You Cannot Possibly Be In Favor of Vile and Disgusting Hate But You Can Support Publishing #CharlieHebdo Garbage

The perfect analogy and metaphor for multiple-issue, concomitant subject matter review and critical thinking. Plate spinning. Denmark’s Henrik Bothe, is a contemporary practitioner the style and spirit of Erich Brenn, known worldwide for his appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, shows the art of balancing multiple plates/ideas simultaneously. Wikipedia incidentally notes that The Guinness World Record for spinning multiple plates is held by David Spathaky, assisted by Debbie Woolley, who spun 108 plates simultaneously in Bangkok, Thailand, on television in 1996. Amazing stuff.

By analogy, America needs a crash course in this method. Multiple ideas, thoughts, issues, facts, data, analyses, some that are consistent with others, some unique and stand-alone — balance all, address all. And the acknowledgement of one idea doesn’t negate or eliminate another as inconsistent merely because it’s different. In other words: You can condemn the cartoon and the murder of the cartoonist simultaneously. Because the ideas are different, dissimilar. They involve different elements, different points.

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” Thus spake Christopher Hitchens. America must be more like Erich Brenn and learn to handle multiple ideas concomitantly especially if they are not necessarily similar. To wit:

  • Whither mirth? #CharlieHebdo was as funny as a Klan rally or root canal. And the term cartoon does not necessarily impart humor or pleasant witticisms. It’s a part of the French-language tradition of Bandes dessinées (“drawn strips”), some of which are, ahem, provocative to a degree rarely seen in mainstream English-speaking media, even in the most piquant of satirical outlets. History has shown us some of the vilest examples of racism and antisemitism by way of the scartoons. But no one deserves to die over any opinion or expression of thought. That’s the axiomatic, pedestrian retort that must always follow the obvious. It’s similar to when a criminal is shot by police, you must always say, “It’s a tragedy, every life is worth something.” Yes, thanks for the proviso and condition. But as to Charlie Hebdo, it ain’t the Onion or Daily Show or National Lampoon. Somehow the term cartoon has been conflated and coopted to suggest a euphemistic revision of what Charlie Hebdo is and has been. Before it was Charlie Hebdo, France’s most controversial magazine even by French standards was known as L’Hebdo Hara-Kiri. Hara-Kiri had one mission only: to be as “dumb and nasty” as possible (their words). Pay particular attention to that, all you cartoon fans. The motive and intent and direction and plan were to abrade and sting and piss off. Mission accomplished, mes amis. And why this is critical is to understand that our piquant and raucous humor, by our timid standards, knows no comparison to Charlie Hebdo. Remember, we’re the epicenter of political correctness. At least, selective PC. How many folks know that one cartoon portrayed France’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as a monkey? Oh, that would play just great here. Right.
  • #SorryCharlie. It’s possible to disagree with its message and allow and permit and countenance its right to be offensive. Let me repeat: You can condemn the cartoon and the murder of the cartoonist simultaneously. In my perfect world, nothing should ever be prohibited from expression except for the obvious. But, no, I find Charlie Hebdo offensive, crass, crude, hateful and worse, not funny in the least. And that’s where Americans can relate. There’s almost a sense of mandatory acceptance of the message whole cloth with no room for reservation or disagreement. America thrives on being offended for everything and everywhere. If some celeb drops an F-bomb, Janet Jackson suffers a wardrobe malfunction and flashes an armored areola or mammilla that requires the visual acuity of a fighter pilot to even notice, if Michael Richards goes off on a racist rant, name it, we call for their heads. The same folks who march in solidarity today would be calling for the prosecution and incarceration of the foregoing subjects yesterday. So we have inconsistent allegiances and fealty, and I submit again, most of those who are publicly ardent in support of Charlie Hebdo would have cursed its subject matter had it been published here.
  • Beware the hate crime. There’s an irony here. The professional and prototypical American left loves the hate crime, which stands to date as the quintessentially and fundamentally unconstitutional embarrassment since the neck tattoo. The idea is that speech that is deemed hateful and criminal thereby as to the message, especially when accompanying an already crime already cognizable at law, should subject the actor and declaration of the errant message to a higher level of prosecution and charge. Yet, and pay close attention, many of these folks are now calling for acceptance and tolerance and understanding as to Charlie Hebdo’s racist and hateful content. Again, we’re all in agreement that murder over objection to a message is never justified or warranted.
  • This isn’t the first time for France. Recent history shows that events like this aren’t new. In what’s referred to as the Toulouse and Montauban shootings, Mohammed Merah on March 11, 2012, shot a French Muslim soldier in the head at close range after telling him, “You kill my brothers, so I am killing you.” The Washington Post captioned the story “Mohammed Merah, face of the new terrorism.” Then the 2013 La Défense attack was believed to have followed “a threat from the North African wing of al-Qaeda, related to the country’s military intervention in Mali.” At that time attempts by the media and government to extrapolate and conflate were not seen as they are today. Beware attempts to invoke the Hegelian dialectic to rouse action and retaliation against the amorphous face of “terrorism.” We’ve seen that movie before.
  • Hollande’s unprecedented pronouncement. This was a fascinating event in France’s current events that many international commentators are noting with particularity. It seems that French President Francois Hollande said on January 5, two days before the attacks, that Western sanctions against Russia should be lifted if progress were made in resolving the Ukraine crisis. The unprecedented two-hour interview with France Inter radio was aimed at championing a host of economic reforms with the goal of reversing Hollande’s record-low approval ratings. It also him a chance to state his views on a range of foreign policy issues especially as to Putin and Russian sanctions. “What he wants is to remain influential. What he wants is for Ukraine not to fall into the NATO camp,” Hollande said. This is by no means presented as causal, but it’s critical to note the political climate that surrounds any event  and when it comes to world geopolitical issues in general, our media are known for their less-than-thorough coverage.
  • They are not Charlie. Not everyone sides with Charlie Hebdo while still denouncing the murders. This again refers to the ability to handle two issues or plates simultaneously. “Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” wrote Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr in a staff-wide e-mail. David Brooks of the New York Times wrote that anyone who thinks they could publish a Charlie Hebdo style “cartoon” on American campuses would be shuttered in a heartbeat. “Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech . . . [t]he administration would have cut financing and shut them down.” The Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page wrote, “But even as I defend the heroism of Charlie Hebdo, I would be remiss if I failed to condemn its racism — as well as its sexism, its anti-theism and other attacks against targets that were in much less privileged positions to defend themselves.” Catholic League President Bill Donohue in a statement entitled “MUSLIMS HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE ANGRY” wrote, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him.” He even goes so far in his unbridled audacity to quote James Madison from Federalist, no. 63, 422-29: “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.” For a marvelous interview with Mr. Donohue on this very subject, join me here for my give and take with my great friend.
  • #CanAMovementExistAnymoreWithoutAHashtag? After protestors were convoked to address the death of Eric Garner #ICantBreathe became the rallying cry. When attempts were made later to correct some possible misunderstandings as to the factual bases of Mr. Garner’s death, when they proved inconsistent with the meme and hashtag they were discarded. When facts of Mr. Garnet’s arrest and arrest record were posited they likewise were found to be discordant with the message and meme. When the cases of Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley were offered as substitutes for focus as better examples of police brutality and/or excess it was though by some that inasmuch as they didn’t enjoy the same hashtag or meme pithiness and imaging, protestors would stick to #ICantBreathe. We live in a hashtag and meme-centered communications world.When the world became aware of Ahmed Merabet, the first police officer at the scene of the Charlie Hebdo attack who was shot dead in cold blood and was Muslim, attempts were made to redirect a new meme of #IAmAhmed or #JeSuisAhmed. Memes that are cemented are hard to change. The message, the facts, the truth and the background will not counter the message that enjoys a social media momentum. This can be most problematic. And is.
  • The numbers don’t add up. And finally, when attempts are made to extrapolate the Paris horrors with the Muslim world or Islam, the sheer enormity of the Muslim world population destroys any attempt to paint the issue with a broad brush. Yes, the assassins were Muslim and espoused what we call radical Islamist Jihadist rhetoric, admittedly used incorrectly as I’m told by Islamic scholars. Yes, they cited blasphemy as the reason for the killings. When the certifiable and thankfully-late coot Fred Phelps cited the Bible and Christianity as bases for protesting military funerals and spouting hateful rhetoric, we were correctly swift to dismiss his thoughts as extreme and not representative. But when I attempt that same argument as to Islam, I’m reminded by many “scholars” that the gravamen of the Muslim message is Sharia, misogyny, intolerance, hate and violence. With a world population of 1.6B Muslims, if a mere 10% were of this murdering mindset, this raucous and rampaging ilk would by definition result in over 160M crazed, maniacal and homicidal lunatics wreaking havoc in the world. But we don’t see that, now do we? As I mentioned and explained on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, ‘neath the horror there’s some good news.
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