“They wanted to bring France to its knees — they brought it to its feet”

I reported yesterday about the terrorist attack in Paris that killed 10 French journalists and 2 policemen.  The story has now exploded into a major international story that has galvanized people worldwide around the issues of freedom of speech and religious extremism.

In a nutshell, three masked men burst into the offices of a French satirical magazine and assassinated their staff and the two policement standing guard. The magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was firebombed a few years ago after the magazine published some covers sharply and satirically critical of Islam (thus the police presence).

UPDATE: It’s time for a serious discussion about [insert latest case of religious violence here]

One news report I saw said the police have video showing one of the assailants walking up to an injured policeman and putting a bullet into his head at point-blank range.

It’s been interesting to watch the reaction in France, but especially worldwide, to the attacks. It’s been pretty huge.

First in France, there was massive, spontaneous protests around the Paris last night. This tweet is perhaps my favorite:

“They wanted to bring France to its knees. They brought it to its feet.”


not-afraid protest paris-12 paris-3

Soon thereafter, media in France and worldwide stepped up as well:


At the Newseum in Washington, DC:







Particularly interesting, Wikileaks tweeted four of the most controversial covers from Charlie Hebdo. First up, a gay one that’s actually kind of brilliant:


Next up, one that at first offended me, but then I got the larger “joke.” They’re not calling the Koran sh*t. It’s a statement on religion and violence. Still, you can guarantee this one would set people off.


The next two covers I’m having a hard time digesting.


This one I don’t even understand. But it feels somewhat racist.


Of course, Fox News’ Erick Erickson couldn’t wait to use the deaths of 12 Frenchmen to bash gay Americans as “terrorists.”

Muslims hardly own the patent on religiously-inspired hate.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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54 Responses to ““They wanted to bring France to its knees — they brought it to its feet””

  1. Demosthenes says:

    This is a superb piece, Mr. Aravosis! Bravo!

  2. simouni says:

    John, about that last drawing, you need to understand that those cartoonists were virulently against religion, every religion, but they were not racists. Here is an article by Zineb El Rhaouzi, who is a member of Charlie Hebdo :


    She was on vacation in Morocco when the shooting happened, and she is actually one of the most virulent against Islam in the magazine.
    Another member of Charlie Hebdo, Mustapha Ourrad, was killed in the shooting. He was born in Algery and had just gotten French citizenship.
    I see a lot of racism accusations in american articles (not talking about yours of course!), and I feel like a lot of people don’t get what Charlie Hebdo is about.
    Jeannette Bougrab, who was Charb’s lover, made a very emotional speech on French TV and was very angry at the people who were accusing Charlie Hebdo of islamophobia and racism. She said they had barely enough money to keep publishing Charlie Hebdo and they constantly received death threats.

  3. FLL says:

    Yes fundamentalist Islam has a murder problem. And the US has an occupation problem AND a murder problem. And a torture problem.

    U.S. foreign policy doesn’t justify the murder of private French citizens who criticize Islam. Fundamentalist Islam has now united Europe in opposition. You’re clearly implying that people had better not criticize Islam… or else. Europeans—and people everywhere—have lost their fear. You’re making it very obvious that you’d like to silence criticism of Islam through fear. You’re not going to get your way. You’d like to, but you’re not going to. Just look at the photos from around the world in John’s article. I think you’ve missed the whole point of the quote from Twitter: “They wanted to bring France to its knees. They brought it to its feet.” The truth of that statement is staring us in the face.

  4. heimaey says:

    Those safety nets don’t go as far as you’d think for some people. I lived in Europe. Trust me – they won’t go bankrupt, but they sure make it hard as hell and miserable. In Spain I saw them turn away Moroccans even though they were citizens.

    Yes fundamentalist Islam has a murder problem. And the US has an occupation problem AND a murder problem. And a torture problem.

  5. heimaey says:

    I was out of the closet before you and I’m younger than you by about 8 or so years I think. I remember all of it – I remember my mother telling me not to worry about AIDS because only gay people got it and I knew I was gay but couldn’t bring myself to tell her. I saw friends die quickly and others are still alive and who knows why. My boyfriend died from Chronic Hep B in 2005 which is primarily a gay problem that is not discussed enough.

    I applaud people that do the same thing and I’m proud of the gay community and what we accomplished but really you can’t compare the two groups IMHO. A grass roots progressive community lead by educated people and a marginalized group of dark people who are largely uneducated don’t draw a lot of comparisons. Sorry they just don’t.

  6. Bill_Perdue says:

    Don’t be absurd. Freemasons are not monsters like Obama, the Clintons and the Bushes. And Roger Rabbit is fictional, like the equally bizarre and unreal claim that the Democrats and Republicans are not the same party.

    “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.” Gore Vidal

  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    That took you long enough.

    It is absolutley the CIA/State Department line to pretend that leftists want to force a crisis. The rich and their wholly owned political parties do that all on their own.

    I was around when they toppled the centrist Allende regime in Chile and trained the military there, in Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere in mass murder and torture. As my quote from Wiki demonstrated the CIA was quite effective in quashing the youth, womens and unioon movments in a number of Latin American countries. It’s totally relevant.

  8. The CIA line! WINNER! That’s an even better STFU line than “white privilege,” Bill — bra-vo!

    (Except that the whole “you’re spouting CIA propaganda” only works with people who hate the CIA.)

    As for your quote about the Dirty War, it’s quite educational. Totally irrelevant to anything I wrote, of course (not sure how the existence of the dirty war proves that marxist insurgents didn’t try to provoke revolutions across latin america and beyond by forcing governments to crack down — in fact, that was the goal of many) — but, as noted, always educational even if irrelevant.

  9. I do think of Argentina, I was there shortly after the country returned to democratic rule, and spoke with people who tearfully told me about their friends becoming desaparecidos because they had too strong of opinions. Fortunately, my observation has nothing to do with your comment. The fact that marxist insurgents wanted to foment a greater crackdown has nothing to do with whether or not the Argentine military junta sucked rocks. The two are unrelated, and not mutually exclusive.

  10. Yep, Le Pen takes over, makes things worse, the masses rise up at home and abroad. It’s the usual recipe used by insurgents.

  11. I’m not sure how old you are (I’m really not sure), but if you were of age in the 80s, and gay, you’d have had friends dying, and you’d have been watching the government do little about it. Especially consider those activists who had months to live, and knew it, and were confronted with politicians who were happy to let them die. That is a great recipe for violence — the proverbial man with nothing to lose. And it never materialized. People channeled their anger in to positive change, rather than violence. I give everyone a huge pat of the back for that one.

  12. Oh I’ve raised it, at least privately, with people. Back in the day, AIDS was a death sentence. An activist had little to lose by sacrificing his life, literally, for the cause. And none ever did. It speaks volumes (to many things).

  13. I think you forgot the Free Masons and Roger Rabbit.

  14. Badgerite says:

    BTW, – Freedom Fries! The French government and people were adamantly opposed to the US “interventions” in Iraq and vigorously tried to dissuade the Bush administration from such interventions.
    Ergo – Freedom Fries. So please don’t raise Iraq as a justification of any kind for this murderous action.

  15. FLL says:

    France, like most of Europe, has an enviable safety net of social programs, free medical care, etc. I’ll bet there are quite a few poor people in the U.S. who would gladly change places with people living in a working-class suburb of Paris. I’m sure that’s not so difficult to figure out.

  16. Mike F says:

    Whether Osama bin Laden was a brilliant tactician or not, he sure read this country like a book. We took his bait hook, line, and sinker.

    Our response to 9/11 was predictable (if one knows this country), but asinine.

  17. Mike F says:

    I have never been able to watch that scene without being brought close to
    tears, and feeling shivers run up and down my spine. Speaking of which:

    “They wanted to bring France to its knees. They brought it to its feet.”

  18. cambridgemac says:

    Feature, not bug.

  19. cambridgemac says:

    That is a shallow and shameful mischaracterization of liberation movements. Please cite specifics, John.
    The 80s were mainly a time of rightwing dirty wars and death squads – not leftwing uprisings. Think Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Guatemala.

    (Guatemala did involve an uprising – but not by leftists. It was Mayans tired of centuries of oppression. And they got a genocidal response from the Guatemalan military and elites, with extensive support from the US. Over 200,000 Mayans killed and not ONE “captured alive.” Remarkable.)

  20. cambridgemac says:

    Of course it was part of Osama’s goal. Osama was hoping the US / Bush would overreach and it has, just as he intended. My former boss and I discussed this on 911 before we knew it was Osama. But it was clear the goal was to provoke a massive US military response. The fact that it was not even directed at the perpetrators was a bonus. As it happens, Osama was totally wrong in his second assumption – that the Arab masses would rise up and install Islamist governments. (He wasn’t targeting the largest Muslim countries – Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. He was targeting Arab muslims.)

  21. Badgerite says:

    This was not a “retaliation” for that. This was a Frenchmen who published a cartoon. One of many cartoons that had no particular bias against any particular society’s stupidity so much as a bias toward stupidity of all stripes everywhere. And that is why they murdered those people. Isn’t it? I suspect that this particular publication would have had just as irreverent an attitude toward American interventions abroad and their justifications as they had against Islamic bullshit.
    The target here, says everything about the action. Everything.

  22. heimaey says:

    I would agree that they had more logic but they were also largely better educated so that doesn’t surprise me. Furthermore, again – the biggest reason why they couldn’t have is that they really were at the mercy of their government. If they didn’t cooperate in some fashion they would have had no hope at all.

    How do you know how bad it is for these working class suburbs? I’d venture to guess you have little clue what it is to be an oppressed minority living in any suburb of any place. To be sure, it’s probably better than a death sentence, but only if you see a light of hope – which many do not.

    I do not agree with Bill Perdue (I hardly ever do) that their tactics are justified – my only point in all of this was that this should not be a surprise. When you have an oppressed group in society they will likely act out – when that is coupled with a crazy fanatical religious sect then it’s way more dangerous. So were they justified? No. Is it a surprise? No. France has a racism problem AND extremists so they have to deal with it.

  23. Bill_Perdue says:

    Explanations are not excuses. The explanation for these attacks and the rise of ISIS and Al Qaida are the rabid racism and imperialistwars or aggression by the US, the EU and the zionists.

    There are no excuses for attacks on civilians, especially the genocides in Vietnam and Iraq. There was no excuse for this or 9-11 although both have the same origins in the utter insanity and barbarity of the Bushes, the Clintons, Obama and their EU allies.

  24. Nelson Kerr says:

    They want o give France to Le Pen, they think that they can win the wart that results,. Proving a that barbarians are often idiots

  25. Nelson Kerr says:

    making excuses for cold blooded murder committed by barbarian enemies of civilization doesn’t change that they are murders committed by cold-blooded barbarian enemies of civilization.

  26. FLL says:

    The numbered points that you make are very rational points. How crazy and self-destructive that the current crop of Islamic fundamentalists in France don’t understand your logical points. From your reply above, for example:

    So if they went out and shot up the mayor’s office then they had nothing to lose – but everyone they were associated with would have had it much worse.

    Bingo! That’s exactly what’s happening to Islamic fundamentalists in Europe right now. The French nation has risen to its feet, and people around the world have joined in support. The Islamic fundamentalists in France have shot themselves in the foot very badly by ignoring exactly the reasons that you write about in your reply above. Every one of your reasons are logical, and gay men during the 1980s had enough sense to act accordingly. Now that I review your argument, I’ll modify my conclusion. Farther upthread, I said that gay men during the 1980s showed superior moral fiber in comparison with the Al Qaida crowd. Although that may be true, it may be even more illuminating to say that gay men during the AIDS epidemic just showed more logic and common sense than today’s Al Qaida recruits. Gay men in the 1980s were dying, but they still made intelligent choices in response to the Reagan administration’s treachery, and I think it served them (and their entire community) well. Today’s Islamists in France are making profoundly stupid choices and ignoring all the numbered points that you make in your reply above, and those choices are backfiring on them at this very moment. And the French Islamists are making these stupid choices with much less cause than others in the past.

    And now the crucial question for you. Do you feel sorry for the French Islamists as their stupidity backfires on them, as all of Europe—indeed, all the civilized world—unites against them? Or do you agree with Bill Perdue that their murderous tactics are justified by the circumstances of their lives? I’d sure rather be a French Muslim living in a working class suburb of Paris (which is hardly “poverty,” by the way) than a gay man dying of AIDS during the 1980s.

  27. heimaey says:

    Ok fair enough. I thought I did address it. Other than being different groups gay men did not take up arms, nor would it have ever been in their best interest to do so in the 80s for the following reasons:

    1. Gay men were dying in large numbers by a mysterious disease. They were more focused on taking care of one another than taking up arms.
    2. Even if they had – taking up arms would have done them more harm then good – they needed to cooperate with the authorities in order to get their help. Taking up arms would have proved that they didn’t care about dying when they did – in fact, they were fighting to survive. Sure they had to pout and protest and scream and pull their hair out and it took YEARS to get help of any real kind, but going in and killing politicians and scientists would have turned the world against them even more so and a cure and/or treatment would have been that much further away.
    3. There was enough death – what would they have gotten by killing more people? And a lot of them had more incentive as they were going to die anyway – or so they thought. AIDS was a death sentence then. So if they went out and shot up the mayor’s office then they had nothing to lose – but everyone they were associated with would have had it much worse.
    4. Numbers. Pure and simple. Gay men, at that time and even now, aren’t as populous or as powerful as Islam in that way. There is no gay equivalent of Al-Queda. There is no gay military or organized system of defense. The gay community was a patchwork of people in the 70s and 80s barely scraping by. AIDS organized them more efficiently but it was way more grass roots and any small factions or tiny guerrilla movements are usually taken out very quickly.

    Does that answer it for you?

  28. FLL says:

    I must agree with part of your analysis, and I’ll explain which part that is. The two groups of people couldn’t be more different, and I wasn’t suggesting that the people growing up in the two groups were growing up in anything like similar circumstances. On that subject we agree. My only main point—and I think John’s main point— is that gay people in the U.S. during the AIDS epidemic had just as much justification, or perhaps more, to turn to terrorist activity as the current crop of French Muslims who go off to ISIS-controlled territory to give glory to their prophet by murdering gay men. The only thing that I’m comparing is the relative moral justification that either group has. Are French Muslims dying by the tens of thousands due to the intentional neglect of the French government? No. But gay men in the U.S. were during the 1980s.

  29. FLL says:

    Your comment is more apt than people might think at first. The Islamic fundamentalists are using exactly the same tactics of domestic terror and sporadic murder that the nascent Nazis used in the early 1930s to intimidate their opposition. So what’s the fundamentalist Islamist plan for Europe? First satirical cartoonists are murdered, and next books are banned—à la Salman Rushdie, but on a much wider scale.

  30. heimaey says:

    John is very smart, but he’s not always right IMHO – no one is; and in this case he’s simply not right. Yes, gays have been persecuted for millennium but they have not been really organized in any way until the 1950s starting with Mattachine Society.

    I just don’t see where you can draw a neat and tidy comparison between gay people in the US and a radical fundamental sect of religious nut bags. To even DO what these people have done you need the right environment to foster and give birth to it. The only requisite is not persecution. They were two entirely separate environments. And I’m sorry but gay people do not need a pat on the back for not taking up arms in the 80s, or ever.

    Also why are you insulting me by calling my posts “word soup”? I’m trying to have a debate about this. I’m not calling anyone stupid or disrespecting anyone else. I’m simply defending my stance. Grow up!

  31. FLL says:

    “There is a long and sorted history of racism towards Arabs and many other groups is there not?”

    And there is also a long and sordid history of homophobia and accompanying violence against gay people in the U.S. The argument that John Aravosis is making above is perfectly valid, and the word salad that you posted in reply doesn’t disprove John’s argument.

  32. FLL says:

    Your statement is dead on target, but strangely, few have made that statement. Using whatever resources are available to fight epidemic disease is an acknowledged responsibility of government that goes back to ancient times, when malaria plagued the Roman Empire. If there are any reasons at all to resort to terrorist violence, there is no reason more legitimate than the Reagan administration’s decision to abandon this age-old duty of government. And yet America’s gay community did not. That is an example of superior moral fiber in the face of a catastrophic death rate that was actively encouraged by the U.S. government of the time. So how does Bin Laden and his ilk compare with that example? Poorly. I doubt that history will be as willing to give the Islamist fundamentalists the free pass that Bill Perdue is suggesting.

  33. Bill_Perdue says:

    Who said they were innocent. They’re terrorists, just like Obama, the Clitnons and the Bushes. Quotation please.

  34. Bill_Perdue says:

    Of course we don’t. That’s the SD/CIA line and it was never effective as a deterrent to the left, even the ultraleftists like Che.

    What was effective were the murder campaigns conduicted by quisling governments in a number of countries. As Wiki points out “The Dirty War (Spanish:
    Guerra Sucia) was the name used by the Argentine Military Government for a
    period of state terrorism in Argentina against political dissidents and left-wing
    guerrillas, from roughly 1974 to 1983 … during which military and security forces and
    right-wing death squads in the form of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance
    (Triple Ahunted down and killed left-wing guerrillas political dissidents, and
    anyone believed to be associated with socialism] The victims of the violence
    were 7,158-30,000 left-wing activists and militants, including trade unionists,
    students, journalists and Marxists and Peronist guerrillas”

    But if your theory was correct it would have meant a huge growth of the left. Instead were all but wiped out in a number of countries.

  35. heimaey says:

    Who said gay teens were living the good life? I had a very hard time too and suffered severe depression, but I was also not raised the way these people were. You are comparing your life to theirs which is where your blind spot is. They are growing up with way more radical extremist ideas and are in an environment that fosters this behavior. There simply was no precedence for gay people to get violent like this. So while you wanted to kill yourself no one around you was hankering for you to join the fight against straight people either. It’s not a valid comparison.

    Also people were kind of busy taking care of their dying friends and lovers so they would have also risked losing even more lives by getting violent.

  36. Even a broken imperialist is right twice a day ;-)

  37. Actually I was ready to kill myself as a gay teen. So I don’t buy the notion that white gay middle class teens were loving the good life. I watched a good friend die. I’m sorry, but there was ample motivation for our community to turn violent, and it didn’t.

  38. Gotta tell ya Bill, the innocent party here wasn’t the masked guy with the Kalashnikov shooting an injured cop, who was holding gis hands up pleading for mercy, in the head at point blank range.

  39. heimaey says:

    How am I blaming the French people? Why can’t we have logical discussion without people jumping to the most extreme ridiculous take?

    I’m simply saying that French society has certainly played a role in all of this. How could it not? There is a long and sorted history of racism towards Arabs and many other groups is there not? So – that has NOTHING to do with this? Please.

    Would you disagree that the US’s “interventions” in the ME have not bred a whole lot of terrorists and radicals that are forming dangerous groups like ISIS and are we ourselves are not responsible somewhat for the issues we’ve created with that mess. We can’t go in somewhere and destroy a generation of people and not expect some sort of retaliation.

  40. Badgerite says:

    Good point.

  41. Badgerite says:

    In all seriousness, you are trying to blame the French people for this murderous assault? For that is what it was. And murder is always by choice.

  42. heimaey says:

    Yes, but France has a particularly different scenario with regards to Muslim immigration. It’s distinct than the rest of Europe so I don’t think we can compare it to anything else in Europe. The problem there longer – it’s more ingrained in the society.

    I also think you may be comparing apples to oranges. The AIDS crisis is not a good example as the people protesting were surely marginalized but were also mostly educated and from middle class backgrounds. In France they’ve got a second class society based on race and race alone and nowhere to go – no hope to move up in society – they’re also less educated and more extreme.

    A more similar comparison in the US would be the Black Panther party and they certainly weren’t anything like these guys – so like you said it’s a grey area. It’s probably a combination of reaction against institutionalized racism with religious fanaticism.

    I just don’t think we can ignore the racism in France with this. I know you have personal ties to Paris and go there a lot and I too love France – but France is the most racist western European country. That can’t be shoved aside in this.

  43. nicho says:

    Just as 9-11 handed the US over to the neoliberals who have destroyed the Constitution and turned the US into a virtual dictatorship. Maybe that was the goal. If Osama bin laden wanted to destroy US democracy and take away our freedoms, he has succeeded pretty well.

  44. Of course they do, Bill. That was the main goal of many of the movements in South America during the 80s. You conduct terrorism, hoping the govt will clamp down, so that the clamp down will so infuriate people that they rise up, more join your cause, more terrorism, more clamp down, that eventually leads to revolution.

    Israel and white people aren’t the only people in the world who have partaken in violence :)

  45. We’re all familiar that the Middle East is a war zone, and that there are issues surrounding Muslim immigration in Europe and how well it’s integrated. I do think, however, that it’s simplistic to try to and claim that one side is white and the other black, as it were. And that’s what I often find some like to do on our side when it comes to these, and many issues. The Middle East is a perfect example: “Israel is evil, and Arabs are angels.” Life tends to be greyer and more complicated than that.

    And getting back to the current violence — you don’t bend down to someone lame on the ground, and point a gun at a wounded police officer’s head, then shoot them dead point-blank, because someone was mean to you. Gay people had ample opportunity to go violent (the inept and discriminatory handling of the AIDS crisis in the 80s colmes to mind) in the past, and we didn’t.

    As Jon Green notes in his new post, religiously-inspired violence has a long proud history over the millenia. I generally have a difficult time (short of the Holocaust and perhaps slavery) believing anyone who tells me their oppression is somehow unique.


  46. Bill_Perdue says:

    Marxists don’t need to and don’t try to force society into a crisis – the rich do it all by themselves. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOP2V_np2c0&feature=player_embedded

  47. Bubbles says:

    I always thought that the proper response to 9/11 would have been something analog to the response of the Whos in Whoville’s response to the Grinch steeling christmas. That is, not respond, but celebrate the greatness of our way of life, by acting with a sense of courage and a sense of freedom and a sense of fairness and a sense of full on celebration.

    It is unfortunate but those people in the middle east are trapped in a religious system that thinks its okay to kill you if you leave the religion. They can’t leave. They can’t join our celebration, so they want to destroy it. Pity.

  48. Bill_Perdue says:

    No. The attacks on cops here is the sole and direct result of racism by cops, and the refusal of Democrats and Republicans to curb police violence combined with massive uemployment and poverty in the communities of people of color. http://www.blackagendareport.com/node/14607

    The attacks on journalists and others in France is the direct and sole result of EU and American imperialism and the rabid racism of the French right, along with mass poverty.

  49. heimaey says:

    Many people disagree – particularly the New Yorker today. Certainly the tension there plays a role. When you bifurcate a society you breed a group of people who don’t care and have nothing to lose. France has not done the best at integrating its colonial immigrants – and it’s different than the Muslims entering into the EU now like the Netherlands and Sweden, etc that come and do not want to integrate – France’s historical prejudices certainly play some sort of role.

  50. No. When you start assassinating cops at point blank range you’re not fighting a political battle. This was raw terrorism. It had little to do with how France treats its Muslim population, or how Israel and the Arabs have both attacked each other for years in the Middle East.

  51. That’s probably the goal. Marxist dialectic (though they’re not Marxists). Force society to a crisis.

  52. Bill_Perdue says:

    The problems that created
    the madness of the attack on these journalists are not going to go away.
    Neither the unceasing US/EU/zionist attacks on Arab and muslim regimes aimed at
    stealing resources or the racism and poverty faced by the muslim immigrant
    population of France – about 10% of the population – show any signs of abating.

  53. MoonDragon says:

    Do these dumbshits realize that they’re handing France over to Marine Le Pen and here noxious hoard?

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