As virtually everyone knows by now, there was recently an attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in France, leaving several cartoonists dead. The perpetrators were reported to have made remarks suggesting the killings were some form of revenge for the magazine having published drawings of Muhammed.
There’ve been many reactions to this, from the inevitable hashtag (“#JeSuisCharlie”, translates to “I Am Charlie”), the unfortunate random retaliation attacks against French Muslims (as if they had a damn thing to do with it…), criticism of Charlie Hebdo’s content, and a ridiculous photo op I’m not even going to bother linking to. A couple expressions on this, however, I’d like to observe:
-Among the tropes deployed by editorial cartoonists has been expressions nodding towards the old saying that the pen is mightier than the sword — in this case, generally by depicting various drawing tools pointed at a generic militant as if they were missiles. Sassy Sourstein rightfully touched on the problem with that:
As if Western Civilization’s mighty pens were the only missiles pointed at Muslims. The West is just minding its own enlightened business and these jihad crazies come and assail our absolute greatest right.
If only that were the case. Imagine how calm the world would be if bad drawings were the extent of belligerence. BTW: France does just fine assailing that right itself
A particular artist, Eli Valley, in his drawn response suggests being genuinely fearful not only of being killed if he drew Muhammed (wait, wasn’t Muhammed a character on South Park for years? Trey Parker & Matt Stone are still alive last I checked), but that people will excuse his murder. Now, some critics have been harsher than others, but I haven’t seen anything remotely approaching a pre-emptive Samuel L Jackson in A Time To Kill declaration. Just to put it out there, though I feel like it’s silly to have to, I don’t take context as a justification: killing people for drawings is nuts regardless of who is doing the drawing or the killing.
Check out how Eli portrays his fear, as noting a terrible act with “but” to downplay it. He asks why that isn’t the case for other things… but alas, it actually is, and regularly:
“…but she shouldn’t have led him on like that”
“…but the alternative is more crime”
“…but it’s necessary to keep us safe”
The justification is all around us already, so what was intended as a reducio ad absurdum is instead the status quo.
-Speaking of But Security, Will Wilkinson at The Economist caught a rather curious deployment of such by… guess who?
“You’ve got to secure your country […] I think our border is a danger to attack, as well as our student visa programme. Several of the attackers on 9/11 were here on student visas they had overstayed. I haven’t seen any Christians or Jews dragging Muslims through the streets, but I have seen the opposite”
Guliani? Steve King? Nope, alleged “libertarian” leaning blatantly obvious 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul. This is a humongous smear job against the global Muslim population, as if they are all to be assumed extremists unless they first prove they aren’t to The Proper Authorities — and it’s part of an appeal to the mainstream of his party! What does that say about them that a way to signal being non-fringe is to go Full Metal Xenophobe?
As for Paul’s ending remark, he proves himself as adept at erasing context as the aforementioned cartoonists: the major conflicts of the world aren’t about religion, but resources*, and when a Hellfire missile lands there’s not much left to drag.
* – Anyone who has found themselves confused by IS getting bombed by the US while the Gulf royals buy military supplies from the US, think about control of oil. What looks like hypocrisy on the surface tends to be consistent within an intentionally unspoken principle.