Resistance Can Be Useless
In this follow-up based on some interactions with friends on Twitter, I just want to discuss some objections to the idea that the Charlie Hebdo attack was actually resistance and not some sort of false-flag. I’ll preface it by saying I don’t claim to know anything about who the attackers were or their true motives. My original post was only to discuss the justice of attacking people who act as mouthpieces for and multipliers of the murderous power that owns the world. If you’re the kind to laughingly dismiss this description of Western foreign policy as hyperbolic, I kindly ask you to consider the millions killed and impoverished in just the last few decades across the globe and what other way one might describe this. And then go away, this blog isn’t for you.
The head of Hezbollah is approvingly quoted as saying “takfiri” groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda are more damaging to Islam than some cartoons. If we have to pick between those two contextless points, he’s of course right.
Hassan Nasrallah’s life has been spent — well-spent! — fighting the empire in the specific forms of the US and “Israel,” and definitely France. But he’s always lived in a place where his beliefs are dominant and normal — the man is a regional leader. A ferociously confident man like he must be wouldn’t feel the sting of some frogs drawing idiotic caricatures of aspects of his, let’s admit it, quite moderate and liberal interpretation of his religion. But I don’t think he understands anti-Muslim bigotry in the West the way Western Muslims do. I mean what does Nasrallah know about growing up as a French Muslim? Now let’s put ourselves in the headspace of someone who grew up as a despised, conquered minority in a country they have been told since birth is not theirs, and on top of that, whose ancestral countries were and are barbarized by their own government. I think they could have a different perspective.
And though Islam is the center of the language and framing, that doesn’t mean it is the only motivating factor or even the most important. As a religion, it’s simply a vehicle through which anguish and rage are channeled. So pardon me if I find Nasrallah’s proclamations of what the Prophet literally finds offensive to be less than illuminating on the motives of the attackers.
But does this sort of retribution actually help roll back the empire? Doesn’t it really just help propagate the case the empire’s propaganda organs spew every day, that Muslims are psycho murderers and hate our freedoms? Won’t it just help the French government and its allies clamp down even more on those freedoms as well? No, yes, and yes. So?
Just because something didn’t bring down the empire doesn’t mean it didn’t scratch it, or punish some low-hanging aspect of it. The French state itself may be strengthened, but Charlie Hebdo‘s particular group of jerks sure as shit wasn’t. (Though the paper got a massive infusion of cash from Google and The Guardian trust, so that verdict is still out.) “Cui bono?” isn’t a useful question when it pertains to the biggest, richest conspiracy that has ever existed. That some act of resistance ultimately benefits power says little about that act and everything about power’s ability to juke to benefit from anything. That’s what power is. Resistance can be useless and still be considered resistance. That’s a moral designation, not a practical one we make after the dust settles.
The objections based on their seemingly extensive training are also baffling. We know that all sorts of non-state militant groups can be highly trained. That they are reveals nothing necessarily about their motives. The people most likely to successfully source the correct weapons and pull off this action are the best trained for it. It’s practically a tautology. US training of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan is well-cited as the basis for the later ability of the Taliban to rule. Or was every single thing that ever happened in that country from Charlie Wilson on also an op?
I’m on record dismissing the goofy appeal to “agency” that retroactively categorizes all revolution-tinged agitation as grassroots and legit. The Charlie attackers could be both Saudi-funded, ISIS-hardened takfiri assholes and deeply resentful victims of French racism and imperialism striking against a representation most meaningful to them — their own personal jihad, whatever. In fact, I’d think there would exist a huge overlap in these demographics. It’s not either-or; there’s an infinite range of possibilities between total control and pure free will.