Sunday, January 11, 2015

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Rupert & Le Front National Ne Est Pas Charlie

 Marianne Statue, Place de la République, Paris, January 11 (Stephanie Mahe / Reuters)

This week, nineteen human beings died in the capital of a great European nation: twelve journalists and cartoonists, four hostages and three police officers (one of them, Ahmed Merabet, himself a Muslim), all murdered in Paris.

The attacks targeted artists in their offices and Jews in a kosher market. They were meant to create maximum public impact and fear.

Hours after the attack on the offices of Charlie Hedbo, Parisians spontaneously gathered in the streets -- more than thirty thousand of them around the statue of Marianne, the symbol of France, in Paris' Place de la République. Many held signs with the phrase: Je Suis Charlie -- I Am Charlie.  The next day, marches sprung up across the country -- tens of thousands in major cities across France.

JeSuisCharlie has become the most used hashtag in the relatively brief history of social media. 

Spontaneous Rally On January 8, Place de la République, Paris (Getty/via CNN)

A mass rally and march took place in Paris today, a memorial for the victims and an opportunity to reject beliefs which use violence and repression as their primary tool and creed -- and to affirm that tolerance, freedom of religious worship and the right to freedom of expression are what France and Europe stand for. 

1.5 million people showed up in the streets -- more than at any time since the city's liberation from nazi occupation in the summer of 1944.  Attendees marching arm-in-arm included the French, German, British, Turkish and Italian Prime Ministers, the Israeli Prime Minister and President of the Palestinians, and a host of other world leaders.

President Obama sent the outgoing U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder.
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An intended byproduct of the Paris terror attacks was to increase tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims.  A heavy-handed response by the French government, an increase in casual discrimination against Muslims in the wake of the attacks, would be gifts to jihadists.

America's invasion of Iraq following the September 11th attacks allowed a simmering conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims to explode into an endless, blood-feud war. The Israelis and Palestinians, and Hezbollah, have had five major confrontations after 2000. Arabic emigration to Europe increased; after the 2008 economic crash, the 'Arab Spring', with high unemployment and cuts in social services in EU countries -- a long string of events which contributed to the resurgence of Europe's nationalist, right-wing political parties.

The message of these parties sounds too familiar to many Europeans: Fear The Other. Radical Islam, the Rightists say, is an infestation, and any Muslim could be infected. They accuse the Left and Center political parties of being too politically correct, too weak to understand the threat, and to act. From the Netherlands to Greece, these parties are relatively small but growing -- only in France are they a serious political force; the National Front could actually take control of the government in the next election.

Anti-Muslim Rally In Lyon, One Day After The Charlie Hedbo Attack (UK Guardian)

One positive note in all this -- Europe has been down this road before and there are people still living who remember it. Many Europeans are determined that 'Never Again' is not only a slogan.

On the weekend before the Paris attacks, Germany's 'Pegida' movement held well-attended anti-Muslim marches in major German cities.  However, they immediately triggered anti-Pegida marches across Germany which were even more heavily attended. Germany, as well as France, remembers its history.
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On this Friday's installment of his cable program, 'Real Time', satirist Bill Maher said flatly, “Hundreds of millions of [Muslims] support an attack like that [i.e., on the staff of Charlie Hebdo].” His guests (including author Salman Rushdie, once targeted by an Iranian death sentence for 'insults to Islam' in a novel), echoed the same sentiments, more or less.

And yesterday, Rupert Murdoch deigned to provide the world with his opinion via Twitter:
Maybe most Moslems [sic] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible. — January 10, 2015 (@rupertmurdoch)
The majority of responses disagreed (Michael Monan [@MichaelMonan1] asked, "In the same way that you must be held responsible for ordering the hacking of the voicemails of dead school children?").  Undeterred, Little Rupert poured a little more gasoline on the fire:
Big jihadist danger looming everywhere from Philippines to Africa to Europe to US. Political correctness makes for denial and hypocrisy. 
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Murdoch owns one of the largest media conglomerates on earth, a billionaire Oligarch who organized and manages the largest media factory of right-wing distortions and lies ever created -- ranking with Tass and Pravda of the Stalinist era, the national media of modern Communist China, and the media of the nazi state created by Joey Goebbels.

When it was founded, CNN's news format blurred the lines between news as fact, and as entertainment. In developing his own cable news network, Murdoch could have rejected that and created a higher standard in how information is gathered and news presented. He could have treated viewers with the basic assumption that they were intelligent adults, a public that deserved to be given facts about events -- not distortions or editorializing presented as 'news'. Instead, Rupert raced Ted Turner to the bottom.
Our Business Was Founded On The Idea That A Free And Open Press
Should Be A Positive Force In Society.
-- Rupert Murdoch, July 14, 2011
 Rupert's media 'properties' push a huckster's blend of both "Tits 'n Tattle" entertainment and right-wing propaganda. It's a business model that holds people in contempt -- gullible, easily-led children; lowest common denominators. You don't lie to and manipulate people that you respect.

NewsCorp is the unacknowledged, shadow media arm of the political Right, and Rupert revels in having so much power -- in America, waiting to see which right-wing politician will receive his approval (and media support) as the Republican candidate for President is known as "the Murdoch Primary"

And to ordinary people, the news Rupert's machine pumps out seems grim, even without political spin -- environmental and political crises; regional wars that are blood feuds which can only end with the extermination of one side; the murderous fanaticism of an ISIS or Boko Harum.

The response of Western governments to these crises (e.g., military action against ISIS; aid to stem the spread of Ebola) frequently seem too hesitant, because finding consensus is hard, and finding money to support that consensus may be even harder; the effects of the 2008 Crash our Masters Of The Universe created are still with us.

So, Murdoch's messages (The future is to be feared; Muslims are enemies, and the throwaway reference to 'political correctness' -- Leftist politicians are spineless; they will not Act Decisively to save you) can seem attractive, to some.

Murdoch's opinions are those of a first-generation Oligarch who wants his family's wealth and influence preserved. His media and his messages reflect his vision of the world -- myopic, fearful, suspicious and conspiratorial. Competitors and detractors must be manipulated and dominated, by brute force if necessary, to maintain control and market share ... a very similar worldview, oddly enough, to that of the jihadists.
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What happened in Paris earlier this week is a reminder of how precarious things in the larger world can be. We live with that awareness; it's part of the legacy of being human -- having no real answer to What Is all This? Why Am I Here? but getting up each day and tending to our lives, not knowing when it all may end, and hoping to find some sweetness, moment to moment.

And we each hold a hope that, in that larger world, some positive direction will begin to take shape -- that the people we recognize as leaders will find a way towards Peace, Security; Purpose and Completion; Rest; Love. We don't talk about this directly, or often -- who wants to appear too sentimental, soft, impractical? But that shared hope is who we are, and it shines through in our moods; in a shared glance; in the pauses between parts of conversations with friends.

Most 'ordinary' people understand, in the larger world, that the fix is in, that we're manipulated and lied to as consumers, citizens and voters. We focus on the day-to-day because we don't believe 'ordinary' people have real power in that larger world. Then, something happens (usually, a tragedy) and we realize that the political and social structures we have to live in are less important than our essential humanity -- and that simply being human is a powerful thing.

For a time, we realize that is what matters -- and, we know the moment is fleeting, that we'll dissolve back into separate tribes and camps and that awareness won't last. But while it does, we can smile wildly at each other and link arms and lift our voices, happy as children. Only later will smaller hearts and minds try to make that moment, that recognition between us, into an embarrassment or a joke.

Have you ever been in a crowd which starts to sing the Marseille? The French Revolution was terrible, in many ways, expressions of the best and worst humankind could offer -- Liberté, égalité, fraternité, and the Terror.

For me, the Marseille (and the 'Internationale', and The Star-Spangled Banner) have always expressed that shared recognition -- our desire for real justice, real peace, and not the illusions we're fed by corporate interests or business-as-usual politics. It's a song of solidarity and courage in the face of not knowing where we will all end. 

Murdoch's message, or that of the political Right in Europe, or in America, is not the spirit of the Marseille.  Murdoch's message was not that of the crowds in Paris today. Theirs was about community, not division, and about the courage to demand a larger world where what we hope for will become the birthrights of every human being -- and that today's recognition that we are part of a common humanity, united against fear and resignation, won't  fade away. 
Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you off your feet
Better recognize your brothers
Everyone you meet
Why in the world are we here
Surely not to live in pain and fear
Why on earth are you there
When you're everywhere
Come and get your share

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah we all shine on

...
John Lennon /
Instant Karma (And We All Shine On) [1969]
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