Caroline Fourest, French and left-wing, has been fighting for decades. For the defense of the right to blasphemy and freedom of expression, at all costs, and for the intellectual combat of religious and / or identity authoritarianism. His articles have been read for a long time in Charlie Hebdo, which paid with twelve executions jihadist the vindication of these rights, and his latest essay has just reached Spanish bookstores with a title that leaves little room for imagination, Offended generation (Peninsula), where the scalpel passes to the triumph of “a new morality that censors and categorizes.”
In its pages, it lists the crazy cases that sustain the culture of cancellation. An infallible, implacable and extrajudicial system that, fortunately, is not very widespread in Spain. But that, in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom or Canada, forces to think two or three times what is said and what is not, what is shown and what is hidden, in the face of the fear of being, Ahem, canceled: a somewhat euphemistic concept that implies contempt, lynching and social marginalization.
The most common pretext to proclaim the virtues of this system, deeply linked to secular religions or to use, is its effectiveness in avoiding discrimination and offending minorities, reaching striking extravagances such as preventing a Westerner from culturally appropriate of yoga or reproach the study of Odyssey by macho and not inclusive. It is obvious that they are excessive and extraordinary cases. But How are we so sure that they will not end up becoming the daily bread?
Fourest takes the matter very seriously: “I try to convince people not to take a path that makes the fight for freedom a tomb of freedom.” So he doesn’t take his eyes off the cultural powerhouse of Silicon Valley to promote this new form of censorship. One can accept that Facebook and Twitter are not spaces particularly manufactured for rigor, reflection, healthy debate or nuances. But the problem is compounded when these tics, passed through the veneer of identity ideology, spread out here even poisoning schools, newspapers, parliaments, governments and universities. Without having to take the tanks out onto the streets and under the friendly umbrella of progress and collective freedoms.
Do you think that in Europe we are so close to replicating the tics that we see in the United States or Canada?
When they published my book in France a year and a half ago, they told me that it was alarming, that we will never reach that level of madness. After three months, everyone realized that, within the French university, there were professors and students who thought like the American left. They use the same references, the same vocabulary, the same campaigns to roll back the universalist feminism and anti-racism that I come from. Europe may hold out a little longer. At the moment we are not burning Lucky Luke comics to purify the collective imagination, we are not teaching children to play with matches. But we live in a world without borders, virtual, and the reality is that our youth already participate in these digital packs that include insulting a Western singer for making braids.
So we are not alarming.
As a professor of Political Science in Paris I have seen how students with very good will can decide that, in the name of identity, one can be in favor of a sexist dress. And, in turn, label a left-wing singer a racist because he has approached a subject without having the necessary skin color. This Americanization of universities and social media is underway.
The difference between being on the left and being progressive?
25 years ago, when I was fighting discrimination, I spent a lot of time fighting with my friends on the Marxist left because they only talked about class struggle and against inequality. They thought that demonstrating against discrimination was unnecessary. But, some time later, I have found myself in this situation in which, from very privileged media, in elitist universities, the focus is placed on the question of “race”, something imported from the United States, from a very essentialist and very identity.
We have a golden youth that goes into a rage over grotesque and insignificant things
Has the fight changed?
There is talk of the struggle of the races to forget the class struggle. They are spoiled children who are considered the most unfortunate in the world because a teacher forces them to study a classic work written by a white man several centuries ago, or because the menu in the dining room is not Asian enough. We have a golden youth that goes into a rage over grotesque and insignificant things. This anger occupies so much space in the debate of the American left and the world of culture that we forget the debate of inequality. Inequality and poverty have moved to a second level. It is very comfortable for them. We have all these spoiled children who can be at the top of the pyramid and at the same time pass as victims, who are fixated on micro-grievances, persecuting even the words of people who, clearly, are not racist or sexist.
This left seems the most akin to large corporations ever known. And the reactionary right has taken notice.
Yes, this is precisely why the populist right is growing across Europe. If the left abandons the fight for freedom and carries on these battles of spoiled children, the right ends up passing as a defender of freedoms and the popular classes. This is one of the dangers that I see in Europe. If we add to that the misinformation and propaganda on social media, we arrive at a destabilization that paves the way for far-right populisms.
Will it leave sequels in the artistic and cultural scene?
If we give the means to Silicon Valley, which is the most powerful cultural industry, we will have very profound consequences. But I think this superficial and victimizing way of being anti-racist will die by itself: out of ridiculous. Meanwhile, there will be many films that have not been shot and many authors who will not have dared to write certain books, and the extreme right, sexist and racist will be happy about it.
Do you think that both the inquisitors and those who lend themselves to silence share responsibility?
It seems clear that if no one says anything, this can go a long way. On the left of Charlie we are used to death threats from Islamists and the far right. Once you get over this, you feel strong to say: “You are not going to forbid me to laugh, nor are you going to cancel me for a word out of context.” These little inquisitors seem ridiculous at first glance, but they are dragging down an entire generation. It is a generation that was born with social networks, that wants to have a healthy reputation, that does not dare to say that a lynching is unfair. They favor behaviors that work in a herd and that threaten freedom of thought. This becomes more dangerous when it comes to universities, where people would have to be taught to think, and to cultural media.
What relationship do you have with social networks?
I was able to start as an opinion journalist thanks to blogs and social networks. I know its advantages and it has allowed me to have a return on my work. But, since I researched a lot about extremist movements and I know how they use these tools, I decided to protect my privacy on the networks. I post a lot of things, I have a lot of followers, but I try not to read the comments: I leave the trolls and the anonymous ones aside. All journalists should develop this armor so as not to give in to this disease of American universities, which are going to behave as service providers that are going to give a product based on the likes O dislikes that they generate. Information is not a product, and we are not here to be applauded. We are here to present the facts as we analyze them. Not being intimidated requires discipline. Interactivity is actually a source of intellectual submission.
Do you think newspapers are losing relevance?
We did not measure the impact that this digital transformation was going to have on information and the politicization of people. We have not yet developed the necessary antibodies. We are very manipulable, at the moment. We now begin to understand that behind the chains of messages there may be authoritarian states or people of bad faith, people who charge for this, false profiles. We now begin to understand this. But it is only the beginning. It is true that newspapers no longer have as many readers, or that readers are older. But I think that in the social networks the informative rigor will subsist. There is so much false information that we will have to make a selection and we will have to read again in the people who deserve our trust. And younger journalists must not give in to intimidation, nor be tempted by the offended generation. They must understand that there are truths that offend, but that must be said.
There comes a time when you discover that, after dispensing with so many freedoms, you are still under threat simply because you exist
We talk so much about the censorship of the left that we do not mention the Islamist …
In France we have been seeing this pressure rise for more than ten years. We tried to resist, but we couldn’t. We have seen how fear has overcome local politicians. If we give in to blackmail, if we no longer dare to say what we think, if we do not dare to say what we would have said if we weren’t afraid, we will endanger democracy.
In Valencia religious reasons were saved from the fallas flames because burning them would be “offensive”, according to some Islamists, for Muslims. When even a ninot of the Pope has been burned.
Because today any tradition, like this one in Valencia, can be misinterpreted on the other side of the world. They don’t care about the context! The fundamentalists are not the public of the Fallas, nor of Charlie Hebdo. Nobody forces them to see them.
In Valencia the message was launched that freedom is expendable, that security is more important. On Charlie Hebdo the opposite was decided.
Of course. But I’ll tell you one thing. There always comes a time when you discover that, after giving up so many freedoms, you are still under threat simply because you exist. Because the simple fact of being European makes us an Islamist target. On Charlie Hebdo We decided that it was better to fight for ideas than not to. We decided not to be intimidated by death threats, and we continue to draw on Islamic or Catholic fundamentalism. We knew that if we gave in, freedom of the press would go behind. It would create a jurisprudence whereby terror would make the law. Somehow my colleagues from Charlie Hebdo they died to defend this idea, and every journalist should remind the youth of it. It is better to die for ideas than to die for submission.
Are we facing an irreversible process?
It can go a long way, maybe even to climaxes. I do not know if this apotheosis is going to load Europe. But I know that if we continue with this brutal tribalism, the lust for rationality and enlightened thinking will return. I hope this happens soon, before some dangerous populist clown, as we have seen in the United States and Brazil, reaches Europe.
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