Thursday, January 08, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

Interestingly, many other bloggers today have been showing support and offering condolences following the cowardly attack in Paris yesterday.  Now, I am not a political person at all and think that something as personal as politics is best not discussed but this event has hit home.

I come from a family of journalists: my grandfather was editor of Films and Filming and Dance Band Journal, my uncle was associate editor of the Daily Mail and editor of the Sunday Dispatch, my aunt worked for BBC news and my mother was beauty editor of Woman's Own.  Even my sister worked at the Church of England Newspaper in her year off between school and university.  My journalistic output has been much less exalted and at school and university on the art direction side (school magazine, Isis and the Oxford Union Magazine).  These days my writing is confined to trade magazines with the occasional foray into men's magazines and genre magazines under a number of noms de plumes.  However, I do consider myself both a writer and an artist and in a alternative life could have well seen myself working at a magazine.  So an attack on a magazine's offices, because of its output, does give me cause to think.  Now, I do think that journalists have become rather too precious as regards their importance (there was a lot of self-righteous nonsense around the UK phone hacking scandals last year) and the job itself has been demeaned by the rise of social media and internet  news "writers" but they do have a key role in speaking out and challenging views in any society

One of my friends on the Oxford Union magazine, Phil Geddes, did go on to be a journalist and was killed by the IRA bomb outside Harrods in 1983.  He had heard about the alert and went to the scene to investigate (which is one of the reasons I tend to lose my cool over people who wargame Ireland 1916 or any form of terrorist game).  

My sister worked, for many years, as an anti-terrorism expert (she is the person responsible for the ban on litter bins in British railway and underground stations for so many years) for a secretive government organisation.  She spent two years at British Army HQ in Northern Ireland and travelled all over the world advising other organisations like the FBI, the Sri Lankan and Greek governments on counter-terrorism.  She left the service before the Gulf War, so never had to deal with the threat of Islamic terrorists but I do remember her saying to me that you could deal with Irish terrorism (from both sides) to a large extent because the perpetrators had some rules and basically thought like us.  This, she said, is not the case with Islamic terrorists.  You can never beat them, just try to stop as many attacks as you can, principally because they don't care if they die.  This is, of course, a source of frustration for those who believe that some military war on terror will work.  It won't.  Basically, we're stuck with this situation.  It would be nice if there was a simple solution but there isn't and movements like this will always attract the psychotic, disadvantaged and vengeful.

All we can do is try to contain it and that will involve some loss of freedoms which, no doubt, the same freedom of speech proponents outraged at this attack will decry.  Personally, I don't object to identity cards or my location or emails being monitored.  A few years ago I was speaking to the government of a Canadian city about the London Oystercard, which they were interested in.  They were horrified when I told them that one of the key requirements of the project was to provide location details of each card holder to the authorities.  Equally, they would not support the congestion zone system we have as it is based on licence plate recognition, However, we are in a war and in a war you have to give up these freedoms.  

The west is under attack from groups of people (not all Muslims but some Muslims) who follow a completely different ethical path from most of us.  Now, principally, one of the key questions is to what extent is this really a religious war or is religion being used as a front for those with other agenda?  There were elements of this in Northern Ireland. The American security forces spend a lot of time using Muslim religious leaders to explain to terrorists how what they are doing does not accord with the teaching of Islam but that, of course, assumes the proponents really are genuinely religious.

There are only two routes we can go: carry on as we are and suffer increasing numbers of attacks or fight back in such a way that we descend to the same level as our attackers (which may be exactly what they want, as it increases recruitment).  I suspect the latter is not likely given the recent outrage here over supposed torture being used on terror suspects in Gauntanamo Bay.  Our own civilised nature will prevent us from taking the sort of extreme measures needed.  

The best way to fight an evil idea is to not be frightened by it.  After all, Islamic militants in Syria use terror to convert "infidels" which is not a very good advertisement for the validity of their belief system.  I did consider not mentioning this issue today as someone I was speaking to said your blog, at least, could become a target for Islamic militant hackers.  While I think this is very unlikely indeed that just confirmed that I should, indeed, say something.  As Bob Cordery pointed out, in his far more eloquent post, it is those who do not speak out who contribute to the success of terror.


  1. Very well said, Legatus, very well said indeed....

    Je suis Charlie

  2. Legatus Hedlius,

    A very interesting and thought provoking blog entry.

    The right to freedom has to be paid for, and part of that cost might be giving up some of our freedom. In a perfect world, that would not be necessary ... but this is not a perfect world.

    Every time I leave my home, I enter a surveilled environment. I am aware of it, but do not feel threatened by it BECAUSE I HAVE NOTHING THAT I DO THAT I WANT TO HIDE. Likewise my emails, text messages, blog entries, comments don't contain anything that I want or need to conceal from other people. If my Freedom Pass records where and when I have travelled, so what? If my car passes through the Dartford Crossing and that fact is recorded, what should concern me about that?

    I know that some people have a genuine fear that we are beginning to live in an Orwellian society ... and if the impact of PC on the way we speak and write is anything to go by, we do! (Compare the theory behind Newspeak with arguments put forward in favour of the use of PC language; they are surprisingly similar.) The big difference is that in Big Brother's world the surveillance was in place to control the general population whereas in UK in the 21st century it is there to help to protect the people.

    Nous sommes tous Charlie.

    All the best,


  3. The world seems to be going to hell in a hand cart... which was another reason I loved to end of it, as far from Europe as possible... is WWIII just around the corner? If so it wont be Capitialism vs Communism, it will be a return to wars of the crusades, it seems, as its the only solution to current problem would to be conquer the MiddleEast and remove Muslims from it... but thats not really fair on 99% Muslims who are normal peace loving folk...

    Dealing with these threats is never ending, even if you cut the head off the snake another will pop up somewhere...

    There will be no peace, not as long as we have religeon, of any type in the world...

    Even giving up our freedoms, and being monitored to the 'nth degree' will not stop a determined suicide attacker doing what they wish somewhere...

    So the trick to individual survival seems to be , dont be anywhere near it when it happens... so avoid population centres etc...

    ...end of rambling... back to the paint brushes... oh, and, Je Suis Charlie, too!

  4. Not sure I share your view of the "War on Terror" and this whole "Recruiting Sergeant" myth. There's never going to be a shortage of psychopathic Muslims (if all us infidels did the decent thing and ceased to exist, they'd quite happily fight amongst themselves until the end of time). I find in a degree of comfort in knowing that any of these pondlife who aspire to greatest in their own particular cesspool have a niggling thought in the back of the mind (sic) about the Hellfire coming in through the front room window or the big hairy-arsed SEAL and his mates bringing in the bedtime cocoa.

    1. Sadly, I do not think that they worry about this in the way we would, They WANT to die a martyr's death.

  5. Great post and as mentioned this is a direct attack on all the things we hold dear in the 'free west'.

    Like many of the comments posted I have no worries about being watched...after all I have nothing to hide.

    What is the answer...? Unfortunately my personal view is unprintable but I will say that I do think deterrence, education and finance all play their parts.

  6. Excellent post Legatus, thought provoking as always. How do you defeat an enemy that often embraces death? The events in France highlight the freedoms of speech we enjoy in the western democracies, which are often take for granted, but which have been paid for with the blood of countless men and women willing to take a stand and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice.

    Je suis Charlie.

  7. To be honest nearly all you wrote is very far from reality, for a start when Spain, Italy and Ireland were leaving bombs for all and sundry did we call it catholic bombing ? so even a slight reference to islam and terrorists. Then who are the real terrorists?Google Terrorism from the west against Muslims and I think you will agree if you are logical that it is not them who are the real terrorists then Google John Pilger. Rubbish post to be honest

    1. I really can't understand your point, if there is one. Are you saying that we are the cause of the terrorism because we attacked Iraq (Pilger's point and I agree with a lot of what he said) and provoked Muslims? What is your point about religion and the Catholics? I did not say anything negative about Islam just that some Muslims who are terrorists and who may be using religion as an excuse are attacking our Western system (which they are). How is it ar from reality? Actually in the UK when being attacked by the IRA many here did call it attacks by Catholics (wrongly) (when in fact many in the IRA were far left anarchists). Much of the European terrorism you cite was largely political (or at least that was the excuse) whereas these attacks seem to be driven by a perverted religious cause: they don't want anything, they just want to destroy and spread fear - which is why it is so dangerous as you have no point of negotiation (unlike the situation in Northern Ireland).

      People need to have different opinions but it is always helpful if they can express what those opinions are (and I appreciate you are writing in a foreign language) are rather than saying what I am writing is "rubbish", I have no clue as to what part or parts of my comments you disagree with unless it is some perceived anti-Muslin stance, which isn't actually there at all.