The shooting at the start of this year of the cartoonists at the Parisian satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo has all the hallmarks of a CIA inspired brutal incident. November's massacre at Saint Denis looks much more like an attempt to replay, in the center of European social life, similar deadly outrages to those committed in towns and cities across the Middle East. Colin Kirk* teases out the links.
That most of the perpetrators of these atrocities were known to French secret services is now admitted. There are even several indications of what may have been secret service and police assistance to the Charlie Hebdo incident. Help apparently given to the get-away vehicle and discovery of the driving license dropped by the driver recalls some aspects of the slaughter of over 3000 people on the ninth of November 2001 in New York.
Charlie Hebdo was a satirical magazine before it got its current name after an atrocity in Northern France that resulted in over a couple of dozen deaths was reported in Paris as 28 dead in Northern France. It caused little stir compared with mourning for De Gaulle, who died a few days later. Un homme mort à Paris was the bold, black cover of what was thereafter called Charlie Hebdo.
President Charles De Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic in his own image with draconian rights of state surveillance of its citizens that are not dissimilar to those afforded by the American Patriot Act. The State of Emergency currently in force allows police entry without warrant and arrest without charge. There really isn’t any further to go in state legal rights of citizen control, is there?
The CIA is known to have funded media to promote certain political messages in America, Britain and France in particular. On his own account, Stephen Spender, the editor of the British literary magazine Encounter, originally founded by the poet Stephen Spender, resigned when he discovered the source of much of its 'well-wisher' donations.
Satirical media and those critical of the state were important to western democracies to demonstrate state toleration of dissent in comparison with actions of totalitarian states. Egalité and Fraternité were far less important to politicians than the sacred notion of Liberté.
Heads of State who linked arms with President Hollande to lead the Liberty March in Paris the Sunday following the Charlie Hebdo massacres included central African dictators not to mention Prime Minister Netanyahu. The simultaneous attack on a Jewish supermarket was the reason for his presence and for President Hollande’s ostentatious attendance with him at the central Paris synagogue that evening.
Anti-Semitism is the most serious taboo in France, Semites in this context being Jewish rather than Arabian Semites. Charlie Hebdo itself dismissed a journalist for writing a somewhat anti-Israeli article not long before the murders of some of its staff for drawing cartoons of Mohammad.
The murder of cartoonists horrified people who had adored Charlie Hebdo in its glory days, although it was, until the early January murders, a spent force. Je suis Charlie was displayed in posh shops. The t-shirts didn’t catch on. Here in the Normandy town where I live the Charlie Hebdo March was of elderly and middle aged lefties. And two weeks later it was all forgotten.
'Plantu', the cartoonist of Le Monde, the guy who always has a little mouse observer of the scene, made a film of international cartoonists (Caricaturistes, fantassins de la démocratie) that was released two weeks after the Charlie Hebdo killings. It was a brilliant film with world-wide coverage of cartoonists’ art, except from the sacred monarchies of Britain and Japan for some reason. Brilliant as it was it was not a box office success. Surely after the dreadful incident everyone would want to see it. But that was weeks ago, according to the local film projectionist when asked why such a small attendance in mid-February. Not here the spirited defence of the right to lampoon.
France is not unique in being media led. It certainly is media led. Flavour of the month has become flavour of the week as span of attention has contracted. The same tune is played in all the papers, on all the television channels, in almost all social gatherings; much as elsewhere world-wide.
Only the issues of immigration and Islamic terrorism are here to stay in France, as in the rest of Western Democracies or Civilisations or the International Community or any other feel-good appellation appropriate to smug arms manufacturing countries, which have caused mayhem in the Middle East and are beginning to do so in Africa. The CIA will see these issues retain top billing.
The CIA’s sundry billion dollar budget is not accounted for other than in the most general terms. The last 'almost serious' presentation to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was by Professor George Tenet, who himself had long been a member of it. President Clinton made him Director of Central Intelligence when they turned down his earlier choices. President George W. Bush kept him on as 'A charming diplomat liked by all '. Director Tenet admitted that hidden in the accounts somewhere are colossal expenditures on Hollywood films, computer war games, and subsidisation of all branches of the media on a grand scale. His wording was rather less transparent than here.
The question of the appropriate national reaction to atrocity has to take account of the reaction imposed by the media. Under and overlaying that reaction are ancient religious prejudices in a country where political prejudices have the psychic force of religious ones, not least because they tend to be interlinked. Bourgeois Catholic and Protestant Christian beliefs inform and are informed by the mainstream media feed, which is conformist and conservative. Since President Mitterrand’s second term most all politics in France have become conformist and conservative.
President Hollande, in his inaugural Presidential address, appeared to be about to break the mold: his only enemy was capitalism, which he said he was determined to release France from. He was quickly overcome by the same machinery that engulfed President Obama and will no doubt have the same success with Prime Minister Trudeau. Shortly after, Trudeau informed Washington that Canadian planes were no longer available to the coalition, President Hollande authorized massive revenge air attacks on Islamic State (ISIS) for its agents’ revenge attacks on Saint Denis. When will we ever learn?
France, in the days of Freedom Fries, condemned the war on Iraq and subsequently fêted President Gadhafi, the key proponent, along with President Mandela, of Pan African government. These were when there were right wing governments in power. French oil interests are given as reason for government action whoever claims to lead the country. Right wing leaders have always tended to an independent line to Washington’s. In the Middle East French and Russian interests are at variance to those of the Anglo-Americans.
By and large the popular mood in France remains that of La Marseillaise - perhaps the most jingoistic and racist national anthem in the world. The French Third Republic, which led the world in consumerism, self-indulgence and free thought began with murder in 1870 of 20,000 communards and ended in 1945 with murder of a similar number of collaborators, all in Paris, and all without any legal process.
This is the country of the Dreyfus Affair, fire at the Charity Bazaar, loss of a million soldiers in the First World War, capitulation at the beginning of the second and loss of empire that was never as glorious as was made out. France has been a wounded beast ever since the Battle of Waterloo. Indeed, since Régis Debray published his Loués soient nos seigneurs; un education politique in 1996 there has been very little serious dissenting intellectual voice in France. He gives as explanation:
We are forced to witness the death throes in France of Marxist Socialists; a proud species that emerged in the nineteenth century from the crossing of the Revolution as myth with the Book as instrument but is now a technical anachronism, doomed to disappear in the global ecology of the videosphere.These days, it seems to me that the Christianist and Christian Zionist control freaks are truly in control by means of the New York Council on Foreign Relations This private body links the State Department, Wall Street and every other power house in America. It was founded with $1000 donations of the 1000 richest Americans to control President Wilson, as honest broker at Versailles that produced the Peace Treaty signed 28 July 1919. He appeared to have achieved nothing for the United States except honest influence but appearances can be deceptive.
Alan Dulles the first Secretary of the Council went on to found the CIA, with brother John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, the family tinned fruit fortune escalated in value from millions to billions of dollars. In a democracy one looks after one’s own interests…and how!
As someone who loves France for its landscape and folkscape, probably in that order, and as someone able from personal experience to compare it with Britain and the United States, I think there’s little to choose between the three in terms of genuine dissenting analysis of the perilous state humanity is in.
Colin Kirk writes on health and philosophical issues, poetry and classical history, whilst growing lots of fruit and vegetables in a mediaeval walled garden, to prepare and cook for guests - what has been described as a kind of ' Pythagorean GuestHouse'. A characteristic recent publication is Death of Augustus his Conversion to Christ