Take that fucking French flag down.

Sometimes things happen and its best to keep your disagreements to yourself. People who you cannot countenance not having on your side, people who you turn to for help, to think things through, start adopting a form of behaviour that you find alien.  So alien to the high regard you hold them in, that you want to do the equivalent of asking for a quiet word with them.   Just go, you know, what the fuck?

Let this open letter be that.

You’re reasonable. You are not the kind of person who would ever put up a union jack, or use weird internet virtual dye to make your Facebook face out in the Red, White and Blue of Britain. Even if the country went to war. Old fashioned war, young men like me called up to visit brothels and murder each other, line by line, in a country we hadn’t heard of sort of a war; you still wouldn’t put it up. Thinking about the first world war makes you uncomfortable, the sacrifices and the pointless slaughter of millions should be remembered but, I mean, we can’t support the actual army leaders can we? I mean this is the British Empire we’re talking about. We were still presiding over apartheid zones in Africa and the Middle East, and women still weren’t really allowed to vote were they?

Even the second world war makes you feel uncomfortable, and that’s Britain’s Finest Hour. We were briefly, unquestionably, the good guys right? Standing on our own fighting against fascism. A single light in the darkest night of history. But even then, we had colonies, and you’re aware of that. Obviously, there was the unfortunate stuff about us not letting in Jewish refugees, and the embarrassing business about locking up people of German descent and suspending elections. We even know nowadays that Churchill was an antisemite, and only really motivated to fight the war out of British chauvinism, not really any kind of principled antifascism. And, lets not even go into the stuff about how our side won the war by dropping atomic bombs on women and children in Japan, and incinerating them in Dresden. So why do you not feel the same about the French flag?

Nowadays whiteness doesn’t mean purity like it used to do. Or rather it means a more complex kind of purity, a purity of complexity and a purity focused on enjoyment. The more “civilised” in contemporary racial discourse is the one more “open to the other”. It’s us over here who are “tolerant” and “flexible”; its “them” over there who don’t want to mix and don’t respect others. Unlike the nineteenth century colonialist, the modern European isn’t disgusted by North African and Middle Eastern supposed sexual profligacy, but by its allegedly puritanical sexual austerity. (Which, lets face it, is another way of delivering wild, oriental, cruel sensuality: When Lacan said that the there is nothing more obscene than the urge to purity he perhaps had in mind a more clinical example, but I can’t help thinking of the almost proverbial Tory MP who wants to be whipped and spanked, whilst being told how “naughty” he is.)

Its within the context of this new architecture of the “us and them” central to the discourse of race that you have chosen to articulate your very particular support for France; your draping of yourself in the Tricolore. I have seen people claim, with as little evidence as self consciousness, that they are standing with Paris and it’s “cosmopolitanism”, or it’s “sense of fun”, or it’s “culture”. “Paris is about life”, someone tweeted yesterday. France is champagne and Sartre, Liberty, Egality and Fraternity, it is the Enlightenment, the Sun King. Its the Europe you want Europe to be, the Britain you wish you were from, stripped of the complexities of its post (and indeed current) colonial antics; shorn of all the reasons you would never drape yourself in a Union Jack.

Thing is though, there is no such place. No such Paris, and no such France. Instead their is a country, rather like ours, and a flag rather like ours. The flag exists to give some people a feeling of welcome, belonging and freedom; and others a feeling of alienation, exclusion and subservience.

We don’t have to look into the brutal history of the French colonial empire, its massacre of almost one tenth of the population of Algeria, its continuing presence in so-called Francafrique, its death squads and its brutal policing of the Arab and African ghettos around Paris and other major cities. Or rather we needn’t do that first. Internal to the dynamic of French history, is the playing out of the social struggles that first gave rise to the Great Revolution of 1789. Through the nineteenth century these battle lines were drawn again and again, leading to the declaration of the Commune in Paris, in 1871. The Commune acted as a rallying point around which the two factions of French post revolutionary society could reform their ranks. On the one hand, the reactionaries, who were not comfortable with democracy and wanted to see the restoration of the monarchy; their’s was the Red, White and Blue flag. The Communards, fighting for social justice, radical democracy and women’s rights had the red flag. So after the fighting was over, and the Commune was defeated, it was the Red, White and Blue that was stitched to the sleeves of the triumphant reactionary soldiers of the Empire. The week after the fall of the Commune is known as the “Bloody Week” in France. 18,000 were killed, 25,000 imprisoned and thousands more executed in the coming weeks. All under that flag, splattered; the red spilling blood into the white and blue.

Over the next years, the French state brought in special laws to seize land and wealth, forcing the people of Paris’s most rebellious community to build the Sacre-Coeur as a “national penance” to their blasphemous attempts to shake off the Red, White and Blue of domination by priests and aristocrats. But still that division between the two flags would remain. In February 1971 radicals occupied the church and asked the people of Paris to take back what was “built upon the bodies of communards in order to efface that red flag that had for too long floated over Paris.”

The state of emergency legislation that has been used since the attacks by Francois Hollands, is based on legislation brought in to deal with the Algerian war for independence, and the support for the Algerian nationalists in the then shanty towns outside Paris, which acted as recruiting grounds for the FLN (The Algerian National Liberation Front). This state of emergency legislation is still used, regularly, to introduce curfews in the kind of banlieues where French people of North African, Middle Eastern and West African descent are still “encouraged” not to get in the way of the tourists of central Paris. Perhaps the most obvious example of the logic of draping yourself in the red, white and blue was David Cameron’s recent description of the ISIS massacre as the “most violent attack on French soil since the second world war”. A claim echoed by The Observer. That this is simply not true is one thing, the nature of the “violent attack” it ignores tells you all you need to know about French Flaggery.

On 17th October 1961, members of the Algerian community in Paris, who were already under curfew, organised a peaceful march in solidarity with the struggle for freedom in their country of origin. Over the course of the day upto 300 Algerians were murdered in a massacre that the French state did not even begin to admit for nearly 40 years. From a recent anniversary article; “The most memorable- and vicious- atrocities saw policemen herding panicking crowds on to Paris’s bridges, where many were tossed into the Seine…Others died in police stations, or in nearby woods, where their mutilated bodies testified to truncheon and rifle-butt injuries.”

The next day graffiti appeared by the Seine “This is where we drown Algerians”, whether a protest by those of the red, or a warning from the red white and blue, is difficult to say.

You want a simpler version of yourself. A version for which you can mourn or celebrate, without the complexity of what you know about yourself. We all do. Its called love. In his seminar, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis the great French theorist Lacan says; “ “I love you, but, because inexplicably I love in you something more than you – the object petit a – I mutilate you.” This mutilation, and the complete, forgive me, historical and political blindness through which it functions is not something helpful or constructive. Over the past twenty four hours I have seen people trying to respond to the vague feelings of something being wrong with this, by adding the Lebanese Cedar Tree, to their French Tricolore. You don’t have to be a massive Freudian to see the irony in this. That isn’t a new flag that somehow stands above the history of the French state, and shows international solidarity, it is the actual flag used, for example, by the actual French when they actually colonised Lebanon. It’s the flag flown, for instance, during the colonial massacres inflicted there.

France isn’t a better version of you, and its got as many people around the world who view it’s flag as a Butcher’s apron as do the Union Jack, so please, take that shit down, and I can stop going on.

Ici-on-noie-les-algeriens-490

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55 thoughts on “Take that fucking French flag down.

  1. more white guilt/anti western non sense. why don’t we ever talk about the countless atrocities commited by those of color against white nations?

      1. I think you are facist, you defend at least 2 fascists in your very misleading letter, Hitler & ISIS.

        You do not show any link between ISIS ideology & Western political or military behaviour. In fact there is none it is a conflict of ideology.

        Your are condoning violence against western values using western freedom of speach. It is re-assuring that you have to rely on this hard won principle to have any voice at all. It’s the west will prevail it is a more durable.

        You also start with a presumption of shared shame in the Union Jack and the second world war, why?

        Stop living the life of the hypocrite.

      2. Javaad Alipoor ‘Moron’, You have tried so hard to sound clever.. is that really the best you have in retort and the only problem you had with what that I said was you defended Hiltler.
        You question British motives for fighting Hiltler, you slander Churchill, you insinuate chauvinism. You don’t really have any basis to it, but you want to undermine the victory and the sacrifices made.
        A few more points that make your arguments in support of ISIS terrorism unbalanced;

        You say of the first world war/ Union Jack ‘women still weren’t really allowed to vote were they?’ They can now, we all can now, when will ISIS allow anyone to vote? At least we have a progression they intend to recede back to mud huts. Civilisation is an evolving process.
        What does Great Revolution of 1789 have to do with the ISIS attacks on Paris?
        The attacks by police in Paris was barbaric ‘upto 300 Algerians were murdered in a massacre’ I wont argue the numbers, 50, 200or 300 not good. The police super who ordered the attacks was an ex Nazi collaborator and was prosecuted although everyone was given amunity along with the Algerians who were known to have killed over 3,000 civilians during the war. Balance your arguments.

        ‘young men like me called up to visit brothels and murder each other’ – I really don’t think you would have had the balls to go to war, you would rather pen anti propaganda within hours of bloody murder.
        ‘And, lets not even go into the stuff about how our side won the war’ I really don’t consider you as on ‘our side’. You are the metaphorical cuckoo in the nest.
        You seem ignorant of the fact that Muslim countries throughout history have had or tried to develop Empires through force and brutal violence. Most recently the Ottoman Turks, historically the moors. Thank Allah for Charles Martell.. No war is nice.
        But the British were successful at it and admittedly not always sympathetic. We were far from the worst history has to offer and like the Romans left massive infrastructure and political progression behind that has probably improved and saved the lives of tens of millions.
        I cannot imagine the internal conflict you have living here, feel free to go follow your conscience, no of course you won’t because you’re a cowardly gob shite.

  2. You’ve clearly missed the point of the whole social media outcry. It is to take a stand as a united front against an extremist terrorist organisation that as a world we should unite against and fight. It’s not just about Paris, France, it’s about not being tolerant to mass killing in the modern era by extremist groups that are causing brutal deaths and retaliation by the countries lives it has taken away.

      1. Um, I don’t think I have missed the point.
        You clearly have some deep seeded issue with France!
        Yes, France has been the cause of atrocities in the past. As have the UK and, let’s say, Germany!(That’s a biggie).
        Does that mean we carry on vilifying this generation of these nations for past actions? No it does not!
        People aren’t showing the French flag saying “We support these Algerian murderers!”
        They are showing support of Freedom! They are showing the terrorists that the world will stand behind whichever target they choose. That they will never irradiate freedom and that they are not feared!
        You seem like a smart person. But you invalidated your argument the minute you put F**king in your header.

      2. Nice ad hom Javaad. L GAM is entirely correct. I think the French profile pictures are ridiculous as well but having one doesn’t mean you’re supporting violent French actions from over 50 years ago… It means you support the French people as they deal with this tragedy. As simple as that.

      3. There’s a term for those who don’t understand what’s being said here… “Cognitive Dissonance”…

        “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are
        presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new
        evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is
        extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it
        is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize,
        ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
        ― Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

      4. Thanks for that, funny how the only people who bother posting are people so offended by their beloved symbols being criticised, they end up leaving this frothing at the mouth eurocentric drivel.

      5. “You’re an idiot!”??

        Not really!
        I thought this was a debate.
        Or is my comment too close to the truth?

        I agree that posting just a French flag is a bit rubbish. What with all the other atrocities in the world.
        But, taking over old ground just makes you look bitter for some reason.

        If I am wrong, educate me! If you think I am an idiot, then teach me!
        You’re hostility is something the extremists would relish!

        Teach peace! 😍

  3. I personally don’t have a problem with “selective outrage”. My problem lies with the supposed “unbiased” reporting which highlighted the French events and chose to ignore the others.

    As for draping yourself in a flag, I haven’t changed my profile picture for anything till now.

  4. Very interesting and thought provoking read. I do firmly believe that you are missing out on a fundamental life principle of not how you got there, but rather where they (France) are going. Most nationalistic and economically thriving nations, including France, path to success started thru brutality, racism and mutilation. Awful past to say the least, yet this country is in mourning and in need of international aid and support to move forward. They have been a target of one of most brutal groups of human beings that this generation has seen. Let’s finish these ISIS shits off, sweep them under the rug of this earth, and support ANY AND ALL country’s around the world, who are being affected by IS, regardless of past or present perils and hindrances.

    It was the great Austrian pychiatrist, neurologist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who said, “Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire.” Whether it be social media, non profits, government intervention, finance, or bombs (hopefully not) to help man manifest feelings of love and compassion towards a country of mourning–who’s past may not be representative of perfect merits–then so be it. Sorry that you can’t control the actions of others, that’s life.

    A simple answer to your politically correct, yet regressive article is always be aware of the past, yes, yet stop living in the past, and move onward to human salvation. Peace

  5. Well … Let’s fly a fucking flag if we want to, Tricolore, Union Jack, Irish Tri Colour, the Stars and strips, the IS flag everyone of them is associated with Blood Shed ….. no matter What flag one flies someone will have issue with it. Right or wrong but people want to Show they care, so let them. That’s real Humanity, That’s forgetting past grievances and standing together for Peace

  6. I could hardly believe what I was reading. How stupid and insensitive, when people are simply trying to show their support and compassion for the victims, and their determination to stand up for freedom and liberal, western values in the face of an Islamist terrorist atrocity. Keep your ludicrous politics of grievance to yourself – the bereaved and injured people of France can do without it.

    1. No wonder you couldn’t believe it. Why don’t YOU keep your sanctimonious tosh to yourself instead of spreading it all over someone else’s blog?

  7. Yes, indeed. Take them all down, for as long as these definers of arbitrary and invisible boundaries remain, so will the pain and agonies of conflict and oppression. But then, the big game hunter armed with his high powered rifle is not supposed to be mauled by an injured lion is he. This shatters our carefully constructed and instituted perspectives on the orders of mastery and subservience. The knight who slays barbarians by the score in faraway places, assuring a steady flow of silver, silk, and spice is not supposed to receive a knife in the back while cavorting nearby his own abode. Oh the shock of vulnerability, the daring nerve, the recklessness, the insane futility.

    1. I like the irony that ISIS terrorist sympathisers are all over this page, protected by the freedom of speach won through many battles in the western world and spilled blood of many christians and which they would not have under an ISIS state, unless it was to confirm complete compliance entirely with their ideology. ISIS butchers Muslims, reporters, aid workers, children, educasted females, blowing up heritage sites twistedly believing it can rewrite history. A cowardly attack on unarmed civilians is not a ‘mauling by a lion’ as you so poetically write. It is a wake up call that our hard earned freedoms & values need protecting. It was acteagic attack but it is a blip & only reinforces resolve.

  8. Thank you. There is everything wrong with a flag as a symbol of nationalism. Every time I see a fucking rightist with an Austrian flag I want to do something against them. But this is because I do identify with Austria, even though I feel ashamed of my country almost every day. France has a bloody colonial history. Were and are the massacres after the fall of the Paris Commune and the massacre against Algerians in Paris in 1961 connected with the tri-color flag? I don’t know. It’s good to bring up history. I don’t know much about any flag. Is the Union Jack more of a symbol of empire than the French tricolore, as one commentator suggested? I don’t know. When I see the British flag, I think of Mods and The Who. The flag of China represents a one-party dictatorship, even if it has more than one star on it. But if something that awful happened in Beijing or in Xi’an, maybe I would find nothing wrong with using the current flag of China to show solidarity. Yes, there were massacres in Kenya and in Beirut and people dying from state terror in Xinjiang in China, as far as I’ve heard, and people dying from some sort of terror in Colombia or other places around the world and so on. Yes, Facebook is not all that multicultural in origin, and it’s not always a tool of social change. Big surprise. Anyway, more discussion and more awareness are always good. And more solidarity. Please take a look here: http://banianerguotoukeyihe.com/2015/11/15/fur-paris/

  9. I put up the French flag for a couple of days precisely because I dislike Paris and I had to overcome my dislike of the inhabitants, and despite my distaste for French government policy. I believe it is right to mourn with those who mourn, whether in Nairobi, Gaza, Beirut or New York. I’m a French citizen myself by the way – but a provincial.

  10. The author of these lines goes out of this way, and beyond what the mere facts can support, in order to make a powerful statement. I don’t know what psychoanalysis says about that; I understand the need to be provocative and to stand out. Social self-promotion does not justify spreading falsehoods and fabrications.

    In order of appearance:
    * “Thing is though, there is no such place.” The particular area of Paris that was targeted, the Bataclan, the restaurants… It is young, cosmopolitan, fun, and culture centred. That is why many are talking about it in those terms. This is why many of the victims were foreigners, or of African or Asian descent.
    * It is extremely Eurocentric to talk about the horrific Algerian independence war and the “brutal policing” of western ghettos in the same sentence. You cannot compare large scale torture and massacres to occasionally abusive cops.
    * The blue, white and red flag is inherited from the French revolution, during which aristocrats and priests were slaughtered: “let us strangle the last king with the guts of the last priest”. It has remained very strongly associated with the revolutionary period and its ideals, as well as with France as a nation. The red and blue stand for Paris, and the white for the king; but the true significance of the flag, to the French, is its association with revolutionary ideals, its use during the revolution itself. The flag absolutely does not stand for “aristocrats and priests” – quite the contrary. The (relatively) minor historic episode of the commune does not change that.
    * The state of emergency laws are not “used regularly”. They were only used only once in French suburbs since the Algerian war: during the country-wide 2005 riots (few if any in France has called this use of the law “oppressive”, because the riots attacked material targets, e.g. cars and schools, belonging to inhabitants of poor suburbs, rather than political symbols).
    * French people of African descent are not discouraged to visit the centre of Paris (where did you get that idea?). Take the metro and look around you.
    * The 1961 massacre was an awful crime indeed, and the lack of proper investigations is a scandal. However, the number of 300 is something you made up. The largest, most speculative estimates stand at 200; historians put the actual number is most likely in the vicinity of 50.
    * Psychoanalysis is unscientific nonsense.

    Interestingly, it appears that many of your errors are amplifications of the statements in the guardian article. The article itself exaggerates things in order to paint a misleading picture: the vision of a France that has not changed since the Algerian independence war of 1961.

    Now, is it true that France, to this day, is riddled with inequalities and injustices? Yes. Is it true that French history is bloody? Sure. Is the French flag a symbol of French nationalism? Yes. But is it a symbol of inequality, racial prejudice, oppression…? No – and despite its nationalist aspect, the flag has also remained strongly associated with the most positive of the revolutionary ideals, their universality and their generosity.

  11. I chose to put the flag on my page not because I care any less for the people who are massacred every day, if you look at my page I have made my thoughts on this clear as well. You’re argument is good and brings to light the atrocities that happen across the world every day . However I feel you have boxed people into a certain group for doing this. I put up the flag as a mark of respect to the people who died. On Friday night I went to bed with the knowledge that approximately 40 people had died and many more were still held hostage. On Saturday morning I and many more awoke to the news that 120 were dead. What do you suggest we do? How should we act? Do we rise up with the rallying cries of war or the pleas for peace? Do we ignore what has happened? Should the world press report every dark deed. Should every minute we change our setting to reflect the latest tragedy? In such a world are we not fueling the sense of hopelessness, depression and anger of people? Does the very basis of the French revolutions not tell us something that we can learn from?

  12. We should avoid relativism, the terrorist act should be condemned. But you are right to point out that there are two versions of the tricolour, two versions of the western legacy: the red-white-blue flag of order, commerce and war, and the red flag of equality, democracy and freedom.
    When we so readily line up behind ‘western values’, it’s often obvious that we are retreating into the arms of cynical power, always ready to profit from atrocity.

  13. Utter drivel, there nothing wrong she showing solidarity, nothing wrong with a symbol that represents me. Left wing nutters always bring up colinialism, it ended 5 generations ago, I and the majority bear no guilt why should I? I’ll proudly show the union Jack and tricolour as long as both countries exist, those countries that allow you to post your self hating drivel, while the undemocratic holes you adore so much would have you banged up for life or worse.

  14. The historical facts are just wrong for the most part. Nearly everything is false (e.g. the regularly used state of emergency law) or wildly exaggerated (e.g. the number of victims of the 1961 carnage, which was closer to 50), with the exception of the horror of the Algerian war.

    More importantly, the author is just very ignorant of the history of the French flag. The French flag, blue and red for Paris, and white for the monarchy, was created early during the French revolution, at a time when the goal was constitutional monarchy. It stands, in the hearts and minds of the French, for the French nation, sure. But it also stands for the French revolutionary ideals that spread across Europe and changed the world in the early 19th century, as part of an ideological current that led to eventually led to nation states, but also to e.g. the end of slavery. These revolutionary ideals include the universal “droits de l’homme”, “liberté, égalité, fraternité”, the very notion of democracy, as well as the rejection (and eventual beheadings) of nobility and clergy.

  15. The historical facts are just wrong for the most part. Nearly everything is false (e.g. the regularly used state of emergency law) or wildly exaggerated (e.g. the number of victims of the 1961 carnage, which was closer to 50, not 300). The exception being the horror of the Algerian war.

    More importantly, the author is just very ignorant of the history of the French flag. The French flag, blue and red for Paris, and white for the monarchy, was created early during the French revolution, at a time when the goal was constitutional monarchy. It stands, in the hearts and minds of the French, for the French nation, sure. But it also stands for the French revolutionary ideals that spread across Europe and changed the world in the early 19th century, as part of an ideological current that eventually led to nation states, but also to e.g. the end of slavery, the rule of law, the value of individual merit, and so on. These revolutionary ideals include the universal “droits de l’homme”, “liberté, égalité, fraternité”, the very notion of democracy, as well as the rejection (and eventual beheadings) of nobility and clergy.

    To claim that the flag of France stand for oppression is just a display of your ignorance of what this symbol means.

  16. Bit of a self indulgent rant alright. A flag is a piece of cloth it can be used in many ways by people . Union Jack by NF or pop art etc. People were using the french flag doing it for laudable reasons. However the History and background of State sponsored terrorism of England and France is well worth being reminded of.

  17. Very interesting article – shame about the title. What’s your best source for the Algerian massacre? This story needs to be more widely known

      1. It would be good to hunt down a proper source so people can’t just invent numbers, high or low. I will try to find one. I see that the French courts upheld a historian’s right to call it a massacre, so the number can’t be that low. Whatever the number, what unites the two events is that anyone, be they French Fascist or Belgian Jihadi, who kills civilians, is an evil scum who deserves to suffer

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