Friday, January 9, 2015

My Log 455 Jan 9 2015: The Charlie Hebdo attack: one that goes way beyond the usual claptrap from the oligarchy about freedom of expression

When mainstream media organs get their knickers in a twist about challenges to the freedom of the press, I usually dismss it as hypocritical claptrap.
Based on my years working for the press, I have reached the conclusion that the proprietors of privately-owned media organs have, as a primary objective, to make money, followed by relentless pursuit of their own invariably right-wing political objectives, followed by the need to employ senior staffers obedient to their vested interests, with, as a corollary of that some concern about the quality of their employees, and bringing up a lagging last, a minimal concern about freedom of expression.
Basically, I have never believed that people who run, for example, newspapers that themselves do not practise freedom of expression for their own staff, can be honestly concerned with freedom of expression for society in general.
This, on the whole, negative view of the press, was richly confirmed when years ago I reviewed Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s ground-breaking book Manufacturing Consent, which laid out the above cited mechanisms in painful detail.
The argument presented therein was doubly confirmed after the attack on the
World Trade Centre in New York in 2001, and George W Bush’s invention of the so-called war on terror, which, at immense expense to everyone, has plunged the world into one war after another, all with melancholy results.
I say all this in explanation of my reactions to the outcry on television about the attack on the Paris satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo (which I hasten to say I had never heard of). I tended towards the assumption  that it was a regrettable event that I would rather judge without what I have come to think of as “the claptrap” reaction from that huge network of wealth-owners who dictate the nature of our information systems.
Until, that is, I saw the superb edition of La Presse published on Thursday, the day after the event.  This, with its generous reproduction of cartoons published by the attacked magazine, photos and brief histories of the cartoonists who were slain by the terrorists, and moving, though measured commentaries from the La Presse columnists and editorialists,  brought home to me that here was a thoroughly detestable event in which anarchist-minded  people of immense talent, extraordinary humour and persistent courage were hunted down and slain by disgusting religious fundamentalist fanatics who, when they burst into the editorial offices, actually asked which was the editor before shooting him to death, along with senior members of his staff.
If ever there was an onslaught on freedom of expression, this was it. The people chosen to be removed were commenting on the very edge of what is acceptable in polite circles, had made similar comments about every religion and its leaders, and had not shrunk from putting themselves in danger by keeping on with their attacks on the indefensible rubbish pedalled by religions that had always attracted their sharp humour and veiled disgust.
La Presse has followed up with another fine detailed account of the affair in today’s newspaper, and I think they deserve great praise for the way they have handled the event, which seems to have really caught them by the throat, as it were, since their world-view is French.
Of course, since it was media people who were cut down, it seems almost inevitable that the media would overplay their coverage of the event: yet, all reservations aside, the attackers made this into a battle between those who believe in free expression, and those who believe that only those who agree with them should be free to express their opinions, when they shouted that they had killed Charb (the editor and one of the cartoonists on the magazine), and that they had avenged the Prophet.
God Almighty, one might say, not wishing to invoke the non-existent deity, are we all to be held accountable to some Prophet in whom we do not believe?

Never, surely.

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