France: The real implications for people and their rights after attack on Charlie Hebdo

Whether or not the French state and/or “far right” are implicated in the attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, it bears certain similarities to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. World Trade Centre in 2001. As in the United States in 2001, the French monopoly capitalists and sections of the financial oligarchy (as well as those of the U.S and Canada) are taking full advantage of the attack on the magazine to obfuscate things. They have been at least partially successful so far in mobilizing people on a racist basis to support their agenda of interference and aggression in the Middle East; to escalate racist attacks against specific members of the population at home; and to intensify surveillance and control of the population as a whole. All the while, diverting attention from the increasingly severe economic and political crisis in which they are mired, in the hopes that they can make the people pay for the crises that they alone are responsible for.

It is informative to look at the history of the Charlie Hebdo (summarized by Wikipedia), in order to better clarify what its role has been — intentionally or otherwise — in promoting the above agenda.

Magazine editors at first appear to be progressive “leftists”

In 1996, three of the staff members/editors of Charlie Hebdo (François Cavanna, Stéphane Charbonnier and Philippe Val) gathered and filed 173,704 signatures of people who supported a ban on the Front National – the nationalist political party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972, characterized as “far right” and “anti-immigrant” (specifically non-European immigrants). The proposed ban was on the basis that statements and policies of the Front National contravened five articles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (a document drawn up after the bourgeois democratic revolution of 1789 in France). In addition to the anti-immigrant stance of that party, other major policies included “economic protectionism” (support for nationalization of certain industries) and a strict “law and order” agenda. According to Wikipedia, its policy toward deportations of immigrants is “more moderate today than it was at its most radical point in the 1990s.”[1]

An about face

The seemingly progressive stance of the weekly, however, changed sharply around the year 2000, when one of its journalists “was sacked after she had protested against a Philippe Val article which called Palestinians ‘non-civilized.'” Then, in 2006, the magazine reprinted the twelve racist cartoons of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten which ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad, engendering the “controversy” that deeply divided the people of Denmark; it also added more such cartoons of its own. A number of Islamic organizations sued the editor Val for publishing racist material.

Calling the cartoons “overt provocations,” the French President Jacques Chirac stated, “Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided.” Future President Nicolas Sarkozy, on the other hand, “sent a letter to be read in court expressing his support for the ancient French tradition of satire,” while François Hollande “expressed his support for freedom of expression.” In 2007, Val was acquitted by the courts. The magazine published another provocative edition in November 2011, following which their Paris office was fire-bombed in the middle of the night, and its website hacked. In September 2012, the magazine published yet more cartoons of Muhammad, some of them pornographic, at which time “riot police surrounded the office to protect it from possible attacks.”

On January 1, 2015, according to the New York Post, Charbonnier, the current editor of Charlie Hebdo published a taunting cartoon entitled “Still no attacks in France,” featuring “a caricature of a Muslim fighter saying, ‘Just wait — we have until the end of January to present our New Year’s wishes.’” Then on January 7 came the mid-morning attack on the magazine’s editorial board.

According to International Business Times, “the situation could make for favorable polling numbers for Le Pen” whose party has “reiterated its condemnation of Islam, and called for the reinstatement of the death penalty.”

Cynical use of principle of “free speech”

Large numbers of people have been mobilized to condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo, but not on the basis of getting to the bottom of what exactly happened, why it happened and who is responsible. Rather, they are being mobilized in an anti-conscious and hysterical manner to believe that they are supporting the principle of “free speech.” The “free speech” that the editors of that magazine were claiming to uphold, which was tied to their stance that “they are against religion in general” was, in fact, based on libertarianism dating from the eighteenth century in France. Many of the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo hearken back to libertine novels of the eighteenth century that featured pornographic cartoons and prose depicting priests and nuns.

The claim to be exercising free speech by the editors of Charlie Hebdo in the twenty-first century, however, when the absolute rule of Church and State has long since been abolished, is disingenuous at best. Is it “standing up for your rights” and “exercising the right to free speech” to attack the sensibilities of the members of a particular minority group in the society? Rather, exercising such a “right” is a libertarian license to do exactly what one feels like doing whether or not this be at the expense of other members of the society. In the final analysis, a libertarian call to the right to free speech in the twenty-first century, is a call for bourgeois individual rights at the expense of collective rights.

Human eights must mean more than bourgeois individual rights

In writing about the issue of nation-building in Canada, Hardial Bains touches on the issue of the relation between individual rights and the collective rights of the members of a society in the twenty-first century:

“There came a time when a break took place with the medieval attitude; people were then defined according to their individual rights …The aim was set so that all the resources available to society would be directed towards the greater glory of individual rights. However, this then blocked the satisfaction of collective rights.”[2]

Harmonizing individual rights with those of the collective rights of everyone else in the society can be realized only through formulating a new Constitution and developing a new political mechanism to make that possible.

Endnotes

1. According to Reseau Voltaire, which describes itself as “a web of non-aligned press groups dedicated to the analysis of international relations,” Charlie Hebdo was established in 1992, with secret funding from the office of then French President François Mitterrand. Charlie Hebdo was a member of Reseau Voltaire before withdrawing in 1997 over a disagreement with the network. At that time, Charlie Hebdo was campaigning for a complete ban of the right-wing Front National (FN). Meanwhile Reseau Voltaire defended the right to association of FN members while campaigning for the prohibition of its armed wing the DPS. Thereafter, the relationship between Charlie Hebdo and the network deteriorated. Charlie Hebdo attributed the 9/11 attacks to Al Qaeda and launched a vicious anti-Islamic campaign. For its part, Reseau Voltaire maintained that the official version of events was impossible and attributed the attacks to a faction of the U.S. military-industrial lobby. Finally, in 2007, the director of Charlie Hebdo became close to then President Nicolas Sarkozy, giving instructions to remove the chairman of Reseau Voltaire, who then went into exile.

2. TML Weekly, January 3, 2015, No. 1.

References

“Nation-Building in Canada Can Mean Only One Thing,” TML Weekly, January 3, 2015, No. 1.

“Charlie Hebdo,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hebdo, retrieved January 8, 2015.

“National Front (France),” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Front_(France)#View_on_Nazi _history_and_relations_with_Jewish_groups, retrieved January 8, 2015.


Source: TML Weekly Information Project, January 10, 2015, No. 2

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