Some US Media Reports on Paris Murders Draw Exasperated Response From French Ambassador

France’s outspoken Ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, has clearly not been impressed by some of the US media coverage of the recent murderous terrorist attacks in Paris.

Long lines in Paris for the quickly-sold out first print run of the  Charlie Hebdo survivor's edition (Credit Twitter)

Long lines in Paris for the quickly-sold out first print run of the Charlie Hebdo survivor’s edition (Credit Twitter)

The US website Slate (as well as its French-language sister site ) noted the Ambassador, who has a very active Twitter account, has sent several exasperated responses to some tweets and subtweets circulating after the atrocity.

Here are some samples:

French media has also reacted, often with sardonic humour, to some of the coverage of events by US news outlets and TV channels. The most cutting was that by Le Petit Journal debunking inaccurate reportage on Fox News about so called “no go zones in Paris” . Fox suggested these were in the hands of radical Islamists and compared them to Afghanistan and Iraq.

On a less wacky level the French have generally been critical of the fact that in some Anglophone countries, notably the US and the UK, newspapers, including The New York Times, took editorial decisions not to republish the original Charlie Hebdo cartoons (used by the extremists as an excuse for their murderous attacks).

The failure of the NYT to reproduce pictures of the cover of the survivors’ issue of Charlie Hebdo with its portrait of Mohammed weeping and now headed towards a worldwide print run of some seven million copies, was also strongly criticised in France. The NYT’s own Readers’ Ombudsman reportedly chastised the paper over this lack of courage.

The considerable difference of opinion between France and the United States and Britian over the concept of freedom of expression and how it should be defended against fundamentalists, has become a matter of significant debate.

US and UK mainstream media, blogs and social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere have become hotbeds of divergence over the importance of freedom of expression as a fundamental value in Western democracy and one to be defended at all costs (or not).

Gérard Araud is well known in the United States for his “legendary outspokenness” on Twitter and in real life, according to a report in the French version of Slate. Earlier when he was French ambassador to the UN, he achieved some notoriety for sending his US counterpart Samantha Power, a text message remarking on her great beauty… in the middle of a Security Council meeting.

Separately the fallout from the latest attacks continues. Concerted actions by police and security forces in France, Belgium (where police said they foiled a bid by extremists to kidnap and decapitate a Belgian judge or policeman) and Germany, continue against groups of alleged Islamist terror groups.

Online media is bubbling with comment and reportage seeking to amplify the perceived dangers for Western democracies posed by resurgent religious extremism.

The raids in Belgium came after an Islamic State video showed French-speaking fighters telling Muslims in Europe: ‘If you see a police officer in the street, kill him. Kill them all. Kill all the infidels you see on the street.’

Following this clear challenge to their citizen’s security, police have arrested more than two dozen people across Europe in anti-terror raids conducted in the wake of a three-day terror siege in Paris and the raid of a terror cell in Belgium. Five have been charged with terrorism, according to a report on RT. Some 15 were in custody Friday in connection with an impending attack on police in Belgium – 13 of whom were in Belgium and two of whom were in France. However, it was not clear whether the pair in France had been detained at the request of Belgian authorities.

In a further development Reuters reported: “French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday that anti-Charlie Hebdo protesters in other countries do not understand France’s attachment to freedom of speech.

“He was speaking a day after the satirical weekly’s publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad sparked violent clashes, including deaths, in some Muslim countries. Demand has surged for Charlie Hebdo’s first issue since two militant gunmen burst into its weekly editorial conference and shot dead 12 people at the start of three days of violence that shocked France.

“The magazine’s distributors said that its print run had been lifted to seven million copies, dwarfing its usual circulation of only 60,000.

“A cartoon image of Mohammad on its front page outraged many in the Muslim world, triggering demonstrations that turned violent in Algeria, Niger and Pakistan on Friday.
‘We’ve supported these countries in the fight against terrorism,’ Hollande said during a visit to the southern city of Tulle, traditionally his political fiefdom”.

As one commentator writing about radical Islam in Europe noted: “We only have our own laxity to blame for these attacks”. Vijeta Uniyal a Europe-based Indian writer, Fellow of the Lawfare Project, and contributor to the UK-based Commentator wrote: “If one were hoping for moral clarity or courage in the print media in Europe, one was mistaken again. The Western press fiddled with the French phrase and the hashtag ‘Je suis Charlie‘, but often lacked the courage to show Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons as a mark of solidarity with the French magazine.

“For a cowardly press that often abridges what was really said and fails to stand up for the fundamental freedoms — along with politicians and a society that refuse to demand anything in return — we in Europe have no one to blame but ourselves.

“For too long we have celebrated the erosion of our Western values, by calling it “multiculturalism.” Our politicians, intellectuals and academics seem to prefer indulging in “social romanticism” than questioning the exploding parallel legal and social norms that are emerging in immigrant Muslim communities.

“Our politicians courted the radical clergy and lent their ears to their perceived grievances. Our politicians legitimized these persons — who often turn out to be extremists posing as moderates — as the sole representatives of all Muslim immigrants. Most of all, we failed to extend our hand of solidarity to those brave Muslim men and women who dared to defy the radical elements within their own communities.

“Freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry have been central to the rise of Western civilisation, bringing with them values — such as freedom of (and from) religion, governance at the consent of the governed, and equal justice under law — unparalleled in the human history. Instead of passing on this flame of enlightenment and freedom to the Muslim world, we have undermined it at home.

“The Western school systems have brought forth a generation that, by taking these gifts for granted, has failed to learn how irregular in history they are, and the heavy price that was paid by generations gone by to secure them”.

For his part Slavoj Žižek a senior researcher at the University of Ljubljana Institute for Sociology and Philosophy and well-known Slovenian Marxian philosopher, writing in the leftwing British magazine New Statesman, noted: “We should, of course, unambiguously condemn the killings as an attack on the very substance our freedoms, and condemn them without any hidden caveats (in the style of “Charlie Hebdo was nonetheless provoking and humiliating the Muslims too much”). But such pathos of universal solidarity is not enough – we should think further….

“William Butler Yeats’ ‘Second Coming’ seems perfectly to render our present predicament: ‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’ This is an excellent description of the current split between anaemic liberals and impassioned fundamentalists. ‘The best’ are no longer able fully to engage, while ‘the worst’ engage in racist, religious, sexist fanaticism….

“If today’s so-called fundamentalists really believe they have found their way to Truth, why should they feel threatened by non-believers, why should they envy them? When a Buddhist encounters a Western hedonist, he hardly condemns. He just benevolently notes that the hedonist’s search for happiness is self-defeating. In contrast to true fundamentalists, the terrorist pseudo-fundamentalists are deeply bothered, intrigued, fascinated, by the sinful life of the non-believers. One can feel that, in fighting the sinful other, they are fighting their own temptation….

“So what about the core values of liberalism: freedom, equality, etc.? The paradox is that liberalism itself is not strong enough to save them against the fundamentalist onslaught. Fundamentalism is a reaction – a false, mystifying, reaction, of course – against a real flaw of liberalism, and this is why it is again and again generated by liberalism.”

Here Dr Qanta Ahmed, a practising British Muslim and writer, tells CNN about the difference between Islam and Islamism.

Dr Qanta Ahmed, author of The land of invisible women, on CNN on Jan 11 2015.

The 2011 clip below from a programme aired by British broadcaster ITV and produced by Darcus Howe, shows black-on-black violence in Britain provoked, he suggests, by religious extremism.

Thea bleak and riveting report shows Pakistani and Somali-descended youths teamed up against West Indian-descended youths in a damning commentary on how the country has changed in recent decades. Darcus Howe notes ironically that in his youth Pakistani and West Indian youths were the ones ganged up and their fight in those days was White racism in Britain. Today “it is a religious-based conflict waged by Black Muslim followers on Black West Indian descendants”.

Darcus Howe, originally from Trinidad, is a British broadcaster, writer and civil liberties campaigner, best known in the UK for his Black on Black series on Channel 4.

This report was filmed in Birmingham and London (in the UK):

A Primer for Foreign Francophiles Struggling to Understand Charlie Hebdo and Free Speech
In The Aftermath of Atrocity Is This The New Face of Europe ?
“Barbarous” Slaughter at Charlie Hebdo – RIP Charb, Cabu, Wolinksi and Tignous

Ken Pottinger

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