Ostracized by Cowardly West, Charlie Hebdo Faced the Islamists Alone

We’ll have to forgive what’s left of the staff at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo if they don’t take much comfort from the ostentatious displays of sympathy and support from their colleagues in the Western media today, and from the similarly defiant words of Western political leaders. For the hysterical reaction of mainstream Western media outlets and politicians to the publication of cartoons mocking Mohammed -- first by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and then by Charlie Hebdo – set the stage for Wednesday’s atrocity.

By turning what was little more than a teacup storm on Islamist websites into a major international story when Jyllands-Posten published its Mohammed cartoons back in 2005, and by providing extensive coverage of Charlie Hebdo’s subsequent “provocations,” the media ensured that the cartoons came to the attention of a global Muslim audience.

The tone of the coverage back then, particularly in the U.S. and British media, was largely sympathetic to Muslims.

Newspapers and pundits criticized the cartoonists and publishers, and at the same time portrayed the paranoid rage of Muslim extremists as a legitimate and understandable grievance of the entire Islamic world. This incited anger among more moderate Muslims who might have otherwise been merely irritated by the cartoons, and engendered sympathy and accusations of “Islamophobia” among non-Muslim liberals and leftists.

Reporting on the 2005 Jyllands-Posten affair, the New York Times condemned what it called “callous and feeble cartoons, cooked up as a provocation by a conservative newspaper.” When the Charlie Hebdo offices were firebombed in 2011, Time’s Bruce Crumley blamed the magazine for bringing the attack upon itself.

Western politicians were equally obliging to the extremists. In 2012 in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney criticized Charlie Hebdo for publishing its latest cartoons.

A week later President Obama clearly had the magazine in mind, as well as the filmmaker responsible for Innocence of Muslims, when he made his speech to the United Nations in which he proclaimed: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” He also uttered the requisite platitudes about violence never being justified. Unfortunately, once you’ve acknowledged on a global stage that a group of people with a long track record of violence and mayhem has an issue about which they should justifiably be angry, you can’t expect to successfully dictate how they should seek redress.