I don’t know which genius made this photo but to him or her I raise my hat
Since world leaders give zero shits about the deaths of their own citizens never mind those of other nations the only conclusion to be drawn about their walkabout today in the city of love is one of the following:
1. It gives a sense of urgency and imminent danger to the threat of TERRORISM (where terrorism = an act of violence committed by a non state actor with a muslim name/who identifies as muslim/is identified by the state as a MUSLAMIC. State actors cannot commit acts of terrorism unless they are called KHAMAS.)
As we know Europe has been the victim of numerous attacks by the terrorists defined above. But the majority of these attacks have targeted locations more prosaic than a satirical magazine’s headquarters (buses, the underground and so on), and took place sans the gaze of a TV camera recording the brutal details. In Paris not only were the awful events filmed but they unravelled over the course of 24 hours like some dark reality television show. And then ended with the inevitable shootout, which sadly resulted in the deaths of some of the hostages but was generally regarded as the best ending that could be expected.
There was thus a sense of drama thanks as ever to the media and a (sort of) happy-ish ending. And on top of that the decision to target the Charlie Hebdo office is a gift for our friends the statesmen and their domestic concerns.
Because while attacks on states by their non-state enemies (“TERRORISM” – I use quotation marks because I think the word muddies more than it elucidates in its case closed moral judgement) are a real threat, the various WAR ON TERRORS that exist all over this pathetic little globe have all suffered from a serious case of mission creep i.e. been misused to advance geopolitical strategic interests/to silence political opponents/as part of an election campaign. Some of that naughtiness has been exposed over the years and placed governments on the back foot morally speaking, especially recently given their dithering on Isis and Syria (and i’m not suggesting intervention is the noble choice in case that isn’t clear).
This matters because if states cannot straight up say we are meddling in a region primarily for our own interests (as they generally can’t because it’s not done) they have to find some other excuse. Generally they claim that they are acting to protect lives or grandiloquently argue that they have right on their side and present it as a simple battle of good versus evil.
Such simplistic moral binaries rarely exist even if we dearly want them to (which is why people roll their eyes so hard when liberals attempt to talk about disenfranchised youth, jobless and discriminated against, raging in Parisian banlieues as a possible factor in the Charlie Hebdo attack. And to be clear I’m not suggesting it is one).
Judging on the basis of what we know the Charlie Hebdo attack is an example of something incontestably wicked and wrong and plain bad. It’s huge on symbolism, the pen against the gun, and has been presented as such in a million cartoons of solidarity since the incident. There is a rare purity about it: the masked gunmen storming in, cartoonists cowering in their offices who did not deserve to die even if the rag they wrote for loved to offend, sometimes in the crudest ways possible. The allegations of racism and stereotyping have not sullied that purity, could not hope to, because absolutely no one deserves to be shot to death for a cartoon.
Back to our travelling statesmen: what a dream to be able to associate themselves with that purity, to wipe off the filth of extraordinary renditions and Guantanamo Bay and innocent Brazilian migrant workers shot dead in a London street and Iraqi civilians murdered and tortured.
States are generally careful in their rhetoric to distinguish TERROR from Islam. They do this by claiming that the TERRORISTS (as defined above) do not represent Islam or are not real Muslims, whatever that means (there is another entity that decides who are Muslims and who aren’t on its own terms and it is currently busily doing that bloody triage in Iraq and Syria).
The TERRORIST must be transformed into an other so that he can be dehumanised and eliminated. You can’t just go around torturing or blowing up regular blokes with grievances unless you use a drone and they are anonymous brown people on the other side of the world. Ever the maverick and still making that desert bloom, Israel generally just goes right ahead and says that all Palestinians are TERRORISTS or if not themselves TERRORISTS then supporters of TERRORISM who harbour weapons in their children’s nappies. But the majority of other states are careful to keep it PC even if the loon fringe of their respective medias does not.
A prime example of this they-are-not-one-of-us rhetoric was spouted by the Egyptian state while it was attempting to delete the Muslim Brotherhood from public life in 2013 and since then. They are not real Muslims! The media screamed. They cannot be Egyptians! we were told. They are a cancer that must be wiped out! was the shrill message. And then in August 2013 the police and army killed hundreds of people in a sit in in central Cairo in one day who they tried variously to present as an existential threat or a nuisance to neighbouring residential buildings. Internationally, the regime got some serious heat for this and has devoted significant time and energy even as it washed the blood off its hands to making its case that EGYPT IS AT WAR and needs must.
Almost immediately after the Paris attacks took place Egyptians on my social media who have supported the regime’s actions since 2013 jumped on what happened in Paris as vindication – that Egypt is not at war with violent political Islam, the world is. Since shock and awe tactics are necessary to see off the threat, they argue, the Egyptian regime – which has killed hundreds and imprisoned thousands since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster during its confrontation with insurgency in northern sinai and bombings and protests (!) in mainland Egypt – has committed no moral outrage and adorable but naive Europe will soon stop wringing its precious little hands and catch up with the best way of dealing with the menace. And in the meantime we have the ungodly sight of Benjamin Netanyahu on a march in Paris with assorted other douches pretend-walking for freedom while secretly they salivate at this gift thrown in their laps. I wonder what they’ll do with it.
The other possibility is:
2. They had air miles to use up.