The French authorities killed three murderous savages yesterday. That was the only good news on a day in which a third hostage siege began in Montpellier. The bad news started at the top, with President Hollande's statement after the Charlie Hebdo slaughter and the Kosher grocery siege:
Those who committed these acts have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.
Yeah, right. I would use my standard line on these occasions - "Allahu Akbar" is Arabic for "Nothing to see here" - but it's not quite as funny when the streets are full of cowards, phonies and opportunists waving candles and pencils and chanting "Je suis Charlie." Because if you really were Charlie, if you really were one of the 17 Frenchmen and women slaughtered in the name of Allah in little more than 48 hours, you'd utterly despise a man who could stand up in public and utter those words.
The louder the perpetrators yell "Allahu Akbar" and rejoice that the Prophet has been avenged, the louder M Hollande and David Cameron and Barack Obama and John Kerry and the other A-list infidels insist there's no Islam to see here. M le Président seems to believe he can champion France's commitment to freedom of expression by conscripting the entire nation in his monstrous lie.
Is he just pandering? There are, supposedly, six million Muslims in France, and he got 93 per cent of their vote last time round. Or is he afraid of the forces that might be unleashed if the Official Lie were not wholeheartedly upheld? Stéphane Charbonnier said he'd rather die standing than live on his knees; M Hollande thinks he can get by with a furtive crouch.
The polite explanation can be found in Barbara Amiel's column in Maclean's, which is titled "Islamists Won't Kill Free Speech - We Will". She covers some of my battles with the "human rights" regime in Canada, and adds a sad postscript to it. But, apropos the French President, I was struck by this passage in particular:
Terror can backfire in the sense that some people finally dislike being scared and react by doing whatever terror is discouraging. This is generally a temporary response. As George Jonas pointed out in a 2013 column, human beings find a way of rationalizing their behaviour so that they can claim they are refraining from publishing or saying something not out of fear but because they don't wish to offend. They convert the base notion of being scared into a noble weapon of seeing someone else's point of view. In fact, this is one of the most insidious aspects of terrorism: we wash our brains and convert our fear into understanding.
That's what The New York Times and The Globe & Mail et al are doing when they explain that they won't show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons out of sensitivity to their Muslim readers, all three of them. They've persuaded themselves that they're not acting out of fear, no, sir, but instead that they're better people for being able to sympathize with all those poor Muslims reeling under a vicious "backlash" that never comes.
But I don't think that accounts for M Hollande, who must surely know better. As Evan Solomon and I argued on the CBC this week, France's Muslim population is between eight per cent (says Evan) and ten per cent (say I). But the Muslim share of France's prison population is 60 per cent. That's about 42,000 people. Among their number was one of the Charlie Hebdo murderers, who was trained to a sufficient level to be able to pull off a terror attack far more complex and sophisticated than the Sydney coffee shop siege or the Ottawa Cenotaph killing. How few of those 42,000 would need to be willing to sign up for a month at Camp Jihad before France would descend into chaos?
The kosher grocery siege was also relatively sophisticated, not least in its coordination and in the duplicitousness of the hostage-takers. After issuing the conditions necessary to prevent them killing hostages, they killed four of them anyway. Because they're Jews, so why would you forgo that pleasure? When the death toll emerged, my initial thought was that, if it weren't for the dozen dead on Wednesday, this would be the major news event of the week. But then I remembered: They're Jews. And as I wrote in America Alone:
Four years after 9/11, it turned out there really is an explosive "Arab street", but it's in Clichy-sous-Bois. Since the beginning of this century, French Arabs have been carrying on a low-level intifada against synagogues, kosher butchers, Jewish schools, etc. The concern of the political class has been to prevent the spread of these attacks to targets of more, ah, general interest. They're losing that battle...
If Chirac, de Villepin and co aren't exactly Charles Martel, the rioters aren't doing a bad impression of the Muslim armies of 13 centuries ago: They're seizing their opportunities, testing their foe, probing his weak spots. If burning the 'burbs gets you more "respect", they'll burn 'em again, and again. In defiance of traditional immigration patterns, these young men are less assimilated than their grandparents. And why should they be? On present demographic trends, it will be for ethnic Europeans to assimilate with them.
They tested the foe again this week: They assassinated the senior editorial team of the only publication not willing to sign on to the official "No Islam to see here" line. And they were rewarded for their slaughter with the président de la république standing up in public insisting there's "No Islam to see here".
~Several readers asked, after the launch of our Sinatra Century, what happened to the promised second Sinatra song this week. Well, to be honest, after Wednesday's bloodbath, I wasn't in much of a musical mood - and I was in less of one when the fanatics holed up in Picardy, a region I associate mainly with Track Five of my latest album. But we will resume our Sinatra Century before the weekend is out, with a song by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. Almost three-quarters of a century ago, after the Germans took the French capital, Kern & Hammerstein wrote a valentine to the City of Lights:
The Last Time I Saw Paris
Her heart was warm and gay
No matter how they change her
I'll remember her that way.
I never much cared for the song in a World War Two context: After all, what changes? An occupying army marches in, you defeat them, they march out ...and Paris is Paris again. But Paris - and Picardy, and France - have been profoundly changed, and likely permanently. The French capital is a city of no-go zones, and Jews hunched in a freezer to avoid death, and a government gibbering the Official Lies no matter how ridiculous they sound. And there's no easy way to get this occupation force to march out. Like Kern & Hammerstein, those of us who loved the city can only hold her in memory:
No matter how they change her
I'll remember her that way.