarkozy’s son married a Jewess, saying that “he should go far”. Compare this with the campaign of obscenities published against Muslims which would have made even ‘Der Sturmer’ blush with its anti-Jewish rhetoric, and we get the full measure of the current hypocrisy of the European Press. Only Marine le Pen showed any statesmanship when she defended free speech despite being obscenely and continuously vilified on the pages of ‘Charlie Hebdo’.

  13. Gunnar Tyrsson
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    ” But then there was already something sad about a magazine put together by aging leftists who perceived themselves to be located on the cutting edge of political radicalism.”

    How very true. Ego driven and childish, as well. Leftism is, first and foremost, a case of arrested development. Time seemed to stop for many of them around adolescence.

  14. Glen
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Most of you may have seen this elsewhere:

    “Police found an ID document of Said Kouachi at the scene of the shooting, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported. “It was their only mistake,” said Dominique Rizet, BFMTV’s police and justice consultant, reporting that the discovery helped the investigation.” – Charlie Hebdo attack: Man turns himself in, agency reports; By Greg Botelho and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

    Sound familiar?

  15. It is I only
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Les “Je suis Charlie” son des Charlots !

  16. Proofreader
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Few things are as absurd, as irritating, and as hypocritical as the caged parrots of the mass media flapping furiously and squawking about “freedom of speech.”

  17. Karen T
    Posted January 11, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Mr. Pankhurst.

  18. Andrew
    Posted January 12, 2015 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    I had never heard of the magazine before, but the cartoon of Jesus sodomizing someone (Santa Clause or Muhammed?) tells me everything I need to know about this despicable publication. I understand that the point of the incident is an awareness that France is being invaded by foreigners with a foreign religion. A sane France would oppose this, as did Charles Martel (with the same means). I support anti-Muslim rhetoric, battling them on every front. But I think that this particular magazine was not only unworthy of being defended, butI will go so far as to say it deserved death.

    In the Old America, Christians would certainly not have put up with offenses against Christianity. Tar and feathering was not an uncommon practice (covered with burning tar and feathers was not pleasant). For this particular magazine, I have little doubt that the publishers and “artists” would have been killed off in the America of the 1800s or earlier, to general applause by most. While Muslims are one of the enemies facing the European nation, I cannot help but admire their intense allegiance to their religion (related to their peoplehood), and willingness to defend it. The destruction of evil is a righteous act, and the world would be well-rid of that steaming pile of a magazine. To me, the senseless part of this story is that they were tolerated for any length of time.

  19. eyeslevel
    Posted January 12, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Free speech for blasphemers, jail time for Emma West?
    Free speech for blasphemers, hard time for Ernst Zundel?

  20. Peter
    Posted January 12, 2015 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    France 1988: Government officials, religious leaders and film directors condemned today an apparent arson attack against a Paris theater that was showing Martin Scorsese’s film ”The Last Temptation of Christ.” The fire Saturday night left 13 people hospitalized, 1 of them in serious condition.

    The fire, if it proves to be arson, would be the most serious incident in a series of attacks against the film in Paris, Lyons, Nice, Grenoble and several other French cities. The incidents have included the clubbing of moviegoers and the throwing of teargas and stink bombs in theaters.

    Before the film opened, the Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, condemned it without having seen it. He said, ”One doesn’t have the the right to shock the sensibilities of millions of people for whom Jesus is more important than their father or mother.”

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