A ‘Free Press’ and Double Standards

The Western reaction to last week’s terror attacks in Paris has been rife with double standards as U.S. and European politicians and pundits reinvent themselves as purists on freedom of the press and compound the hypocrisy by ignoring the longstanding slaughter in the Middle East, John V. Walsh observes.

By John V. Walsh

To understand the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris last week, we need only invert George W. Bush’s 2005 mantra that “We’re taking the fight to the terrorists abroad, so we don’t have to face them here at home”, into the more truthful: “They will continue to attack us over here so long as we slaughter them by the millions over there.”

In a word, this is one more instance of blowback, as Ron Paul tells us in his perceptive essay, “Lessons From Paris.” Among other things Paul points out: “The two Paris shooters had reportedly spent the summer in Syria fighting with the rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Assad. But France and the United States have spent nearly four years training and equipping foreign fighters to infiltrate Syria and overthrow Assad! In other words, when it comes to Syria, the two Paris killers were on ‘our’ side. They may have even used French or US weapons while fighting in Syria.”

The slogan used to show support for the Charlie Hebdo journalists killed by Islamist terrorists in Paris on Jan. 7, 2015.

The slogan used to show support for the Charlie Hebdo journalists killed by Islamist terrorists in Paris on Jan. 7, 2015.

To grasp the magnitude of the neocolonial savagery of the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, a catalogue of the recent offenses is a necessary beginning. A partial accounting of Western barbarism is to be found in “Destructive Western Mideast Policy Makes Radicals” by Muhammad Sahimi.

Sahimi closes his essay by saying, “Indeed, so long as the abuses of the Western dominance of the Islamic world provides the fertile ground for extremist Muslim clerics and preachers to espouse their reactionary interpretations of Islam, a religion of peace and mercy, things will not get any better.”

The killings in Paris, horrific as they are, are but pinpricks compared to the vast devastation visited by the West on the Muslim world and indeed on most of the planet over the last centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism which has brought humiliation, genocide and grinding poverty to entire continents and continues to do so.

What has been the response in the West to the attacks in Paris? On what do the apologists for Empire focus in the wake of this act of vengeance for the neocolonialism of the West against the Arab and Muslim world? With utter contempt for history and context, the pundits discuss freedom of speech as the central issue.

Freedom of speech in France where it is a criminal offense to “deny” the Holocaust of European Jews. Where an anti-Semitic remark, even one overheard in a bistro, can land one in considerable trouble, with loss of one’s job and a fine. Where an offhanded comment cost a writer at Charlie Hebdo his job because it was deemed anti-Semitic.

Where the predecessor to CharlieHebdo, Hari-Kiri Hebdo, was banned decades back when it took a swipe at Charles DeGaulle, just after his death, resulting in its rechristening itself as Charlie Hebdo on reopening. And where anti-Islamic insults in the mass media are just fine.

The most effective riposte to the canard that the attack on Charlie was an attack on freedom of the press has come from Glenn Greenwald in his piece entitled “In Solidarity With A Free Press. Some More Blasphemous Cartoons.” It is illustrated with some of the anti-Islamic hate cartoons that graced the pages of Charlie along with a number of others whose publication would be a criminal offense in France and elsewhere in the West.

Be sure to scroll all the way down. The piece should go viral, because the cartoons alone taken in sequence expose the hypocrisy of the Western punditocracy and its masters. They object to some of the cartoons but not others (the first two), whereas one should object to them all, except for the last eight by the Brazilian cartoonist Latuff.

Read, look and think. There is genuine fear in the West when it comes to publishing this essay because its points are piercing indeed, imperiling the bubble of hypocrisy.

On then to the grand march on Sunday in Paris, a march which Justin Raimondo rightly calls “March of the Hypocrites.” As Raimondo points out, there are many dimensions to this hypocrisy, but the most deserving of ridicule is perhaps the heinous record that most of the “world leaders” present have when it comes to freedom of the press.

A partial compilation of their abuses of the press has been assembled by Daniel Wickham, a student at the London School of Economics, titled “These ‘staunch defenders’ of the free press are attending today’s solidarity rally in Paris.”

The consequences of the Charlie Hebdo affair are all too certain. It will strengthen the hand of those who are clamoring for more military involvement by the Empire in the Middle East.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, in an interview reported on Fox, made it quite clear that “we” would have to do “more.” He describes a great “arc” of terrorism running from Pakistan to Nigeria and perhaps beyond where the U.S. would have to increase its operations and vigilance.

He was almost smiling with satisfaction. More money will surely come his way and the way of the entire Military Industrial Congressional Complex. (Dempsey cautioned that “we” are already doing “a lot,” but “more” is the order of the day.)

The head of the National Security Agency was also clamoring for “more,” to spy on you and me, dear reader. When these imperial potentates spoke I could hear the anguished cries of the Muslim peoples to be submitted to more attacks and bloodshed in the great “arc” that Dempsey was drooling over “patrolling.”

But this reaction may yet prove the undoing of the Empire. For the U.S., already gone mad with imperial arrogance and overreach, is being goaded to further frenzy by its client, the apartheid state of Israel, a European colonial settler state itself. Hence the U.S. is becoming ever more stuck to the Middle Eastern tar baby.

That gives breathing room for Russia and China and the rest of the developing world to grow and assert their independence from the Empire. The great crime is that the peoples of the Middle East are absorbing the lion’s share of the blows dealt by the Empire. Our job in the West is to get the U.S. out of the Middle East and to end the perpetual economic and military wars of the Empire across the planet.

As Mikhail Gorbachev and others have pointed out, the alternative is surely WWIII.

John V. Walsh writes for the Unz Review, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch.com and DissidentVoice.org. He can be reached at [email protected].

3 comments for “A ‘Free Press’ and Double Standards

  1. Bill Bodden
    January 15, 2015 at 17:22

    Here’s a test for these free speech purists who endorsed Charlie Hebdo’s content. If they are hostile to some ethnic group, particularly blacks or Hispanics, go into one of their neighborhoods where there is a high level of unemployment and tell a group in one of these ‘hoods they are “expletive of their choice” followed by a racial slur. Except in the case of absolute idiots they will conclude discretion is better than “free speech.”

  2. Zachary Smith
    January 15, 2015 at 12:27

    On google news I found a stunnng headline:

    Pope Francis: Free expression doesn’t mean right to insult others’ faith


    The surprise comes when I contrast it with what his predecessor said back in 2006:

    Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached

    IMO Benedict was using his position and “free speech” to backhand Islam. I had a LOT of problems with that fellow when he was in power.

  3. Zachary Smith
    January 15, 2015 at 01:18

    A blogger I read says much the same thing:

    They have made it abundantly clear. ‘Free speech’ is speech which advances the interests of the rich and powerful. ‘Hate speech’ is speech which undermines the interests of the rich and powerful. We were fooled into accepting hate speech laws on the basis that they were a protection for the weakest in society. If that was ever true, it is certainly not true now.
    Note that it is ‘free speech’ to infuriate Muslims by depicting Muhammad, but ‘hate speech’ to infuriate Jews by drifting even ever-so-slightly off the Official Story of the Holocaust (the Holocaust is the religion of the Jews). The difference between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech’ is money and power. The revisionists tweak the most powerful people in western societies; the cartoonists tweak the least powerful.


    I don’t want to be misunderstood here – denying the Holocaust is stupid (it really did happen!) and nasty. But doing that is a criminal act in many places, whereas slandering Islam is now regarded as a “right” to celebrate with speeches, marches, and all the rest.

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