Saturday, January 16, 2016

Who is Charlie?
We can now say, with the benefit of hindsight, that in January 2015 France succumbed to an attack of hysteria. The massacre of the editorial board of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as well as of several police officers and the customers of a Jewish shop, triggered a collective reaction unprecedented in our country's history. It would have been impossible to discuss it in the heat of the moment. The media joined hands to denounce terrorism, to celebrate the admirable character of the French people, and to sacralize liberty and the French Republic. Charlie Hebdo and its caricatures of Muhammad were enshrined. The government announced that it was giving a grant to the weekly so that it could get back on its feet. Crowds of people followed the government's appeal to march in protest throughout the land: they held pencils to symbolize press freedom and applauded the state security police and the marksmen posted on the rooftops. The logo `Je suis Charlie' ('I am Charlie'), written in white letters against a black background, could be seen everywhere: on our screens, in the streets, on restaurant menus. Children came home from school with a letter C written on their hands. Kids aged seven and eight were interviewed at the school gates and asked for their thoughts on the horror of the events and the importance of one's freedom to draw caricatures. The government decreed that anyone who failed to toe the line would be punished. Any secondary school pupil who refused to observe the minute's silence imposed by the government was seen as implicitly supporting terrorism and refusing to stand in solidarity with the national community. At the end of January, we learned that some adults had started to behave in the most incredibly repressive ways: children of eight or nine years of age were being questioned by the police. It was a sudden glimpse of totalitarianism. 
Todd is good, but his references to Weber and to science are defensive puffery. Sociology is not a science in the way he wants it to be. He's an intelligent, disinterested observer. Statistics is a tool. Disinterest is not objectivity.

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