Tag Archives: france

Can’t a gesture be just that? #jesuischarlie

Yesterday, when news of the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office was just emerging, my main reaction was simply to feel extremely sad. Fortunately I’m not a politician, a journalist or even much of a blogger these days so I’m allowed to feel that way without having my motives examined for signs of possible racism or bigotry.

Over the last day of so I’ve made a number of comments and shared stuff on my usual social networks using the hashtag #jesuischarlie. What I meant by it was merely “there but for the grace of God go I” – a simple statement of solidarity.

Apparently that isn’t the case however. According to countless righteous people who have been all too keen to leap on the bully pulpit, I used that hashtag because I’m either a crypto-racist/islamophobe or hopelessly naive, thinking of Charlie Hebdo as some kind of bastion of western satire when in fact it is a scurrilous rag and not even very funny. And apparently I’m an idiot for thinking that this was about cartoons when it was in fact about much wider issues. I’ve even read suggestions that any act of solidarity must automatically mean I’m in favour of cracking down on the very civil liberties that yesterday’s murderers were attacking.

As it happens, from what little I knew of it, Charlie Hebdo did seem pretty scurrilous, insensitive and unfunny. As it happens, I’m not so stupid as to believe this is simply about a drawing of Mohammed. And needless to say, the last thing I want to see as a result of this attack is a crackdown on civil liberties or the end of multiculturalism.

It is too much to ask for people to not use atrocities like this to advance their own agendas. Indeed, that can be useful. But is it really too much to ask that people don’t insult everyone else’s intelligence whilst doing so, inferring far more into a simple expression of grief than it warrants?

Thank you. As you were.

A difficult choice for French liberals

Rightwing bloggers Andy Mayer and Tom Papworth have been picking fights with their own party, accusing large numbers of us of being guilty by association of being unreconstructed socialists. Andy cites the fact that UDF supporters were split 50/50 in the Sarko/Sego playoff, while even more incredibly Tom bases his argument on an online poll of 40 visitors to his blog in which 53% supported Sego.

Personally, I have no idea how I would have voted, but the idea that this is simply a left/right divide is completely flawed. Simplistically, the French were given the choice between a rightwing leader of a centrist party and a centrist leader of a leftwing party. Policy-wise, and leaving immigration to one side, I am probably closer to Sarkozy than Royal. However, it was a presidential election not a parliamentary one, so personality counts for a lot.

A vote for Sarkozy was a vote for a politician who makes David Blunkett look tactful and libertarian. I remain doubtful about his ability to operate on the world stage or even domestically without causing far more heat than light, a point on which Iain Dale of all people appears to agree. Segolene Royal had a point when she suggested that a vote for him could provoke riots.

Is Sarkozy capable of creating a consensus about the need to reform, or will his combative personality result in deadlock? That is what the French ultimately had to decide yesterday. The Papworth-Mayer slur rests on the calculation that anyone who voted for Royal was simply in favour of the status quo. For that to be true, France would have to have an elective dictatorship. In point of fact, the French President has less power than its US counterpart.

If you think that France wakes up to a bright new morning with reforming zeal in its heart, you are about to be sorely disappointed.

(Speaking of Lib Dem bloggers picking fights, anyone understand why Jeremy Hargreaves is making wild allegations of a Huhnista-putsch going on inside the party, his only evidence being a few critical comments about Ming by someone who supported Simon Hughes in the leadership election? Colour me confused)