Sunday, January 11, 2015

Paris Attacks Target Democracy and the West — #CharlieHebdo

At Der Spiegel, where the editors aren't afraid of publishing the Muhammad cartoons.

See, "Assaulting Democracy: The Deep Repercussions of the Charlie Hebdo Attack":
The terrorists in Wednesday's attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris had a much broader target in mind: Western values. Will the attacks bring people together in this time of crisis or will fear of Islam prevail?


"Can we laugh about anything? Will we be able to laugh about anything tomorrow? These questions are worth asking. No limits to humor that is in the service of freedom of speech, because when humor stops, it is very often to make place for censorship or self censorship."

Cabu (Jan. 13, 1938 to Jan. 7, 2015), -- cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo

They knew what they were doing. The two masked men armed with Kalashnikovs ordered cartoonist Corinne Rey, who had just picked up her daughter from day care, to enter the door code. They then made their way to the second floor where, every Wednesday, the day of publication, the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo gathered at noon to commence their weekly editorial meeting and discuss what they would put in the next issue.

t was a lively session, with around 15 people, including a police officer assigned to provide protection to Stéphane Charbonnier, the satirical magazine's 47-year-old editor in chief. In the end, neither stood a chance.

"Where is Charb?" the killers called out. "Where is Charb?" They shot him as soon as they found him. "I would rather die standing than live on my knees," Charb had once been quoted as saying. At the time, al-Qaida had just placed him on its death list in its online magazine Inspire. "Charb Doesn't Like People" was the name of a regular column he wrote for Charlie Hebdo, but he was in fact a quiet, reserved man who, like everyone here, stood for humanity as he saw it. They were people who fought for the freedom of the press, freedom of expression and, yes, for the right to occasionally trangress taste or to insult. In the end, they paid for it with their lives.

They were people like Cabu, whose real name was Jean Cabut. The 76-year-old with shaggy hair and a rough drawing style had a laugh so hearty it could literally lift him out of his chair. His most famous character was "Grande Duduche," a perpetual college student hopelessly in love with the daughter of a university dean.

Or Georges Wolinski, 80, who, like Cabu and the entire first generation at Charlie Hebdo, was a figure cast in the spiritual mold of the 1960s -- hedonistic, libertarian, anarchic and cheerful -- a man who opposed censorship, racism, the war in Algeria, de Gaulle and narrow-minded and dull Catholic France.

Or Bernard Verlhac, 57, who called himself Tignous and once caricatured Front National leader Marine Le Pen featuring a clown nose with a swastika branded on it. He once went out of his way to mock Nicolas Sarkozy as a war president and a man who is positively spastic when it came to power and hyperactive to the point of hysteria.

Or illustrator Philippe Honoré, 73, whose last cartoon was a New Year's card to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (wishing him "especially good health") that had been tweeted by the staff just minutes before the attack.

The hail of deadly bullets also struck left-wing economist Bernard Maris, 68, who wrote a regular column for the magazine, psychoanalyst and columnist Elsa Cayat, copy editor Mustapha Ourrad, police officers Franck Brinsolaro and Ahmed Merabet, a building maintenance man as well as local politician Michel Renaud, who had been paying a visit to the magazine....

Global Shock

The shock over the killings spread quickly across France as people registered that the attacks had in fact been also been aimed at France and democracy as a whole and not just some satirical magazine.

Judging from the outpouring of grief seen in France on Wednesday night, even an attack on the Louvre wouldn't have struck a deeper nerve. Jan. 7, 2015 has become for the French what 9/11 was to the United States. It was an attack on the country's proud history of Enlightenment and the French Revolution, but also one against Europe. It goes far beyond the publication itself -- at issue are fundamental questions of freedom and humanity. Accordingly, politicians, journalists and everyday people around the world sought to express their solidarity. It happened en masse on social networks, but also in public spaces. Hundreds of thousands of people attended vigils in cities spanning the globe from New York to Sydney on Wednesday, with further demonstrations planned for this weekend. Newspapers dedicated their front pages to the tragedy, although not all dared to publish the cartoons featured in Charlie Hebdo. A number of cartoonists also drew images illustrating the inequality of weapons and pens. The pope prayed for the dead.

From Pakistan to Turkey, Muslim dignitaries took pains to distance themselves, using tough words to condemn the attacks. Tunisia's Islamist al-Nahda party issued a statement condemning the "cowardly and criminal act." Egypt's spiritual leader also sent his condolences, as did Russia and China.

A Turning Point

France is no stranger to terrorism, but Wednesday's attack marked the worst it had seen since 1961. The country survived the Organization of the Secret Army (OAS), a French dissident paramilitary group that fought against Algeria's independence during the 1960s. Later, during the 1990s, Algerian Islamists planted bombs in commuter trains. But the attack that took place on Wednesday against Charlie Hebdo was a siege against the very values that France embodies.

"This is a turning point -- quantitatively but for that reason also qualitatively," says Olivier Roy, a respected scholar of Islam at the European University Institute in Florence. "It was an attack designed for the maximum effect," he says. "They did it to shock the public and, in that sense, they were also successful."

At the same time, at least for a short period, the attackers united a country that in recent years had appeared to be frightened, beat down and hopeless in a way rarely seen before in its history. The day after the attacks, President Hollande even met with his political nemesis, Nicolas Sarkozy, in Elysée Palace. "This isn't just about democracy," the former president said. "It's about civilization."

Hollande also invited right-wing populist Marine Le Pen, a woman considered to be an outsider in the French political system who normally wouldn't get invited to the presidential palace. Meanwhile, leftist Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve visited the editorial staff of the conservative daily Le Figaro on the day of the attacks. It may not sound like much, but these are meaningful gestures in today's politically polarized France...
Still a lot more, at the link.