Twelve months ago, Paris was awash in blood. No, not the Bastille Day massacre - that was in Nice. Not the Charlie Hebdo slaughter - that was a few months earlier. Not the throat-slitting of the priest during Mass - that was a few months later. It becomes harder to separate and distinguish the provocations, but this was (for the moment) the bloodiest. A year ago, I was angry and bitter and weary:
As I write, Paris is under curfew for the first time since the German occupation, and the death toll from the multiple attacks stands at 158, the vast majority of them slaughtered during a concert at the Bataclan theatre, a delightful bit of 19th century Chinoiserie on the boulevard Voltaire. The last time I was there, if memory serves, was to see Julie Pietri. I'm so bloody sick of these savages shooting and bombing and killing and blowing up everything I like - whether it's the small Quebec town where my little girl's favorite fondue restaurant is or my favorite hotel in Amman or the brave freespeecher who hosted me in Copenhagen ...or a music hall where I liked to go to hear a little jazz and pop and get away from the cares of the world for a couple of hours. But look at the photographs from Paris: there's nowhere to get away from it; the barbarians who yell "Allahu Akbar!" are there waiting for you ...when you go to a soccer match, you go to a concert, you go for a drink on a Friday night. They're there on the train... at the magazine office... in the Kosher supermarket... at the museum in Brussels... outside the barracks in Woolwich...
I've spent much of the last six months in France, and there was both an absurdity about it - the soldiers patrolling the nude beaches - and also a grim passivity, especially in a drab and diminished Paris of canceled events and a noticeable absence of tourists. No-one in France's elite had any idea better than Prime Minister Manuel Valls' advice: Get used to it. Yet, even in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, the populace seemed unable to rouse itself beyond the usual tired gestures:
After 9/11, it was the fashion among the western left to demand that we ask ourselves: "Why do they hate us?" As I wrote in America Alone all those years ago:
"'Why do they hate us?' was never the right question. 'Why do they despise us?' is a better one."
Just in case our enemies needed another reason to despise us, today the inactivist group Somnolent Tilty-Headed Wankers for Peace launched an exciting new graphic: the same old clapped-out hippie peace symbol but incorporating the Eiffel Tower (right)! Isn't that a cool, stylish way of showing how saddy-saddy-sadcakes you are about all those corpses in the streets of Paris? It's already gone viral! And that's all that matters, isn't it?
Our enemies use social media to distribute snuff videos as a means of recruitment. We use it to confirm to them how passive and enervated we are: What was it the last time blood ran in the streets of Paris? Oh, yeah, a pencil - for all those dead cartoonists. But, given that blood in the streets of Paris looks like becoming a regular event, it helps to have something of general application. What about, ooh, a tricolor with a blue tear at the end? No, better yet: a peace symbol with a croissant in the middle. No, wait...
And then of course the top of the bill showed up - that tilty di tutti tilti who drags his piano along to the site of this week's carnage and plays "Imagine" while the other tilty-heads tilt even more sorrowfully:
What kind of parochial solipsist would think that an appropriate response a day after mass murder?
Answer: Apparently everyone in the western world, because, of course, it "went viral".
It is somewhat reassuring that most of those standing around him are media hacks desperate for something to photograph. One would like to think that, were a crowd of survivors and grieving relatives present, they would smash the piano into kindling, save for the peace-symbol lid, which they would thwack the pianist over the head with.
What of America's cutting-edge edgily cutting comics? John Oliver was much praised for his croquembouche routine, but I demurred:
This is telly "edginess" - edginess with no edge. The "fucks" and "assholes" function as euphemism, piling up profanity as a form of polite evasion - as a way of avoiding saying anything. It's the residual pose of edginess in a craven culture. Thus the paradox of our times: to say anything other than "fuck" might offend someone. And it surely doesn't get much more pathetic than that. What a croque...
The reaction of Mr Oliver, among many others, suggest that this will not be a turning point. It's easier to cheer the guy saying "Fuck these assholes!" than even to identify these particular assholes, never mind do anything that would seriously "fuck" them.
Unlike the French Prime Minister, I don't want to get used to the remorseless worsening of life. As John Oliver would say, fuck that asshole. I would like to get real, be honest, and thereby improve the odds of winning this thing. To return to my initial reaction:
In the end, the decadence of Merkel, Hollande, Cameron and the rest of the fin de civilisation western leadership will cost you your world and everything you love.
So screw the candlelight vigil.
As a postscript to Paris, I turned up on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News show a couple of weeks later, when everyone was very exercised about Donald Trump's proposal for a moratorium on Muslim immigration. Click below to watch:
By the way, a guest host of this program, Mark Steyn, was on Greta last night. Did you hear what he said? This is great. Steyn said, quote (paraphrasing), "To most Americans, Donald Trump sounds a lot less nutty than John Kerry did when he said in Paris that Islam's not the problem, while they're still mopping blood up from the streets in Paris." Bingo.
That's not unconnected to his victory a year later. The so-called nuts are saner - or, at any rate, less reckless and imprudent - than all the respectable types whose fatuous illusions get you killed for going to a restaurant or rock concert.
One year ago today - January 7th 2015 - two Muslim fanatics burst into the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed a dozen people, including the bulk of the senior editorial staff and some of France's best known cartoonists...
Exactly twelve months ago, on April 15th 2013, at 3.35pm, I wrote in a short post: "There are reports of two huge blasts and multiple serious injuries at the finish of the Boston Marathon." Herewith, a few excerpts from what I wrote in the days that followed...