May 28, 2015
Paul Berman: He’s back and talking about Charlie Hebdo
He says parochialism is only part of the problem.
Read this and meet the Algerians (Muslims) who are more pro-Charlie Hebdo than dirtbag tax-sucker Michael Ondaatje.
The American writers’ protest against Charlie Hebdo has been remarkable on one additional count, and that is its dosage of personal cruelty. It was no small thing to observe a couple of survivors of the Charlie massacre make their way to New York, a mere four months after the slaughter, and be greeted with jeers and a boycott. A supremely chilly heart is needed to mount such a protest. And yet, a couple of hundred warm-hearted American writers lent their names to the chilly protest. The spectacle of their doing so was, of course, a humiliation for New York—for the New York that once upon a time underwent its own Islamist attack and received an outpouring of warmth and sympathy from French people, whose motto of the day, “Nous sommes tous américains,” was the progenitor of “Je suis Charlie.” Still, the protesters never meant to humiliate New York. Nor did they mean to display solidarity for the immigrants of France. Less than two weeks before the Charlie staffers were boycotted at the PEN Gala, Marine le Pen, the leader of the National Front in France, attended a gala of her own in New York, the Time Magazine “100 Gala,” and here would have been the moment to show a little solidarity, if anybody were inclined to do so. But it was the Charlie staffers, and not Marine le Pen, whose arrival in New York stirred a protest.
I could go through the list of famous names among the American protesters, recording the insults they have tossed at the murdered French cartoonists and their colleagues, but I do not have the heart for it. I make a prediction, though. I predict that, next year, or in five years, some other novelist or memoirist or artist somewhere in the world will have the good luck to escape an Islamist assassination attempt or massacre. And when the terrified survivor comes limping afterward into Manhattan, in search of solace and friends, that person, too, will discover that, in some of the finest of circles of literary New York, everybody hates a loser, and the protesters have gathered on the sidewalk outside the hotel, and the vilification has begun.