Freedom of Expression: lip-service to a Western idol
The murder of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris this week has sparked off the biggest orgy of hypocritical handwringing about “freedom of expression” from Western politicians, journalists and other pontificators since the verdict in the Pussy Riot trial was announced two years ago.
I’m not trying to condone or justify the murders in any way. The murders were horrible, and I hope the killers are caught and brought to justice.
But the reaction I am talking about there is not a reaction to human beings being killed. It is rather that it was seen by many of the pontificators as an attack on “freedom of expression”, which was the same spin that the put on the Pussy Riot affair.
I have commented elsewhere that this seems to indicate that there are two fundamentalisms confronting each other here — Islamic fundamentalism, and a Western fundamentalism of “freedom of expression”. The almost identical reactions to the Charlie Hebdo killings and the Pussy Riot affair makes this quite clear.
There seems to be a huge reaction, quite out of proportion to the events themselves. Yes, it is horrible that 12 people were killed, but how many people were killed by Obama’s drones last week? Why doesn’t that stir more than a murmur of protest, and that only among those far from the centres of power in the West?
Here’s something that happened in the same week ‘Burned to the ground’: Boko Haram razes at least 16 Nigerian villages | Al Jazeera America:
Boko Haram razed at least 16 towns and villages in northern Nigeria and may have killed up to 2,000 people since the weekend, officials said Thursday.
After capturing a key military base in northeast Nigeria on Saturday, members of the feared armed group used crude bombs to level entire towns, according to local authorities.
But was it published in the Western media? No, it was published by Al Jazeera, a broadcaster with links to Islam. that great enemy of “freedom of expression”. The attack in Nigeria was probably intended to deprive those who were killed of their freedom of expression and their freedom of religion too. But in the scale of values of the Western media, the voice of the 1%, 12 white lives are enormously more valuable than 2000 black lives, and so deserve more column inches, and more talking heads. And they are just as dead as the French journalists.
The problem is that the “freedom of expression” angle is simply the spin put on the events by the Western politicians and media. Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech - It Was About War:
In less than an hour of the dreadful shooting of 12 people at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the politicians had already started to lie to their own public.
John Kerry, US Secretary of State, declared that, “freedom of expression is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror.”
The media lapped it up — the attack was now spun as an attack on ‘Freedom of Speech’. That cherished value that the West holds so dear.
The British Government was so in love with it, that they were passing laws that demanded nursery school teachers spy on Muslim toddlers because they had too much of it. Toddlers were ‘free’ to speak their mind as long as it agreed with UK Government policy
For many people in the West, “freedom of expression” is a value that is held with religious, even fundamentalist fervour. But the politicans and media moguls who put this spin in it don’t really believe it themselves; they pay lip-service to it, but ignore it when it suits them. The people who are telling us that an attack on journalists is an attack on freedom of speech don’t seem to have had any love for freedom of speech 16 years ago.
How is this different from the Charlie Hebdo attack? Is it any less an attack on freedom of speech? Serb TV station was legitimate target, says Blair | World news | theguardian.com:
Nato leaders yesterday scrambled to justify the bombing of Serbia’s state television station in an attack which killed a number of civilian workers and marked a further widening in the scope of targets now considered legitimate.
The attack on the building in the centre of Belgrade – which contradicted an apparent assurance by Nato this month that only transmitters would be hit – was condemned by international journalists’ organisations, representing both employers and unions.
I see no difference.
If those who ordered and carried out one attack were criminals, so were those who ordered and carried out the other. If one was a “legitimate target”, then so was the other. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are no different from those anomymous marked gunmen. Why weren’t they arrested and charged with war crimes?
Je suis Charlie? Bah, humbug.
As the author of this article says Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech - It Was About War:
“to bring an end to this — we’ve got to do something differently, because what we are doing now — isn’t working”