Yesterday, over 120 people lost their lives in what now appears to be an attack made by ISIS on Paris, France.
It’s hard to watch the news today because, much like the media’s coverage on the Boston bombings, this all feels like misery porn. This is the nature of media today. We have a sick obsession with trying to be more sorry than everybody else. Two and a half years ago when the Boston was attacked, it was painful to watch the news just blocks away from the scene of the bombings. Because I was right there on the Boston Common at the time I felt like everybody was being a shit head. My home city was attacked was even Anderson Cooper was being a dickhead about it. Pictures with horror movie music. Sensationalist media. It’s the same thing over, and over again. I’m horrified and I’m sad and I can’t believe what just happened in Paris; but Jesus Christ this isn’t a fucking game. This is terrifying and nobody should be comfortable with the media trying to turn this tragedy into a Jason Bourne action/thriller.
The safety of the people must remain the highest law. Sensationalizing a terrorist attack is not only needless but also dangerous. At the most basic level, this is offensive. And secondly, and I know that THIS seems insensitive and too early to discuss but it is important to keep in mind that what we do right now in the immediate aftermath is going to have its own ramifications and dictate the way and which we respond in the very near future.
We are at war. French president Francois Hollande has made it clear that the French government sees this as a declaration of war by ISIS, who has claimed responsibility for the attacks. There is no mistaking that this attack on Paris is a declaration of war. The free world is at war.
The American news anchors this morning are asking rhetorically, “how do we combat an ideology?” This is an important question, but the only reason why Matt Lauer is asking is to further sensationalize this tragedy and increase the sense of doom and hopelessness of the situation. Maybe this is a bitter way to look at it but there’s a question and then there’s a question. It’s not difficult to know the difference between looking for an answer and just being a tool.
We are at war — we have been at war. This is an ideological battle and thus we must remain on the side of freedom. Restrictions on our privacy and increasing feelings of living in police states from the United Kingdom to the United States is not going to protect us. Restrictions on our personal freedoms has not kept us safe. The War on Terror has been all but a complete disaster. We must not let anybody dictate our freedom. We must demand more of our governments. We citizens of the free world are not the enemy and the invasion of our personal privacy has not kept us safe. Anybody who promises our safety in exchange for our human rights, privacy, and personal freedoms does not have our best interests in mind.
How do we defeat an ideology? I truly believe that we will win this war. We will win because we will not compromise our own ideals. We are on the side of freedom. The Second World War (and the Spanish Civil War before it) was an ideological battle between Fascism and Democracy. What I hope is that we don’t lose sight of what the true battle is here.
We are fighting ISIS; we are not fighting Islam. We are not fighting a religion. We are fighting a terrorist organization from the Middle East.
This terrorist attack will be exploited even further in the coming days than it has already been exploited. The far right groups will make every effort to work us into a frenzy. The far right would have us set up internment camps for our Muslim citizens just like the way we committed major human rights violations on our Japanese and Asian American populations during the Second World War. Our prejudices are going to be preyed upon by ISIS. ISIS is baiting us into isolating our Muslim friends, family members, and neighbors. We must be aware that our outrage is being targeted by not only the enemy but also those on our side who wish to fulfill their own twisted agendas. Just as anybody who would restrict our freedoms does not have our best interest in mind, anybody who would foment violence against our Muslims populations and friends is a danger to us. Do not trust anybody who would prey on your fears. It is never too early to keep this in mind and be aware of our fear-mongering and power hungry officials and politicians. We must be aware of those who would secretly do us harm while promising us protection.
ISIS wants us to alienate our Muslim friends and citizens. The question on the news this morning is “why France?” Strategically, the answer is very simple. France, just like the US and UK and most western nations, has a horrible history of xenophobia and racism. It was only just over one hundred years ago that the infamous Dreyfus Affair took place and the French Jewish population was under attack. The Jewish population of France was blamed for France’s loss in the Franco-Prussian War. As a result of the persecution, many Jews moved across the border into the newly founded German Empire and became proud German citizens and sanctuary from persecution around the turn of the century. France has one of the highest Muslim populations in Europe and a large section of their immigrant population is from North Africa and practices Islam. The racial, cultural, and ethnic tensions in France are on par with those of the United States. ISIS wants us all to persecute our Muslim populations. This is nothing new. ISIS would have us listen to our voices coming from the far right that are telling us that all Muslims are terrorists and that our Islamic population is all sleeper cells.
This is horrible and it’s just started. From my own point of view, first and foremost, I’m sad and scared. But if there is anything positive, it is that we are all on the same side and all our love, thoughts, prayers, and support from all of us around the world is all going to France. Secondly, however, I am wary that there is about to be a storm of ugliness and I am afraid that it has already begun. This tragedy is being sensationalized and exploited by the media. Offensively insensitive hot takes and a whole parade of godawful horseshit is on its way. And then there’s going to be racism, xenophobia, intolerance, prejudice, and hatred. Fear. Fear is about to bring out the worst in us; not that anybody can help it. FDR said it after Pearl Harbor: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This is more true now than ever before. Fear must not dictate our progress as we move forward now.
War has been declared. I hope that the worst is now over for Paris and the people of France. Nothing will make this alright. Not now and not ever. For those of us around the world who send our support to France, we must consider our part in this. Let’s not get into a “who’s sorriest” pissing contest. Let’s not exploit a massacre. And what is most important to our own safety around the world, we must remember who our real enemy is: ISIS. Today, it is “US” versus “THEM”. But remember that our Muslim friends, neighbors, family, and fellow citizens are part of the “us” and standing shoulder to shoulder right there with us in solidarity for France and all that she represents: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.