WASHINGTON, January 7, 2015 — The French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” has been a fixture in French journalism and political life since 1969. It folded in 1981, but was revived ten years later.
Charlie Hebdo describes itself — in the words of Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor who was murdered today — as “left-wing pluralist.” After an early reader of the publication called it “bête et méchant” (ugly and nasty), it adopted that as its official slogan. It takes aim at all manner of public and private individuals, organizations, politicians and religious figures.
Virtually no one is safe from Charlie Hebdo’s well sharpened barbs – including the Prophet Muhammed. That is why Islamists murdered Charbonnier and 11 other people at Charlie Hebdo’s offices this morning in Paris. The BBC reports:
“Gunmen have shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in an apparent militant Islamist attack. Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.”
“Apparent militant Islamist attack.” It’s as “apparent” as the Sun rising in the East.
President Francois Hollande said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity.” Hollande at least deserves style points for acknowledging that it was a terrorist attack without hedging on the “apparentness” of it.
The Koran inspired massacre is said to be the deadliest single terrorist attack in France since 1961, when the politically motivated bombing of a commuter train killed 28.
The militants — at least two, according to witnesses — forced an employee who arrived at the magazine’s offices with her daughter to let them into the building. They entered Charlie Hebdo’s second-floor offices, called out the names of some of their victims, and gunned them down. They reportedly exchanged fire outside the building with police in the street before they made their escape in a waiting car driven by a third Jihadist.
One police Gendarme wounded in the shootout was executed by the militants with a close range shot to the head. Reportedly, they carjacked a second vehicle in their efforts to shake off authorities.
Wandrille Lanos, a TV reporter who works out of an office across the street from the Charlie Hebdo offices, was one of the first people to enter the Charlie Hebdo office after the attack. “As we progressed into the office, we saw that the number of casualties was very high. There was a lot of people dead on the floor, and there was blood everywhere,” he told the BBC.
Making the BBC’s tepid summary of the event as an “apparent militant Islamist attack” all the more deliberately naïve is the fact that witnesses said they heard the gunmen shouting, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic (“Allahu Akbar”).
Adding to impression of the BBC as spineless is that the latest tweet on Charlie Hebdo’s account prior to today’s slaughter was a cartoon of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
U.K. magazine The Guardian quotes French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, that all measures were being taken “to neutralise these three criminals.” A French prosecutor said all security agencies were participating. But authorities took no questions and gave no details of the manhunt.
The names of four of the victims from the Charlie Hebdo staff were released by French officials. They are editor and cartoonist Stéphane Charbonnier, known as “Charb”; and three other cartoonists: Cabu, Georges Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac, known as “Tignous.” Writer and economist Bernard Maris, a contributor to the magazine, was also killed in the attack.
French officials identified the three men who committed the attack as brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, both French and in their early 30s, and Hamyd Mourad, 18, whose nationality was not mentioned. As of this writing, there is no official report of their capture, and they may have found shelter among sympathetic members of the Muslim community in or around Paris. It would not be easy to track them because there are sizable swaths of the Parisian metropolis that are so radicalized that even French law enforcement has ceased policing them.
However, NBC did report that two of the men were captured, and one killed.
Charlie Hebdo is a canary in a coal mine for press freedom in France. Editor Charbonnier, 47, had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection.
The weekly has courted controversy in the past with its biting satire. It was firebombed in November 2011, a day after it ran a caricature of the prophet Muhammad.
Hugh Schofield, BBC’s correspondent in Paris, says, “Charlie Hebdo is part of a venerable tradition in French journalism going back to the scandal sheets that denounced Marie-Antoinette in the run-up to the French Revolution.”
The victims were “murdered in a cowardly manner,” President Hollande told reporters at the scene. “We are threatened because we are a country of liberty.” British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted, “The murders in Paris are sickening. We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”
The French government’s policy of multiculturalism allowed and encouraged throngs of non-assimilating followers of the religion of hate into the country, setting the stage for this and numerous recent atrocities.
The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 that sparked riots in Muslim countries, says it has stepped up security in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
There is resistance in Europe to political correctness, non-assimilation, and passive enforcement of immigration laws. Today’s mass killing will assuredly give that campaign even more momentum, both in France, elsewhere on the Continent, and in the U.K.