by Nick Cohen
After the massacres in Paris on November 13, the US Secretary of State John Kerry made a statement so disgraceful you had to read it, rub your eyes, and read it again to comprehend the extent of his folly: “There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” Kerry began in the laboured English of an over-promoted middle manager.
“There was a sort of particularised focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of — not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, OK, they’re really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorise people.”
Did you get that? Then allow me to translate. Kerry believes the satirists Islamist gunmen killed at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris’s 11th arrondissement on January 5 had it coming. It is not that they deserved to die. John Kerry is a New England liberal, after all, and does not endorse the death penalty for journalists. But liberalism is a two-faced creed. It can mean that you believe in individual freedom and abhor every variety of prejudice, including the prejudice that allows men to shoot journalists dead for producing a magazine they disapprove of. Or it can mean that you go to such lengths to take account of your enemy’s opinions you become indistinguishable from him.
John Kerry’s liberalism, and the liberalism of millions like him, ignores Chesterton’s warning not to be so open-minded that your brains fall out. Kerry wanted to understand radical Islam and to seek the root causes of its apparently psychopathic violence. Not for him the knee-jerk condemnations of a red-state redneck. When Kerry applied his nuanced and expensively educated mind to the corpses in the magazine office, he discovered that the dead had provoked their own murders. The assassins had, well, if not quite legitimate reasons, then certainly a “rationale” which explained why they were “really angry because of this and that”.
Charlie Hebdo mocked the prophet Muhammad, Islamic State and Boko Haram. Its editor Stéphane Charbonnier (aka Charb), the cartoonists and columnists who wrote for him, and the police officers who died protecting their freedom (and ours) knew the risks and paid the price. They went looking for trouble and we should not be shocked that they found it.
All the rest of us had to do was to moderate our behaviour. If we were careful not to make terrorists “really angry” about “this and that”, we would be safe.
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