Its just too good to be true. Journalists massacred in Paris by evil looking bandana’d thugs with AKs. Its the stuff of airport trash novels. And whom did they shoot? Why, the bloodshed occurred in the buildings of a satirical magazine, apparently, because said magazine depicted Mohammed (offensively). Two birds with one stone. On the one hand, our Governments can justify an ever tightening grip on our civil liberties in the name of prevention of terrorism. All the while, on the other hand, they can carry it out in the name of free speech – bastions of Western democracy, paragons of virtue and torches of democratic freedom burning bright as the flag of ISIS seeks to cast shadows over us.
The tragedy even came with a hashtag: ‘Je Suis Charlie’; because, deep down, we are all Charlie Hebdo – a satirical magazine – just warm and safe, not riddled with bullets and dripping blood, not dead satirists, not having felt the brunt of some pissed off crazies. Actually… are we really Charlie Hebdo? The internet has given birth to many creations, among which bullshit solidarity has to be the most repugnant. And that is no mean feat in a medium chock full of people’s repulsive mental-slurry. The bullshit solidarity, of course, is compounded by the lack thereof in relation to the Boko Haram attacks in Baga, Nigeria.
But bullshit solidarity is not confined to the internet and, in fact, a bunch of well-meaning but ultimately futile and inconsequential sweet nothings whispered in nobodies ear through computer screens by insulated, sedentary turds is not a problem when compared with the bullshit solidarity of the Establishment. Quick as bullets, three days after the attack, Cameron, Merkel, Hollande and all self-propagandising Western leaders from Europe and beyond were pictured, arms linked like in some sort of grass-roots movement, marching aimlessly in the name of Hebdo. Leaders marching with their people – what better expression of solidarity and what better message for leaders to send to an increasingly disenchanted electorate than that to say: “we are one, we are unified, together”? Except, they weren’t marching with their people. Pictures from above now show a safety zone inhabited by security men between the pitiful back-lines of dignitaries and the actual people of France.
Your leaders won’t even march with you. The march in Paris, for them, was nothing but a PR stunt to create propaganda to blast onto monopolistically owned and politically influenced front-pages across the board and get your heart-rates pumping and your patriotic juices a-flowing. Your leaders don’t give a fuck about a life lost, or 12, or 17, or 100, or 2,000. With big, bold, black letters adorning every newspaper from the Times to the Metro showing crowds waving flags and politicians in the ruck, the propaganda has worked. We are united as one, all past-discrepancies forgotten in the haze of the terror threat. We have an ideological enemy – extremism (or, among the darker shades of Establishment thought – Islam) and we are united under an ideological principle – freedom of speech.
And with the sound of gunfire still echoing in our ears we stand united with our leaders, ready to give unto them anything. As the skeletal fingers of fear tighten around our necks we plead, gasping, that anything may be done in its name so long as it lets go. Its all so… ‘done’. Even the hashtag: ‘Je Suis Charlie’ resonates back to the immortal words of the universally adored JFK in his perpetual struggle against the evil of Communism: ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’. Since, just as then, we are at war with an ideological enemy and we know in our hearts – at least, we are told – that we have right on our side.
And so, anything must be legitimated in the fight against this threat. Just as after 9/11, the Bush administration passed the Patriot Act infringing American’s freedoms in a way never before seen and affording authoritarian power to the law enforcement agencies. Just as after 7/7 Blair’s New Labour government gave the police greater and more far-reaching powers through control orders and attempted to pass a 90-day without trial detention period through Parliament. Just as after the burning down of the Reichstag building in 1933 Hitler was able to pass the executive order granting himself dictatorial power, now our leaders are using Hebdo as a justification in the same vein.
Hollande is considering a French-Patriot Act, George Osbourne has given £100,000 to MI5 with the promise that they will get ‘whatever they want’, Cameron has outlined plans to ban Whatsapp (among other messaging platforms un-snoopable by security agencies), borders are tightening, 100,000 French troops are on the ground on French soil and warnings are given daily of impending terror attacks. Already the machine is gearing up to harvest our freedoms in the name of national security. And all the while naive young well-meaners pine for a freedom of speech they suspect is being taken from them by nuts with guns and bandanas.
Your freedom isn’t under threat from terrorism. Your freedom is under threat from the Governments that take it from you in the name of terrorism. The very same Governments that are terrorists. We stand united under our banner of self-righteousness and self-pity as innocent Westerners guilty of nothing but democracy and free-speech. All the while we have implicitly allowed the rampant drone bombings of the countries in which these fanatics gestate. We have stood idly by and allowed our leaders, unaccountably, to wage a war we have no interest in waging. We have been guilty of the marginalisation and disenfranchisement of the otherwise well-meaning Muslim populations in our own countries – helped in no small part by a Government eager, at all times, for an identifiable scapegoat. We are not guiltless. We are feeling the wrath of a beast we have been implicit in creating. ISIS would not exist were it not for Camp Bucca – a US run prison in Iraq.
And it is just too good to be true for our leaders.
There will be another terrorist attack, there will be many more, and they will be more hard hitting. And our leaders will welcome them with open arms. Since the more bloodshed, the more apparent chaos on the streets, the more we feel frightened and defenceless, the more we will cry, scream and plead for the guns and jack-boots of our Government. The more we will nod enthusiastically when a vital element of our freedom is curtailed. We will wait with baited breath for the next measure in the interests of national security. And one day, we will awaken to a nightmare, to a world we thought we knew but that shifted, oh so quietly, in front of our eyes, until it became a desolate land devoid of freedom, of emotion, of individuality and devoid of expression.