Since, then, belief or unbelief is a matter of every one's conscience, and since this is no lessening of the secular power, the latter should be content and attend to its own affairs and permit men to believe one thing or another, as they are able and willing, and constrain no one by force. - Martin Luther, Concerning Secular Authority (1523)

… no one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he chooses provided his acts are not invasive of the free acts of others… - John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships. ... In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. - Ayn Rand, "Man's Rights" in The Virtue of Selfishness (1961)

I was wondering whether I should even write anything at all about this. We're a music and culture site. We don't really comment on actual worldly goings-on. This is reserved for news websites and commentators from all walks of life. But for me, personally, as an actual person with thoughts and feelings, I felt compelled to say something. And, seeing all the tweets and articles and comments that began to appear on Wednesday, and continue to appear, surrounding the genuine massacre at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, there were many that confused me.

Of these, ones that stuck to the tune of "they were racist anyway" or "they had it coming" (I am paraphrasing; this felt like the general gist of it – one example I captured and put below) were the most confusing. Here is a disgusting occurrence. Here are satirical cartoonists who draw satirical cartoons being killed for drawing satirical cartoons. Here are other people, including police officers, murdered at the same time. This is not the time for they-started-it or tit-for-tat rhetoric, it is a time to stick together.

However, those whose agendas it is to constantly pick apart events based on their relation to race were quick to split off into little factions, creating an infinite whirlpool of convoluted grey areas that needlessly confounded a quite simple event: unhappy extremists murdered people. The irony of this is that free speech was literally attacked this week at Charlie Hebdo, yet now free speech has created a mass of differing opinions, some quite volatile, that serves only to fragment us even more.

Who is us? Us, people, the world. Although using this language clearly isolates the perpetrators of the attack as an "other," it is by perpetrating attacks like this, by establishing a Caliphate in a region that on the whole doesn't seem to want it, by generally being vicious and brutal in their dealings with detractors, it is by doing all of this that extremism isolates itself. So who is us? Everyone but them.

When you look at it like this – instead of picking apart the corpses of the dead, analysing the whole thing like some intellectual game of tennis with a mortifying and morbid self-righteousness, equating satirical cartoons with genuine race hate and then trying to selfishly lump oneself into the bargain when you were neither targeted nor to blame, or even dismissing the issue as a foreign matter and something that pales in comparison to American issues (a terribly insular way of thinking) – when you look at it as Extremism vs. The World, these tedious tidbits of opinion feel almost like non-sequiturs.

It is not about race. It is not about who can most cleverly out-write another publication. It is not about this meta-political one-upmanship. It is not about you. It is definitely not about me. I don't matter at all. It is about one group of people reacting with bloodlust and bloodshed to avenge a prophet, to uphold a murderously skewed religious agenda, about offensive cartoons. It's a war of intangible ideas.

Because, yes, both sides – because there are clear sides – deal with completely non-physical things: Charlie Hebdo, with its liberal approach to free speech; whoever did the shooting, with their strict ideas of respecting religion. But where one uses words and pictures, the other uses guns. Why don't ISIS set up a magazine and draw cartoons of their own? That'd be fine. I'd be pissed off if somebody kept lampooning something I deeply believed in. But the difference is that I really, really cannot see myself obtaining a Kalashnikov and going fucking mental in an office full of unarmed people just to prove a point. Can you see yourself doing this?

So in conclusion: treat this as the horrific incident that it is. Just as you would treat any other horrific incident. Do not pick it apart. Pick it apart, and we pick ourselves apart. There is a clear, basic, inalienable distinction between right and wrong, and what happened on Wednesday falls without doubt into the field of wrong. It is just plain wrong. We should try to acknowledge this unanimously.

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