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The Charlie Hebdo Attack and what it reveals about society


Political assassination is as old as humanity and the chances that it will be dead before humanity dies are dim. Violence is an un-detachable companion of inter-human antagonisms and conflicts – and those in turn are part and parcel of the human condition. In various times, however, political murders tended to be aimed at different kinds of victims.


A hundred years or so ago it was targeted mostly against politicians – personalities like Jean Jaures, Aristide Briand, Abraham Lincoln, Archduke Ferdinand and countless others; ideologically varied, located at different points of the political spectrum yet all belonging to the category of current or future power holders. It was widely believed at that time that with their death the world (or the country) will turn away from what was viewed as the cause of grievance, and toward something better – a more friendly and comfortable condition.


On 11 September 2001 political assassinations were directed not against specific, identifiable and named political “personalities” in the political limelight, or for that matter against people held personally responsible for the wrongdoings the assassins pretended to punish, but against institutions symbolising the economic (in the case of the World Trade Centre) and military (in the case of the Pentagon) power. Notably, a centre of spiritual power was still missing in the combined political operation.


There were two aspects of the Charlie Hebdo murders that set them apart from the two previous cases:


First: on 7th January 2015 political assassins fixed a highly media-visible specimen of mass media. Knowingly or not, by design or by default, the murderers endorsed – whether explicitly or obliquely – the widespread and fast gathering public sense of effective power moving away from political rulers and towards the centres viewed as responsible for public mind-setting and opinion-making. It was the people engaged in such activities that the assault was meant to point out as culprits to be punished for causing the assassins’ bitterness, rancour and urge of vengeance.

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