The images of Heads of State marching at the front of the protests in Paris are enough to trigger one’s gag reflex. Arm in sanctimonious arm, these world "leaders" are seeking to veer the sentiments expressed in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter in a direction more in tune with the agenda they constantly seek to advance. The politicians who marched that day knew they could all gain from being seen on camera in the middle of Paris with the mourners. A look of what could be relief danced on all their faces, knowing that every crisis is an opportunity to gain more wiggle room to advance their own particular agenda.
Just what that agenda is should be fairly obvious: increased surveillance power, increased police power, increased military power. And a thoroughgoing European support for continued war against ISIS and whoever else pops up in the Middle East. The reaction over the next year or two will prove just how fragile a levelheaded peace really is. Any sense that support for a withdrawal from the Middle East, rolling back the endless War on Terror, was gaining steam, evaporated when the images of the march in Paris showed who had nudged their way to the front. "Never let a crisis go to waste", an honest admission from Rahm Immanuel, was on the minds of the cozy politicians marching that day.
The next step of these opportunists will be to administer a familiar dose of nationalism in all interactions with the public to whip them up into a state of paralyzing fear against more attacks. It works so well each time, why not? A State of Emergency is the Goldilocks Zone for government growth. During a "crisis", government can get away with almost anything, from decimating entire countries, constructing a global Panopticon, legislating liberty out of existence, etc.
It shouldn’t be surprising that this is the nature of government, and that one the size of US government would engage in this type of militant flag-waving each time an act of terrorism occurs in some part of the Western world. I do find it continuously surprising when normally sane, rational people that I know personally reflexively support a War on Terror when it seems so obvious what the charade is. That’s when one loses hope, when one realizes that this could go on forever. A continuous series of attacks and reprisals.
Everything has already been said in response to the Charlie Hebdo Massacre that touches on liberty of the press and the inalienability of that right, as well as the tragedy of those murdered, and the evil of the murderous scum who perpetrated it. What I want to focus on is the predictable use of the massacre by US Senators and others to justify protecting the massive NSA surveillance complex, as well as the Patriot Act, drone strikes, and our seemingly never-ending intervention in the Middle East.
Government understands like no other that each crisis, foreign or domestic, is an opportunity to undermine the Rule of Law at home. In times of peace, the chains on government become more secure. But peace is a frail thing, and politicians can whip the public into enough of a frenzy that they won’t notice when the chains fall lightly away from the one organism who’s actions should command their undivided attention if they are to remain free and at peace.
What we are witnessing in the Western media is the prelude to what can really be described as nothing other than Nationalistic Revenge. Nationalistic Revenge requires a body count higher than what will be produced if only those directly responsible for the Charlie Hebdo murders are brought to justice. The revenge of nationalism will only be slated when bodies are piled high, when our televisions show the flight of drones and the distant explosions. In a sane world, the murderers would be brought to justice and that would be the end of it. But no, the fog of Nationalism has found our very institutions under attack, our Way of Life! This demands a mountain of bodies.
The nationalistic language that has erupted from major news sources since the Charlie Hebdo murders has the familiar cadence of a beating war drum, and it’s now crystallizing into a united front demanding reprisals until some type of bombing campaign is organized.
The War on Terror has the tone of one giant, continuous reprisal for 9/11/01. Bombing campaigns, and Patriot-act legislation, have become the crutch of Western nationalism. We may mourn, but at least we can mourn knowing their innocent are being slaughtered as well as ours. And round it goes.
For all the heartache and grief in the aftermath of the massacre, there is no grand answer to what happened to the Charlie Hebdo editors. There is no great war to fight in the name of the dead, no law passed, that will make right or avenge. Maybe, the risk of reprisals from barbarians is unavoidable, Charb thought so. He weighed the risk, and retained the belief that living in a climate of fear is not really living at all. He published, fearlessly.
The nationalist temperature will rise in the coming weeks and months, governments of the West will pledge their support for free speech simultaneously with support of Western intervention in the Muslim world. Whipped up into a frenzy of nationalistic indignation, Western governments will launch the counter-massacre. The resulting dead will fuel future attacks against the West, who will again return fire abroad in the form of bombs and bullets, and at home in the form of liberty-undermining legislation.
9/11 may have been the mortal wound of the West. The powerful imagery of that day hasn’t faded, and it continues to be combined with the latest attacks from Muslim terrorists into one giant, continuous narrative, used for the one thing all governments crave: a never-ending State of Emergency. The process seems irreversible: a terrorist attack kills 3,000 which results in a decade-long act of retaliation, which breeds the hatred that fuels more attacks on the West.
Maybe the only legitimate reaction to the massacre in Paris is to grieve, strengthen our commitment to the institutions of a free society, realize that perfect security can only be had in the grave, and move on. It is fatal to continuously give in to the temptation to empower our governments with the tools of nationalistic revenge. But the West will give in.
Empowering government with a mandate to create a riskless society is empowering government to transform society into a prison.
Shane Smith lives in Norman, Oklahoma and writes for Red Dirt Report.