Friday, January 16, 2015

Kalashnikov AK47s seem to be as trendy in France as iPhones

I wasn’t exactly surprised by the attack 
confesses the Telegraph's Stephen Clarke.
First of all, there have been plenty of shootings with AK47s in France recently. They seem to be as trendy as iPhones. They even have a slang name in French – “une kalache“. Most of them are apparently in the Marseille area, in the possession of drug gangs, but they also get sold on to the rest of France. A couple of years ago, only three or four kilometres from where I live, some Polish men were walking to a birthday party when they were stopped by two muggers, one of whom had a Kalashnikov. When the Poles refused to hand over their money, the gunman let rip, killing one victim and shooting his friend in the foot. The police caught them soon afterwards, after a man arrived at a nearby hospital complaining that he’d lost some of his toes in an accident. It sounds insane, but it’s true, and the surviving Poles were probably lucky that their mugger hadn’t had any weapons training.

The other reason why I was horrified, but not exactly surprised, by the Charlie Hebdo attack was that the magazine had been provoking some highly sensitive people. Of course I’m not saying that anyone deserved to be shot. I’m just saying that extreme provocation was the magazine’s raison d’être, and they knew that they were playing with fire. That was why the editor had a police bodyguard (who was also killed in the attack). Charlie Hebdo belongs to a tradition of French satire that pushes anti-establishment mockery to the edge, and beyond. Their cartoons could be viciously accurate, especially when deflating the egos of politicians, but they could also be just plain offensive. Often they had a point, but sometimes they seemed to forget the point and descend into gratuitous obscenity.

This was why the French were fond of Charlie Hebdo, even if hardly any of them actually read it until this week. Cabu, Wolinski and the veteran cartoonists were like old friends. The kind of friends you love but wouldn’t dare invite to your house because you know they’d take the pee out of your other guests, graffiti the walls, and explain to you why your whole life was a failure – while smiling charmingly. They were like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory – social misfits who felt it was their duty to broadcast their home truths loud and clear, and who couldn’t understand if anyone was offended. The sad thing is that real life is not an American sitcom.

For all these reasons, I personally am not so sure that the cover of today’s edition of Charlie Hebdo is a good idea. Why cause new offence, when what France really needs is some determined peacemaking?  …

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Governmental censorship has infested the birthplaces of Voltaire and John Stuart Mill

 … in the wake of the horrific massacre at the offices of French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo
writes Benny Huang, a defiant breeze has swept across Europe.
Londoners, Berliners, and Romans are reaching out in solidarity to the people of Paris in their time of grief and anger. “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) they proclaim, an affirmation of their common European heritage of free speech and openness.

Yet I can’t help but wonder if the mourners aren’t a day late and a euro short in their defense of a value that has slowly but persistently eroded over a period of decades. It would be wonderful if the sentiment expressed at these vigils were a genuine revival of the spirit of 1848 but it hardly seems possible to “defend” a principle that in all likelihood no longer exists.

Free speech is dead in Europe and while it is certainly tempting to blame the immigrants, as intolerant as they may be, it would also be folly. The real culprits are the cowardly, hedonistic, post-Christian, post-industrial native born white majority.

The three bestial al-Qaeda terrorists who murdered twelve people at Charlie Hebdo HQ might seem like menacing enemies of free speech but they’re actually bush league amateurs when it comes to gagging people. The real pros are sitting behind desks in the various capitals of Europe. Nearly every European nation extends some guarantee of free speech to its citizens, and nearly every one of them flagrantly violates that guarantee.

  … The authorities in Britain arrest people who harbor banned ideas, and believe me, I’ve got a lot of them. Clegg’s prescient countryman, Eric Blair (George Orwell) predicted this phenomenon nearly seventy years ago and gave it a name—thoughtcrime.

Thought criminals should take notice that they will find no shelter in today’s United Kingdom. Little more than a week before the cartoon jihadists spilled French blood, police in Scotland tweeted the following threat: “Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on social media & any offensive comments will be investigated.” Offensive to whom, exactly? They don’t say. But in a free society it shouldn’t matter a lick. Offensive comments are exactly the kind of comments that free speech is designed to protect. Innocuous comments don’t require protection.

  … On the Continent, outspoken MP Geert Wilders faces criminal prosecution under “hate speech” laws for comments he made about immigration. At a rally in the Hague he asked a crowd “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans?” to which they chanted, “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Mindless xenophobia? I don’t think so, though it’s also irrelevant. Free speech protects mindless xenophobia.
Nor is everyone feeling the spirit of freedom after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Swedish MP Veronica Palm contacted the police to report that another MP of an opposing party, Bjoern Soeder, might have violated Swedish law with a comment he posted on Facebook concerning the terrorist attack in Paris. “’The Religion of Peace’ shows its face,” he said, clearly indicating with his use of derisive quotes that he doubts Islam’s pacifistic nature, as many people do. His nemesis Veronica Palm declared: “This statement is offensive to a group of people and I want to see if it comes under laws against inciting racial hatred.” Ms. Palm apparently does not understand that Islam is not a race. Even if it were, free speech guarantees the right to make racist comments as well.
Are we much better? Oh, a little bit, I suppose. Anyone who thinks that free speech is alive and well in America ought to experience the suffocating environment of academia. If you happen to be on a college campus and you still think America guarantees a healthy exchange of controversial ideas then you’re probably one of the drones who keeps the rest of us line. Good for you.

Europe, however, is a decade or two ahead of us in the downward slide toward mind control. Governmental censorship has infested the birthplaces of Voltaire and John Stuart Mill.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The land of humblebrag and its drunk, depressed, lazy, tumor-ridden, pig-bonking bureaucrats

In the American liberal compass, the needle is always pointing to places like Denmark
writes The New York Post's Kyle Smith (tack till Instapundit).
Everything they most fervently hope for here has already happened there.

So: Why does no one seem particularly interested in visiting Denmark? (“Honey, on our European trip, I want to see Tuscany, Paris, Berlin and . . . Jutland!”) Visitors say Danes are joyless to be around. Denmark suffers from high rates of alcoholism. In its use of antidepressants it ranks fourth in the world. (Its fellow Nordics the Icelanders are in front by a wide margin.) Some 5% of Danish men have had sex with an animal. Denmark’s productivity is in decline, its workers put in only 28 hours a week, and everybody you meet seems to have a government job. Oh, and as The Telegraph put it, it’s “the cancer capital of the world.”

So how happy can these drunk, depressed, lazy, tumor-ridden, pig-bonking bureaucrats really be?

Let’s look a little closer, asks Michael Booth, a Brit who has lived in Denmark for many years, in his new book, “The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia” (Picador).

Those sky-high happiness surveys, it turns out, are mostly bunk. Asking people “Are you happy?” means different things in different cultures. In Japan, for instance, answering “yes” seems like boasting, Booth points out. Whereas in Denmark, it’s considered “shameful to be unhappy,” newspaper editor Anne Knudsen says in the book.

Moreover, there is a group of people that believes the Danes are lying when they say they’re the happiest people on the planet. This group is known as “Danes.”
“Over the years I have asked many Danes about these happiness surveys — whether they really believe that they are the global happiness champions — and I have yet to meet a single one of them who seriously believes it’s true,” Booth writes. “They tend to approach the subject of their much-vaunted happiness like the victims of a practical joke waiting to discover who the perpetrator is.”

 … Denmark is a land of 5.3 million homogenous people. Everyone talks the same, everyone looks the same, everyone thinks the same.

This is universally considered a feature — a glorious source of national pride in the land of humblebrag. Any rebels will be made to conform; tall poppies will be chopped down to average.

 … One of the most country’s most widely known quirks is a satirist’s crafting of what’s still known as the Jante Law — the Ten Commandments of Buzzkill. “You shall not believe that you are someone,” goes one. “You shall not believe that you are as good as we are,” is another. Others included “You shall not believe that you are going to amount to anything,” “You shall not believe that you are more important than we are” and “You shall not laugh at us.”

 … Macho isn’t a problem in Sweden. Dubbed the least masculine country on Earth by anthropologist Geert Hofstede, it’s the place where male soldiers are issued hairnets instead of being made to cut their hair.

 … As for its supposedly sweet-natured national persona, in a poll in which Swedes were asked to describe themselves, the adjectives that led the pack were “envious, stiff, industrious, nature-loving, quiet, honest, dishonest and xenophobic.” In last place were these words: “masculine,” “sexy” and “artistic.”

Scandinavia, as a wag in The Economist once put it, is a great place to be born — but only if you are average. The dead-on satire of Scandinavian mores “Together” is a 2000 movie by Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson set in a multi-family commune in 1975, when the groovy Social Democratic ideal was utterly unquestioned in Sweden.

In the film’s signature scene, a sensitive-apron wearing man tells his niece and nephew as he is making breakfast, “You could say that we are like porridge. First we’re like small oat flakes — small, dry, fragile, alone. But then we’re cooked with the other oat flakes and become soft. We join so that one flake can’t be told apart from another. We’re almost dissolved. Together we become a big porridge that’s warm, tasty, and nutritious and yes, quite beautiful, too. So we are no longer small and isolated but we have become warm, soft and joined together. Part of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes life feels like an enormous porridge, don’t you think?”

Then he spoons a great glutinous glob of tasteless starch unto the poor kids’ plates. That’s Scandinavia for you, folks: Bland, wholesome, individual-erasing mush. But, hey, at least we’re all united in being slowly digested by the system.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Muhammad will be back on the cover of the next edition of Charlie Hebdo,
reports Fox News,
along with a message of forgiveness from surviving staffers at the French satirical magazine where 12 people were killed last week by a pair of Islamist brothers angered over the publication's penchant for showing images of the prophet.

The decimated, but uncowed magazine upped its usual print run of 60,000 copies to 3 million for the magazine, due out Wednesday but released to the French newspaper Liberation. Fierce bidding on eBay had editions commanding as much as $500 following the outpouring of support for Charlie Hebdo, whose four top cartoonists were among the dozen killed. Editor-in-chief Gérard Biard said in a Tuesday radio interview the decision to run a cartoon if Muhammad holding a a “Je Suis Charlie” sign with the caption "Tout est pardonne," or "All is forgiven," and said the message was not that Muhammad was offering forgiveness, as some initially assumed.
"It is we who forgive, not Muhammad,” he told France Info.

Be Careful, the Artists Might Be Armed

Like millions of others around the world, I’m horrified and grief-stricken by the sickening events that unfolded in Paris this week
writes the Daily Telegraph's Mark Johnson,
that snuffed out the lives of 12 innocents in a brutal and murderous attack.
It’s difficult to comprehend the malignancy that orders the death of innocent people in the name of anything, let alone a religion. The French national motto ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ has been tested, but it will prevail.

As a nation now takes the time it needs to mourn the terrible loss of January 7, Charlie Hebdo – the name of the newspaper where the attacks were focused – is at the same time becoming world famous as a symbol of defiance against those who would seek to control freedom of expression.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A French Immigrant to America Explains the Charlie Hebdo Phenomenon to His Yankee Hosts (NSFW)

[Disclaimer: not for young children, and definitely NSFW]
I was listening to NPR [Thursday] morning and, on the top of the usual tripe, some idiot correspondent in Paris described Charlie Hebdo as a mix of Mad, Playboy, and The Daily Show.

Oh boy.

If you're interested, I'll try to describe what it was, where it comes from, and why the death of the main, historical cartoonists is such a shock for 3 generations of French people.

This is my take on it, I don't pretend to be objective. I'm a Frenchman who grew up with these guys, and stuff they did played a big role in my childhood.

  … First off, French humor in general is far more rude and crass than American humor. We're not nearly as prudish as Americans in general are, and culturally much more confrontational than Americans, who already are a very confrontational bunch by world's standards.

Evidently, it's impossible to give a proper comparison or point of reference in the American pop culture, especially being an immigrant that knows very little about American pop culture.

As it stood 2 days ago, the best humor equivalent I can think of would be some moments in the movie Team America, World Police: getting a point across in and crude way, uncaring of people's opinions and beliefs, and primarily for shits and giggles. Here's a very Charlie Hebdo moment in this movie:

Charlie Hebdo used to be a pretty underground, extremely Gallic mag called Hara Kiri. This wiki page traces the transition from Hara Kiri to Charlie Hebdo:

Hara Kiri's subtitle was "Le journal bête et méchant": litt. the stupid and mean magazine, but IMHO it's better translated as the For Shits and Giggles Magazine.

They were running extremely outrageous stuff, even by Gallic standards. If you're not at the office, here are some covers:

The founder and captain of this boat of fools was a particular character with the nom de plume Professeur Choron. The guy is kind of an armchair general GG Allin … [Professeur Choron (Georges Bernier)] was (he died in 2005) an extremely rude, nihilistic, alcoholic, in-your-face jerk, but he also was extremely well read and witty, and he saw through literally everybody's bullshit. He could bury anybody under a pile of his own shit in 2 sentences, discarding entirely the "class" and "social rank" of who he was addressing. He hated absolutely everybody: French, Italians, Jews, Arabs, Germans, Blacks, Americans, Russians, Chinese, any nationality, any race or creed, you name it; the whole damn world was a shitter to him, and he was the guy taking a massive dump in it while enjoying himself and making everybody laugh at the same time.

He's the guy who set the tone for Hara Kiri and later Charlie Hebdo. Hara Kiri used to be pretty underground, but everybody who was in their teens in the 60s knew it. My father had a subscription to this mag and kept them, and I used to steal them (he didn't want me to get a hold of them) when I was a teenager. They were so crass and rustled so many jimmies that they ended up being influential; much to their regret I would say, because they were merely working hard on the funniest way shit in your cornflakes, nothing more, nothing less.

It's probably hard to understand why such a thing would be so popular on that side of the pond, but keep in mind that the post-WW2 generations on the 2 sides of the ponds grew to to have extremely divergent mindsets. I won't venture into some victors vs humiliated losers pseudo-philosophical tripe, you get the point.

As cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo grew older, they got much softer too. But they really kept their extremely provocative attitude from Hara Kiri, something they took pride in, and everybody in France saluted them for, to the extent it became a source of national pride when these goat fuckers got their panties in a twist over a drawing.

Then there was Cabu, the main cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo. Cabu [Jean Cabut] was a pretty soft spoken, far left leaning Anarchist. This guy worked at Hara Kiri then Charlie Hebdo, but also other cartoon magazines like Fluide Glacial that many people my generation read. He also featured in kids TV show like Récré A2 that virtually my entire generation watched (there were 3 TV channels nation wide at the time) when coming back from school. I don't know any American equivalent since I didn't grow up here, but imagine a guy you used to watch and love every day for your entire childhood: he was THAT guy to an entire generation of French people.

Cabu was very far from Choron as it comes to personal behavior, but they did share a very strong taste for "provocation", for lack of a better term.

Charb [Stéphane Charbonnier] and Tignous [Bernard Verlhac] are also well know by the large readership of Fluide Glacial, a cartoon mag that made 2 generations of French people laugh their asses off, and counting.

Wolinksi has always been a commie, but he published so many cartoons and drew in so many commie publications that a lot of people knew and enjoyed him (there's no shortage of commies in France).

So there it is: these people were considered a national treasure, and they were a huge part of French popular culture for 3 generations of French people. Even though they were arguably controversial and proud of it, they were not considered such in France, since they became such an important part of the modern French culture. Don't get me wrong, I'm not idolizing them, after all I disagreed with Charlie's political views 99% of the time, but to the average Frenchman they were an actual part of our lives, including mine.

This is what we lost [Wednesday]. …
Update: More covers from ActuaBD (merci à OT)