First they came for the cartoonists. And some people wrote ugly victim-blaming thinkpieces in response, preferring to denounce the victims than criticise the ideology of the murderers.
Then they came for the rock fans.
Like so many others on Friday night, I was at a gig. At the time the terrible events in Paris were happening, Mostly Autumn were playing at The Grand Opera House in York. In a dark coincidence they were performing the album “Dressed in Voices” in full, a concept album told from the point of view of a victim of a senseless massacre.
After the gig I spent an enjoyable couple of hours in a pub with several members of the band. Someone did mention that there had been some kind of terrorist attack at a gig in France, but details were still sketchy. It was only when I got back to my B&B and checked the news websites that the full scale of the tragic events in Paris became apparent. As someone who goes a great many gigs, that struck very close to home.
In a sense it was like an attack on a place of worship. It’s what you expect from a cult who regularly attacks mosques that belong to Islamic traditions other than their own during Friday morning prayers.
Terrible events like this bring out the worse in some people and the best in others. The usual attention-seeking blowhards are spouting predictably offensive things; I really do not want to hear what racists, Christian fundamentalists, militant atheists or the US gun lobby have to say and wish others would stop signal-boosting their garbage. The same goes for anyone who’s first instinct is to pin all of the blame on anyone else but the terrorists and their direct supporters. There’s plenty of other blame to go around from the neocons’ ill-conceived and incompetently executed wars to the postmodern left’s unholy alliance with radical Islamism. But it was neither neocons nor postmodernist academics who pulled the triggers on Friday night.
Life has to go on. If Europe becomes a meaner, more xenophobic and more authoritarian place, it will let terror have what it wants. There is great danger that bad actors such as the far right and the security-industrial complex will try to exploit this tragedy, but we should resist them. We must not give in to fear. But we also need to be able to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions about what sort of society we want to be, and exactly what we are prepared to do in order to protect it.
I haven’t enabled comments on this post, because I don’t have the emotional energy to deal with the drive-by trolls any post on this subject is likely to attract.