Yesterday’s terrorist attack murdered a large part of one of the country’s most famous editorial teams – including five of the most creative artists and cartoonists involved in the satirical newspaper, an economist who has often his critical views represented very efficiently in the media, as well as two police officers protecting the editorial team on a permanent basis. This political murder (as JL Mélenchon put it) has hit the heart of French democracy. Some speak of a French “September 11”. However, it was with murderous precision that the critical public opinion, the intellectual and artistic freedom, and a whole tradition that influenced generations (for instance, one of the cartoonists had ran for years a very popular program for children on television) were targeted. Charlie Hebdo has long been threatened, especially since the publication of the Muhammad cartoons.
French society as a whole is deeply shaken. This highly symbolic murder and terrorist attack has hit it in its entirety. It is the severest attack since the Algerian war – that is, since 50 years. It has harmed the very principles of the republic and democracy. Virtually all political forces are calling for national unity against barbarism. Hollande has decreed a national day of morning, of which there have been only four in the 5th republic. All the components of the Left are calling for marches on Sunday. The challenge French society is confronted with is to prevent further division and hatred, as well as to oppose racisms and islamophobia. Only Le Pen provokes, by intentionally placing emphasis on the “Islamist” character of the attack, and not on terror and barbarism. French society reacted splendidly in a radically different manner yesterday evening. No hate and racism came to the fore. On the contrary, in many cities across the country, more than 100 000 people gathered spontaneously on squares to collectively say: no to barbarism; we are not afraid; we defend together, wherever we come from, the plurality of opinions, creativity, and democracy in our country.