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Much has already been said about the hypocrisy of world leaders, all of whom oppose free speech and freedom of the press to one degree or another, jumping on the ‘I am Charlie’ bandwagon and marching in Paris. Reminiscent of the massive demonstrations in support of the U.S. after 9/11, this rally was just another ‘feel good’ moment, full of photo opportunities for politicians masquerading as statesmen to use in future campaigns.
Let’s look for a minute at just some members of the Rogues Gallery that were on display in Paris.
French President Francois Hollande: As president of the country that, to hear the media and world leaders describe it, is now the front line of some war at which civilization is at stake, Mr. Hollande, of course, had to be there. So what if France banned pro-Palestine demonstrations last summer, when Israel was slaughtering thousands of defenseless men, women and children? Who cares if France assisted in the training of Muslim radicals to fight in Syria? They should have known that their victims were only to be other Muslims, not good, respectable non-Muslims who make a career out of mocking Islam. France taught them how to kill, but perhaps didn’t specify that it was only to be in Syria. But what is any of that? When Muslims, trained and armed by France, shoot up a magazine office in Paris, killing several people, and then go to a market to do the same, somehow we all become Charlie.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu: According to a recent report, Turkey has the distinction of currently imprisoning forty journalists, more than any other country in the world. But, what are facts, when a good photo op beckons?
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov: Siberian journalist and blogger Dmitry Shipilov was jailed in Russia for three months in 2014, for the crime of “insulting a government servant in the course of his work.” Free speech isn’t quite as free in some places as it might be.
Tunisian Prime Minister Medhi Jomaa: Mr. Yasine Ayan is currently imprisoned for ‘defaming the army’. Mr Ayan, a civilian, was convicted by a military court and sentenced to three years imprisonment, due to Facebook posts he created in August and September of 2014.
Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu: Perhaps this writer saved the best for last. The word ‘hypocrite’ simply isn’t strong enough here, but unfortunately, a better one doesn’t exist. Israel, under Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership, arrests and jails people for Facebook posts critical of Israel. During last summer’s genocidal bombing of the Gaza Strip, press vehicles were not ‘collateral damage’; they were successfully targeted, killing the journalists riding in them. Israel pays university students to write blogs and other articles favorable to Israel. It prevents United Nations personnel from visiting the Gaza Strip to see firsthand the damage wreaked there by Israel.
Absent from this Paris love fest was a top representative from the United States. Is it possible that U.S. President Barack Obama knew that for the U.S. to go to France to show support for free speech would simply be too ludicrous? Perhaps he thinks of recent police assaults on reporters in Ferguson, Missouri. Or possibly Edward Snowden, living in asylum in Russia after having revealed the extent to which the U.S. monitors the actions of its own citizens, citizens around the world, and world leaders, comes to mind. Or could he have thought of Chelsea Manning, serving a thirty-five-year sentence for releasing the largest set of government-classified documents ever released to the public, information that was more than a little embarrassing to the government? Or maybe his thoughts were not quite so specific. Knowing that profit-making corporations control most of the ‘mainstream’ press in the U.S., Mr. Obama must surely be aware that, while many people may have the right to speak freely, there is no opportunity for them to do so. The airwaves only broadcast what their corporate masters demand. For example, Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in the thousands were occurring for weeks before any major news stations deemed them worthy of reporting.
Well, what is any of that, if people have a brand new hashtag (#jesuisCharlie), and get to feel a sense of shared outrage? And, to add icing to the rather stale and poorly-made cake, those perpetrating the crime were Muslims, a foreign-looking, foreign-sounding people who wear such things a hijabs and kufiyahs. ‘Different’, of course, must be bad. Just because nearly 25% of the world’s population is Muslim is no reason for people to learn anything about them or, heaven forbid, accept them as fellow human beings. If the media says they are terrorists, hating western society for its freedoms, then it must be so. One wonders why the nearly constant bombing of mainly Muslim nations hasn’t proven to them yet the benefits of western society.
Following the 9/11 attacks, flag lapel pins, and flag decals on car windows were all the rage. They enabled people far removed from the reality of suffering to feel that they were ‘doing their part’ and ‘supporting the troops’. It was never necessary to look at any motivations that might have been behind those attacks; after all, when politicians like New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were telling the public that ‘they hate us for our freedoms’, well, what else is there to say? Just because the U.S. supports the most repressive Middle Eastern regimes, bombs citizens of the nations it doesn’t support, kidnaps and tortures suspected ‘terrorists’ and generally causes untold suffering, is no reason, a true, flag-waving patriot would say, for them to hate us. No, it is our cherished freedoms (similar to those enjoyed by Canada, Australia, most of Europe, much of South America, etc.), that motivates their hatred.
And now we are all supposed to be Charlie, whatever that means. But a clever phrase, an attractive sign, and the mistaken belief that by waving it one is doing ‘something’, is sufficient for many people. Tomorrow we all go back to our own little worlds, while the same heads of state that piously marched in Paris throw bread and water into the cells of imprisoned journalists, control through wealthy corporations which events become public knowledge and which don’t, and continue to repress their own citizens and press. And then come together again, in a pseudo show of solidarity the next time some event occurs that the governments and media choose to exploit. That it will most likely be at the expense of Muslims is an additional tragedy.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).