Gwynne Dyer: Pope Francis, Charlie Hebdo, and western media

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      A little bit of Latin always raises the tone of an article, so here (with thanks to the classical correspondent of the Observer) is a sentence that may prove useful to Pope Francis: “agite tentaque si fortiores vos putatis. It means “come on then, if you think you’re hard enough.

      It’s the manly thing to say if you have just punched somebody, and he looks like he’s thinking of hitting you back. Francis has recently expressed the view that “if anyone says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. So he should be ready for some retaliation, and saying that in Latin might deter the victim from hitting the Supreme Pontiff back.

      In real life, of course, the Swiss Guard would give the poor sucker a good kicking for attacking the Pope’s knuckles with his face, and then drag him off to jail. But Francis was not really talking about himself. He was just saying that the satirists of Charlie Hebdo who were massacred in Paris last week had it coming.

      “It’s normal,” Francis explained. “You cannot provoke, you cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” He was defending the right of believers of any faith to be exempt from harsh criticism, caricature, and indeed any comment that hurts their feelings—and also their right to use violence against those who transgress.

      I’m exaggerating, of course. Francis didn’t say that he would shoot the person who insulted his mother, or blow him up. Just punch him, that’s all. (I’m assuming it’s a “him”, since I’m sure the Pope would not punch a woman.) But does he think that violence is justified in defence of the honour of your mother, or your religion? Yes he does. Or if not actually justified, at least quite understandable.

      At this point in the discussion, western journalists normally wander off into an extended debate in which some defend freedom of speech at any cost and others insist that you must refrain from mocking other people’s religious views, either because you shouldn’t hurt their feelings or just because you’re afraid they’ll kill you.

      It’s a great opportunity to pontificate about weighty philosophical matters (even the Pontiff himself could not resist it), but it has almost nothing to do with the case at hand: the terrorist attacks in Paris and the various western responses to them. Or do you really think that the attacks would stop if everybody promised to say only nice things about Islam?

      It is unlikely that Said and Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly were regular readers of Charlie Hebdo. The target was picked for them either directly by some operational controller in al-Qaeda, ISIS, or some other Islamist jihadi groupor, if they were acting independently, then indirectly by the editor of some Islamist website who was highlighting that magazine as particularly insulting to Islam.

      The fanatics who run the extremist networks and websites need insults to Islam, threats to Islam, attacks on Islam in order to recruit and motivate the impressionable young men and women who will do the actual killing and dying for them. If Charlie Hebdo didn’t exist, they’d have found something else. It probably wouldn’t have been quite as crassly insulting as Charlie, but it would have served the same purpose.

      As a popular slogan on the extremist websites has it, “media is half of jihad. High-profile targets that will upset the western public are what they want, and nothing gets the western media’s attention like an attack on the media.

      For most of a week, that one event in Paris17 people killed by three young fools with gunsvirtually monopolized international news coverage in the European and North American media. But what was so surprising about it? That you can get Kalashnikovs in Paris? That there are quite a few foolish, lost young Muslim men in Paris? That some of them will be seduced by Islamist propaganda?

      This was a small skirmish in a long...I was going to say a long “war”, but actually the strategic objective of France and all the other western target nations should be to prevent it from turning into a real war. It’s the extremists who want a war in which the West “attacks Islam”, because that is the best and probably the only route that might bring them to power in the Muslim world.

      Unfortunately, western media cannot resist turning stories like the Paris killings into a media circus. To make matters worse, western leaders cannot resist the temptation to do little pantomimes of defiance for the cameras. “We’re not on our knees. We’re standing tall. In fact, look: we’re bravely walking down the streets together.” As if the terrorists wanted them on their knees.

      And so you get the ridiculous demonstration of “solidarity” among 40 world leaders that led the march in Paris. At least Barack Obama had the good sense to dodge that event, although he was sharply criticised for it by all the useful idiots at home who think a war with Islam is just what the West needs.

      Come to think of it, Pope Francis didn’t go to Paris either. Maybe there’s hope for him yet.



      I Chandler

      Jan 20, 2015 at 12:21pm

      Dyer:"The fanatics who run the extremist networks and websites "

      We must allow the NSA to protect us from the monsters:

      Dyer: "freedom of speech...Unfortunately, western media cannot resist turning stories like the Paris killings into a circus"

      Circus? The western media clowns didn't invite 40 world leaders to Paris:
      Dyer:" the ridiculous demonstration of “solidarity” among 40 world leaders in the march in Paris."

      The clown's (Hollande) approval rate doubled in wake of Paris terror attacks. On 12 January the French Parliament approved with almost unanimity – with one abstention only – the budget for France’s continuous and enlarged involvement in the new war on Iraq. There usually is some “crisis” in which the “monster” is threatening “innocent life” and triggering a “responsibility to protect” with the catchy acronym, R2P.

      Glenn Greenwald writes that the vast bulk of the stirring “free speech” tributes over the last week have been little more than an attempt to protect and venerate speech that degrades disfavored groups while rendering off-limits speech that does the same to favored groups:
      "Forty-eight hours after hosting a massive march under the banner of free expression, France opened a criminal investigation of a controversial French comedian for a Facebook post he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack."

      These leaders are not committed to press freedom:

      Dyer: "It is unlikely that Said and Cherif Kouach were regular readers of Charlie"

      "The Kouachi brothers were identified only by a conveniently lost ID in the get-away car, reminiscent of the intact passport found in the rubble of the twin towers" The “Shock Doctrine” par Excellence (By Peter Koenig) describes a false flag GLADIO( ) operation:

      "Commissioner Helric Fredou , the number Two Police Officer in Limoges ( and the leading the police investigation into the Charlie attack) committed suicide on Wednesday night at the police station."


      Jan 20, 2015 at 2:05pm

      Ok,I give up. It appears that about 85% of Gwynne Dyer readers prefer his establishment friendly views,or "conventional wisdom" to contradictory or alternative opinions. That's in accordance with the 70% of Canadians who accept the results of the 9/11 commission. My point is Gwynne is a paid pundit so his views are corporate and establishment friendly on the whole.[see below]

      "Dyer writes a column on international affairs which is published in over 175 papers [Main Stream Media] in at least 45 countries.[WIKI] His main presentations [talks] are for corporate, governmental and financial clients;recent clients include Canaccord Genuity, the Bank of Montreal, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development of the Government of Alberta, and the Association of Canadian Pension Management".He is a member of the Establishment, OC, [Order of Canada 2010]From his Website
      OK, this time he was mocking the Pope, Jihadists, Hypocritical politicians and excessive media hype, etc, so" Maybe there’s hope for him yet".

      SPY vs SPY

      Jan 20, 2015 at 2:42pm

      OK - Folks which Nation posses the greatest threat to Progressive Social Attitudes

      and Equality for women and Children??

      If you guessed Saudi Arabia - Your Right!!

      The Saudi Government and Individual Saudi's Finance the current Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

      In Many Islamist Schools (Madrases) You study the Koran - and NOTHING ELSE!

      All Religions must progress past their Ancient / Orthodox / Medieval / Racist Ideas and JUST FUCKING GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      Judy Cross

      Jan 20, 2015 at 9:48pm

      So much evidence points to a false flag operation, especially 40+ world leaders dropping everything for a staged photo-op.

      Jonathan Cressman

      Jan 21, 2015 at 7:43am


      That's not what the pope said. He said if his friend, who was standing beside him, insulted his mother he would punch his friend and then gave a joking swing of his fist.

      My interpretation of the popes comment was that if you insult someone else, their religion, their mother, their country whatever, you should expect them to get upset. He didn't say you can't insult religion, he didn't justify the response to the insult. He just said that if you do go around insulting people you should expect a response.


      Jan 21, 2015 at 11:32am

      "contradictory or alternative opinions"

      Just because they are contradictory or alternative doesn't make the right.


      Jan 22, 2015 at 8:42am

      And now I have more Latin to memorize. I was mighty grateful when the CC abandoned the Latin Mass (pretty much and Mel Gibson notwithstanding). Mea Culpa and all that.

      I was mightily impressed with all the Canadian newspapers that refused to run the cartoons. Toronto Star among them, CBC as well. Cooler heads. I'd dithered but then came to the conclusion that Charlie and the French majority were sort of bullies picking on a minority. And I realized, not for the first time, how many people get killed in car accidents in an average day in France? Where's the outrage? The arms-linked march in Paris with all the world leaders. Ban the car and save thousands of lives a year, many of them perfectly innocent pedestrians and bicyclists. The "terrorist" threat is no more nor less than death by other means. They've been all through this before in the 70's and 80's, "The Jackal" who wound up in the Middle East.


      Jan 27, 2015 at 10:46pm

      The pope is lucky - that the parents of the children who were assaulted by the pope's employees while under their care do not have his perspective towards insults or offense. Otherwise there would have been more than a few dead child-molesting priests.

      For the Charlie Hebdo victims, their murder is not comparable to any number of accidental deaths. Those who suborn those and other similar murders need to be caught and dealt with. In the pope's case, assault is still assault and the perpetrators desperately need to see the business end of the inside of a secular courtroom. In his role as theological law enforcer he seems to be asleep at the switch.