• Charlie Hebdo -- why?


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    This is John Oliver's explanation, or lack of explanation, for the Paris tragedy [link to podcast].  I always have to admire John's command of the English language.


    Killing a bunch of people because you're offended by a joke is a bombastically boneheaded act of barbarism.  To commit murder over a cartoon is almost cartoonishly stupid.  The point is, pissing people off and entertaining them has pretty much been Charlie Hebdo's raison d'ĂȘtre (or whatever the French for raison d'ĂȘtre is).

    One of the biggest questions that people have tried to wrap their arms around is WHY -- why would people do this, why would they kill innocent people over a cartoon?  To which the answer is because they're assholes.  And that's basically it.  It's easy to over-complicate the response to that question, and in doing so, people would add their own beliefs or prejudices to the motivations.  But if you really boil it down, "they're assholes" really gets to the nub of the question you're trying to ask.  Because it's a fair rule to say that if you kill someone for making a joke, you're an asshole, no matter what that joke was, or whether you liked it, or whether that joke was particularly good or not.  You're committing the act of an asshole for reasons entirely consistent with assholery.

    That is not to say that you can't be offended by things.  I am sure that many of the things that Charlie Hebdo published offended a lot of people.  It's okay to be offended by things, in fact, it's absolutely inevitable you'll be offended by things in this world.  This is an offensive planet.

    Feelings get hurt.  That's the inherent design flaw with feelings.  They make you feel things.  What you can't do is kill people just because you're offended by things.  That makes you a sociopath.  That makes you Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.  And no one wants to be Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

    It's also a problem for the attackers in general on a practical scale, this level of irritation about something so small.  Because if you are that angered by a cartoon, you must be literally angered all the time.  Because you don't get to be murderously angered by a cartoon and then not be angered over, let's say, your take-away pizza being cold.  If you're going to set the bar for killing that low, you have to accept the irritation of everything that's above that bar.  If you're a terrorist who is willing to kill someone for a joke, then when a train is cancelled and someone starts screaming in frustration, you do not get to say, "ah come on, mate, calm down, it's just a train. Let's try and get this in perspective, shall we?"

    No.  You have to be ontologically consistent, and you have to kill every train driver who has ever been late to anything. That's just a fact.