Translated by Greg Johnson
Spanish translation here
Nicolas Gauthier: Beyond the legitimate indignation about the massacre in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, what lessons can we draw from this event? Should we see it, like some in the media, as evidence of a “total war” declared between Islam and Christianity, East and West?
Alain de Benoist: The abominable way the employees of Charlie Hebdo were massacred wrenches the heart, of course. And when emotion overwhelms everything, it is that much harder to remain reasonable. Yet this is what is most needed. We must impose an inner distance that allows us to analyze the event and learn from it. What are we facing? A new form of terrorism, inaugurated in France by Khaled Kelkal and Mohammed Merah. It differs from previous waves of terrorism (like September 11 or the Madrid bombing), which were planned and implemented from abroad by major international networks.
Here we are dealing with attacks planned in France by individuals radicalized more or less independently. They went gradually from delinquency to jihadism, but they are usually failures at it. They have great composure, know how to use weapons, and are completely indifferent to the lives of others. But still they are amateurs, bungling provocateurs, like the Kouachi brothers who decided to slaughter a magazine staff “to avenge the prophet,” but went to the wrong address, left clues everywhere, had no exit strategy, and forget their ID in the car they simply abandoned. Unpredictable bunglers, which makes them all the more dangerous.
We should also be alert to mimetic contagion. The same mimetic logic that sparked the emotional communion of spontaneous rallies in support of Charlie Hebdo will not fail to inspire potential emulators of Merah, the Kouachi brothers, or Amedy Coulibaly. Imagine the social hysteria that could be caused by the repetition at short intervals of attacks like the one we have just witnessed. In such a climate, all forms of manipulation become possible. We have already seen this in the past. This is called the “strategy of tension.”
It is obviously necessary to wage war on these people by all means necessary. But talking about “total war” does not mean much. The jihadists (or issuers of fatwas) are as representative of Islam as the Ku Klux Klan is representative of Christianity. Moreover, it is not the jihadists, but Westerners who first raised the specter of the “clash of civilizations” after working to destabilize the entire Middle East and to eliminate all the heads of Arab-Muslim states, from Saddam Hussein to Gaddafi, who had set up roadblocks against radical Islamism. The need to fight against the immediate consequences should not obscure reflection on the root causes.
Gauthier: This is not the first time that a newspaper has been attacked violently. We remember in particular the attacks against Minute and Le Choc du mois, certainly without victims. However, there had been less media empathy during that potentially fatal violence. Always the same double standard.
Benoist: Let’s say if, instead of attacking the editors of Charlie Hebdo, terrorists had decimated Valeurs actuelles, it is not likely that the reactions would be the same. People would not declare “Je suis Valeurs” like we see “Je suis Charlie” (from the verb “to be,” I suppose, not the verb “to follow”). Government politicians would certainly not have spoken of “national unity” (a mystifying theme par excellence, moreover, because such “union” always benefits those who have power and want to benefit from a consensus). Unlike its predecessor Hara Kiri, Charlie Hebdo, the liberal-libertarian newspaper, has become one of the organs of the dominant ideology. They can recognize their own.
Gauthier: We are told, unanimously, that Charlie Hebdo had made freedom of expression its battle cry. But what about the campaigns against Richard Millet at Editions Gallimard, Fabrice Le Quintrec at France Inter, and Robert Ménard and Eric Zemmour at i>Télé? Can freedom of expression have limits?
Benoist: Enough hypocrisy. On April 26, 1999, the leaders of Charlie Hebdo carried cartons to the Department of the Interior containing 173,700 signatures calling for a ban of the National Front. It was a matter of defending freedom of expression! Manuel Valls said that “Zemmour’s book does not deserve to be read,” while another minister asked without shame that “TV shows and newspaper columns cease to harbor such remarks.” To say nothing of the Dieudonné case.
That said, let’s be fair: Among those praising freedom of expression when it comes to Zemmour, there are unfortunately very few who are willing to extend it to their opponents. “Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently” (Rosa Luxemburg), which means that we have to defend it even when it benefits those whom we loathe. But that is precisely what the dominant ideology refuses to do, here and in the United States, where the First Amendment allows anyone to say or write what he wants, but where the nonconformist views are even more marginalized than they are in France. Just as the right to work has never provided anyone a job, the right to speak does not guarantee the opportunity to be heard!