‘Crazy, this…’ a friend, John Forde, writes from Paris.
‘Even the Charlie Hebdo survivors’, referring to the sardonic magazine shot up by gunmen last week, ‘are a little baffled. One of the cartoonists was out the day of the shooting because he hates editorial meetings and says it sickens him. The magazine is getting loads of support after so many years of scorn.
‘Mimi [John’s wife] got up early this morning to get one after some friends who are out of town asked her to pick up one for them, too. At 7:30 a.m., she came across one press kiosk after another that was already sold out. Some had a “reservation” list for copies 50 or 100 names long. And these are stands that before the shooting sold two or three copies a week, at most.
‘When she got to second in line, it was 9:45 a.m. The late-arriving owner — this is France, after all — said that he had only 10 copies left that he could actually sell. The rest were already spoken for.
‘People who were still waiting unanimously agreed — because this is socialist France, after all — to buy only one copy each. And the guy in front of the line, possibly as a gesture of solidarity but probably with other intentions — because, after all, this is still France — insisted on paying for Mimi’s.
‘Personally, “Je suis Charlie” isn’t my thing, because as a devout nonconformist, I’m noncommittal to labels, -ists and -isms. But I am surprised how many people are suddenly willing to look the other way on other, non-Islam-focused Hebdo cartoons, like the ones that are decidedly anti-Semitic, misogynistic or assertively racist.
‘There’s a genuine appeal to the idea that when you’ve got an opinion you want to express, you should be able to express it regardless of whom it offends. But the mania around the magazine now is still hard to explain.’
We were living in Paris with our own family, John and Mimi, and Bill Bonner and his family on September 11, 2001. Those were the early days of The Markets and Money. Dial-up laptops. Long Parisian lunches at le Grizzli (after we met our deadline, of course). A collapsing tech market giving us plenty of fodder for ridicule and entertainment.
What once seemed so simple, turned dark and serious in a hurry. I wrote a passage in our book Financial Reckoning Day about how it was fun writing for a couple years leading up to 9/11. It all seemed lighthearted, and even if we were iconoclasts and agnostic about the tech bubble, our position was taken with a grain of salt.
But after 9/11, even our readers got mean and nasty. The whole tone of our business changed…and not for the better. We remember it vividly. Even having visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum over this past New Year’s Eve, it’s hard to comprehend what would drive people to murder.
‘Had terrorists taken out a group of Austrian economists’, writes a friend who shall remain nameless, ‘no one would have noticed…or cared.’
And yet ‘it took only 48 hours,’ Bill wrote the day after the attack, “and France took the bait.
‘Rather than declare the murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists a crime, which it surely was, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls turned an act of murder into an act of war, which it surely wasn’t.
‘”France Declares War,” bleated a headline in Sunday’s New York Times.
‘Now the killers are martyrs in a holy war against the West. Western nations can now roll out more armoured vehicles, more airport security, more snooping and more spending — all in the name of protecting citizens from fanatics.”
C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.
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