The morning of January 7th, 2015, brought the Clash of Civilizations into the office of a French satirical paper. Though it was hardly a “clash”. . . It was more like a slaughter.
The three Islamic militants who stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo created a firestorm throughout the globe and placed the contrast between modern Western civilization and Islam before all to see.
Out of all the places for jihadists to target, it seems a humor magazine would be way down on their hit list. But this seemingly trivial choice reveals much about what the jihadists care for most.
As Roman Bernard pointed out, Hebdo was renown for specializing in provocations and vulgar caricatures of the Left’s enemies. “For one cartoon criticizing Islam, Charlie Hebdo has been publishing dozens outright insulting Christians, Whites, conservatives, and men.” And those insults were often pornographic and degrading. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a weekly that would plaster an image of Pope Benedict brandishing a condom as “my body” is construed as a great expression of the values of Western civilization. The crass depictions of Muhammad—blasphemy in the Muslim faith—were what drove these attacks, revealing the devotion to the sacred many Muslims still retain.
But that iconoclastic attitude is what has made this outlet the heartthrob of liberals (and now conservatives) on both sides of the Atlantic. The complimentary phrase that Charlie Hebdo held “nothing sacred” has become a required feature of any article on the publication, and the reader is supposed to find this courageous and praiseworthy. Of course, they did hold some things sacred, like social justice and the human right of immigration (they were socialists after all), but they really had no higher value than functioning as the Dobermans of Political Correctness.
In fairness though, they did have the balls and honesty to attack Islam—which many on the Left aren’t willing to do. They realized the growth of radical Islam in their own country threatened the decadent society they cherished. This is an attitude unacceptable to many on the Left, who see Muslims as victims of White oppression. Thus, like any victim or carrier of weakness, the Left takes pity on them and gives them their unconditional support. Attacking them for their values is seen as the work of those dreaded xenophobes and comes with the noxious taste of Western superiority—even though those same values undermine liberal society and inevitably lead to horrific acts of terrorism.
This cognitive dissonance is seen in the reaction of Will Self—a left-wing British satirist—to the shooting:
Well, when the issue came up of the Danish cartoons [of Muhammad] I observed that the test I apply to something to see whether it truly is satire derives from H. L. Mencken’s definition of good journalism: It should “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” The trouble with a lot of so-called “satire” directed against religiously motivated extremists is that it’s not clear who it’s afflicting, or who it’s comforting. This is in no way to condone the shooting of the journalists, which is evil, pure and simple, but our society makes a fetish of “the right to free speech” without ever questioning what sort of responsibilities are implied by this right.” [Emphasis added]
By this logic, good satire is only that which attacks normal Whites and empowers those who aren’t normal Whites. Thus, attacking illiberal Muslims is not good satire because they are subalterns living in traditionally White societies.
Self’s admonition about the supposed responsibilities implied by free speech explains why the favored target in the aftermath of this brutal attack is not the Muslim community, but the nationalists who want to address the problem of Islam in Europe. Handwringing piece after handwringing piece has filled the vacuum in the attack’s wake, all bemoaning the popularity of Marine Le Pen and the anti-Islam marchers in Dresden. The desires of populists to resolve the problem is blamed for contributing to a toxic environment for immigrants that causes them to turn to radical Islam. If there weren’t just so many xenophobes, Ahmed and Muhammad would turn themselves into model Frenchmen. Or so the rationale goes.
The implication behind these attacks on the Front National and other anti-immigration parties is that the state needs to jump in and restrict their ability to campaign on these Muslim-alienating issues. The journalists of Charlie Hebdo died for our divine right of free speech, so let’s make sure those nationalists can’t call out the group that gunned them down. We’re all aware of the brave posters on social media who’ve tweeted #JeSuisCharlie or gathered in city streets around the world to hold up pencils. The message is that these terrorists can’t take away our fundamental right to free speech—even though the idea that France has a devotion to free speech is laughable. Those who publicly criticize immigrants or Islam can expect lawsuits and jail time for their crimes of conscience. Le Pen faced a lawsuit for merely complaining of a Muslim occupation of her country. France’s then-Interior Minister (now Prime Minister) Manuel Valls vowed to use all state resources to ban the “anti-Semitic” performances of Dieudonne, discounting France’s toleration for freedom of expression. We see in both of these cases the desire to protect the feelings of special groups against attacks they don’t like, which could very well apply to the vulgar cartoons of Charlie Hebdo.
So why do they get the slack—being mostly White Frenchman—while a Black comedian with immigrant origins gets turned into the enemy of the state? Because Hebdo argues for a point of view shared by the present state, while Dieudonne’s views on Jews come from a perspective deemed beyond the pale of acceptable discussion. One is liberal, the other is illiberal. One is not a threat to the System, the other is. It’s a selective defense of free speech that has become all too common throughout the West, and has increasingly fixated on promoting the worst trash as the highest expressions of our society. Those expressions we’d expect our chattering class to praise as holding “nothing sacred.”
Just last month, we dealt with the ridiculousness surrounding the Sony film The Interview. The comedy is the latest product of Seth Rogen, a man whose work is defined by sophomoric sexual humor and “Last Man Syndrome.” If you haven’t seen any of his films, count yourself lucky. Unfortunately for the world, after hackers, rumored to be agents of North Korea, threatened violence if Rogen’s movie was released on Christmas Day, the film was pulled and instantly became a symbol of Western values. When I think of Western values, Rogen and co-star James Franco getting high and trying to assassinate Kim Jong-un don’t come to mind. Regardless, that’s what the film has become, and its eventual online release was greeted by some as our generation’s moon landing. While we shouldn’t have much sympathy for the brutal North Korean regime, if a trashy film was proposed where the plot made light of assassinating another real-life world leader (possible exception for Vladimir Putin), it would never hacw been greenlit. However, since this is North Korea, those concerns were discarded and now this shitty comedy will go down in history as a profound testament to the human spirit.
Similarly, the Pussy Riot episode also displays this new tendency. After violating the sanctity of an Orthodox church, Russia decided to press charges against the punk band for upsetting an entire country that still cared more for its religious traditions than the ability of feminists to shout “shit of the lord” in church. They were promptly prosecuted and sentenced to hard-time, much to the moral shrieking of Western governments and media outlets. Thanks to one attractive member and a “girl power” narrative in a state straying from liberal modernity, we got a tale of “free speech” versus backwards values. Their act, which would’ve still been condemned in Western countries as offensive, was praised as a bold act of courage against a totalitarian state. Pussy Riot was released in 2013 into the waiting arms of America . . . and then sent back to their Motherland to upset the proceedings of the Sochi Olympics. The U.S. turned the good will for Pussy Riot into a weapon for their own interest. Another win for free speech, I suppose.
While this is the garbage promoted by Western society to the rest of the world, our media still likes to place the blame for Muslim outrage on those who simply don’t want the followers of Muhammad in their country. The real reason for the contempt Muslims have for Western society is not “xenophobia.” It’s the culture of “nothing sacred” that’s driven them to kill. Muslim fundamentalism still hold to a belief system that cherishes something above themselves, even their very lives. They believe in principles they deem sacred and are willing to give their lives (and take lives as well) for their faith. Western society offers no value system that in any way comes close to the power of radical Islam. The fact that a few militants were willing to calmly walk into an office in broad daylight, mow down several people, and battle police—all for the honor of their prophet—speaks volumes to the strength of this belief. The platitudes of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” offer no substitute, and are no longer even practiced in France (or the West, for that matter). Where’s the liberty when nationalists face jail time for their beliefs? Where’s the fraternity when French society is increasingly becoming atomized and balkanized? Equality, of course, is still considered a value worth fighting for, but economic inequality is rising and a fact of life for both Muslims and working-class Whites in France.
So what does the nihilism of Western society offer to Muslims? Nothing, except shiny trinkets. That’s why the Muslim world is saying a resounding “No” to liberal modernity and reinforcing their own traditions. This is also why they are threatening to wipe out our own, as we have no real defense against it. Our values are empty and offer nothing to our own people.
The new calling card of the populist right is the defense of liberal values against anti-liberal Islam. Understandably, this is done to draw in voters and ward off accusations of fascism. It might even help propel Le Pen to the presidency in 2017, depending on how the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo plays out. But it won’t be enough to stave off the tide of Islam for long. It could possibly lead to laws restricting immigration into their countries, but it won’t create a value system that can counteract the power of Islam. In addition, liberalism is its own worst enemy, and it is impossible to maintain a system that would keep these people out when you cherish values that say they’re just like you. Upholding liberal values will ultimately result in leading us back to the situation we find ourselves in today. The liberal attitude towards a threatening culture can find its best summary in the opinion of the murdered Charb when asked about the 2011 firebombing of Hebdo. He felt those responsible for it weren’t real Muslims and he wanted Islam to become as “banal” as Catholicism. Unfortunately for him, that doesn’t seem to be happening.
A strong value system, not our present nihilism, is what’s needed to save us. Let’s hope the marchers in the streets drop the pens and take up the symbols of our rebirth.