In Paris, terrorist gunmen massacre the staff of a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Having injured at least 11 people and murdered 12 — including cartoonists, writers, the magazine’s director Stephane Charbonnier, his bodyguard, and a policemen — the killers depart the scene shouting “Allahu akbar.”
And from the top officials of that multilateral empire known as the United Nations — headquarters of the so-called international community — comes the ritual mix of platitudes, hypocrisies and misdirection. There are, of course, the expressions of horror. This event is quite monstrous enough that these expressions may well be heartfelt, even if some of the phrases have been recycled often enough to sound like the product of a diplomatic word extruder. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pronounced himself “appalled and deeply shocked.” At UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which is headquartered in Paris, Director-General Irina Bokova — whose native Bulgaria has nominated her to succeed Ban as UN secretary-general in 2017 — said she is “horrified by this shocking attack.”
Quite. But what will the UN do? Where does the UN really stand? There was no reference in these UN press releases to any form of Islam, despite the jihadi battle cries of the terrorists, and the record of threats, as well as the 2011 fire-bombing of Charlie Hebdo’s offices, after the magazine dared to exercise its right to free speech by caricaturing, among many other religious figures, the Prophet Mohammed.
Instead, Ban defaulted to the generic UN call for global “solidarity.” He called for “we” — the world community — to “stand against forces of division and hate.” He then took it a step further, to warn immediately against any reaction by generic “extremists” — not just denouncing the attack on Charlie Hebdo (the UN has a habit of denouncing attacks, rather than denouncing the attackers) but, as Ban put it: “I am very concerned that this awful, calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts.”
UNESCO’s Bokova was similarly generic in her effusions: “The world community cannot allow extremists to silence the free flow of opinions and ideas.”
All that might sound good, conjuring visions of some amorphous and benevolent world community, its shocked and horrified members standing shoulder-to-shoulder against “extremists of all sorts.” But the vaunted world community is neither entirely benevolent, nor, I would wager, are all its members entirely shocked. The world community — if community it is — runs the gamut from free nations to terrorist sponsors to failed states. Among the members of this community, with seats and votes at the UN, are such states as Iran (world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, according to the U.S. government) and North Korea (which in November responded to criticism of its horrific human rights violations by threatening to conduct a fourth illicit nuclear test), as well as Syria (which was shocked! shocked! to be accused in 2013 of using chemical weapons against its own people). The world community is composed of highly self-interested players, and in too many cases their schemes have nothing to do with defending freedom of expression, or freedom of any other kind. To recruit the world community is to recruit everyone, and therefore, in reality, no one. It is, at best, grandstanding without substance. And when Ban warns against extremists of all sorts, who or what is he really talking about? Anyone who might take action to genuinely confront a menace that manifests itself not with UN-style abstractions, but with a bloody trail of bullets and bombs?
Similarly, what are we to make of the hypocrisy of UNESCO’s Bokova? In her declaration of horror, she declaimed that “UNESCO is ever more determined to stand for a free and independent press.” Seriously? Is that what UNESCO stands for? This is the same Bokova who in recent years has sympathized with the terrorists of Hamas, lavished praise on the highly censored, communist-party-indoctrination-driven school system of Cuba, and this past April paid a cordial visit to the censorship-loving, terror-sponsoring regime of Iran, where UNESCO’s Tehran office last month put out a press release noting “Iran’s longstanding and excellent relationship with UNESCO.”