Saturday, January 10, 2015
Charlie Hebdo and a society of perpetual violence
It will probably take much longer to sort out the motives of the gunmen who brutally assaulted Charlie Hebdo than it has to hunt them down. Of course, some news agencies haven't wasted any time coming up with motives and issuing a call to arms as fear spread quickly of similar attacks in the United States.
Not like the US has been immune to such attacks. The Boston Marathon bombing was eerily similar, even if the loss of life was substantially less. It created an even greater panic with the city essentially shut down for a week, as police combed everywhere in the greater metropolitan region for the Tsarnaev brothers, gunning down one and eventually finding the other holed up in a boat in the backyard of someone's house.
By contrast, the manhunt for the Kouachi brothers was much faster and efficient. French police just didn't factor in another pair of extremists wreaking havoc in the city, holding up a kosher market that led to a bloody shootout, which left four more Parisians dead, in addition the killer of a police woman the day before, who was purportedly demanding the release of the Kouachi Brothers in return for the hostages.
I think that in the end we will see that these deeply disturbed persons were driven more by delusions of grandeur than some great plot against the Western world. Of course we enjoy our conspiracy theories, so the media will indulge in them for weeks if not months to come.
It reminds me a lot of Dostoevsky's Demons, a novel set in late 19th century Russia, where an Anarchist cell plots similar terror activities. In fact, this whole radical Islamic movement has much less to do with Islam than it does with old fashioned Anarchy, fostered in countries like France, Russia and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, using questionable imams as "spiritual leaders," when in reality all they want is to create chaos in the world and hope to impose their archaic political will on failed states like Afghanistan.
If the motive was to shut down Charlie Hebdo, the Kouachi brothers failed miserably as more persons have become interested in the French satirical magazine than ever before. Their cartoons are all over the Internet and publications will soon follow. The magazine itself boosted next week's circulation from 60,000 to one million copies, a whopping 17 fold. Back issues will most likely be made available to the broader public as well. Wolinski's daughter, Elsa, summed it up best when she said it was her father that was killed, not his ideas.
Of course, you can say the same for these extremist individuals, regardless of their religious or political creed, as the same nutcases remain on the fringe waiting for their moment to strike terror into the heart of society. We have seen this time and again in the United States, going back to the Anarchist movements, but more recently in the Oklahoma City bombing that left over 150 persons dead. This brazen act was carried out by Christian fundamentalists who said they were avenging the ATF seige of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, that left over 70 persons dead.
You never know when these demented persons are going to strike. You can keep track of suspected extremists, as the US did with many of the persons who took part in the 911 attacks, and as the French had the Kouachi brothers, but until these "demons" physically do something against the state you can't apprehend them. The key is not to lose sight of them. According to Richard Clarke in his book, Against All Enemies, the Bush administration had similarly dropped the ball on the persons who were involved in the well-organized attack of 911.
Yet, the right wing of American politics takes this assault, as they have other attacks in the past, as a condemnation of liberal values, even going so far as to call for more militarization in our society, as if we haven't seen enough already in Ferguson, Missouri. It just makes you wonder who benefits most from these attacks, as right wing conservatives see such attacks as a call to arms.