(This essay originally appeared on the website of the Saker, a week after the event in question.)
When I first saw the news about Charlie Hebdo, I concluded very quickly that it was some sort of staged event, a “false flag”. The basic story, that disgruntled Muslims had shown up in the middle of Paris with Kalashnikovs and a rocket propelled grenade launcher to settle their grievances towards some cartoonists struck me as something out of fantastical fiction. Once I saw the cheesy Hollywood B film dialogue — “Allahu Akhbar! The Prophet is avenged!” — that nailed it for me. I said sarcastically to whoever would listen: “What is it with that B film dialogue? Were the guys who staged this on a tight budget? Couldn’t they hire better scriptwriters?” I also wondered whether these were the same ones who wrote the scene in Abbottabad (later denied) in which Osama Bin Laden had used a woman as a human shield.
Although the above considerations were enough for me to categorise this as a staged event, they might not suffice for others, and, as time went by, I started considering other aspects of the story that are glossed over by the commentariat.
It boils down to this: pretty much all the public discussion of the incident centres around a series of premises that, as far as I can see, do not withstand logical scrutiny. They are as follows:
I. The premise that Muslims were so enraged about the cartoons:
Charlie Hebdo was sold in newsstands across France. If a Muslim passerby was angry about this material because he (or she) considered it sacreligious and abominable, why would they not grab the stack of magazines from the newsstand and throw them into the nearest dumpster?
Is there any record of any reactions at this much lower level? I am not 100% sure, but I think not. If there had been such incidents, we would surely have heard about them by now. Does the lack of such lesser incidents not suggest that, in fact, by and large, Muslims didn’t care that much about the cartoons?
Granted, I am sure that many did not like this material, but it also seems that nobody was upset enough to take the much lesser action I just described. There is supposedly a history which shows how upset Muslims were. However, it is quite dubious. In 2005, a Danish cartoonist received death threats over the cartoons of Mohammed. However, a death threat would be an anonymous phone call. How do we know that the people making such phone calls were really even Muslims? The 2011 fire bombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices is similar. It is an unsolved crime. Nobody knows who did it. For that matter, does anybody know the true identity of people who, under cover of night, desecrate a Jewish cemetery with swastikas? Should we not be wary of jumping to conclusions? Cui bono?
In any case, the above premise, that Muslims really were so enraged by the cartoons, appears to be false. At least, I cannot find any objective evidence that Muslims were so angry about the cartoons, certainly nowhere near enough to commit such a depraved act of violence.
II. The premise that, to the extent that people were upset by the cartoons, it was ONLY Muslims:
Actually, a bit of googling reveals that the Catholic Church had complained bitterly about material in Charlie Hebdo. In particular, I found mention of a Charlie Hebdo cartoon which portrayed a spread-eagled naked Mary with the infant Jesus flying out of her vagina.
Well, guess what. Traditional, conservative, Christian elements of French society, doubtless comprising millions of people, probably more people in absolute numbers than the Muslims, ALSO do not like this kind of garbage! Quelle surprise!
I wonder, how would Buddhists react to a graphic cartoon portraying the Buddha and the Five Acolytes engaging in a gay sex orgy? I would make the tentative guess that this would not make them happy.
So why do the “Je suis Charlie” crowd believe (or more likely, affect to believe) that it is only Muslims who don’t like this crap?
Well, the simplest explanation seems that it is because that is the designated meme of this staged event, that this is about Islam. Again, we have a key premise of the dominant discourse that does not withstand much scrutiny.
III. The premise that some angry, alienated Muslim youth from the Parisian banlieue are capable of these acts:
Now, I will grant that this point is a bit more subjective than the previous two, but here goes:
My sense of things is that an average religious person (Muslim or not), even taking into account his deep outrage over the cartoons, would not be capable of carrying out the acts described. We are talking about showing up and systematically executing a dozen people who were, I assume, sobbing and pleading for their lives. (I assume the victims were doing that since it’s what I would be doing…) Could a dead end kid from a rough neighbourhood be relied on, at the moment of truth, to go through with this? I think not. My intuition, the feeling in my bones is that this is more or less impossible. At the outer limit, I can imagine him using his fists, and even then, such an event is so rare that, to all intents and purposes, it never happens.
The above considerations lead me to conclude that this kind of killing with these kinds of weapons is the work of professional assassins. This leads us to some further considerations that have been discussed elsewhere, such as: do professional assassins leave their ID in the getaway car? Are professional assassins such sensitive, thin-skinned people that they would take such mortal offence at cartoons? Regardless, since the shooters in the video wore masks, there does not seem to be any hard evidence that the brothers later blamed for the crime (and who are no longer with us) actually were the killers. The above considerations reinforce such legitimate doubts.
IV. The premise that it is some kind of “core western value” to insult other people’s religious beliefs.
If the “Je suis Charlie” crowd is to be believed, my right to draw a cartoon portraying the Virgin Mary as a street whore and her son Jesus pimping her, is of paramount importance, no matter how offensive other people find it. However, it is not important to be able to:
- have a public discussion of the implausibilities of the official story of 9/11
- have intellectually honest discussion of the events of WW2, in particularly the atrocities in which Jews were the victims, i.e. the “Holocaust”.
- even mention the power or organized world Jewry (and I mean, even mention it without bothering to say whether you think it is a good or bad thing, it is simply taboo to mention it.)
- have serious discussion of issues like gender, ethnicity, race outside the imposed straightjacket of “political correctness”.
Why are the above topics of discussion taboo? Apparently, it is because such speech offends people. It is hurtful to them!!!???
This is a bizarre paradox and it baffled me for the longest while. Finally, I did resolve the conundrum. Apparently, in France, and in the West generally, unrestricted free speech is only important in the case of people, who, like the ageing hipster cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, actually have nothing to say!
Okay, now, in conclusion, we can ponder all the absurdities that I have outlined above, get indignant and so on, but the question is: what is the constructive line of thinking about this?
Back to basic principles: I make no bones about the fact that I believe this to be a staged event. This is a psychological operation (psy op) par excellence. Surely it is obvious that whoever is really behind this is quite intent on engineering a certain psychological atmosphere. And they do that because they believe that such an atmosphere will further their agenda. So, for starters, this means that we should dispense with this bogeyman of the “conspiracy theory” since any proper analysis of the event is necessarily of a conspiratorial nature, no?
So who is behind this staged psy op and what is their agenda? This, I am confident, is the correct question to focus on, not contrived nonsense about the incompatibility of Islam or the sacred nature of free speech.