Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Hooded Utilitarian is wrong about Charlie Hebdo

An earlier post of mine listed this post by Jacob Canfield over at The Hooded Utilitarian among a litany of articles that took the murder of Charlie Hebdo employees as an opportunity to condemn Charlie Hebdo’s employees. My post then proceeded to refute the broader sentiments which united those articles, in defense of Charlie Hebdo. I stand by everything I wrote there.

But looking back, I think Canfield’s post deserves some more individualized attention than I was able to offer earlier, since it contains some additionally counter-arguments to my way of thinking. Those arguments were left on the cutting floor of my other posts, so I’d like to briefly rebut those points more directly today.

Canfield argues:

“To simplify the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices as “Good, Valiant Westerners vs. Evil, Savage Muslims” is not only racist, it’s dangerously overstated.”

It is neither of those things; frankly, I think it’s an accurate description of what transpired, albeit one that is unnecessarily specific. It is unnecessary to include the fact that the speakers were Western and the censors were Muslim in our summary description of these events. It’s also dangerous, because it enables Islamophobic people to extrapolate conclusions about the shooters onto ALL Muslims or Arabs, in a way that certainly would be racist. But the simplification he quotes is neither racist nor wrong. Whatever you think of the Westerners killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the people who waged it were absolutely “evil, savage Muslims,” just as the Nazi’s were evil, savage Christians. And personally, I think there’s something both valiant and good about those who deliberately push the envelope on permitted speech for the sake of ensuring the parameters of that speech do not narrow.

He continues:

“Cartoonists (especially political cartoonists) generally reinforce the status quo, and they tend to be white men. Calling fellow cartoonists TO ARMS is calling other white men to arms against already marginalized people.”

No, let’s not generalize here Jacob – it’s calling them to arms against only that subset of marginalized people who happen to be murdering others. And that subset deserves to have arms raised against them, whether or not they are marginalized! When it comes to the question of “who is the victim here?”, individual acts of extreme violence supersede collective historical marginalization. Senseless brutality of the sort displayed here is sort of a game changer, in the sense that to any sensible onlooker, it reverses the recipient of our sympathy, historical context be damned.

Nick Cohen of The Spectator put it best:

"[Hebdo's critics] have failed to understand power. It is not fixed but fluid. It depends on where you stand. The unemployed terrorist with the gun is more powerful than the Parisian cartoonist cowering underneath his desk. The marginal cleric may well face racism and hatred – as my most liberal British Muslim friends do – but when he sits in a Sharia court imposing misogynist rules on Muslim women in the West, he is no longer a victim or potential victim but a man to be feared."

More to follow.

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