We naturally want to make sense of horrible events as quickly as possible, but despite a clear narrative from politicians and the media there are lots of things I’m uncertain about at the end of today. One of the few questions I am sure about is whether there is any justification for the murdering, hostage-taking and spreading of fear in Paris today. The answer to that is, without a doubt, no.
Outside of that question lies a lot of uncertainty. I can’t read French and so I can only understand the Charlie Hebdo magazine covers on a very basic level. Yes, I think freedom of speech is important, but how does Charlie Hebdo taking the piss out of all religions in their ‘dumb and nasty’ style help anyone? Je ne sais pas. It’s being referred to as satire – is it like Private Eye? I understand Private Eye – it’s written in English (the one language I’m proficient in) and I’ve read enough copies to know that they do proper investigations into areas the mainstream press often won’t, that they uncover a lot of failings and wrong-doing by people in power, and that they’ve been sued countless times for trying to tell the truth. Is that what Charlie Hebdo does? Je ne sais pas. Or are Charlie Hebdo more like Richard Dawkins than Private Eye? Je ne sais pas.
When I saw the footage of a group of young Muslim people living in poverty on the outskirts of Paris saying ‘we were offended by the Hebdo covers but we would never want to kill someone because of that’ I thought, why is this magazine offending some of the poorest, most disenfranchised people in France – what does that achieve? Je ne sais pas. What recourse do those young Muslims have to lampoon the middle class liberals lampooning their God? Je ne sais pas.
All the talk is of intelligence failings and freedom of speech – we need to snoop more, read more emails, intercept more phone calls – we must re-publish the cartoons and continue to satirise and lampoon. But when do we talk about the conditions that can foster terrorism? Of how we allow multiple viewpoints to co-exist in a terror free world? Or even more straightforward questions like, if prison is a hotbed of radicalistion then why do we cut the budgets for prisons and allow them to become so overcrowded that no-one has any idea what is happening inside? When do we talk honestly about history?
Maybe none of that matters. Perhaps the politicians answers are the right ones… Je ne sais pas.