Of silencing the dissent and strange case of Charlie Hebdo

Posted by Reyaz-ul-haque on 1/20/2015 02:07:00 PM

Samar Khan
The atrocious murderous attacks on more than a dozen French journalists by three gun-wielding assailants killing twelve people is a downright dastardly, reprehensible and condemnable act. Period. No questions asked. But unfortunately this understanding of the incident is taken to be a blasphemous oversimplification by some who have successfully managed to consolidate the  "white- benevolent- majority "against the "ungrateful-barbaric-other". With the seemingly plaintive but extremely volatile chants of 'Je Suis Charlie' by the 'liberals' all around the world, we are yet again seeing the record of 'you are either with us or them' political blackmail being played again by the Western media after the "War on Terror" drama. This deliberate camping is apparently aimed to segregate the advocates of freedom of expression who think “it’s- only- a funny-cartoon” from the ones who are “ not- even- sport- enough- to- take- a-joke.” Now this is a blasphemous over simplification.

With myriads lunging out the tune of freedom of expression after this episode, it is important to recognize that it is the western freedom of speech that  Western governments and institutions like the corporate-controlled media  are championing for. The freedom that belongs only to the powers-that-be to demean and demonize whomever the West requires for Western interests. When the same freedom is exercised to expose hypocrisy and fraudulence, then it stops being a “universal principle.” Censorship comes handy then; as with the case of Press TV, an informative and serious news channel that was banned in France because of its ''inappropriate projection of the State". It’s ironic but not surprising to hear Charlie Hebdo,  the ridiculously racist,  unabashedly sexist and notoriously xenophobic weekly magazine being hailed as 'heroic' by one of the Western war criminal, Sarkozy after the attack took place. Interestingly, the French President Francois Hollande who called last week's  massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine  'an attack on civilizaton' ,  last year called for a "fight against the sarcasm of those who purport to be humorists but who are actually professional anti-Semites", referring to the French artist  Dieudonné for publically practicing the Quenelle, the downward hand gesture supposedly an insult to the elite ruling class but what the artist himself calls a refusal to fascism. Similarly, when on  April 24, 1999, NATO (read US) attacked the Serbian state television headquarters by missiles, no inquiries were made, no claims de-rooted and no sardonic comments were made by the likes of Hollande or Obama on who stands for civilization and who for barbarity.  So, Western free speech which is presumed to be a divine inheritance like other values of human rights by the white man with imperial hangover, is nothing but a fictitious chimera, an empty rhetoric to fuel the self-proclaimed   European superiority by those in power to maintain their unlawful positions in the endemic hierarchy.

Back home in India which is supposed to be a 'free and democratic' nation, one sees  the very fabric of this fundamaental right of expression being regularly shredded when groups like Kabir Kala Manch or people like Jeetan Marandi, Arun Farreira, G.N. Sai, Hem Pandey, Sudhir, Seema are vehemently hounded, arrested, tortured and killed by the State when they dare to expose the fangs of the anti-people system through their writings, poems, songs or drawings. This is an absolute state inficted terrorism against the very freedom of expression that we have heard so much  about in the last few days. But the only difference is that the perpetrator here is not some untrustworthy, racially different and dangerous ' other' but the boisterous paternalistic savior State and the victim is the other way round and that completely changes the logics of the argument. Terrorism is not terrorism when a much more severe terrorist attack is carried out by those who are Righteous by virtue of their power. Similarly, there is no assault against freedom of speech when the Righteous curbs the people's right to assert against exploitation, plunder and loot by the machinery established via State-Corporate nexus. It is, indeed, a true satirical cartoon which Charlie Hebdo couldn't EVER think to draw about!

What happened   in Paris on 7th of January this year was wrong, condemnable and shocking but what was more shocking was the disgusting revelation of the racialized “secularism” of the French Republic in particular and the Western world in general that had put up with such an outrageous, self-proclaimed anti-clerical left, satirical magazine since 1960 in the name of “humor”. Equally disturbing is the realization of the suppressed angst, humiliation and pain suffered by the marginalized populace of the country who were  quite literally the butt of all the jokes for all these years. In the name of political ‘satire’, the magazine deliberately targeted the social minorities, shredding away the very nuances and complexities of this genre.

In the name of 'solidarity' with the assassinated we cannot ignore the fact that it has snowballed into a virulent anti-Muslim backlash all over Europe, mainly in Germany, UK and France. Without being obliged to give a 'decent interval' to the attack, criticism on Charlie Hebdo's ideological purposes is essential to dissect the evil power dynamics in Europe. We shouldn’t line up with the inevitable statist backlash against Muslims or any other marginalized group nor concede to the blackmail which forces us into solidarity with a racist institution.

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