We are not all Charlie

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When we decide to write an article about the events that took place yesterday in Paris(1)When one tries to treat the subject in a critical way, the ideological pressure is such that one tacitly feels this moral obligation to specify from the start that one condemns the facts, facts to which the commentators most often add one or more strong qualifiers: villainous, barbaric, ignoble, satanic… Basically, what does not arise as a question in such a case is the abnormality of having, as a journalist, to specify that: which legal persons, institutions or other representatives, opposed or not to the ideas defended by the victims, would not see in such a killing something wrong? The act has been condemned worldwide and unanimously by all states and all religions, in an ideological communion that only this kind of event mobilizes.

As soon as consensus is the only master, we fear to say anything else, we no longer dare, if we still know how, to think: everything crystallizes on victims that are described in a dithyrambic way and on a gregarious will to form only one social body not shared by conflicts:  » Today France has been attacked in its heart « , François Hollande said on the evening of January 7; a social body described in laudatory terms, the supreme bearer of freedom. To think about this is not, however, to throw oneself into repeated pathetic tributes, but to see certainly in this indignation, most often affected, a meaning: if we mediatize what is obvious, it is because this mediatization has another function, more important than the one we believe and which seems obvious to us. Because what can we say about newspapers that have made disinformation their business, that every day feed us news items whose description makes our relationship with the other hermetic and leads us to categorize and hierarchize societies into ethnic groups, without explaining to us how inequality generates misery? The lauders of the  » je suis Charlie « , the same people who, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, made us say « I am Charlie « . They take advantage of a fact to hide their share of responsibility in the state of the world, and rebound by immediately establishing themselves as victims of the hatred against freedomof expression. They repeat, generating the automatic association between the victims of Charlie-Hebdo and themselves, potential future victims(2) :  » We can die for having written and made people laugh, » says the unshakeable icon of Le Soir, Béatrice Delvaux(3)in a vibrant, high-risk call for  » We thought thatit had always been closed, except when it was a question of defending bosses and captains of industry.

So again, thought is dead. And journalists can use an event that took place on their own land, which is rare, to create one of the two illusions of a counter-power that Serge Halimi highlighted in his book Les nouveaux chiens de garde: the one that feeds on tragedy. As he says:  » Quite involuntarily, these victims of the « duty to inform » feed the golden legend of which a normalized profession and its reverential stars are fond « (4), legend of a power devoid of any mercantile interest and treating the information in all objectivity. Do the same people who, taking advantage of a tragic event, set themselves up as great defenders of freedom of expression, tell us about the daily censorship of their editors? The one, for example, of which Hervé Kempf was the object during his investigation of the struggle against the airport of Notre Dame des Landes, and who will say in his article  » Farewell to Le Monde, long live Reporterre  » :  » This September 2nd, fifteen years and one day after I joined, I leave Le Monde (…) That I voluntarily leave a prestigious title may come as a surprise. But certainly less than the reason which pushes me there: the censorship implemented by its direction, which prevented me from continuing in this newspaper investigations and reports on the file of Notre Dame des Landes. At the end of the story I am about to tell, there was only one way out if I wanted to keep the freedom without which journalism has no meaning: to give up the comfort of an assured salary and the means to work before the last remaining margin of expression was stifled « (5). They will therefore not mention the censorship that sustains the press they choose to make, and will prefer to opportunistically take advantage of a moment to maintain the illusion of their independence:  » We are all Charlie  » (Liberation),  » The murdered freedom  » (Le Figaro),  » They will not kill freedom  » (Le Parisien)…

François Hollande will say no less, as he is a close friend of Matthieu Pigasse, investment banker and director of the Lazard Bank, owner of the Inrockuptibles and daily newspaper Le Monde, with a family well rooted in the press, including a brother, Nicolas Pigasse, who knows what « freedom of expression » is as the owner of… Public, the people magazine par excellence. Hollande who, in 1985, said in a book written under a pseudonym, with three other well-placed acolytes:  » No more dreams, no more illusions, no more chimeras. The real invades everything. The accounts must necessarily be balanced, the compulsory levies lowered, the police force reinforced, the National Defense preserved, the companies modernized, the initiative freed « (6). There were no attacks at the time, but let’s be sure that the effects of these policies and those that followed, more than favorable to capital, had their repercussions on the weakest social strata, in particular by creating a breeding ground for poverty and resentment, disappointed hopes in a society of spectacle making the star the model to follow, despair and therefore hatred in what they now call the ZUS (sensitive urban zones).

National mourning was declared, flags were flown at half-mast, thousands of demonstrators gathered in France and other European countries. The time is not for reflection, measurement and understanding; it is not therefore for, free spirit, to build all the hypotheses. Certainly, the brains were ready, as the mass media did their job, with TF1 in France at the head of the audience, belonging to Bouygues, an industrial group which made the channel, privatized in 1987, the standard of the stultifying modernity, of the entertainment of the « consom’actors », simple receptacles of contents creating desires to buy the products which it praises all day long in its advertisements.

The great mass of Holland

Hollande’s solemn speech(7) on the evening of January 7 uses the classic propaganda elements just described.

  • he creates heroes:  » These men and women died for the idea they had of France, that is, freedom. They are our heroes today « These are the words around which national sentiment crystallizes and unity is prepared;
  • it erases the differences between individuals to gather them under a common identity. As such, it is not a newspaper that has been attacked, it is France:  » Today it is the entire republic that has been attacked;
  • With this figure of speech, the attack becomes an attack on the values of the Republic:  » The Republic is freedom of expression; the Republic is culture, it is creation, it is pluralism, it is democracy. That’s what the killers were aiming at. It is the ideal of justice and peace that France carries everywhere on the international scene « . Or even, reaching the height of what Orwell could have sensed (war is peace, killing is life):  » This message of peace, of tolerance, which we also defend through our soldiers in the fight against terrorism and fundamentalism « ;
  • it prepares minds for permanent war, deploys the strategy of tension, instills fear:  » Security forces will be deployed everywhere, wherever there may be the beginning of a threat « (8);
  • The most important thing: it forbids thinking otherwise, it forces unity (Sarkozy will say in his speech:  » It is an imperative of national unity from which no one can and must escape « In this way, the sacred word propagated by the media cannot be profaned), unanimously, premonitory elements of a future intolerance and of a censorship organized by the media and the State, censorship which will be perceived, given the gravity of the facts, as even more acceptable:  » We ourselves must be aware that our best weapon is our unity, the unity of all our fellow citizens, in the face of this ordeal. Nothing can divide us. Nothing should stand in our way. Nothing must separate us. Freedom will always be stronger than barbarism  » ;
  • To do this, he creates an enemy, essential, which ensures the cohesion of the group:  » France has always defeated its enemies when it has known how to form a block around its values, and this is what I invite you to do « . Regardless of what is said in the affected speeches of appeasement, it names and identifies the one who has long been designated as the culprit: the Muslim(9).

It should be added that, becoming symbols of freedom of expression, these  » victims of the duty to inform « , transformed into  » heroes « , spread on the press in a general and indiscriminate way the breath of audacity and temerity. Journalists would thus become the last bulwarks against barbarism, at the risk of their lives. Béatrice Delvaux, Chief Editor of Evening, close to the world of money and finance(10)which in the last three issues of the Grand Soir took pleasure in putting, on a public channel (La Première), Pieter Timmermans (managing director of the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium, 13.12), Didier Reynders (friend of the bosses and incidentally Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 20.12) and Etienne Davignon (wealthy Belgian industrialist, 03.01) « on the grill(11)takes advantage of the « Charlie » occasion to feign the audacity of its editorial staff:  » The assassination of the cartoonists of « Charlie Hebdo » is a lead cover that has just been placed on our freedom of expression (…) It is the freedom of all democrats that is threatened by the murderous vengeance of a few barbarians who cannot bear to think differently than they do (…) Will we have the strength and courage to stand firm? This is the most insidious effect of this ostentatious butchery: to silence, to push into silence, to make people fall in line, under the new fear of losing their lives. Our first duty of remembrance for the dead of « Charlie Hebdo » will therefore be the struggle, the resistance: continue to open it « . Bravo ! What a show, what a conjuring trick Mrs Delvaux! Fortunately, not everyone is fooled, and your bonimens will not mask your bias. Your life is not in danger, Mrs. Delvaux, don’t worry, you are swimming in the current. You are in « the line ».

« We are all Charlie »… but others are a little less so

Can we say, dare we say, that this « attack » comes at the right time, at a time when the pill of austerity must be passed? That this is a real offering to the French government and its president, who is in free fall in the polls, but also a godsend for Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen, who have started their media campaign for the 2017 presidential elections? That once again the « national feeling » transcends all individual and collective reflections and creates the illusion, behind the « we are all Charlie » — which is basically a « we are all French », therefore a « we are all Westerners » -, of a common identity that erases inter-individual differences — especially those in terms of wealth — (because when we are all Charlie, there are no more poor people, there are no more rich people), and ostracizes a group that is, necessarily, a little less, or not at all « Charlie » (no need to mention which one)? To say this is not to feed the conspiracy theory, but it is to state that the collateral benefits of such an attack are so important that other leads cannot be ignored.(12)

But in such cases, all values are reversed again. Obama, a president fond of extra-judicial executions, assures Hollande of his solidarity and support in the fight against terrorism. Wasn’t it the Obama administration that  » authorized the physical elimination, outside the borders of the United States, of persons more or less hastily designated as ‘terrorists’, even if they are not directly involved in armed operations « ?  » Obama [qui] has stepped up the « secret » program of summary executions targeting foreign nationals « ? John Kerry, speaking for the first time in French to the French, said:  » The Americans stand in solidarity with your determination to protect the value that so frightens the extremists and that has always united our two countries: freedom! « (13). The USA talking about freedom is like a torturer opening a massage parlor. Kerry talks about the power of free speech against obscurantism? Funny,  » while his country has not ceased since 1995 to bomb and destroy the televisions that shaded it in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.(14)

Let’s be sure of one thing, this event of January 7, 2015 is an unprecedented blow to freedom of expression, not of those who defended it in the accepted margins of the modern democratic spectacle, but of that which wants to be radical and dared to say what cannot be said, what does not want to be said. In France, and this will have repercussions in Belgium, this event will have the magnitude, in terms of political reactions, of a September 11. The situation, in what it offers of media and political reactions to all this, certainly signs a beginning of authoritarian drift and attack against those who denounce the system in which we are, and is unprecedented. It will be all the more difficult to say, and to get the message across on a massive scale, that the mass media is a stakeholder in the world situation we are living in.

We are not all Charlie, because beyond the tragic event, this identification organized by the media and taken up by the crowd, obscures reality, kills the critical spirit, preventing us from seeing to what extent the mass media has generated the world we live in.

Alexandre Penasse

Notes et références
  1. L’article a été rédigé le 8 janvier 2015, lendemain de l’attaque dans les bureaux de Charlie-Hebdo. Le texte ici publié est demeuré le même, excepté quelques adaptations temporelles. Seul un changement, destiné à ne pas heurter certains lecteurs, mais que l’auteur de cet article fait à contrecoeur, est selon nous important à préciser : il s’agit de la citation d’un journaliste, que volontairement nous ne citerons pas. Ceci pour que le lecteur se focalise non par sur l’identité de celui qui a énoncé les propos mais sur la véracité, ou non, de ce qu’il a dit.
  2. Il ne faudrait pas non plus, comme c’est en train de se faire, voir dans Charlie-Hebdo le chantre du journalisme indépendant et radical, opposé au système capitaliste et hors du système de pensée dominant. Celui-ci, s’il a le droit et le mérite d’exister, reste ce qu’il est, avec ses intérêts et ses contradictions, ses coups de gueule acceptés et acceptables. L’indignation aurait-elle été la même si un journal anticapitaliste par exemple, avait été attaqué de façon identique ?
  3. C’est nous qui soulignons. http://www.lesoir.be/752277/article/debats/editos/2015–01-08/continuer-l-ouvrir
  4. Serge Halimi, Les nouveaux chiens de garde, Éditions Raison d’agir, 2005.
  5.  www.reporterre.net
  6. Cité dans La violence des riches. Chronique d’une immense casse sociale, Michel Pinçon et Monique Pinçon-Charlot, Éditions La Découverte, 2014.
  7. Le terme solennel provient du latin religieux. Les citations non sourcées qui suivent sont tirées de l’allocution télévisée de Hollande au soir du 7 janvier.
  8. Question du jour sur leparisien.fr : « Après l’attentat à Charlie-Hebdo, craignez-vous pour votre sécurité ? ».
  9. Il semble que des lieux de cultes aient déjà fait l’objet d’attaques en France (au Mans et dans l’Aude notamment), ce 8 janvier. Depuis http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2015/01/12/01016–20150112ARTFIG00395-les-actes-anti-musulmans-se-multiplient-depuis-l-attaque-de-charlie-hebdo.php
  10. Elle a préfacé le livre d’Albert Frère, Albert Frère, le fils du marchand de clous, et a été stagiaire au FMI.
  11. http://www.rtbf.be/lapremiere/emissions_le-grand-oral?programId=5633. Rassurez-vous, les invités n’ont pas souffert, et les questions sont demeurées dans le cadre journalistique accepté.
  12. Voir note de bas de page 1, en excusant l’auteur qui comprendra, nous l’espérons, le sens plus important que de la sorte nous voulons donner à celui défini par les médias de « liberté d’expression », notamment.
  13. Lire « Le président Obama, du prix Nobel aux drones », www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2012/10/MADAR/48242
  14. Voir note de bas de page 1 et 12.
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