Around the Web

  1. France must avoid repeating American errors
  2. The internationalism of the American Civil War; shockingly incomplete (almost dishonestly so), but a good starting point
  3. The false piety of the Hebdo hoodlums
  4. Sri Lanka’s surprise political transition
  5. From Martin Anderson to Charlie Hebdo and back

Charlie Hebdo: Todos, nadie, uno.

La primera reacción pública frente al atentando a los integrantes de la redacción de la publicación satírica Charlie Hebdo fue acudir a la identificación con la víctima: “Je suis Charlie Hebdo”. En menos de 48 hs. se comenzaron a escuchar los primeros distanciamientos: no todos querían identificarse con Charlie Hebdo, ya que eran pocos los que adherían por entero a su línea editorial. En estos casos, lo más delicado reside en las razones para expresar una u otra posición.

La identificación de la comunidad con la víctima de un atentado es un requisito que hace a la legitimación de la persecución penal contra quienes hayan perpetrado el atentado. En este sentido, es correcto decir “yo soy Charlie Hebdo”, ya que esto implica afirmar que la víctima del atentado pertenece a nuestra comunidad y es la comunidad la que ha sido agredida en la persona de la víctima. Si el estado –en este caso el Estado Francés- se encuentra legitimado para iniciar la persecución penal de tal atentado es porque el agredido se encuentra dentro de la comunidad protegida por aquél. Por otra parte, dado el cariz político del crimen, si le da el rango de cuestión de estado es porque es la autoridad del mismo la que ha sido desafiada: alguien distinto al propio estado se está atribuyendo la autoridad para decidir qué tratamiento público debe dársele a las opiniones molestas. Recién aquí es cuando entra a jugar el tema de la libertad de expresión.

La libertad de expresión en tanto que garantía individual solamente es relevante cuando lo que se expresa es una opinión con la que disentimos: La opinión de “otro”, en el sentido de completamente ajeno a uno mismo, un “otro” que expresa lo que no queremos escuchar. Cuando nadie discutía la proveniencia divina de la autoridad de los reyes, el cuestionamiento público a los mismos constituía una profanación de una repugnancia semejante a la que hoy sufre un feligrés cuando debe soportar una afrenta a su religión. Los reyes entendían que, -expresándolo en el lenguaje de hoy- en esos casos no se había hecho un ejercicio “responsable” de la libertad de expresión o que la misma “no estaba para eso”.

Por el contrario: que la libertad de expresión sea efectivamente una garantía depende de que quien exprese una opinión sumamente ofensiva contra un tercero o contra la autoridad no pueda ser legalmente perseguido por el estado por haberla emitido (por supuesto, estamos hablando de “opiniones”, no de “enunciación pública de planes” contra un tercero o la autoridad). La libertad de expresión protege aquello que dice “el otro”, aquello que no queremos escuchar. En este sentido, para poder predicar de un sistema jurídico que éste respeta la libertad de expresión, “Charlie Hebdo” tiene que ser otro, enteramente distinto a nosotros, y no ser molestado por el estado a causa de sus opiniones aún pese a aquéllo.

Ahora bien, cuando un grupo armado atenta contra un ciudadano porque se considera agraviado por las opiniones vertidas por éste no está atentando contra la libertad de expresión directamente, si no contra la vida de sus víctimas y contra la soberanía del estado que reconoce la libertad de expresión de sus ciudadanos (es decir, atenta contra la libertad de expresión sólo mediatamente). A los efectos de la vida de las víctimas del atentado “todos somos Charlie Hebdo”. En cuanto a la relación del estado que reconoce la libertad de expresión de sus ciudadanos “no todos son Charlie Hebdo” y es cuando “uno solo lo es” cuando más se pone a prueba el respeto de la libertad de expresión por parte del estado. Este respeto tiene dos aspectos: frente a los ciudadanos se manifiesta como una obligación de abstención frente a las opiniones expresadas; frente a quienes desafían mediante la violencia física tal sistema de valores, en la persecución legal y política de los mismos. Nótese que no resulta necesario que “todos seamos Charlie Hebdo” para que el estado garantice la libertad de expresión en este doble aspecto (abstención frente al ciudadano e intervención frente al agresor). Es más, solamente podemos decir con seguridad que garantiza la libertad de expresión cuando Charlie Hebdo es enteramente el otro.

En resumen, la persecución jurídica, en el plano del derecho penal, del atentado se activa con la agresión sobre la vida de las víctimas del mismo. En tanto la persecución política –en el marco de un estado de derecho, se entiende- se pone en movimiento con el desafío a la autoridad pública que implicó el uso de la violencia física con la finalidad de imponer la abrogación de la libertad de expresión. Que seamos o no seamos Charlie Hebdo depende de cuál de los dos aspectos estemos considerando: para el primero es necesario que lo seamos todos, para lo segundo alcanza con que lo sea uno solo.


Previamente publicado en  de @IHUMEorg

Islamic Murders in Paris

Twelve people have been confirmed dead in a shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical publication. Armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, the gunmen forced their way into the building by coercing a mother with her child to give the key code. They then went from office to office, asking for staff members by name, before gunning down each in turn. The attackers are reported to have shouted things like “Allahu Akbar!” and claimed to have been members of al-Qaeda. They then fled the scene in a stolen car, dumping it in the vicinity of Pantin, an impoverished African and South Asian neighborhood in the suburbs of Paris – where, incidentally, I spent New Years one year with an ex-girlfriend – and then hijacked another car before fleeing from the city. As of now, they are still at large.

The natural question most people ask in reaction to these sorts of events is “why?” Why did these three people decide to kill all these other people, over a cartoon? Answers always fall into four categories: their fault, our fault, nobody’s fault, and squid ink. As you might expect, the distribution of responses breaks down fairly neatly along ideological lines.

1. Their fault puts the blame on “radical Islam,” Islamists, terrorists, or sometimes just “Islam” plain and simple. This article from National Review Online argues that Islam is against freedom of expression at its core. Another article, also from NRO, seems to intimate that this is the beginning of some sort of clash of civilizations. CNN lists responses from the journalistic profession, all of which express solidarity against the “forces of unreason” that are on the warpath and have “corrupted the heart of Islam”

2. Our fault puts the blame on our collective intolerance of others, or on our governments’ foreign policy. We in general, or the victims in particular, somehow have it coming to us. This article by Slate does not overtly state that the employees of Charlie Hebdo asked to be murdered, but the author asserts that they have a “long history of courting controversy.” This cyclical from AP states similar claims. If we, or at least Charlie Hebdo, should have expected this, what is the implication?

3. Nobody’s fault straddles the line, asserting that such a colossal crime is the result of nothing in particular. Crazy people warped the tenets of their faith to justify their evil actions, and only they can be blamed, not the social environment that produced them, nor their creed, nor the laxity of Western society, nor any other sort of causal explanation. It just “happened.” I have not yet found an example of this in the media, but I am sure it will be offered sometime between when Europe goes to sleep mourning this tragedy, and America wakes up to ponder it.

4. Squid ink is the attempt to divert blame from targets that the speaker or author believes will likely be blamed. This article from Salon attempts to divert blame from an assumed target, Islam, by diverting it onto the onerous figure of Richard Dawkins. This article, also from Salon, has nothing to do with the current controversy, but by framing other articles on the front page of the site, acts as an implicit tu quoque: Christians are murderers too! Islamic murder isn’t that bad!

It’s always popular to say that the truth lies somewhere in between, or beyond, the options the media offers us. And so I too will follow convention. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in a combination. It is undoubtedly true that there is a great deal of resentment in the Islamic world over Western policy over time, and I don’t doubt that this played some role in the minds of the murderers. I also don’t doubt that the reactions of Westerners to increased immigration to their countries has also factored in. Resentment against the encroachments of a foreign group on one’s territory is always resented, leading to friction between the natives and the implants. In France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, car burnings in immigrant neighborhoods are a frequent occurrence.

Personally, I think that, like all things, this is merely a struggle for power. The governments of the West have allowed large numbers of immigrants from poor countries with inimical social systems to immigrate to their countries, often for legitimate reasons. The Belgian government, for example, entered into an agreement with the Moroccan government to allow vast numbers of Moroccan citizens to immigrate to Belgium for work purposes, as the country lacked the amount of labor it needed. However, when any new population comes to an area that is already populated, there are many ways to deal with that population. Assimilation was the dominant strategy in the United States for some time: “if a Pole is made into an American with American habits and American values, great!” In Europe, however, there was precious little done to assimilate the immigrant populations, so that they instead formed large communities of their own folk that did not interact with the natives. In Germany, for example, many Turks have lived there for decades without being naturalized, and as Germany follows jus sanguinis, none of their children are citizens either, despite having no immediate connection to Turkey except on paper.

As these immigrant populations have grown in size, many of the younger generations have learned the local tongue, assimilated into the social patterns of their host nations, and fanned out into the country as a whole. One of my friends, a Belgian of Moroccan ancestry, speaks little Berber but perfect French, and has much more affinity for the country of his birth than the country of his ancestors. Many have also become more entrenched in their immigrant communities, and have agitated for special rights and privileges for their people; not only the social services they are always alleged to be parasites on, but also special zones for sharia, halal meals in schools and prisons, the right to not view objectionable material such as cartoons they do not like, and so forth. As they grow in size, they also grow in power, and like all people will assert that power to mold their environment in the ways that they choose – ways that are not compatible with Western society. What we are seeing is, I think, the latest installment in the slow bleed of the West, its slow transformation into a multicultural, and finally a non-cultural, entity.

Or, I could be full of it. Such is a consequence of immediate reactions and thinking out loud. Dear reader, please let me know thy thoughts in the comments.