The role of the journalist/polemicist is often misrepresented as to only report facts; this is especially true of the former. This terrible limitation results in what MSNBC veteran Keith Olbermann (quoted to prove I'm not always right-wing) would refer to as "where the truth was needed, all we got, were facts!"
Actually, there exists a secondary duty - we also have to present the facts, as we discern them, in a way that unscrambles, assesses and presents a coherent picture in order to inform the reader and to provoke them into asking questions. Included in this is an obligation to challenge stupid/misleading ideas that emerge.
The events in Paris, which have seen more than 120 people killed and more injured in a series of theocratically motivated murders, are too horrific for anyone to come to terms with. They also provide a mirror to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo at the start of this year, which makes it somehow worse. Other than expressing my solidarity with those impacted there is not much I can do; the people of Paris have withstood one attack with their trademark unflappability, I'm quite sure they'll do it again.
What I do want to talk about, and hopefully pre-empt, is the inevitable self-flagellation that always follows such tragedies. Whenever a theocratic murder is committed there is a sinister rush to heap blame for it upon ourselves. Whether it is the rumblings, from the crazy left or right, that the United States somehow put enough negative in the political karmic bank to earn the attacks of September 11th or the belief that British foreign policy was somehow responsible for the 7/7 attacks, there is, usually, a rush to tangentially blame the victims for the attacks.
The best example comes from the Charlie Hebdo attacks early this year. No sooner had the spent shells stopped smoking when the chirpy, paranoid, political vultures began to suck the air through their teeth in the manner of an over-charging builder and make statements to the effect of, "Well, y'know.... if they hadn't published those cartoons, it wouldn't have happened." or "Hmmm... well, I am sorry but, you know what these people are like, what did you think was going to happen?" I have very little doubt that, eventually, someone from among the commentariat and the talking heads will soon be telling us, in their usual, insipid and stupid way, that somehow France can be blamed for what happened in its capital city.
Just wait, this line of argument is disturbingly dependable.
There is something of the masochist about this rampant apologism, as well as something of the consenting abuse victim, Stockholm Syndrome-suffering prisoner and the jeering accomplice to the school bully. The insinuation is that by virtue of being Western, developed, secular and democratic countries we, from France to Britain to America, deserve what regularly happens to us - because an attack on one such nation is an attack on all of them. While the exact cause changes, the point remains the same; countries in the West, when they're attacked, "get what's coming to them" as a result of their own actions. It is the sick, dim-witted political masochism de rigueur.
The fundamental error in this sinister line of argument, aside from moral bankruptcy, is to assume that there is anything that a civilised country, like France, can do to appease groups like ISIS, IS or whatever these sexually dysfunctional, morally disgusting and intellectually repugnant morons want to call themselves. It needs to be plainly stated; there is nothing any country can do to pacify theocratic fascists; every inch given will result in demands for more feet, until everything is given away.
If you make this argument - remember, in a free society you are, of course, free to be such a dim bulb - then please do it for yourself because some of us believe that liberty, the Enlightenment, and secular diversity are worth defending for their own sake. You are free to give up on culture and civilisation but you must understand that if you do so then you must give the theocratic murderers everything they want because they are not up for negotiating; for them, it's full-on theocracy or bust.
We all, regardless of our religious or political inclination, stand to lose by giving them what they want - there really is too much to lose by not fighting. But first, if we can learn one thing from the Paris attacks it should be this: Western society is not to blame, our attackers are.
If any image encapsulated what this is about then it was the image of a man, identified only as Sylvestre, holding a battered mobile phone that got in-between him and a piece of shrapnel and, quite feasibly, saved him.
The symbolism here is exquisite, and represents everything about the ongoing battle between civilisation and barbarism. Here was a piece of technology; built on scientific advancement, commerce, trade, specialisation, technological innovation, free enquiry and uninhibited learning which had, quite literally, ensured a man's future - all the things that these religious psychopaths could never do, hate with a passion and will eventually be brought down by.
The forces of oppression, idiocy, theocracy and religious fascism may put a dent in the societies capable of producing things like mobile phones and the Internet, but they are not capable of beating them. It's just not on - you don't get to win chaps, we're better and stronger than you; the people of Paris, and those standing in solidarity with them, have shown it.
Finishing an article of this nature is difficult. Writers always want to end on an optimistic note but it is difficult under these circumstances. That's why I'll end on the words of Frederick Nietzsche, who reminds us of what is so special about Paris and why it, and the pinnacle of Western society it represents, is worth defending. He said, "An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris."
Liberté, égalité, fraternité.