The scurrilous lies written about Charlie Hebdo
A year after the Charlie Hebdo killings, francophone writer Robert McLiam Wilson deplores the reports in English by the ignorant for the ignorantRobert McLiam Wilson, The Guardian
Last modified on Sunday 3 January 2016 05.00 EST
The anniversary of the 7 January attack on Charlie Hebdo is coming up. Whether you feel that Charlie is a symbol of freedom of expression or a scabrous hate sheet, you are about to be deluged in a giant vat of stuff. Some will be positive, some negative but an oxen-stunning proportion of it will be written by people who do not speak French. The result will be divination and portent, written by people more likely to read tea leaves than Charlie Hebdo. Do I need to point out that this is a touch silly?
As people, we have a giant talent for forgetting. 9/11 was the game-changer for our world. We haven’t forgotten it but we don’t remember it either. We don’t revisit those feelings of animal dismay that we all feel in the presence of death. It’s simply not nice to dwell. That is entirely, gloriously, human. But it can lead us to forget what our world has become and why. Rote remembrance of facts doesn’t always help explain our new politics of primal emotion. Nor the festival of violence and death that realpolitik has become.
The Charlie Hebdo attack was a game-changer too. A concise slaughter and a systematic and successful assault on our weakest parts (all our best parts are weak – it’s one of the things I like most about us). It was dismaying and almost absurd, as though Ian Hislop had been taken out by helicopter gunships or artillery strikes. The world seemed to reel. The world was quite right. When the politically or religiously dismayed decide it’s time to wade, guns blazing, into the supergeek underworld of leftwing satirical weeklies, that’s something that changes the very laws of physics.
A few days ago, I went into the new, secret-location, super-secure offices of Charlie. Being Northern Irish, security was not unfamiliar to me but this was on a different level. It was the villain’s lair in one of the dumber Bond films, hermetically sealed, massively protected. And yet inside was a typical small magazine set-up – not many people, untidy kitchen, debatable dress sense. And a bunch of gentle, humble, funny people that I adore. As always when I see Charlie people en masse, there’s a giant disconnect. I see a troupe of nerdy sweethearts surrounded by concentric rings of titanic security. They look like kittens in a bunker. I’m tempted to say that this is now the world they live in. But that’s not what is interesting. The point is that this is now the world you live in.