The January 7th massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris has sparked an outburst of critical conversation across social and other media concerning freedom of expression, the politically charged proliferation of the ‘je suis Charlie’ slogan, and the consequential upsurge of anti-Muslim sentiment. On the London Review of Books blog, Adam Shatz considers the implications of the populist Charlie slogan as a “declaration of allegiance” that counterpoises itself against those “on the other side…the Islamic enemy that threatens life in the modern, democratic West”. In The New Yorker, Teju Cole questions whether it is possible to defend racist speech without endorsing racism, arguing that it is possible to condemn the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists without condoning the ideology of their cartoons. Along similar lines Tariq Ali reflects on the contents of Charlie Hebdo itself – satire that primarily targeted Islam, and paid far less attention to Judaism and Catholicism. Also well worth a look is Joe Sacco’s take on the events – a cartoon that is itself a pastiche on satire, the medium responding to the medium, so to speak. We have put together an essential reading list of works that contribute to these current debates, including books by Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Tariq Ali, Patrick Cockburn and Gareth Peirce.
In Counterpunch, Ramzy Baroud writes in response to the right-wing newspaper The Jerusalem Post proclaiming the controversial intellectual and ‘sham philosopher’ Bernard Henry Levy the 45th “most influential Jew” in the world. Baroud, needless to say, does not have kind words to say about Lévy.
Yesterday, Tariq Ali published an op-ed denouncing possible United States military intervention in Syria. Ali accuses the United States of stretching their intelligence reports as an excuse to further stir the civil war and assist the opposition they had armed. He writes:
The Syrian regime was slowly re-establishing its control over the country against the opposition armed by the West and its tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar). This situation required correction. The opposition in this depressing civil war needed to be strengthened militarily and psychologically.
With the White House having announced that the recent chemical attacks in Syria were unequivocally the work of the Assad regime, many are anxious to see whether the Obama administration will now pursue the promised military intervention. To elaborate on his editorial piece, Tariq Ali joined Steven Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic, on Democracy Now to discuss who is to blame for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the politics of a Syrian invasion.
In a post entitled 'Liberals and Reactionaries,' Lenin's Tomb reviews Domenico Losurdo's acclaimed Liberalism: A Counter-History. Richard Seymour, author of The Liberal Defence of Murder, focusses on the relationship between property rights and liberal ideology. Seymour emphasises that, whereas Marxist thinkers generally see private property as the mainstay of liberal ideology, Losurdo seems rather to point to "the logic of exclusion"—that is to say, to those subjects who did not benefit from liberal rights and freedoms.
According to Seymour, Losurdo's approach does not question the revolutionary essence of liberalism itself—it rather underlines the distance between its ideals and practice. The socialist blogger instead stresses the interrelation between capitalism and liberalism:
Property rights have always been structured in such a way as to allow white Europeans to expropriate non-white non-Europeans, from Locke to Vattel onward. After Katrina, the property rights of working class Americans, especially African Americans, were cancelled by fiat—but this didn't disturb the basic politico-legal order of property rights. In fact, I would bet on the idea that the state authorities and companies who carried out this expropriation worked very hard on devising a legal justification for this theft. Moreover, it is the nature of capitalist property relations, to which liberalism is committed, that builds exclusions into liberalism.