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Charlie Hebdo Fallout

Entry 1696, on 2015-01-15 at 22:36:53 (Rating 4, News)

Every traumatic international event seems to lead to a lot of interesting reactions (and over-reactions) from various groups in society. Of course the Charlie Hebdo attacks are no exception. Some of the reactions are good but many are bad and I will take a look at some of them here.

First there were the protest marches around the world, and especially the big one in Paris. It's difficult to say how much real effect these might have because the sort of person who carries out an attack like this is unlikely to look at a protest and think "Oh, I was wrong, I should respect all of these people's dedication to free speech" or "I will never win against such strong and united opposition". No, the attackers are more likely to feel even more isolated from western society and more persecuted and want even more to attack the opposing culture.

But the marches were more for the western world to show that it was not intimidated by terrorist activity. Of course, many in the west actually were intimidated judging by some of the responses (which I will discuss later in this post).

An interesting issue arose from the marches and it was maybe more significant than the marches themsleves. It was the intense criticism by some for the hypocrisy of many of the leaders who participated in the march. If they were they there to support freedom of speech why is that ideal so poorly accepted back in their own countries?

Daniel Wickham tweeted a brilliant series of observations regarding the hypocrisy of these leaders and that has been taken up by some mainstream media. As a side note, the way stories originate from informal internet sources, such as Twitter, is another interesting aspect of this whole issue.

Anyway, here are a few of the leaders at the protest who Wickam thought might be showing a certain amount of hypocrisy: King Abdullah of Jordan, who last year sentenced a Palestinian journalist to 15 years in prison with hard labour; Prime Minister of Davutoglu of Turkey, which imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world; Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, whose forces killed 7 journalists in Gaza last year (second highest after Syria); Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia, which last year jailed a journalist for "insulting a government servant"; The Attorney General of the US, where police in Ferguson have recently detained and assaulted WashPost reporters; Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who had several journalists jailed for insulting him in 2013; PM Cameron of the UK, where authorities destroyed documents obtained by The Guardian and threatened prosecution; and many more.

So these politicians have really just used the protests in the most disgusting and self-centered way to try to make themselves look good while continuing to do exactly what they protesting against. OK sure, I will admit that most of them aren't murdering those who exercise free speech (although some are) but they certainly aren't encouraging it!

And countries with more fascist tendencies (the UK for example with its Tory government) instead of trying to manage the real problem want to restrict everyone's privacy by banning internet communication services which use encryption. This would include WhatsApp, SnapChat, iMessage and FaceTime, in other words the programs ordinary people already want to use.

It's hard to imagine anything more stupid, even from that government. Do they really think that banning commercial products which we all want to use will stop even moderately smart terrorists from finding other services to disguise their activities? All they will do is make it easy to spy on the average citizen. But of course, that is probably what they really want and stopping terrorists is just a convenient excuse to extend their already stifling police surveillance state.

So it seems to be the same old thing again. Yet again our leaders show they are dishonest, hypocritical liars. They show they will use any situation, however tragic, to advance their own political agendas. Meanwhile ordinary people protest because of an honest belief in principles (in most cases anyway). And some people, like Wickam, do a great job of showing us the reality behind the farce. What a world we live in!

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Comment 1 (4305) by Anonymous on 2015-02-02 at 12:17:55:

People in general have a right to be protected from totally predictable violence which will surely happen if people breach the peace like Charlie Hebdo did.

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Comment 2 (4306) by OJB on 2015-02-02 at 15:37:08:

The problem is that certain belief systems have possible faults which they should be ready to consider and prove wrong if they can. Cartoons are a classic way that (especially powerful) belief systems can be criticised.

But if the people involved in that system don't want to defend it for some reason then threatening violence is a common response. In that situation the system should be open to more criticism (and is). If we allow intimidation to stifle free speech then anyone who doesn't want to be criticised can use that threat. Surely that isn't a good thing.

You do have to wonder what is wrong with a belief system where its only defence against criticism is to threaten its critics. I know its risky but those ideas must be challenged.

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