A retraction and apology

Yesterday, I went on a brief Twitter rant based on misinformation about the Charlie Hebdo attacks — both on the nature of the publication itself and the extent of the attack. I had somehow gotten the impression that the publication in question was an exclusively anti-Muslim one, devotedly solely to insulting and marginalizing Muslims. This is obviously false. Secondly, I did not realize the full scale of the attack, which does not appear to be the result of inarticulate rage (as I had initially envisioned) but of significant planning motivated by a political strategy that, while profoundly misguided and unrealistic, does make it something other than a crime of passion.

Making the statements I did was hugely irresponsible and insensitive, and I quickly realized this and deleted them. Unfortunately, someone screen captured them and reframed them as a justification of the attacks. I want to be clear that I did not intend to justify the attacks. First of all, I was thinking of events fundamentally different from what actually occurred. Secondly, though, even with the hypothetical situation I had in mind, I didn’t intend to say that the attack was justified or deserved, any more than I would be justified in punching someone who insulted me to my face. If someone goes out of their way to constantly insult me and my whole community, though, maintaining self-control can be difficult due to a human emotion known as anger. Angry reactions are by definition excessive and unjustified — but they’re not incomprehensible.

Whatever the value of the point I was making based on my own imagined scenario, it was obviously the wrong thing to say in connection with the Paris attacks and I understand why people have viewed my statements as justifying those attacks. Hence I want to be completely clear: I unambiguously denounce the attacks, not only for the needless death and destruction they immediately caused, but because of the inevitable backlash they will bring down on the Muslim community in France and elsewhere. A more purely destructive act is difficult to imagine. I regret that my overhasty statements gave the impression that I thought differently.

13 Responses to “A retraction and apology”

  1. Alexander Says:

    Everyone knows you didn’t mean to endorse the attacks, and those who say otherwise do it only for the sake of being outraged.

    However, I don’t entirerly agree with instrumentalist view (i.e. the attacks are bad because they will bring backlash). In case of a backslash, those commiting it will be solely responsible for it. The three murderers from yesterday shooting are responsible for *that* shooting, and that is bad enough.

  2. Mark Bauerlein Says:

    Are you aware that the politics of Charlie are far left? See here for a reminiscence:

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2015/01/my-life-with-charlie-hebdo

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I am indeed aware of that.

  4. Adam Kotsko Says:

    This may be a good time to make a further clarification. Some people online are making a big deal of a tweet in which I say that I changed my position in part because I realized CH wasn’t a “right-wing hate rag.” They have seized upon this to claim that I believe violence against conservatives is acceptable. It should be clear that I don’t believe that. The only reason I mentioned “right wing” in that context was because in my experience, essentially all publications that could be defined as a “hate rag” (i.e., dedicated to the denigration of Muslims, immigrants, or other minorities) are right-wing. Yet not all right-wing publications are hate rags! The decisive factor in my about-face, aside from the scale of the attack itself, was that CH is not a hate rag — in my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether it’s left-wing, centrist, or right-wing. It happens to be left wing, but obviously I don’t have any special loyalty to it for that or any other reason, given that I had not heard of it until yesterday.

    My statement about the “right-wing hate rag” is perhaps open to the interpretation my uncharitable critics give it, but it is an ambiguous and isolated statement. The fair thing is to allow me to clarify my intention, which I am now doing and have repeatedly done.

  5. Mark Bauerlein Says:

    If you believe that “essentially all publications that could be defined as a ‘hate rag’ . . . are right wing,” then you need to get out more.

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I would, but it’s too cold out.

  7. Gregory Says:

    My sympathies … this may haunt you for a while. But I do not understand: you are a highly intelligent, gifted and thoughtful young man, and I have learned much from reading your blog and your books. So … why do you resort to Twitter at all? This medium is utterly futile, and I honestly cannot comprehend why it should matter to you to have your thoughts( first, or second) broadcast for all the ‘world’ to read. I apologise in advance that you may think my question to be obtuse. It isn’t, and I am genuinely perplexed.

  8. Alfred Lord Tenniscourt Says:

    CH is exactly as leftist as the Pledge of Allegiance is, which is to say, it was once leftist, but has been largely co-opted by others. And you didn’t do anything wrong to point out that they publish a bunch of hate speech. It has been pointed out before, by lots of people, both American and French.
    They sold a bunch of magazines when they started publishing pictures of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban, and since then they have been trying to startle people into buying more of them. In my view, they have been antagonizing Muslims for commercial gain. That is, of course, their right, and everyone agrees that they shouldn’t have been attacked with physical violence for it.
    But as you pointed out, such an attack was not surprising. This is a simple point of fact. They have been attacked before, threatened pretty much constantly, and knew the risks they were taking as they published deliberately inflammatory content with about the same social value as a child poking at a mean dog with a stick.
    They are not martyrs of free speech so much as the euro. They were not attacked out of the blue, but after repeated threats, warnings, and previous attacks. And although they can claim that they are a leftist rag, I suspect that their magazines are purchased primarily by racists who were happy to ignore the few tokens of leftist thought in them to gain some new hateful things to tell their friends each month.
    You said what you said. It was true and it struck a nerve. No one would be so mad about it if it wasn’t. You don’t need to grovel and backpedal – I mean that’s your right if you want to handle it that way, but I wouldn’t. If one is outraged that someone would shoot up a magazine because they have the right to free speech, they are also obligated to defend your right to free speech.

  9. Monty Stewart Says:

    I stumbled across your “controversy” from a Tea Party blog. I saw the photo shot of your Tweet, and instantly knew what you were really saying. Being a person who often speaks my own mind without fully thinking through the consequences, you have my sympathy too. I also hope you’re doing well other than this issue. It’s been a LOOONNGGG time.

  10. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Great to hear from you, Monty. Hope all is well on your end, too.

  11. cruth01 Says:

    I posted a comment defending you on “daily caller,” but I didn’t realize what “daily caller” was before I did it, or I wouldn’t have bothered. In any case, nobody responded…

    The other commenters seemed just as angry that you retracted the comment as they did that you made it to begin with, so it is certainly a no-win situation.


Comments are closed.