A Cruel French Lesson, by Egor Kholmogorov appeared in the November 14 issue of Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the leading Russian dailies. It outlines what is pretty much the standard right-wing conservative Russian position on the #ParisAttacks.
Some context: After the terrorist strikes, many outspoken Russian liberals rushed to wrap their digital selves in the French flag; a status signalling action made easy by Facebook’s provision of a French flag avatar coloration app (one could cynically add: To mark the most significant event in the world since the US legalization of gay marrage). This is in stark contrast to the relative silence over the Russian victims of the terrorist downing of the aircraft over the Sinai – and for that matter, the silence in regards to Lebanon, and for that matter, for Syria pretty much nonstop since 2011. (The Egyptians at least were commendably consistent, bathring the Pyramids in the flags of all four of the aforementioned nations).
To be sure, many Russians who adopted the French flag did so on the fly, with no intentions of making any overtly political point. However, some of the more ideologically pro-Western Russians were more to the point in justifying increased attention for French versus Russian victims of jihadi terrorism. For instance, the Russian liberal “hipster” publication GQ was very explicit in defending its decision to feature the Paris Attacks over KGL9268 on the grounds that they idenfied with the City of Lights as a “permanent festival,” whereas for them their own homeland was a permanent “territory of woe” and thus unworthy of any particular attention (this binary characterization might seem rather optimistic to anyone actually familiar with the Parisian banlieues). An English language illustration of this phenomenon is this Foreign Policy piece by Julia Ioffe, which bizarrely justifies the discrepancy in terms of the better performance of French special forces at Bataclan relative to Nord-Ost (no mention being made of the fact that the Chechen terrorists in 2002 were ten times as numerous and far better equipped).
Bearing this in mind, the patriotic and conservative types – seeing such widespread attitudes in the Russian media as an implicit endorsement of the theme that Westerners are first-rate peoples and the center of civilization, as opposed to disposable Russians in peripheral Eurasia – have not been overly concerned with sensitivity right now, which is clearly expressed in Kholmogorov’s article. He is not writing for Westerners, but for Russians on his side of the domestic culture war.
To be sure, translation ≠ endorsement, and there are several points one can take issue with him on. There is too much butthurt over Charlie Hebdo, which – contrary to its high media profile – is in reality a very low circulation publication in France itself. Furthermore, the French state obviously has no obligation to apologize for it. Tying the emergence of ISIS to France’s Levantine policies between the wars is far too radical a causal stretch and besides the point in relations to current French policies anyway. Perhaps most critically of all, the Russian obsession with the West – most prominent amongst the Westernists, of course, but still making itself felt, if in an inverted form, amongst nationalists like Kholmogorov – is perhaps unseemly and even maladaptive, since ironically one could say that this merely reflects and confirms Russia’s status as a peripheral country.
Nonetheless, I believe the vast majority of the points Kholmogorov makes are fair and to the point, and moreover the fact that something so “politically incorrect” can be published in a major Russian daily – can one imagine anything similar in The New York Times? Or even The Daily Mail? – testifies to the fact that Putin’s Russia, ethnically blank slatist as it might formally be, is nonetheless as good ally as any to those Europeans who still support European civilization and self-determination.
A Cruel French Lesson
by Egor Kholmogorov
The hideous acts of terrorism in France strongly resemble a fast-forward video of the decades long terrorist war that has been waged against Russia. The massacre at the Bataclan theater is basically a French version of Nord-Ost…
So we in Russia understand what is now happening with the French like few others.
But this tragedy occured at a rather inconvenient time in relations between the two countries. It came on the heels of a French magazine’s vulgar lampooning of the victims of the terrorist attack on our aircraft over the Sinai. I have not seen a single public apology from the French. Our officials are the only people who have tried reassuring us that real French people are ashamed about this… Thus, all expressions of sympathy, alas, have to begin with a caveat: “Regardless of your mockery of the terrorist attack against us, we do really feel for you.”
We feel for you because we ourselves have felt such tragedies on our shoulders. We sympathize, and we sympathize sincerely.
But approaching this with a cool head, one can’t deny that this case is also a matter of France paying the bills, and for multiple accounts at once.
The terrorists shouted, “This is for Syria!” And this is, at some level, “For Syria” – not in the sense that French aviation is bombing ISIS, but in that when France after the First World War received a mandate to govern Syria, it first divided that territory into five states along confessional lines: Christian, Alawite, Sunni, Druze, and Armenian. Then it took them and used them to glue together two states – Syria and Lebanon, thus laying the foundations for civil war in both countries. Had they either kept Syria unified, or properly divided, there would have been no ISIS.
Two years ago, President Hollande rattled his sabre harder than anyone else in pushing for an American intervention in Syria [against Assad], and was only narrowly stopped at the last moment by Vladimir Putin.
It was Hollande and his predecessor Sarkozy who supported the overthrow of Gaddafi, who welcomed the Islamic Revolution in Egypt, who seeded the flames of war in Syria and in so doing became directly responsible for the creation of ISIS, Al-Nusra, and similar demons, for the spread of their activities to France and all Europe, and for the overwhelming waves of refugees.
When in January murderers took care of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, instead of a sane adjustment to security and migration policy, Hollande was only interested in preventing Marine Le Pen from getting any political kudos and kickstarted the hysterical tolerance campaign “Je suis Charlie.”
Moreover, the objects of sympathy should not have been a bunch of talentless hacks, but those French citizens who were in danger of becoming victims of terrorism in the future!
Migration policy should have been tightened, and border controls strengthened. A campaign should have begun to fight against terrorist organizations globally and against the Islamist underground in France itself.
Instead of this, the orgy of “tolerance” continued, as Hollande occupied himself with weightier matters, such as saving the Kievan junta and clamping down on Mistral sales. France became a best friend of Qatar – one of the main sponsors of radical terrorism, including ISIS.
And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you…
The most horrifying fact of this strategy is that the killers in the Bataclan spoke good French with no accent. This means that they are not recent immigrants, recently arrived from the Middle East. These are French high school graduates, perhaps – French citizens, to whom they tried to teach the lessons of tolerance.
There is a hard-hitting film from 2008 starring Isabelle Adjani called La Journée de la Jupe. A female teacher in an immigrant quadrant of Paris, despairing of the thuggery and unwillingness to learn of her students, and tired of their barbaric morals, finds a gun in the possession of one of them. She grabs the gun and proceeds to take the class hostage, and force the impudent rascals to study the biography of Molière and respect women at gunpoint. The police and bureaucrats dance about in the background, convinced that the “intolerant” teacher is the main threat. Special forces prepare to storm the classroom. But in the end, the gun ends up in the hands of one of the pupils, and there begins a bloody massacre. This is a very enlightenening film that everyone should watch today.
So it is impossible to say that the French themselves are unaware of what is happening with them. And it is no accident that the Front National of Marine Le Pen is France’s leading party. But the political system there has been specially arranged in such a way that even with a plurality of the votes, the National Front still get the smallest amount of seats in Parliament. This means that the situation will only change when the Front National starts getting more than 50% of the total votes.
Dictatorships can always be excused away by the fact that the incompetence of the man in power is paid for by the sufferings of people who never elected him. But France is a democratic country. It has political leaders who were ready to rearrange politics in a way that could avert tragedy. They could have voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 and 2007, and for Marine Le Pen in 2012. They not only could have, but should have, voted for Marine in 2012. But instead, the French elected Hollande and his party of tolerant hypocrites.
Today has revealed the frightful cost of that decision. The streets of Paris have been stained with blood, as mobs of fightened and bewildered people rampaged through the city.
But will even this shock change anything? If, regardless of the newly introduced State of Emergency, the regional elections of December 6th go ahead – will the French finally be ready to put a stop to all this, or will they continue to vote for freedom for terrorists, and equality and brotherhood with bandits?
I am afraid that the answer to this horror will be a continuation of the same old, same old. Western propaganda has already adapted an essentially totalitarian tenor: “We will rally all the more closely around the values of multiculturalism, we will not allow any expressions of extremism, this is all Assad’s fault, if only he had stepped down – none of this would have happened…”
Unfortunately, it has become clear that what we are seeing is a live translation of the fall of the Roman Empire under the onslaught of the barbarians. The same stubborn refusal to understand what is going on, the same unpreparedness to take serious decisions, the same vacillation and buffoonery in the moment of mortal danger. It would be great if wonderful France were to finally find its Jeanne D’Arc.
But that is hard to believe.
Therefore, Russia’s main task is to learn its lesson – and to defend itself. To defend its territory. Its people. Its aircraft.
To support its allies. To remove the contagion of terrorism from the Middle East and everywhere else. To be prepared to settle accounts not just with its perpetrators, but also its sponsors.
And to avoid hoping that either the French state or Europe will learn any lessons from this. That they will change their politics, join us in fighting our common enemy, or stop behaving like an elephant in a china shop in the East. To plan our moves on such hopes would be nothing more than self-deceit.
But with the French, we sympathize. Stay strong!