The attack against Charlie Hebdo : a political and media blank out of the causes, the consequences and the stakes

The attack against the weekly satirical paper will stand out in our contemporary history. The question is to know in which direction and with what consequences. In the present context of « war against terrorism » (external war), of racism and of republican islamophoby, the perpetrators of this act have, consciously or not, rushed a process of stigmatization and isolation of the Muslim component, real or supposed, among the popular classes.

{“The womb from which the vile beast emerged is still fertile.”} Bertolt Brecht

The political consequences of the attempt are already a disaster for the popular class, and this is going to get worse if no political alternative is taken to balance the well-known {« National Unity »}.

Indeed, the way in which the French media and an overwhelming majority of the political class is reacting, is criminal. These reactions are the real danger for our future and not only do they carry within numerous {« collateral damages »}, but they guarantee even more murderous attacks than January 7th or 9th to come. Understanding and analyzing the situation before taking any action, is the only position today that could avoid the emotional exploitation of both legitimate anger and feeling of revolt.

{{{Blanking out the real causes}}}

By not taking into account the deep and immediate causalities, or by isolating the consequences of the context which saw them emerge, we condemn ourselves to tetany in the best case and to a civil war logic in the worse one. (We must indeed classify an event, as violent as it can be, among the genealogy of facts that made it happen in the first place). Today in the media, nobody addresses the real or potential causes. How is it possible that such an attack occurs in Paris today?

Like Sophie Wahnich points out, there is a {« fascist use of the crowd’s political emotions »} whose only antidote is the {« eventual knotting of emotions and reason »}. [2] What we are living today is this isolation of political and media speech, only responding to one single emotion, completely blanking out the real and concrete analysis. Any attempt at analyzing the situation really, as it is, or any analysis trying to suggest another explanation than the one provided by the media and the politicians, becomes an advocation of the attack.

{{{A closer look at the vile beast’s fertile womb}}}

Let’s have a look at these causes, starting by those now falling within the ambit of time and international dimension. France is one of the most war involved international powers on the planet. From Iraq to Syria, through Libya and Afghanistan for their oil, from Mali to the Central African Republic, again passing through Congo for its strategic ores… French soldiers keep on sowing death and disaster on the four corners of the world.

The end of global balances stemming from WWII, together with the disappearance of the USSR and a capital intensive globalization centered on cost cutting to maximize profits (in response to the new emerging countries competition), make the control of raw materials the principal cause of interferences, interventions and contemporary wars. Here is how Thierry Brugvin summarizes the place of war in our present-day world:

{« The conclusion of the Cold War rushed the end of a worldwide conflicts resolution. Between 1990 and 2001 the number of interstate conflicts went off: 57 major conflicts on 45 distinct territories. […] Officially, going on war against an opposing nation is always legitimated by vertuous motives : the defense of freedom, democracy, justice… In reality, wars allow to control a country economically, but also to ensure that the private contractors of a nation can take over and monopolize the raw materials (oil, uranium, ores, etc.) or the human resources of this country. »}[3]

Since the attacks of 9/11, the speech legitimizing war was essentially built upon the {« Islamic danger »}, contributing from then on to the development of islamophoby on a large scale amongst the main western powers; to a point that even official reports are forced to acknowledge it. [4] In the meanwhile, these wars produce a solid {« hatred of the West »} among the people standing as victims of these military aggressions. [5] The wars launched by the West are one of the main matrices of the vile beast.

Because of this desire to control every oil and gas wealth, the Middle East is a central geo-strategic stake. Western powers strategies in general, but France’s especially, display on two axis : the strengthening of Israel as base and pivot in supervising the area, and the support lended to the Gulf reactionary oil-monarchies.

The unwavering support to the state of Israel is therefore a constant feature in the French politics, going through no change between Sarkozy and Hollande. The Zionist state can kill with complete impunity on a large scale. Regardless of how far they go or the means they use in such slaughters, this local manager of the Western interests is never really concerned on a long-term basis. During his official visit in Israel in 2013, François Hollande even declares: {« I will always be a friend of Israel »}. [6]

And, here again, both political and media speeches trying to legitimate this support are built upon the assimilation of the Palestinian Hamas with a so-called {« Islamic »} danger. Through recurring inaccurate statements, they do the same to the Palestinian resistance and to the Palestinian population as a whole, or even to their international political support. The logic of double standards once more prevails thanks to an islamophobic perspective led by the high ranking State officials and relayed by the vast majority of media and political actors. Such is the second profile of the vile beast’s womb.

These international factors need to be conjugated with internal factors within the French society. As underlined earlier, islamophoby was propelled in France by the law on {« hijab »} in 2004, and it was regularly maintained since then (speeches on the mass riots in 2005, law on {« niqab », « debate »} on national identity, not forgetting the Chatel circular letter, the exclusion of veiled mothers from the school gate, the harassment of high school girls wearing long skirts, or the ban on demonstrating to support the Palestinian people etc.).

Now it must be pointed out that the politicians who claim to protect the popular class interests never came with an answer that could thwart this islamophobic climate. Even worse, a very large consensus has emerged on several occasions, under the pretext of defending{ « secularism »} or avoiding any association with {« those who support Hamas »}. From the extreme right wing to a considerate part of the extreme left, the same arguments were presented, the same splits were deepened, and the same consequences happened.

The result is nothing less than a ever deeper rootening of islamalgams, the deepening of a rift among the lower classes, the ever greater weakening of anti-racist dikes – no matter how fragile they already are – and concrete or symbolic violence committed against Muslims. This result can be described, like Raphaël Liogier would say, as the broadcast, in a major part of society, of the {« Islamisation myth »}, leading to the tendency to establish a {« collective obsession »}. [7]

In addition, the tendency of setting up such a {« collective obsession »} is even more deepened with the media coverage of recent cases like Zemmour and Houellebecq.

After having been offered numerous opinion columns, Eric Zemmour is dismissed from I-Télé for having suggested the {« deportation of French Muslims »}. In the context of collective obsession we just called to mind, it allows him to stand as a victim. As for the writer, he’s defended by many journalists under the pretext that we should not get confused between fiction and reality.

However, both cases present on one side a deepening of this {«collective obsession»} and on the other one the sense of being once more and permanently insulted. Such is the third profile of the vile beast’s womb.
This internal factor of a trivialized islamophoby has tenfold effects in the context of today’s lower class economical, social and political breakdown. The mass impoverishment and casualization became unbearable in working-class neighborhoods. As a consequence, this leads to social relations marked by a growing violence against oneself and others.

Moreover, this goes with the downgrading new status of most middle class, and the fear of facing it for those who are not there yet but still know they are not of noble birth. Feeling the danger, they have at their disposal a consensual target already appointed as legitimate in the media and by the politicians: the Muslim community.

This weakening affects and strikes furthermore the immigration component of the popular class, which is confronted to systemic racist discriminations (a complete blind spot in the so-called pro-working-class political speech), which produce trajectories of marginalization (in training, in employment, in housing seeking, or in their relationship with the police and identity check practices, etc.). [8]

The deepening of the cleavage between two components of the working-class in a logic of « dividing those who should be united (the different components of the working-class) and unite those who should be divided (social classes with competing interests) » is the fourth profile of the vile beast’s womb.
What does such a womb give birth to?

Such a matrix is obviously conducive to the emergence of nihilist trajectories, resulting in the slaughter of Charlie Hebdo. Even though they are an extreme minority, these trajectories are a production of our social system and the inequalities or massive discriminations that characterize it.

But what the reactions to the attack reveal is just as important, and quantitatively, further more widespread than the nihilist option (for the moment?). Without being exhaustive, let’s remember some of the last few days events. On the speeches side, we had Marine Lepen demanding a national debate against the « Islamic fundamentalism », the identity block declaring the necessity to « question massive immigration and islamisation » to fight against {« Jihadism »}, the journalist Yvan Rioufol requiring from Rokhaya Diallo to dissociate herself on RTL, Jeanette Bougrab accusing « those who said Charlie Hebdo was islamophobic » to be guilty of the attack, not forgetting all the statements talking about {« declared war »}.

Along with these comments come the acting out of the last few days : a Femen makes a video of herself burning and trampling on the Koran, gunshots are fired against the mosque of Albi, racist graffiti’s are painted on the mosques of Bayonne and Poitiers, grenades are thrown against another one in Mans, gunshots are fired against a prayer room of Port La Nouvelle, another prayer room is burned-out in Aix Les Bains, a boar’s head and viscera are hung in front of a prayer room in Corte in Corsica. A kebab restaurant is the subject of an explosion in Villefranche sur Saône, a car driver is the target of gunshots in the Vaucluse, a 17 year old high school student is molested during a minute’s silence in Bourgoin-Jallieu en Isère because he was of Maghreb origin, etc.

These talks and acts show the magnitude of the damages already caused by the last decades of islamophobia trivialization. This, is also part of the vile beast.
The vile beast is also found in the stark lack of indignation towards the countless victims of the last decades’ imperialist wars. In response to 9/11, the philosopher Judith Butler wonders about this unequal indignation. She emphasizes that the justified indignation for the victims of 9/11 comes along with an indifference towards the victims of the wars led by the USA :

{ « How is it possible that we are not given any names for those who died in this war, including those the USA killed, those of whom we will never have an image, a name, a story, not the least fragment of testimony on their life, something to see, to touch, to know ? »}. [9]

This unequal indignation is at the root of a quite real cleavage production process among the lower classes. And it is that cleavage which is dangerous, especially in a period of construction of the « national union » as today.
The national union they dream to create, is {« All together against all those who don’t belong to us, all those who don’t show whitewash »}.

{{{A wonderful political play on the public’s fears}}}

But the scandal we are living today doesn’t stop here. It is with the most pernicious cynicism that some still use the situation and spread panic all day long.

{{* Security enhancement and restriction of democratic freedoms}}

Some, like Dupont Aignan, claim {« more flexibility to the forces of law and order »}, when a new anti-terrorist law was voted last fall. And, as an echo, Thierry Mariani refers to the American Patriot Act (in consequence of which severe violation of personal freedom were inflicted in the guise of fighting against terrorism): {« The United States knew how to respond after 9/11. The Patriot Act was denounced, but since then there was not a single attack except in Boston. »}. [10]

Exploiting fear and emotions to enforce laws and measures that are hostile to freedom, here is the first manipulation which is being tested out today; as to measure the extent of possibilities in terms of democratic regression. Some legitimate and urgent demands have already been made inaudible by the security outbid trying to make a profit of the situation: it will be, for example, way much harder to fight against identity check practices, and the daily humiliations will keep on going with the most general indifference.

{{* The national unity}}

The active and determined construction of national unity is the second major current emotional exploitation. It allows toning down all the demands that are hindering the widespread deregulation process. The thread may be thick; it is still efficient in the climate of general fear daily made up by the media. In some towns, the national unity is already extended to the National Front who took part in the support gathering for Charlie Hebdo. Dati and Fillon are already offended by Marine Lepen’s{ « exclusion »} from the national unity. It is this {« national unity »} that is causing the more political damages because it’s destroying the few positive benchmarks that could exist beforehand in terms of possible alliances and political identities.

{{* The injunction to justify oneself}}

Another abuse is found in the continuous injunction for real or supposed Muslims to justify themselves for actions they didn’t commit, or to have to dissociate themselves from the perpetrators of the attempt.
This permanent indictment is humiliating. It came to no one’s mind to claim from all real or supposed Christians an apology when the Norvegian Anders Behring Breivik assassinated 77 people in July 2011 while claiming himself an islamophobic and a white nationalist.

Behind this injunction is found the logic stating that Islam is by definition incompatible with the Republic. From this logic result the idea to subject all Muslims, real or supposed ones, under the watch of not only the police, but also the media, the teachers, the neighbors, etc.

{{* To be Charlie? Who can be Charlie? Who wants to be Charlie?}}

The slogan {« We are all Charlie »} is eventually the last abuse deployed lately. If the attack against Charlie Hebdo is reprehensible, it is nevertheless out of the question to forget the role played by this weekly paper in the setting up of today’s islamophobic climate.

It is also out of the question to forget the odes revered to Bush among their sheets while he was running his famous {« war against terrorism »} in Afghanistan then in Iraq. These written or drawn position statements are not details or simple inconsequential amusements: they are at the root of multiple aggressions against veiled women and numerous actions against Muslim places of worship.

Above all, this newspaper has strongly contributed to the cleaving of the popular classes, at a moment when what they needed the most was unity and solidarity. We are NOT MORE Charlie today than we were yesterday.

The time coming promises to be hard and costly. To brake the escalation, we must put an end to the violence of the strongest: we must fight to end current imperialist wars and revoke racist laws.

To break the escalation, we must develop all the frames and events of solidarity that are meant to prevent the wave of racist actions or statements, including islamophobic ones. To brake the escalation, we must built spaces of economical and social solidarity in our working-class neighborhoods, with absolute autonomy from those who advocate national union as a perspective.
More than ever, we need to organize ourselves, we need to close ranks, to refuse the logic {« dividing those who should be united and uniting those who should be divided »}.

More than ever, we must appoint our enemy for who it is, so we can build together: the enemy is everything that divides us.

Author: Saïd Bouamama

Translated by Melissa Farah Salvi for Investig’Action