Wednesday 7 January 2015


Masked gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs have murdered journalists and staff in the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo At least twelve are dead, including the editor Stéphane Charbonnier, known as Charb;  the magazine’s deputy editor Bernard Maris; and three cartoonists: Jean Cabu, Georges Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac, known as Tignous. The other victims, unnamed as yet, were members of staff and two policemen who arrived on bicycles to investigate. Others have been seriously wounded.

This has already been described as the most direct assault to date by Islamists against Western values. The equivalent, in Anglocentric terms, would be an attack on the offices of Private Eye, leaving its editor Ian Hislop dead along with a dozen journalists, cartoonists and staff.  Imagine that.

What to feel about this? Anger? Yes of course, and a particularly ferocious loathing for the cowardly racist little shits who perpetrated this murderous crime. Then, on reflection, a far colder hatred for all those who formed and deformed them - not only the radicalising mullahs but also the sleek politicians on all sides who contribute heat but no light to the growing hostility between what appear to be almost mythically incompatible values. 

I hate religious extremists of all kinds. I hate religion. I do not cultivate the friendship of religious people. I have good reasons for this. But because I like to think of myself as a good man I try not to hate those who hate, or for whatever do not share, my values (which are enlightenment values and therefore good values). I believe in Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité and with such a belief comes tolerance, forbearance, understanding. I try, as I say, not to hate those who hate me, but I find it hard not to want to mock them, because I think that would hurt them most of all, and is what they least expect. The murderous dullards behind the Charlie Hebdo massacres thrive on 'respect' - what they cannot abide, what no zealot can abide, is derision, the thought that they are ridiculous and do not really matter.

I want the two perpetrators and their associates caught, fairly tried and appropriately punished under French law (and I sincerely hope they won't die a 'martyr's death' in some suburban shoot-out). I want the satirical onslaught on religion that was typical of Charlie Hebdo to continue and to be intensified, and to spread throughout the West. Not only an onslaught against Islamism, that warped death cult derived from Islam, but against all beliefs in supernatural entities. I wanted to cheer when I heard a Charlie Hebdo journalist say on Radio 4 a few minutes ago that she and her surviving colleagues plan to publish as usual next week, and include a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.

Meanwhile let's all find some way to subscribe to the slogan

                      JE SUIS CHARLIE. 

Let's get our political leaders to wear the t-shirt. And all the vicars and the rabbis and the moderate mullahs.  And if Jeremy Clarkson wears one while presenting his popular telly programme about motoring I'll take back everything I've ever said or thought or written about him.

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