1) Brian Klug: people don’t know their own minds; 2) Reporters Without Borders is shocked that national leaders, well-known for control of the press, joined the march. 3) Interview on ‘circus of hypocrisy’ in Democracy Now. Notes and links on David Cameron’s tangled relationship with freedom of the press at foot.
Did these ‘world leaders’ lead the march, or even join it? A large gulf separates them, their aides and security men from everyone else. Tweet by @ianbremmer – ‘All those world leaders: not exactly “at” the Paris rallies’.
By Brian Klug, Mondoweiss
January 11, 2015
I read this on a blog yesterday; it is a version of a claim that has been made over and over again in the last couple of days, lionising Charlie Hebdo: “In its cartoons, Charlie Hebdo did not discriminate. The magazine lampooned all and sundry in its cartoons: racists, bigots, right-wing politicians, the uber-rich, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and more.” And what does ‘more’ include? More to the point: what does it not include? Did they, for example, lampoon journalists who, in the name of freedom of expression, mock Muslims and Jews regardless of the consequences? Did they, in other words, ever satirize themselves? Apparently Charlie Hebdo has announced it will produce a million copies of its next issue. Will this issue ridicule the scenes of mourning and solemn demonstrations on the grand boulevards of Paris, poking fun at people who raised pens skyward and lit candles in the dark? And why not? Nothing is sacred. Wouldn’t this be just the kind of outrageous act, defying convention and challenging popular ideas of decency, that puts freedom of expression to the test?
Here is a thought experiment: Suppose that while the demonstrators stood solemnly at Place de la Republique the other night, holding up their pens and wearing their “je suis charlie” badges, a man stepped out in front brandishing a water pistol and wearing a badge that said “je suis cherif” (the first name of one of the two brothers who gunned down the Charlie Hebdo staff). Suppose he was carrying a placard with a cartoon depicting the editor of the magazine lying in a pool of blood, saying, “Well I’ll be a son of a gun!” or “You’ve really blown me away!” or some such witticism. How would the crowd have reacted? Would they have laughed? Would they have applauded this gesture as quintessentially French? Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended? And infuriated. And then what? Perhaps many of them would have denounced the offender, screaming imprecations at him. Some might have thrown their pens at him. One or two individuals — two brothers perhaps — might have raced towards him and (cheered on by the crowd) attacked him with their fists, smashing his head against the ground. All in the name of freedom of expression. He would have been lucky to get away with his life.
Masses of people have turned the victims of a horrific assassination (which the staff of the magazine truly are) into heroes of France and free speech. The point of the thought experiment is not to show that such people are hypocrites. Rather, it is to suggest that they don’t know their own minds. They see themselves as committed to the proposition that there are no limits to freedom of expression: no subject so sensitive, no symbol so sacrosanct, that it cannot be sent up, sneered at and parodied, consequences be damned. They call this “courage” and they think it is the defining difference between them and the killers – and not just the killers but anyone who thinks there are limits to what can be said or printed. But they too have their limits. They just don’t know it.
When people don’t know their own minds — but think they do — they are liable to be swept away by self-righteous moral passion; which is just what we don’t need as the storm clouds gather on the European horizon.
By Reporters Without Borders
January 11, 2015
Reporters Without Borders welcomes the participation of many foreign leaders in today’s march in Paris in homage to the victims of last week’s terror attacks and in defence of the French republic’s values, but is outraged by the presence of officials from countries that restrict freedom of information.
On what grounds are representatives of regimes that are predators of press freedom coming to Paris to pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo, a publication that has always defended the most radical concept of freedom of expression?
Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the presence of leaders from countries where journalists and bloggers are systematically persecuted such as Egypt (which is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RWB’s press freedom index), Russia (148th), Turkey (154th) and United Arab Emirates (118th).
“We must demonstrate our solidarity with Charlie Hebdo without forgetting all the world’s other Charlies,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“It would be unacceptable if representatives of countries that silence journalists were to take advantage of the current outpouring of emotion to try to improve their international image and then continue their repressive policies when they return home. We must not let predators of press freedom spit on the graves of Charlie Hebdo.”
The authorities have announced the presence of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra, UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Gabonese President Ali Bongo.
National leaders ‘lead’ the march for freedom of expression, Paris, January 11. Photo by AFP.
How World Leaders at Paris March Oppose Press Freedom: Amy Goodman interviews Jeremy Scahill
January 12, 2015
An estimated 3.7 million people rallied across France on Sunday in response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings and ensuing attacks that left 17 people dead. More than a million people marched in Paris, making it the largest demonstration in French history. More than 40 world leaders traveled to Paris to help lead the march. “What we saw on display on the one hand was very heartening, to see so many people come into the streets,” says Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept. “But on the other hand, this is a sort of circus of hypocrisy when it comes to all of those world leaders who were marching at the front of it. Every single one of those heads of state or representatives of governments there have waged their own wars against journalists.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: An estimated 3.7 million people rallied across France Sunday in response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings and ensuing attacks that left 17 people dead. On Sunday, more than 40 world leaders traveled to Paris for the demonstration. At the Place de la République, demonstrators wearing Charlie Hebdo headbands waved French flags, and some sang “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem. Several mounted the Statue of the Republic, a symbol of the French Revolution, and hoisted up an inflated pencil to honor the killed Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. Here are some of the voices from the streets of France on Sunday.
DEMONSTRATORS: [singing] …dans les campagnes
mugir ces féroces soldats?
Aux armes, citoyens.
DEMONSTRATOR 1: [translated] We are free people in France, where everyone can live with one another. And it is important to voice and show it.
DEMONSTRATOR 2: [translated] Beyond Charlie, it is about freedom of speech, secularism, all the values that make up France that have been rattled. But the fact of gathering together, to see all these people, gives back a lot of hope.
DEMONSTRATOR 3: [translated] I sympathize with the people who have lost their loved ones. I would like to tell French people not to get confused, that at no time, in not a single book related to religion, whether it be the Qur’an, the Bible or the Torah, is it asked to kill one’s fellow man or woman.
DEMONSTRATOR 4: [translated] Everybody is concerned, not only in France. It’s all the people. The entire planet Earth is concerned. That means we’re united. All countries are free, but we are here to prove that France is a welcoming country and that we are really free to express our joy whenever we want.
The march took place two days after the gunmen who attacked Charlie Hebdo, Chérif and Said Kouachi, were killed by police after a siege at a printing works plant following a three-day manhunt. Minutes after the print shop assault, police broke a second siege at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. Four hostages died there along with the gunman, Amedy Coulibaly. France has announced it will deploy 10,000 soldiers on home soil and post almost 5,000 extra police officers to protect Jewish sites. On Friday, Chérif Kouachi said he received financing by the Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. He made the assertion to BFMTV before his death.
CHÉRIF KOUACHI: [translated] I’ll tell you only that we were defenders of the Prophet Muhammad and that I was sent, me, Chérif Kouachi, by al-Qaeda of Yemen. I went over there, and it was Anwar al-Awlaki who financed me. Rest in peace.
AMY GOODMAN: Reuters is reporting both brothers who carried out the attack against Charlie Hebdo traveled to Yemen in 2011 and had weapons training in the deserts of Marib, an al-Qaeda stronghold. Meanwhile, a source within al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has provided The Intercept with a full statement claiming responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack. The statement reads in part, quote, “The leadership of #AQAP directed the operation, and they have chosen their target carefully as a revenge for the honor of Prophet …The target was in France in particular because of its obvious role in the war on Islam and oppressed nations,” unquote. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula members have taken to social media and discussion boards to praise the attacks.
Well, for more, we’re joined by the article’s author, Jeremy Scahill. He is co-founder of the TheIntercept.org, where his new article is “Al Qaeda Source: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Directed Paris Attack.” His latest book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, it’s now out in paperback. His film Dirty Wars was nominated for an Academy Award. He’s also author of the best-selling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
Jeremy, welcome back to Democracy Now!
JEREMY SCAHILL: Thanks, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about this latest news out of France.
Yeah, well, I mean, first of all, you know, what we saw yesterday on display, on the one hand, was very heartening, to see so many people come into the streets. And, you know, one of the core issues of press freedom, if this is a moment where the whole world is saying we have to have a free press, and that no matter how controversial or hateful some of the speech is or may be interpreted in some communities, that we judge a free press by how we treat the journalists or the stories that we don’t like or that we’re offended by.
But on the other hand, this is sort of a circus of hypocrisy when it comes to all of those world leaders who were marching at the front of it. I mean, every single one of those heads of state or representatives of governments there have waged their own wars against journalists. You know, David Cameron ordered The Guardian to smash with a hammer the hard drives that stored the files of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Blasphemy is considered a crime in Ireland. You had multiple African and Arab leaders whose own countries right now have scores of journalists in prison. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel has targeted for killing numerous journalists who have reported on the Palestinian side, have kidnapped, abducted, jailed journalists. You know, there’s this controversy right now: Why didn’t President Obama go, or why didn’t Joe Biden go? You know, Eric Holder was there already and was representing the United States.
I think that we should remember—and I was saying this on Twitter over the weekend—that Yemen should have sent the Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye as their representative. He, of course, was in prison for years on the direct orders of President Obama for having reported on secret U.S. strikes in Yemen that killed scores of civilians. Or Sudan should have sent Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera cameraman who was held for six years without charge in Guantánamo and repeatedly interrogated by U.S. operatives who were intent on proving that Al Jazeera had some sort of a link to al-Qaeda. So, you know, while there is much to take heart in, in terms of this huge outpouring of support for freedom of the press, hypocrisy was on full display in the streets of Paris when it came to the world leaders.
Reporters Without Borders issued a statement saying it, quote, “condemns [the] presence of ‘predators’ in [the] Paris march,” and, quote, “is appalled by the presence of leaders from countries where journalists and bloggers are systematically persecuted such as Egypt … Russia … Turkey … and United Arab Emirates.” A Gabonese journalist covering the march expressed similar reservations about his president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, participating in the event.
GABONESE JOURNALIST: [translated] He banned demonstrations in his own country and is coming to a demonstration in France. That’s intolerable for us. It’s a complete hypocrisy. We’re here not only to show our outrage for what happened to Charlie Hebdo, but also to show our outrage over the fact that dictators like Ali Bongo Ondimba are present here in Paris, in a country that supports human rights, at an assembly that is in fact dedicated to freedom of expression, freedom of the press.
That, a Gabonese journalist covering the march, expressing reservations about his president participating in the march, Jeremy.
Well, and then you have—you know, you have General Sisi, the dictator of Egypt, who apparently is showing his solidarity for press freedom by continuing to preside over the imprisonment of multiple Al Jazeera journalists whose only crime was doing actual journalism and scores of other Egyptian journalists that never get mentioned in the news media.
Another thing that I think is really absent from a lot of the coverage of the aftermath of this horrific massacre is that France also is a surveillance state. And France has a very Islamophobic position toward their immigrant community, but also toward second- and third-generation Arabs or people from other Muslim countries who have settled inside France. And there’s going to be an intensification of an already overreaching surveillance system inside of France.
You know, some months ago I was on the show talking about the U.S. watchlisting system, and one of the things that we heard when we were doing this report on how you end up on the no-fly list or on the watchlist was that people within the U.S. counterterrorism community, who are actually trying to prevent acts of terrorism from happening, say that they’re flooded in information and that if everyone is on the watchlist, effectively no one is on the watchlist when it comes to actually looking at who might be engaged in these kinds of terror plots.
A similar phenomenon is happening in Paris, France. You know, people talk about an intelligence failure, an intelligence breakdown. When you are putting people on these lists for monitoring or surveillance based on flimsy or circumstantial evidence, what that means is that you overload your own bureaucracy. So, on the one hand, you have a surveillance state that unfairly targets Muslims and immigrants, in both the United States and in France, and on the other hand, you have a system that is intended to stop acts of terrorism or to monitor people that are plotting acts of terrorism that has become its own hindrance, its own biggest obstacle to actually figuring out the reality of these plots.
And let’s remember, while horrifying and reprehensible, these incidents represent a relatively minor threat to Western society. You know, in terms of the actual threats facing our society, this doesn’t even rank in the top five. And so, you know, to have this kind of a reaction is not only a waste of a tremendous amount of money, but it is going to encourage, I think, future acts of terrorism.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, it is a horrific moment where people actually see it before them.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yes, right. But, you know, it’s, again, the—let’s remember that the United States bombed Al Jazeera in Afghanistan very early on after 9/11, then bombed the Sheraton Hotel in Basra, Iraq, where Al Jazeera journalists were the only journalists. Then they killed one of the most famous Al Jazeera correspondents in Baghdad in April of 2003, when Victoria Clarke, George Bush’s Pentagon spokesperson at the time, basically said if you’re an unembedded journalist, you’re with the terrorists, and if you die, it’s not our fault. They shelled the Palestine Hotel, killing a Reuters cameraman and the Spanish cameraman José Couso. So, yes, we should be condemning any and all attacks, especially when they’re killing journalists, no matter who the perpetrators are, but let’s not act as though the West’s hands are clean and that any one of those world leaders marching yesterday, that their hands are clean on these matters.
We’re talking to Jeremy Scahill, founder of The Intercept. When we come back, we’re going to talk about the article that he’s written, “Al Qaeda Source: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Directed Paris Attack.” His latest book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.
Notes and links
‘World leader’ David Cameron
Channel4:Prime Minister David Cameron tells Krishnan Guru-Murthy that he too would say “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), after marching in Paris with other world leaders following this week’s terror attacks.
Guardian, February, 2014
A group of the world’s leading press freedom bodies is calling on prime minister David Cameron to distance himself from the investigation into The Guardian over the leaks by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The seven organisations also want Cameron to urge parliament to repeal the statute that underlies the royal charter on press regulation.
Signatories to a letter sent to Cameron today include the World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI).
The decision to write to Cameron was taken at the annual meeting of the global coordinating committee of press freedom organisations, which took place in London last month. It followed what the signatories call an “unprecedented” fact-finding mission to Britain by WAN-IFRA.
Against the backdrop of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Cameron says he would redouble his efforts against Islamist extremists…. Guardian January 11, 2015