Tag Archives: Charlie Hebdo

Free Speech? Oh yeah, that thing.

I hoped I wouldn’t have to write anything else about Ukraine’s recent anti-free speech, historical revisionist laws, but recently a reader raised a point that is simply too crucial to ignore. Just when I thought I was out…They pull me back in!

Do any of my readers remember the biggest global discussion about free speech this year? You should, because it was one where people died. I am of course referring to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I won’t blame you if it slipped your mind, since it slipped mine too. The war in Ukraine went on even after the signing of Minsk II, wildfires are raging in Siberia (Thanks, Obama!), and in the US of course, unarmed black people continue to be gunned down by police one after another. As for me, I wrote an article about some people’s reactions to the massacre, but the most involvement I ever had was conducting interviews with Russians expressing their condolences in front of the French Embassy in Moscow. In short, we all moved on.

From my personal photos. Later that evening or the next day, I would learn that RT and the Russian press had already begun to blame the massacre on the US. Classy.

From my personal photos. Later that evening or the next day, I would learn that RT and the Russian press had already begun to blame the massacre on the US. Classy.

In case the reader forgot, on 11 January 2015, a number of world leaders gathered in Paris for a unity march in support of free speech. Naturally, their photo-op drew a lot of justified criticism about hypocrisy, given some of the leaders who were there or the regimes their governments supported. For example, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was in attendance, and the Turkish government is not known for its stoic defense of freedom of speech or the press, to say the least. In fact the motto of the Turkish Republic is “Sik gazeteciler! Ermeni NE?” (English: Fuck journalists! Armenian WHAT?). Turkish PM Davutoğlu was not only in attendance at the march, but he was also in the front rank of the big photo-op shot. He’s the man with glasses, fourth from the right, do you se- Hey wait a minute! Who’s that man on Davutoğlu’s left?

charliehebdo

Well I’ll be damned! That’s Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, standing up for free speech in Paris. That was why he was there, right? So how about it, President Poroshenko? After you stood up for free speech in France, will you proceed to strangle it in your own country? I’d like to remind the Ukrainian president and the reader that one of the reasons Charlie Hebdo was allowed to criticize religion and religious  leaders so mercilessly is due to the legacy of France’s ancient anti-blasphemy law, which was abolished in 1791 after the French Revolution. In Ukraine there are those who want to create a new religious dogma, which some among them call a “national idea,” and the laws they support are essentially creating a new crime of blasphemy.

As I said before, it is up to Poroshenko to show whether or not he stands for so-called Western values, or whether he and the rest of the Ukrainian government are still products of the same basic mentality that dominates Moscow. These laws will not strengthen Ukraine; all previous attempts to enforce this revisionist, right-wing “national idea” on Ukraine have done nothing but create division, as well as a pool of willing collaborators for Moscow’s schemes in the region. Ukraine needs freedom and unity, not contrived dogma enforced by law.

So there it is, the last thing I’ll write on the topic of Ukraine’s anti-free speech laws. I hope. Should Poroshenko display massive hypocrisy and approve this law, I suppose I’ll have to organize the first international “Everybody Draw Bandera Day.” Stay tuned.

Oh RT! (cue laugh track, credits)

Are you ready for WACKY HYJINKS with the funniest guys East of the Baltics? Better tune in to RT this week and see what CRAZY ideas they’ll come up with next.  For example, if you follow the news on president Putin’s official websites, you probably already know that Putin, in a special phone call to French president Hollande, personally gave his condolences to the families and friends of the victims in Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack:

Vladimir Putin expressed his sincere condolences to Francois Hollande and the people of France following the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office.

The President of Russia condemned this barbaric act and expressed hope that its perpetrators will be found and receive the punishment they deserve. Mr Putin asked Francois Hollande to express words of deep sympathy and support to the families of the victims and wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured.

Francois Hollande thanked Vladimir Putin for his expression of friendship.

Russia’s foreign ministry also made a statement of condolences to the victims and the people of France. The link is only in Russian at the moment, but it stresses the need for “active cooperation in the fight against the threat of terrorism.”

The tone of Russia’s state-run media is a bit different, though. Literally the day after the attack, RT published this piece, entitled: “Who profits from killing Charlie?” As you might have guessed, less than a day after the attack “Pepe” Escobar, internet detective extraordinaire, has decided this attack looks a little too convenient to be a run-of-the-mill terrorist operation. No, even though the journal apparently received threats for years, in spite of the fact that their offices had been firebombed for the same reasons associated with the fanatics responsible for Wednesday’s shooting, this whole thing is just a little too coincidental! I mean come on, people who continually issued death threats and committed acts of arson eventually ended up making good on their promises of blood? Nice try, liberal media.

Obviously I’m not going to spend time debunking this idiotic theory, especially since not all the details in the case are even known. I do want to highlight a couple of things, though.

Pepe’s thesis

A pro-style jihadist commando attack in Europe’s heart. Cui bono?

Careful planning and preparation, Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenade launcher, balaclavas, sand-colored ammunition vest stuffed with spare magazines, army boots, easy escape in a black Citroen…

And the icing on this particularly lethal cake: faultless Paris-based logistical support to pull it all off. A former top French military commander, Frédéric Gallois, has stressed the perfect application of “urban guerrilla technique” (where are those notorious Western counter-terrorism “experts” when one needs them?)

I’m looking at this and can’t even find a place to start. There is simply too much raw, concentrated idiocy contained in these two paragraphs. I will say this though, if you ever want to plan a terrorist attack and pull it off with efficiency, at least 90% of the information you need is right in front of your face. You’re on it now, this thing called the internet. Other than that, you can train in the woods with airsoft weapons, or as it might be the case in this situation, you can go to some foreign country and join an insurgency already in practice. Every day thousands of people around the world are engaging in paramilitary training, sometimes just for fun. Also in light of the fact that Russian officials have been using this as an example of why the West shouldn’t see Russia as the main threat, wouldn’t the most obvious conspiracy theory say that the Russians were behind the attack? Cui bono, remember?

I’m going to stop now. There is no point in arguing with someone who produces such stupidity within the first few lines of his article. I know he already decided this was a “false flag” before the blood dried. That’s how these people work. They’re so much smarter than all us dupes who believe the “mainstream media.” If only we just accept their alternative explanations and spread them around, then…something would…happen. Remember  when they said 9-11 was an inside job and published hundreds if not thousands of books on the subject since 2001? Remember how radically this message changed our society, spurring people on to revolution? Okay, in more than a decade that revolution still hasn’t happened. But with this new false flag theory plus the 9-11 inside job claims, 2015 could be the year for radical revolution! Please just listen to me! I’m important! I know what’s really going on!

Seriously, fuck that guy. His article isn’t even the first example of Russian conspiracy theories I’ve seen on the net, blaming the attack on the US to “punish” Hollande for backing down on sanctions. No doubt other state-owned media outlets in Russia have already allowed this theory to leak out. All this is going on while Putin and Lavrov express their “sincere” condolences to the French people and the families of the victims. That shows you how trustworthy they are.  And before you object to that, yes, Putin has a direct line to all state run media in Russia via his personal press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

Since this is all rather depressing, I’d like to point out some highlights found in the comments section, always a gathering of great minds on any RT article. It’s sure to lift you up after reading that depressing garbage they subjected us to.

This comment is from a user named “justiceforall,” but I think the real culprit is “doge.”

“Wow

RT Amazing journalism.

This is the new Intercept!!”

WOW! Much journalism! Such recovery will take 2 years but is inevitable because the global economy will grow!

WOW! Much journalism! Such recovery will take 2 years but is inevitable because the global economy will grow!

Like on most sites, comments can be voted up or down by other readers. That one had a rating of +1. Keep that in mind.

This next comment is a spam message that managed to get by their mods. It had a negative rating of -2:

I was without work for 6 months when my former Co-worker finally recommended me to start freelancing from home… It was only after I earned $5000 in my first month when I actually believed I could do this for a living! Now I am happier than ever… I work from home and I am my own boss now like I always wanted… I see a lot of unhappy people around me, working the same old boring job that’s sucking the life out of them day by day… Everytime I see someone like that I say START FREELANCING MAN! This is where I started

✒✒✒✒✒✒✒✒ w­w­w­.J­o­b­s­7­0­0.­c­o­m

If he/she works from home, who are all those unhappy people they see around them? Their partner and children? I’m calling bullshit.

The next comment actually displays critical thinking and a concern for journalism.

International news sites have a duty to provide factual news articles with evidence and sources. RT is not a tabloid a columnist can just spurt an entirely opinionated article on. Granted western media isn’t unbiased and doesn’t always give the facts. But ignoring facts completely and having an article like this which is only fit for a tabloid, discredits this site (I am an avid reader).

If this article provide some factual basis, evidence or quoted sources, and was less rambling. It would be acceptable, as it is, this article isn’t worthy of RT and should be trashed.

What rating did other readers give that comment? Minus 9.

Fuck RT.

Left contrarianism

I know I’m going to take some flak for this, but here it goes. Anytime a tragedy is politicized, or in other words almost every time a tragedy occurs, people from all points on the political spectrum will express their opinions on the matter. I do not expect them to shut up any time soon. I’m simply focusing on the left in this case because I see this as my side and I do not care what antics the right chooses to engage in during this situation.  I am not responsible for them because I do not associate with them.

As the reader has no doubt guessed by now I’m referring to the reactions from yesterday’s attack on the Charlie Hedbo office in Paris, which left 12 people dead. By no means, however, is this the only example of the phenomenon I’m starting to take issue with, which for lack of a better word I shall dub ”leftist contrarianism.” I’m using this as a case study because it is the most recent example.

Left contrarianism is this tendency to see masses of people grieving over some kind of tragedy or outrage, and then instead of saying something empathetic so as to attract the masses’ attention one tries to say something totally contrarian so as to sound edgy or subversive. Perhaps at times it’s an attempt to sound more righteous than the current cause, but it fails nonetheless. I just want to share a few of the “leftist” responses I’ve seen since this tragedy, and explain why they are logically flawed. After that, I’ll discuss why this is a really shitty approach to politics and how it alienates the masses, the people any progressive movement should care about the most.

What about Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, etc.? 

Who said that we’re supposed to stop being concerned for those travesties of justice? Does showing sympathy for ordinary people getting gunned down in an act of premeditated murder exclude continuing to speak out against unwarranted police violence? Seems to me like these two causes go together pretty well, seeing as how they both share a very simple message- “Don’t shoot people.”

What about drone wars, Syria, etc.? 

Again, there is no reason why a person can’t express sympathy for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting and continue to condemn the wars that are waged by the US, NATO, Russia, etc. Yes, this can be a good opportunity explain how Western foreign policy contributes to the spread of terrorism, or the inconsistency of fighting radical Salafists in one country while supporting them or at least looking the other way when they happen to be fighting an unfriendly regime. The thing is, there’s a right and a very wrong time to bring this issue up. The day after it happens would be the wrong time.

But Charlie Hebdo sometimes published racist and Islamophobic images

Indeed. I’m sure they published sexist and perhaps homophobic images as well. Does that deserve capital punishment? They also made fun of Islamophobes and right-wingers like Le Pen. It’s not like this was some kind of right-wing political propaganda organ which was deliberately trying to whip up pogroms against Muslims. We’re not talking about Julius Streicher here. Keep in mind that throughout the world there are leftists, including Communists and anarchists,  who have been killed by radicals with the same ideology as those killers in Paris.

Racism, sexism, and xenophobia are just a few of many social ills in our society. Chances are that you, at some point in your life, have been guilty of one if not all of these things. What if an offended gunman had got to you then? Keep in mind these are working people, working for a publication which must attract readers to survive. Are you sure that the company you work for is squeaky clean? What if you work for the state?

Lastly, if you think these guys’ jokes deserved the death penalty, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is. Are you prepared to go gun down Louis CK or Dave Chapelle? Both of them have made plenty of racist jokes in their career.  Here’s a tip, a lot of people secretly realize that they have racist or sexist impulses. They’d probably be a lot more open to talking about them and working them out if they didn’t think you’re advocating that they be shot for them.

But freedom of speech is a liberal idea! 

Yes, yes, I know “freedom of the press is freedom for those who own a press.” I know that freedom of speech is never absolute, nor is it entirely fair in a capitalist society. By no means does this mean it isn’t real or can’t be quantified. Plenty of people in Russia and numerous other countries can tell you all about what it’s like not to enjoy the level of freedom of speech you have in countries like France, the UK, or the all-time winner for freedom of speech, the United States. This isn’t liberalism nor patriotism, it is a statement of fact. It is really fucking hard to get so much as indicted for making public statements or publishing things in the US.

Yes, the American corporate media can easily drown out dissenting voices. You know what they can’t do? They can’t get the state to open a bogus legal case against you or have police sent to search your home because you published something that fell under the ill-defined label of “extremism.” These are things that actually happen to people in most of the world.

It’s true that people are often hypocrites when it comes to free speech- They will often call for the banning or restriction of speech they don’t like. That being said, people generally do not like the idea of being punished for saying, writing, or drawing the wrong thing. If they believe that we will place all kinds of restrictions on them were we to achieve any measure of power, they will be put off by us. Also keep in mind that leftists have also often been the target of censorship by self-appointed moral police.  Perhaps you need a refresher course about the abolitionists, labor organizers, socialists, anarchists, and Communists who were jailed, lynched, or shot for speaking out for equality and social justice.

Pretty much everything I’ve seen that fits into this category of contrarianism is just a variant on one of those themes. Whatever form it takes, and whatever the event, left contrarianism always seems to raise its head.  Why is this such a problem? Let me make it perfectly clear: It makes you look like a total asshole with no empathy. 

You don’t come off as subversive or revolutionary. You come off as a dick. Here you have these people who are just expressing grief and condolences and in comes what seems like a Che T-shirt wearing college student to make sure everyone knows they are all wrong and that they should be talking about his or her favorite topic.  Yes, I realize that this discourse attract Islamophobic bigots. Save your anger and arguments for them, not people who are just trying to show a little empathy. It’s not that you look like a dick just because you’re telling them they aren’t caring about the right issues. You’re also making an unjust assumption that they have no concern with those issues you think they need to be talking about right now, when the blood has barely dried. That, my friend, makes you a giant dick.

Oh yes, I know that saying “Je suis Charlie” doesn’t actually help anyone. But go back through all your status updates that “express solidarity” for workers in Bangladesh or the residents of Gaza. Are you sure that does so much more? Yes, it is pretty oblivious when a white female college student at a protest says, “I am Mike Brown.” Does she need some explanation from the people around her about why that is problematic? Yes. Does she need dozens of people attacking her for being so out-of-touch thanks to her privilege? What about the fact that in spite of her privilege, she has enough empathy and sensitivity to understand that a white woman should care when unarmed black people are gunned down by cops. Do you need someone to constantly remind you that your ” statement of solidarity with the people of Gaza” doesn’t alleviate their suffering in the slightest, and most likely there is nobody in Gaza who even knows you exist?

Progressive politics are supposed to be based on empathy. That’s what made abolitionists look at slaves in chains and in spite of the law, the prevailing ideas of the time, and the danger that opposing either of those posed to one’s person and still loudly say, “No, they are not property, they are human beings!” This is what made Marx, an intellectual, and Engels, an actual factory owner, look at the plight of industrial workers and realize that for all its progress, capitalism was an inherently immoral system that needed to be abolished.

Indeed, people must be made to see the big picture and understand the structural, systemic factors which make tragedies like this possible. They need to understand that just as these gunmen had no concern for the humanity of their targets in Paris, governments exercises no more compassion when a 19-year UAV pilot is ordered to fire a missile at “suspected militants” who may well be unarmed villagers.  The thing is that you have to make them see how these things are connected, how they need to stand up for those powerless, impoverished people thousands of miles away and not just the urban office workers whose lives resemble their own. You don’t do this by attacking people when they express sympathy for latter.

In short, if the left wants to start winning for a change, it had better start recognizing the importance and power of people’s emotions. If we don’t, rest assured the right has that mastered. They will seize upon people’s empathy and turn it into fear, outrage, and finally hatred and a lust for vengeance. We will be portrayed as self-righteous hypocrites. Do you really want those bigots to score such an easy victory? Have they not had enough triumphs in the past few decades for us to wake up and realize that what we’ve been doing all this time hasn’t been working? Left wing politics are about the masses, and yet all we’ve seen since about the 1980’s is the left continually alienating those masses and turning into a university-based subculture while the right-wing all over the world wins over the working class again and again. Maybe it’s time to stop being a contrarian asshole and start learning how to deal with people, don’t you think?