The Question Must Be Asked

Gotta wonder if we’d all be Charlie if Islam weren’t in the equation. Hard to tell, of course. But we do have recent history to inform us as we ask the question.

Were we all Unitarians when a gay-hating, right-wing crazy shot up a Unitarian Universalist church in East Tennessee? No, we were not.

Were we all Planned Parenthood when an anti-abortion extremist murdered Dr. George Tiller as he handed out programs at his church? No, we were not. (Indeed, Bill O’Reilly, who ginned up much of the hatred of Dr. Tiller with a string of violent hyperoble, claimed any attempt to blame him for the murder was typical liberal propaganda).

So clearly it’s not the violent act which has spawned this outpouring of support.

And don’t tell me it’s all about free speech, either. No one on the right seemed to notice when Gov. Bill Haslam passed this law back in 2011.

I really think there’s a lot of hypocrisy going on in this discussion of the tragic events in Paris. Maybe we’ll get around to talking about that some day, too.


Filed under Housekeeping

11 responses to “The Question Must Be Asked

  1. kyle

    And it’s funny how Andrew Sullivan’s take on blasphemy changes depending on the target:

    It is one thing to engage in free, if disrespectful, debate. It is another to repeatedly assault and ridicule and abuse something that is deeply sacred to a great many people. Calling the Holy Eucharist a “goddamned cracker” isn’t about free speech; it’s really about some baseline civility. Myers’ rant is the rant of an anti-Catholic bigot. And atheists and agnostics can be bigots too.

  2. One huge difference, as one who has lived in the country, is that the French are not accustomed to such violence from within. Why the hell would we Americans pay attention to a Unitarian church bombing when kids are being shot up in our own schools every damned day? And our fathers are killing our mothers and our children shooting their mom in Wal-Martt? By sharp contrast, none of Europe is used to this level of violence. So right away, you have a huge global focus because all of Europe is paying attention. In addition, given the long tradition of Muslim-secular tension in France and across much of the continent, as well as the rise in the numbers of Europeans who are joining ISIS and related jihadi groups, this episode reinforces their fears of exactly this kind of behavior – young people adopting extremist views, training overseas, then coming home to wreak havoc. But these kids aren’t really carrying any particular religion. If this bunch of assassins were really doing this as jihad, they would have killed anyone in their way. The woman who opened the door for them. The guys at the garage where they stopped for gas. They were not religious zealots, although they claimed allegiance to al Qaeda. They were just killers. And the fact that they were Muslim is important for knowing how they got radicalized and where they got trained and funded. But they were not truly acting as Muslims. Just thugs.

    • Why the hell would we Americans pay attention to a Unitarian church bombing when kids are being shot up in our own schools every damned day?

      That makes sense but plenty of Americans (including conservatives) have latched on to this in a “see, I told you so” sort of way, and they seem to be relishing in the license it has given them to indulge in their anti-Muslim hatred.

      And yes, “it bleeds, it leads” but there was virtually no attention paid to the NAACP bombing in Colorado Springs the same day.

      I think a big part of this is that the attack occurred at a magazine. Media loves to cover itself.

      • I think also as Europeans we’re quite reactive (maybe even passive-agressive?) in these situations, in that we instinctively side with the victims in solidarity. As opposed to the more reactive US (outright aggressive) pro-active response which tends to be a massive show of military strength.
        Also, no-one demonstrates quite like the French! 🙂

      • In my post I was really addressing the American reaction more than the European reaction. It’s one thing to show support for the victims, but here in the States we seem to feel like the best way to do that is to indulge in the same offensive anti-Muslim displays that prompted the attacks. And I feel pretty sure there’s a better way.

  3. Moira has just about nailed it. This is France’s 9/11.
    We’ve always had our terrorists in Europe (the IRA in Britain, ETA in Spain, the Algerian National Liberation Front in France), but what we feel at the moment is a polarising movement with the far-right/anti-Islamic/anti-immigration parties pitting themselves against the left-leaning/multicultural/anti-austerity parties. It’s the old “divide and conquer”. And she’s right – we don’t have the same level of violent crime; and when we do, it’s reported in a different way – well, on national media, anyway.

  4. Bart Lipman

    I really love your blog but strenuously disagree with you here. A dozen people killed with high power machine guns is a horrific act under any conditions. I’ll grant you that some on the right probably found it easier to sympathize with the victims in this one than in some of the other attacks you mentioned, but I think the difference in response is not as big as you suggest.

    Part of our different perspectives on this may be because I don’t live in Tennessee any more and so don’t have quite the same neighbors you have….

    Thanks for the blog — keep it up!

    • democommie


      Yes and no.

      I don’t live in TN either but I grew up in Nebraska which has its own bunch of jingoistic, racist, misogynistic assholes that sit in the lege and run the western part (90%+) of the state.

      Try looking at it this way. If the dead were muslims and the shooters were any national security force or even somebody like the so called, “Minuteman Militia” would the major news outlets even give a fuck?

  5. Considering Charlie Hebdo was in the business of publishing pretty vicious, racist, hateful stuff, even publishing stuff that was known to lead to rioting with people dying in the riots AS THOSE RIOTS WERE HAPPENING, no, I’m not “Charlie” and I wouldn’t be under any circumstances, no more than I’d ever be FOX or Stormfront or O’Keefe if someone killed him. I’m opposed to the deaths of those around the Charlie Hebdo murders last week but no more so than the deaths that happened in Cairo or elsewhere when anti-Islamic cartoons were published. We don’t get to say what or how much people will be offended or how they will express their anger, we do get to decide if we instigate that expression of anger and Charlie Hebdo chose to do that. They knew deaths could sell result, though I doubt they anticipated being the ones who would, actually die.