Ok so why didn’t President Obama attend the anti-terrorism march in Paris? So let us present the Charlie Hebdo Theory!
On the surface, it looked so easy. A political slam-dunk if you will. You want to show solidarity to the French people, then you get your ass to that anti-terrorism march in Paris! Right? Well the Obama administration thought otherwise and now they are paying for it in the forum of public opinion. Everyone from The Daily Show to Fox News has lambasted President Obama and his administration for not sending a “higher-level official” to the anti-terrorism march in Paris. Yet the question remains, why didn’t they go? Here is the Charlie Hebdo Theory!
The Charlie Hebdo Theory
When everything settles down on the terrorist attacks against the Charlie Hebdo offices, Charlie Hebdo will start producing controversial material once again and the Obama administration doesn’t want to be connected to them in any which way.
To understand this, you have to understand what Charlie Hebdo is. As you may know, they are a weekly French satirical newsmagazine that particularly targets religious institutions and French politicians. With the magazine recently lampooning Islam and its more extremist sects, they slowly started to get notoriety over their provocative, yet raunchy cartoons which included an issue “guest-edited” by the Prophet Mohammed. Even if Charlie Hebdo’s anarchic brand of satire is your thing, it’s hard not to find some of their cartoons to be in bad taste or just plain cross-the-line.
And that’s supposed to be the point.
French satire – particularly the type Charlie Hebdo encapsulates – is meant to challenge taboos and ideas of self-censorship. If you tell them something or someone is a “sacred cow”, you can bet they will try their damndest to eviscerate it. That’s why Islam, particularly depictions of Mohammed, were shown in their magazine. While their views on these issues are more nuanced than many give them credit for, controversy is just what Charlie Hebdo does.
With that understanding, it makes sense why President Obama (and his administration) would skip the march in Paris. While marching in Paris would definitely not directly support the work Charlie Hebdo does, seeing many protesters carrying signs of “Je Suis Charlie” next to the president would put him in a very awkward position if Charlie Hebdo would get in the news again for a controversial cartoon like the one where they reimagined Boko Haram sex slaves as welfare queens of the state. While a little politically callous not to go to a peaceful anti-terrorism march, logically it made sense.
Likeliness Rating: Not Likely
Considering British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, both leaders of Israel and Palestine [Editor’s Note: Wait, what? Seriously?!] Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, along with many other leaders – including many in the Muslim world – were present for the march, it’s highly doubtful that the Obama administration was worried they be forever connected to Charlie Hebdo in any meaningful way. I’m sure it did play a small part in the decision of whether to attend the march or not, but with so many political leaders present it would have been hard to justify the decision on that fact alone.
The more likely scenario – just as the administration has been saying – that logistically it would have been difficult for the president to attend, so they assumed skipping the march wouldn’t have been as controversial as it was. Also to be fair, they did send the US ambassador to France, but with people like Attorney General Eric Holder in a counter-terrorism summit that was held in Paris, the Obama administration should have done more.
(Photo Credits: Google Images)