Did Terrorists Just Elect Le Pen? Ctd

Philip Gourevitch scrutinizes how the French right-wing leader has played her cards over the past week:

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Wednesday, as traffic surged on her Facebook page and she picked up thousands of new followers, she did nothing special to insert herself into the story or to exploit the fears that the Front has long fed on. She reiterated her longstanding call for France to withdraw, unilaterally and at once, from the Schengen Agreement, which allows for open borders within the extended European community, but that was hardly newsworthy. Rather, Le Pen appeared to adopt the time-tested opposition strategy of waiting for the political establishment to make a misstep that would turn attention her way—and she did not have to wait long. Within hours of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the ruling Socialists and a coalition of allied parties of the left announced plans for a massive solidarity rally on Sunday—a silent march through the heart of Paris in the cause of “national unity”—without extending an invitation to the National Front.

The exclusion of the Front was great news for Le Pen. Nobody believed that she would have wanted to go and be associated with the political mainstream, but, by failing to invite her, the Socialists had given her a cudgel.

Comparing Le Pen to her father, Jean-Marie, and other intellectual forebears of the French right, John Gaffney finds her wanting as a standard bearer:

Marine is good on TV, she’s a reasonable debater, and she seems to have chosen to walk away from lots of the right’s traditions and manners. But the detox also involves – apart from all the other things it involves – losing one’s intellectual tradition. Does this have advantages – for her and/or for those who oppose the FN?

Marine Le Pen is ‘ordinary’, in fact, very and deliberately ordinary. She is, in the true tradition of the far right, a very forceful personality. But she’s a particular forceful, and a particular ordinary. She’s a twice divorced mum who lives with her partner and their respective kids. That is a far cry from far right values, in itself. And the fact that it is a woman leading this movement is fascinating, a movement whose philosophy and populism loves the leader, but never imagined it might be a female leader. But she is not like Joan of Arc, the FN’s female heroine. She has no visions. No grace inhabits her; she is more like a bossy and assertive middle manager at Asda.

She certainly doesn’t look as if – unlike her father – she has read Barrès or Voyage au bout de la nuit…. as have all French politicians and intellectuals. One gets the impression that not only has she not read them, she doesn’t give a toss either.

Meanwhile, Martin Robbins demolishes Le Pen’s call for France to bring back the death penalty in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

What, exactly, are executions supposed to achieve? You can’t execute a suicide bomber. Death isn’t a big problem for the kind of fanatics willing to die for a cause. Even if you just look at ordinary crime, there’s no real reason to think that execution would deter people. As Amnesty put it, “The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime.” They note that murder rates are considerably higher in those American states that still have the death penalty.

David Corn piles on:

The goal of martyrdom has motivated numerous jihadists to conduct murderous action. Suicide bombers, the 9/11 plotters, and others seek to die in pursuit of their cause and believe that there will be a reward on the other side. So the best punishment, when such criminals are apprehended, would be to deny them martyrdom and force them to wait decades, maybe half a century, to meet their violence-supporting maker—preferably in a small, isolated cell for all that time. Recruiters of jihadist killers might have a tougher time selling a decades-long stint in prison than a glorious exit in a blaze of gunfire or a high-profile state execution that would receive attention around the world.

Did Terrorists Just Elect Le Pen?

James McAuley worries that the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo will empower France’s xenophobic far-right:

An additional dimension to this tragedy is that it plays directly into the hands of those public figures and politicians who would like to see France Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 12.45.23 PMregress into an organic national community of blood ties, rather than of citizens. The Islamic extremists who executed the attack on Charlie Hebdo may have murdered journalists and artists, but surely their crime is also against other Muslims in France, who are now likely to be viewed as enemy aliens hostile to the essence of the Republic itself, regardless of their own beliefs. Michel Houellebecq, for instance, who often paints Muslims as a dangerous fifth column, might now perhaps be vindicated in the eyes of unreflective readers; and, in the words of one Lebanese blogger, today might very well be the day that Marine Le Pen became President of France. Le Pen, by the way, has compared the Muslim presence in France to the German occupation of the 1940s. After today, we can only hope that others will not start doing the same.

Le Pen was quick to express her own outrage, calling for France to bring back the death penalty and demagoguing against “Islamists who have declared war on France”. It’s a bit rich, given that Le Pen herself has been ridiculed in Charlie more than the Prophet Muhammad and once sued the magazine for its depiction of her (the cover on the right is one of its kinder representations of the far-right leader). And as Juan Cole astutely observed, inflaming anti-Muslim sentiment is a feature, not a bug, of Islamist terrorism. Kaj Leers reinforces that point today:

The danger now is that populists will hijack the debate and push the press into an anti-Islam frenzy. As this was being written, nationalist organizations and proponents of identity wars, such as supporters of the Pegida movement in Germany, were already using the Charlie Hebdo massacre as justification for their anti-Islam stance. This is precisely what religious fundamentalists seek:

to divide the world neatly into pro- and anti-Islam parts, leaving no distinction between mainstream Muslims and the fundamentalist fringe. In reality, no group has suffered more from violence by Islamist extremists over the past decades than Muslims themselves. At around the same time the hitmen exited Charlie Hebdo headquarters, where they killed 12 people, a bomb attack in Yemen killed 37 people and injured scores more. The last thing media should do now is give the terrorists the divided world they seek.

And it’s not just Le Pen; Bershidsky discovers that the attack is driving more Frenchmen into the arms of right-wing nationalist and anti-immigrant groups:

After the Paris attack, the number of people who “liked” the Facebook page of the German anti-immigrant group Pegida, which holds big and ever-growing weekly demonstrations in Dresden, moustachejumped by about 7,500 to 120,500. … After the killings, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right Front National, made a politically correct speech condemning Islamic fundamentalism, but one of her top lieutenants, Wallerand de Saint-Just, explained in an interview before she spoke that the problem was Islam, which “has a tendency to create fanatics more than any other religion,” and the French nationality of the suspected terrorists, which makes it impossible to deport them.

Wednesday’s act of terrorism is clearly encouraging anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant forces. They also don “Je suis Charlie” buttons, even though Charlie Hebdo was a leftist publication that made fun of them more often than it went after Muhammad.

But Kevin Lees sounds a more hopeful note, stressing that France hasn’t been instantly engulfed in anti-Muslim hysteria:

Instead of instinctively falling into some cartoon mould of right-wing xenophobia, most of what we saw from Paris, from France and much of the rest of the world were precisely those things about which France should be proudest — the freedoms and rights that necessarily follow from the liberté, égalité and fraternité that have formed the heart of French public life since the 1789 revolution. Far from embracing knee-jerk anti-Muslim sentiment, the world watched as France, implausibly, united behind Hollande, who actually looked like a president for perhaps the first time since his election. They rallied in city after city, from Paris to Marseille and beyond, not to excoriate a religion or five million French Muslims, but to defend freedom of expression and speech. No one’s burning down banlieues tonight in France.

But there been at least three attacks on mosques throughout the country so far, so Lees may be speaking prematurely here. Aurelien Mondon pushes back on Le Pen’s “clash of civilizations” posturing:

Le Pen told us that we should not be in “denial” but should name things for what they are. It is time to talk about Islam openly, she suggested. This is, at best, out of touch with contemporary French fillettesociety. Currently, two of the best-sellers in France are filled with virulent anti-Islam rhetoric and countless vocal anti-Islam commentators are given air in the mainstream media on a daily basis. Islam is definitely not absent from the public debate.

What is absent from our mainstream media and politics is a careful analysis of what Islam is in France today. This would show once and for all that the Muslim “community” is not the monolith Le Pen would like us to believe. The terrorists who massacred 12 people on 7 January are apparently Muslim but so was the policeman who lost his life trying to stop them. Mustapha Ourrad, Charlie Hebdo’s copy-editor killed in the attack, was born in Algeria.

If yesterday’s events do catapult Le Pen into the presidency, Marian Tupy mulls over what that would mean:

While, as libertarians, we despise much of what Ms. Le Pen stands for, the two mainstream political parties in France, Mr. Sarkozy’s socialist center-right UPM and Mr. Hollande’s Socialist Party, have totally failed to address the legitimate concerns of the French citizens, chief among them the failure of multiculturalism and high unemployment. The country is ready to hand the reins of power to someone else.

Second, the euro will end its role as a global currency and remain a legal tender in something akin to Großdeutschland greater Germany, composed of Germany and her satellites, like the hapless Slovakia. … Third, on day two of a Le Pen presidency, border guards will return to the French frontiers. Of course, the end of the freedom of movement will be in full breach of all sorts of European treaties and conventions. (The British, by the way, would love to do the same, but cannot, because the British, being British, follow the rules. In contrast, the French, being French, will do what they have always done: follow their national interest.)