This editorial appeared in the magazine’s February 2015 issue of Cahiers du Cinéma and was translated from the French by Nicholas Elliott. The “insoumission” of the title has a markedly more defiant spirit than the English “insubmission.” It also alludes to Michel Houllebecq’s novel Soumission.
The five days from January 7 to 11, from the massacre at Charlie Hebdo to the Sunday marches all over France, drove us into a storm that’s impossible to escape. What sense can be made of this event? We have cried, we have been angry, we have paid tribute. But all of that is nothing compared with the event’s scope, which goes far beyond us. We must see what kind of future it leads to, and be cautious about how we interpret it now. It is an opportunity to re-evaluate everything, and to ask fundamental questions: How do we live? What examples do we have? What examples do we set? The image by Blutch on the issue’s cover [see page 34] tells us how to stand firm in the chaos, how fragile that position is, and of the world’s difficult balancing act in the face of terror. It also suggests that an indefatigable conviction can hold the dogs at bay—hence the insolent middle finger.
1. The press. The terrorists did not walk into a cabinet session or political gathering, but an editorial meeting. This act may remain etched in our memories as a sacrilege: by crossing that threshold, the terrorists abruptly sanctified that space, which became like the holy of holies. In the thick of a propaganda war, the terrorists didn’t attack sites of political power, but a mirror of their own activities—places that spread information and opinion. This event has bolstered the press’s strength and its power. These armed propaganda units think the Western press is pure propaganda. Their reasoning overlooks the real alternative: in the face of propaganda, there can certainly be other sources of propaganda (as seen in the United States through the aberrations of Fox News), but, most important, there can be thought, subtlety and intelligence. Propaganda aims to manipulate souls and confine bodies to ensure the dictatorship of terror. Its religious nature is only secondary. God is only a pretext.
At a time when the press is moribund, with Charlie itself staring into the abyss, terrorists are ironically the only ones to grant it such importance. By a scary paradox, images of the Prophet are all over the Internet, but only printing them counts as blasphemy. Coming from a religion of the Book, Islamic terrorists may well be the last to continue to believe in the power of the actual press. This is a disturbing thought for those working in print media. The 6 am lines on the morning of the release of Charlie’s “week after” issue left some newspaper vendors bitter but also served to show distracted readers immersed in their iPhones the extent to which the newsstand network has shrunk. Where can you look for Charlie when half of the newsstands have disappeared? Luz said it magnificently: draw, make newspapers, make magazines. Love paper. What is written remains. On the contrary, the terrorists have chosen to fight on the Internet. The drawing pencil was certainly brandished against the Kalashnikov, but also against the digital dissemination of jihadist videos. A drawing in the January 14 edition of Charlie ironically noted the absurd detail of the Kouachi brothers dying in a printing shop: “After the visit to the paper, I’m worried that death in the printing shop might seem too intellectual.” That’s exactly it. The attack was not directed at the political. Those who were targeted and affected were us, the intellectuals.