The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2015

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FEB 2015 Issue
Field Notes

We Should Say No to This Hypocritical Rally

This text was published on on January 10, 2015, in advance of the official anti-terrorism demonstration in Paris. It is translated here by J. Reuss.

Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.” — La Rochefoucauld

Three days after the terrorist attack commenced, we’re being dished up a tepid, consensual discourse topped with a hypocritically pious sauce. The worst critics whine about freedom of speech. The hate-mongers call for national unity. The real questions are taboo, and the only line tolerated concerns the war in which we presumably stand on the “good side.”

“High masses?? The Marseillaise4??? For us?!?” “Being loved by assholes is hard.”

Sunday’s march will erase all awkward questions, and I will not take part in this ball of hypocrites which, according to the prime minister, “will show France’s strength.”1

First of all, I find it hard to see myself marching alongside the worst people on the right, who are openly racist. March next to Sarkozy? To Copé and his pains au chocolat?2 To Hortefeux and his insulting comments about Arabs?3 Have we forgotten that when the revolution in Tunisia began to overthrow the bloodthirsty dictator Ben Ali, Michèle Alliot-Marie—then minister of defense—offered France’s military assistance to fight against the insurgents? March with them tomorrow? With the very right-wing prime ministers of Spain and Great Britain? Benjamin Netanyahu was invited following his kind offer to help France. That great democrat, Turkey’s president, is going to send his prime minister. This looks like the kind of joke Charlie Hebdo would invent.

What irony to see the minister of the interior showering praise on policemen and gendarmes that one and all hail on the social networks.5 Intervention by police forces is required when civilians are endangered, but have we already forgotten what we thought about those same forces when they murdered an unarmed, pacifistic young demonstrator a few weeks ago? The people who demonstrated then will demonstrate tomorrow in a political hodgepodge devoid of meaning. It’s likewise strange to hear the (past and present) heads of France Inter and Radio France weeping over freedom of speech.6 The very ones who sacked people like Porte, Guillon, and Mermet, who exercised that right on their stations.7 Or those who, elsewhere, helped promote the worst reactionaries known for their violent, racist views.

All of these hypocrites will be marching tomorrow. Let’s not join them.

Following the death of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, we are supposedly “all Charlie,” united behind a meaningless discourse which the victims themselves would never have endorsed. The slogan, invented by an ad designer, is truly the reflection of our times. We put aside our political oppositions for a moment, as if they weren’t the crux of what’s happening. As if all of a sudden, by accident, we were under attack by an external enemy with whom we were totally unrelated. As if the murdered cartoonists could become standard-bearers, something they always opposed.

In the past I’ve raised questions about how our society produces monsters. After all, they are our own terrorists. They grew up here. Like the thousand youths who’ve gone to Syria, they now surprise those who knew them. “Good kids,” nice, friendly, but who turned into barbarians. Did they all get the same mental illness? The only answer we’re given is that they were manipulated by fundamentalist Muslim ideologues. That’s true. However, shouldn’t we wonder why thousands of young people fall into such clutches? Couldn’t that be the result of a society in which a third of its members are sinking into despair? Institutionalized racism, segregation in jobs, in daily life, in housing, police checks based on racial profiling, endemic police violence. Not to mention unemployment, poverty, and above all no prospects for the future, a sense of implacable, total, and permanent injustice for millions of women and men. Three million children in France live in poverty. Can we reasonably hope that some of them will not become violent? What an illusion.

Then there is the Islamic terrorist violence, which, like all types of violence, has a history. That of the Muslim Brotherhood has its source in a postcolonial context of dictatorships supported by our rulers. In Afghanistan, the United States trained and financed religious fanatics who did not become democrats once the Russians were routed. The interventions in foreign lands led today by the United States, Great Britain, and France repeat the same mistakes and bring about the same consequences. France’s demented attack on Libya—on Bernard-Henri Lévy’s instigation and subsequent to Nicolas Sarkozy’s stately reception of its dictator (and probably of a tidy sum)—led to chaos within that country and to the arming of terrorist militias further south.8 Then, France felt obligated to intervene in its Malian private preserve when the situation got out of hand.

Last, the thousands of young Europeans (an appalling share of them from Belgium) leaving for Syria aroused not the slightest questioning about how we function collectively. A society whose ultra-individualistic values rightly brought it to challenge alienating values also built social relations founded solely on competition, thereby barring any solidarity and, as a result, any consciousness of class and of systemic injustice. Hence the political battle. And so it was this way that young people’s feeling of injustice found a new outlet through which to express itself.

The outcome has been the lukewarm tap water which has so entranced everyone for the last four days. It would not have amused Charb, Wolinski, Tignous, and Uncle Bernard to see such honor bestowed on their names at the New York Stock Exchange or in churches.9 Their blood would have boiled to hear the U.S. president announce that he was praying for them. This manner of tribute tramples underfoot who they were—radically to the left, often anarchists and atheists.

One and all are now heard claiming that the terrorists were not “true Muslims.” Even the President of the Republic, who has never been consulted on issues of theology, stated that this was not the “true Islam.” Once again, this hypocrisy masks a far more complex reality. The three religions of the Book carry within themselves, and in their writings, anything and everything. One forcibly ignores that the Judeo-Christian “Thou shalt not kill” is followed just a few pages later by a divine command to commit genocide by killing the men, women, and children of a people who occupied a “sacred” land which had to be seized. Depending on whether they approach the scriptures from one end or another, believers will develop a language of love or of hate. Or sometimes both. The Inquisition was carried out Bible in hand, as was the massacre of Palestinians. Religion is merely a vector through which one can express an appeased spirituality or the hatred one has accumulated inside oneself, according to one’s life experience in other respects.

If we keep on stopping ourselves from thinking while crying for freedom of thought, we pursue the same policy that is leading us to disaster. The brainwashing has been complete, and we’re going to refuse to see in events the least symptom of anything other than a “war being waged against us.” Consequently, that war will intensify, other tragic events will occur and we won’t be able to deal with them. In his darkest hours, Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak—friend of the West—had a million policemen at his bidding, posted at every street corner. Yet that did not suffice for him.

Tomorrow, people will march alongside those who enabled new Nazis to spread their nauseating ideas everywhere. The producers and journalists who popularized the conceivers of Muslim “deportation” will be in the street. Having grown fat on a quite profitable audience, they are feigning anger over the consequences of what they concocted.

Tomorrow, my socialist, ecologist, communist, and Left Front friends will go march with the right wing.10 I wish them pleasure in doing so, because soon they’ll be reduced to voting for the latter.


  1. Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

  2. Jean-François Copé, vying for leadership of the rightwing UMP party, declared “There are neighborhoods in France where children can’t eat their pain au chocolat because it’s Ramadan.”

  3. Brice Hortefeux, French politician, formerly minister of the interior, Overseas Territories and Territorial collectivities.

  4. French National Anthem.

  5. Minister of the Interior is the French equivalent of Homeland Security.

  6. France Inter is a major French public radio channel. France Radio is the public service radio broadcaster.

  7. Didier Porte and Stéphane Guillon are well-known comedians and troublemakers, Daniel Mermet, an outspoken journalist.

  8. In early March 2011, Bernard-Henri Lévy met with Libyan rebel leaders and proceeded to convince then-President Sarkozy to support the rebels diplomatically and militarily.

  9. Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.

  10. The Left Front is an electoral coalition between the French Communist Party and the Left Party.


Patric Jean

PATRIC JEAN is a writer, filmmaker, and spokesperson for the Zeromacho movement. A book, Les hommes veulent-ils l’égalité avec les femmes? is forthcoming from Editions Belin; he is working on La guerre civile qui vient, dealing with the Charlie Hebdo affair, the social tensions it revealed, and the rise of the extreme right in Europe.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2015

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