Dear fellow earthlings scattered across this tiny globe,
I write this text bowed down with sorrow and in deep anguish of spirit. Along with you and millions of other people, I mourn the death of the 17 souls whose lives ended abruptly after a horrendous act of terror. Nevertheless, I do wonder whether our Western society is the paradise of rationalism, skepticism and democracy it proclaims to be. Did these terrorists actually kill liberty and attack our freedom of speech? Or were our sacred values befouled long before these one-tracked minds desecrated the serenity of Paris?
The more I ponder about these questions, the clearer the overall picture becomes. Despite our differences, our biggest threat appears to be located between our ears. Just as Rabah Kherbane diligently pointed out in one of his articles, confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance have poisoned our minds and clouded our vision. Our common sense has lost its grip on our brainwork. We have freedom of thought in our hemisphere, yet the extent of our more elaborate acts of expression is limited by a tightly regulated form of speech. Society needs rules, and these rules must attempt to bring justice, equality, and fairness. Rules are necessary to facilitate coexistence in our small world, but where are the equality, justice and fairness that we all cherish in our modern day society? Is somebody not playing by the rules?
It seems that an elaborate scheme has been put in place throughout history. It introduced race, which disconnected us. Furthermore, it brought forth many different religions, which separated us and politics, which divided us. Their final onslaught was induced by the rise of capitalism, which eventually classified us. Our society considers itself under attack. The people in power never fail to point out that we have to combat a common foe. Alas, the ones you see on the tube are not those who divided us and are trying to conquer and subdue our lives. Acknowledging whom we truly need to fear is tricky. The people who are killing your rights, raping Lady Liberty and limiting your freedom of speech are far more discrete. They make the raging men you see on that glimmering box in your living room look like amateurs. These people, who we know little about, know everything about the narrative bias that drives us. Pavlov may very well be one of their idols.
You might raise an eyebrow after reading the above, and that is okay. But please tell me, my honorable supporters of democracy, why men like UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar were among the leaders – of the organized madness on display – in Paris? These notorious staunch defenders of the freedom of the press were marching together in the name of our so-called freedom of expression. While looking terror straight in the eye, they stood side by side in Paris. After seeing them march, the following words come to mind: free press hypocrites. Here is why:
- David Cameron: In 2013, the British prime minister publicly threatened to use court injunctions against newspapers that published information from the Edward Snowden leaks. When the Guardian published anyway, technicians from the GCHQ arrived at the newspaper’s office and forced editors to destroy their hard-drives with angle grinders.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: In July, Reporters Without Borders detailed what the organization called “deliberate targeting” of news professionals with arrests and intimidation executed by Netanyahu’s Israeli Defense Forces during the 2014 conflict in Gaza. The following month, Palestinian photojournalist Rami Rayan was found among the dead after an IDF rocket attack on a Gaza marketplace. He was wearing a vest marked “PRESS.” Approximately seven journalists died during these military actions in 2014.
- Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar: Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison for writing a poem that allegedly insulted Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. His sentence was later shortened to 15 years.
This short list contains three from over 40 world leaders who were linking arms in an act of solidarity, while attending the march in Paris. Hypocrisy does not even cover the load – just do a little digging yourself. Some useful links are presented to you at the bottom of this letter. The list of “les tartuffes” extends far beyond these three so-called leaders. Numerous assaults have been committed against our freedom of speech; one more obvious than the other, but all of them unmistakably undemocratic.
Consequently, a double standard has been put into place. The euphemisms and vague language of a manipulated and well-oiled media machine never cease to amaze the critic in me. After the attack on Charlie Hebdo, several arrests were made to defend our freedom of speech. Amnesty International said that a string of at least 69 arrests was made in France, all based on the vague charge of “defending terrorism” (“l’apologie du terrorisme”), which actually provides a much higher risk of violating our freedom of expression. However, the public does not notice nor protest this and the media acts oblivious: “Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave.”
This thought makes me wonder whether our Western society is as civilized as we are led to believe. To me it appears that throughout our colorful, feudal and colonial history, an unequivocal limitation of our freedom of speech has been around. Pervasive double standards are actively supported by numerous dubious personalities. Several of them are notorious for censoring, persecuting and silencing voices all over the world. This club of hypocrites is a bigger threat to our freedom than any Kalashnikov-hugging numb-wit will ever prove to be. When you look closer to our European and American past, you will see that we have a disturbing history: one in which the violent repression of rebellious thoughts or censoring those who dared criticizing common beliefs takes up a prime chapter of the book that contains our entire heritage.
Blaming everything that is going wrong today on radical Islam is ludicrous. It is top-shelf idiocracy. The truth is that the real risk comes from within the core of our societies. Did anyone feel as if their freedom of speech was under attack when the critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom were being censored? How did we react when John Kiriakou and Chelsea Manning spoke the truth and were imprisoned? Did we protest the prosecution of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange? Both of them are condemned to live their lives in some upgraded form of captivity within the walls of foreign embassies, only because they used their right to speak out freely. Why were we so silent? The above is an unadulterated attack on mankind’s unalienable right to know the truth.
Our freedom of speech is under attack and our liberty is suffocating slowly. That is a fact. The only thing that we tend to forget is that this is an inside job. A ubiquitous enemy has been labeled with an ambiguous term: terrorists. It is easy to grasp, catchy and easy to use, and thus, easy to imprint in the public’s common consciousness. It is a versatile label which will serve an equally versatile normative purpose. These so-called terrorists who preach radical Islam are just the decoy in an intricate “Kansas City shuffle” scheme. Those violent men that you see on TV are a minority within the Muslim community. In the meantime, while you are being distracted, whistleblowers are being jailed and persecuted. Those who dare to express thoughts that differ from the widely accepted opinion are being hunted down like witches.
Portraying the obvious and pointing it out is child’s play. What bothers me most is why we keep tolerating this nonsense. It scares me that somewhere down the line terrorism has become a synonym for Islam. How did this happen? Why is this generalization not being tackled broadly? We have had other occurrences where generalization has been an issue. Need I remind anyone of World War II? Focusing on radical Islam is easy. Focusing on what truly threatens our freedom is not. Let us re-write the narrative bias within our minds. Should we not succeed in doing so, we might be watching the first majestic reality show on TV: one where they reinvent the fire with which they will ignite the stakes that will burn the terrorists.
My brothers and sisters, don’t get me wrong. I do condemn what happened on January 7th, 2015. However I cannot help but ask, when did we become so blind? Let’s question and analyze what we have been taught. Let’s crave for that abundant garden of Eden that overflows with life. I believe that we should speak out loud, especially now that we know that a series of misappropriate double standards is leading us towards a selective standard of humanitarianism. Ignorance is not bliss. Will you stand by my side?
Your brother in search of truth, justice and equality
“Life is just around the corner.” – Slavo Vajt
“No, the offices of Charlie Hebdo should not be raided by gun-wielding murderers. No, journalists are not legitimate targets for killing. But no, we also shouldn’t line up with the inevitable statist backlash against Muslims, or the ideological charge to defend a fetishized, racialized ‘secularism,’ or concede to the blackmail which forces us into solidarity with a racist institution.”
- Rabah Kherbane, “A Muslim’s Response to the 25,000 Anti-Islam Protesters in Germany”, Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk). January 19th 2015.
“I ask you, have you ever met a Muslim? ‘Met’ is not a synonym for shouting abuse at or stabbing to death in or outside their home. No, have you ever sat with a Muslim? Talked to a Muslim? Worked with a Muslim? You should. At an airport perhaps, where we are 42 times more likely to be searched, and thus declared safe for human interaction.”
“We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others.”
- Julian Borger, “NSA files: why the Guardian in London destroyed hard drives of leaked files”, The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com). August 20th 2013.
“I explained to British authorities that there were other copies in America and Brazil so they wouldn’t be achieving anything,” Rusbridger said. “But once it was obvious that they would be going to law I preferred to destroy our copy rather than hand it back to them or allow the courts to freeze our reporting.”
- Al Jazeera and agencies, “Qatar court upholds poet’s jail sentence”, Al Jazeera (http://www.aljazeera.com). October 21st 2013.
“Ajami was arrested in November 2011 after the publication of his ‘Jasmine poem,’ which criticised governments across the Gulf region in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.”
- Andy Cush, “These World Leaders Are a Worse Threat to Free Press Than Terrorism”, Gawker Justice (http://justice.gawker.com/). January 12th 2015.
“As the non-profit Reporters Without Borders noted on Sunday, and as London School of Economics Middle East Society co-president Daniel Wickham elaborated in a widely disseminated series of tweets, the world leaders given prominent photo-op placement at the Paris rally are not only free-press hypocrites—they’re by any measure worse threats to the world-changing possibilities of a free press than a couple terrorists with guns.”
- Hudson Hongo, “’Liberte! Charlie!’: Unity March Draws 1.3 Million in Paris”, Gawker (http://gawker.com/liberte-charlie-unity-march-draws-hundreds-of-thou-1678812522). January 11th 2015.
“Paris is the capital of the world today,” said French president Francois Hollande on Sunday. “The whole country will rise up.”
- Tom Etty, “These ‘staunch defenders’ of the free press are attending today’s solidarity rally in Paris – A list by @DanielWickham93”, Storify (https://storify.com). January 11th 2015.
- “Nigeria: Satellite images show horrific scale of Boko Haram attack on Baga”, Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org). January 15th
- “Israeli army deliberately targeting news professionals,” Reporters without borders (http://en.rsf.org). July 8th 2014.
- Associated Press in Dubai, “Saudi blogger receives first 50 lashes of sentence for ‘insulting Islam‘”, The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/). January 10th
“Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1m riyals or about $266,600.”
- Ahmad Barqawi “Our selective humanitarianism: Let’s march for all victims of terrorism”, Salon (http://www.salon.com/). January 13th
“I’m not against marching in solidarity with the slain victims of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack (unless, of course, it’s marred by the mind-bending, purpose-defeating participation of certified terrorists and child killers of the Netanyahu variety), but I say let’s march for everyone, for all victims of terrorism, starting with the countless victims of America’s illegal wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.”
- David Palumbo-Liu, “The problem with “Je Suis Charlie”: That kind of solidarity comes with baggage”, Salon (http://www.salon.com/). January 11th
“So what does it really mean to say ’I Am Charlie Hebdo’? It can run the gamut from ‘I am a defender of free speech’ (see above) to ‘I think Islam is ridiculous and dangerous’ to ‘I am a rabid French chauvinist.’ Let me be clear—I am not saying that Charlie Hebdo was representing any of those notions necessarily, at least not in the way any of us might interpret those characterizations; I am saying that people who are all these things and more can rally along together, all leaning on each other without knowing what new strange bedfellows they (or we) have joined.”
- Freedom press barometer – Journalists killed.
- David McRaney (2013). You Are Now Less Dumb. Gotham. 288.
While writing this text following events occurred:
- Over 150 people were massacred in Baga, Nigeria. Amnesty International and PEN Nigeria claim the toll is much higher than the proclaimed 150 victims.
- At least 60 people kidnapped in Cameroon and several murdered.
- Lost count when it comes to Syria, Iraq, and so on.