These last days, a lot has been said about the attack on Charlie Hebdo. This paper will draw on new territory: it is an analogy between the story of Gotham City, Batman, and the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008). If you already watched the movies, it will awake in you a few memories along with some thoughts about the present-day story. If you have never watched them, do it: they are awesome.
An Attack on a Mainstream Newspaper
Charlie Hebdo was founded after Hara-Kiri, a satirical newspaper created in the 1960s. Cultivating a spirit of great derision, more or less “nothing is sacred”, it was a really trollish journal. Eventually, Hara-Kiri disappeared, was created again, and replaced by the newcomer Charlie Hebdo which evoked a similar spirit. But later on, Charlie turned more bourgeois and champagne Left. Humor turned more and more of a mask for putting forward serious views, norms, and enforcing political correctness. Like many other sixty-eighters, guys who started as “rebels” from the so-called radical Left ended up comfortably mainstream, posturing with complacency, and lecturing others about the good, the mildly tolerable and the outright evil. Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, was one of their favorite (and easiest) targets, to the point cartoonists complained that they were tired of him. In a like manner, the “Right” and anything linked to “capitalism” were easy targets. While Charlie had the balls to publish Muhammad caricatures and drawings, both from the Danish newspaper Jylland-Posten and from their own cartoonists, which was not the case for almost all the other newspapers, their position as mainstream rebels was comfortable and didn’t involve much risk. Until now.
Clinging to the status quo and current norms of respectability, many White, college-educated liberals, answered the events by posting “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) on social media. The night of the 7th, they grouped in flocks on the streets and famous places, brandishing candles and flowers, walking with signboards “Je suis Charlie”. A striking feature of these events was the Whiteness of protesters. Crowds were uniformly White. Where was the diversity? Where were the usually so praised Extra-Europeans? On social networks, some of them said “bien fait” (rightly done), some other pretended to join the herd by saying “Je suis Charlie…” but added that they “were” also Palestinian children, people in Syria or Africa, and of course topped this with attacks on “Islamophobia”: a not-so-subtle tactic of diversion. Another reaction, uniting some Whites and some non-Whites, goes toward denouncing a possible false flag operation, initiated by the secret services or some governmental force.
Liberals refused to recognize this aftermath. They shrugged their shoulders, simply commenting about the fact that stupid people exist everywhere–a nice way not to analyze why other people felt like it was right and whether it may have a relationship with their own culture or what they hold sacred. When the same liberals went out and started to tell how committed they were to freedom of speech, I gazed on the difference between this care for Charlie Hebdo and the complete lack of care about the voices of all (predominantly White, but not only) who don’t fit into their official discourse. So many Whites on the streets, not recognizing their implicit Whiteness but showing some kind of unity in sadness. Their spectacle contrasts with our situation–the Whites labeled “far-righters”, the people who have so few power and influence that we have to shut our mouths to integrate the system. This night, in a special manner, they went out and demonstrated. Why for this event in particular? Why not for the Great Replacement? Why do people who never bat an eyebrow for facts categorized as “events” or “interludes” (in French, faits divers, the facts that don’t fit into any category)?
This question led me to remember about two movies: Batman Begins and its sequel, The Dark Knight. The following part of this article will draw an analogy between the Charlie Hebdo affair and a story climaxing with a discourse from one of the most badass villains in recent years, the Joker. I hope this analogy will show somehow fruitful.
The story starts in Gotham City, a fictitious American metropolis that looks a lot like New York. It is officially a successful city, with millions of inhabitants, buzzing with activity. Actually, Gotham lives under the rule of a powerful mafia. It is corrupted at each level. Lawyers, doctors, cops, journalists, politicians have turned more or less part of it. Indeed, the mafia is so enmeshed with the system that pretty everyone knows it, but accepts it. Fear, habituation, some individuals owing their situation or money to the mafia (like a corrupted cop who rackets sandwiches sellers on the streets), and sometimes hope to avoid treading in forbidden territory: people keep up. Cops, the municipality, the mayor, the middle and high classes, poorer people too… everyone knows but no one does anything. Law of silence rules. Multiple taboos bear on conversations and from time to time a dead body is found somewhere. But it doesn’t matter. As long as one is not held responsible and singled out by those who enjoy real power–it doesn’t matter.
In the middle of it lives the wealthy Wayne family. Heads of a corporate company, philanthropist (he personally contributed to build Gotham railroad system), owners of a huge nineteenth-century mansion, the Waynes seem to be a family that matters. The little Bruce Wayne, their unique child, lives in the mansion, blissfully unaware of the corruption of Gotham. Until one night. Leaving from an opera, the Wayne couple and little Bruce meet a thug who threatens them with a gun. Wayne senior gives him his wallet. Nonetheless, the thug guns down both of the adults and flees, leaving Bruce alone with his parents’ bodies. The bubble of comfort brutally came to an end.
Ten years later, Bruce Wayne is a Princeton student. He goes back to Gotham to attend a hearing of his parents’ murderer. In the courtroom, the jailed thug sheds crocodile tears, plays the repented. Of course he worked for the mafia too. Maybe the judge does also. The thug is released. Before he leaves the room, Wayne waits for him with a gun hidden in his sleeve. He wants to kill the murderer, avenge his parents. But before he can do anything, a blond woman comes, says “Falcone says hi” and guns the murderer down. Falcone is the head of the mafia. He allowed release of the thug to kill him right after the tribunal. More than a demonstration of power, this gesture exhibits almightiness. Indeed, no one dares arrest Falcone.
However, one decides to come for Falcone: Bruce Wayne. While his age is not precisely mentioned, Wayne is still a boy with an almost adolescent figure. His costly clothes don’t hide an awkward, clumsy side. According to a postmodern, Foucault-based theory of domination, Wayne being a White person, a male, and especially a billionaire, he should be a “dominant”. Nevertheless he is inescapably weak. Complaining about his parents’ mansion, submissive with his friend Rachel, passive-agressive with Alfred, but unable to act on any of them, Wayne is a typical babtou fragile (“White wimp”). There is a gap between how rich he is–or supposed to be–and how weak, powerless, he is. But even then, Wayne has guts to confront someone else and his own weakness. He goes find Falcone. The mafia chief stays in a restaurant, everyone knows where he is but no one will dare to do something against him. Arriving to the restaurant, Wayne is recognized, searched, and put on a bench facing Falcone. The following dialogue, rapidly turning into a monologue, is a piece of anthology:
Falcone: “You are taller than you look in the tabloids, Mr. Wayne. No gun? I’m insulted. You could just have sent a thank-you note.”
Wayne: “I didn’t come here to thank you. I came here to show that not all Gotham are afraid of you”.
Falcone: “Only those who know me, kid. Look around you. You’ll see two councilmen, a union official, couple off-duty cops, and a judge. [He draws a gun, points it on Bruce.] I wouldn’t have a second’s hesitation of blowing your head off right here and right now in front of them. That’s power you can’t buy. That’s the power of fear… You think you have nothing to lose. But we haven’t thought it through. You haven’t thought about your lady friend in the DA’s office, you haven’t thought about your old butler. Bang! People from your world have so much to lose. Now, you think that because your mommy and daddy got shot, you know about the ugly side of life, but you don’t. You never tasted desperate. You’re Bruce Wayne, the prince of Gotham!… Don’t come here with your anger, trying to prove something to yourself. This is a world you’ll never understand. And you always fear what you don’t understand… In the joint, Chill [the thug] told me about the night he killed your father. He said your father begged for his life. Begged. Like a dog.”
The “prince of Gotham” title is one of pure figuration. Money, status, even mansions aren’t enough. As Falcone says, his power cannot be bought, at least not with money. It has been built with much more than that. Staying within the boundaries of his “prince of Gotham” role, Wayne would have no power to impact or decide on anything serious. He would be a dummy, a token part of a corrupt city where he wouldn’t even rule his own company.
But Wayne is more than a (fake) “dominant”, more than a fin de race living in the shadow of his parents and ancestors, more than the hopelessly weak babtou fragile who got thrown out of the bar. Gotham is a port city. Hearing the sound of a siren, Wayne quickly buys a bum’s coat, gives the bum his own luxury coat, and runs to a boat.
The part of the story concerning the League of Shadows is already known to those who watched the movie. (If you had not watched it yet, do it! The Batman trilogy is awesome.) Wayne travels, immerses himself into the criminal world, learns Chinese and martial arts, gets jailed in a filthy prison, gets attacked by other prisoners, and fights them; then is released and trains anew within the League of Shadows. After some dramatic episodes, he calls in a private jet and goes back to Gotham. During the travel, talking with Alfred–the “old butcher” Falcone mentioned and the only man of trust Wayne has–he mentions that “people need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy.”
Gotham has not changed a bit. The same corruption goes on, the same power of fear and silence. Falcone is still the head of the mafia. However, Bruce Wayne himself has changed. Still White, of course, he is not a babtou fragile anymore. He stopped being afraid of acting public, of facing his own weaknesses. He has depths, creeping doubts sometimes, as well as courage–and now the proper techniques, physical strength, and confidence to act. Inquiring a bit about the mafia, he finds many useful information about where and how the deals are made. Information is easy to get when one really looks for it, action is much more difficult. And action Wayne will take. With painted armor, a costume, a mask, and a certain sense of theatricality, he creates a persona, the Batman. Out at night, elusive, Batman is an incarnated symbol. Dwelling in darkness, where fear lies, to confront people from the mafia in their own territory and defeat them.
Batman acts by shock strategy. He hunts down thugs, gangs, and interrupts their secret routines. Coming out from darkness, he beats them up, and dismantles their operations. Doing so, he reverses the power of terror: his shock actions make the criminals more and more afraid. Batman’s strategy climaxes one night when he goes to the docks–close from the restaurant where Wayne was lectured and kicked out by Falcone–interrupts a drug delivery, beats all the thugs and, as a sweet revenge, gets Falcone outside of his car and leaves him chained to a lighthouse. The former head of the mafia, the man with “power one can’t buy”, the power to end the life of the “prince of Gotham” if he wanted to, gets jailed. In passing, one can notice that when Batman beats down the thugs, Falcone stays inside his car until Batman gets him outside by force. Who turned dependent on a bubble of comfort, who’s mastering the outside–and the darkness–now?
People of Gotham were OK with the mafia. They accepted living in a corrupt system. Some didn’t find it to their taste, like the cop (Gordon) who refuses to take money from his corrupted colleague who “taxes” sandwiches sellers from the street. But many others, including many cops, judges, and bureaucrats, seemed perfectly content with being bought out–so comfortable they would let Falcone blow off a billionaire’s head if he wanted to. As the mafia was enmeshed in the system, everyone was enmeshed too, both as participants and prisoners. Only a Bruce Wayne, an insider by his “prince of Gotham” role and an outsider by his values, his former life, his ascetic way of living, and sheer will, could create a proper persona and deal serious blows to the mafia. Only a shock strategy seemed able to dis-enmesh the rot.
The Dark Knight
In the second movie, The Dark Knight, Gotham City turned cleaner. Hunted down by Batman, the Mob keeps losing ground. Playing on fantasies, on sublime, awakening dreams and hopes, Batman inspired various copycats who who go out wearing Bat-suits and attack the Mob. A new prosecutor, Harvey Dent, appears as a prototypical white knight: beautiful, sassy, he doesn’t suffer from Batman’s doubts and dreams. While Batman is officially an outlaw, a vigilante, he officiously works with the police and acts according to his mission. In the first movie, Bruce Wayne appeared so ascetic that he had to learn anew how to have fun; now he assumes his playboy role pretty well. The once babtou fragile is now a more mature person, mastering various roles.
The once powerful mafia, successfully enmeshed within the system and following a pyramidal structure, is now a confederation formed by various chiefs and gangs. They meet in more discreet places than before: a parking lot, a kitchen, a restaurant backroom. Chased down both by official people like the new prosecutor–the officials are not afraid anymore–and Batman at night, they try to protect the few money left by putting it in China, under the rule of a Chinese banker. However, if legal forces are bounded by a specific jurisdiction, Batman is not. He secretly goes to China, captures the banker and gives him the the police. Almost in the same time, Harvey Dent intensifies his efforts and orders a wide crackdown on the Mob: hundreds of thugs and gang chiefs get jailed.
In this context of extreme stress for the mafia, a new character appears: the Joker. He is a strange, elusive, fearless guy. With a clown makeup and scars around his mouth, he appears as both a freak and an uncontrollable trickster. The Mafia hires him to kill the Batman. What does the Joker do? Just like Batman, a strategy of shock, here heightened to become a strategy of terror: with some henchmen on his side, he commits a terrorist attack each day to frighten Gotham. One day he comes to a mundane reception and throws a woman by the window, another day he kills a Batman copycat in a live TV broadcast. The Joker asks for the Batman to turn himself, put down his mask, or he will keep terrorizing the city. Cops are unable to capture the elusive terrorist.
How do the Gotham citizens react? Impressed by the events, they implicitly accept the Joker’s demands and pressure the Batman to turn himself in. “No more dead cops!” Even cops are too afraid to keep doing what they successfully did as long as the Batman was here. Of course, if Bruce Wayne turned himself, he couldn’t act as a superhero anymore. The idea he incarnates would belong to the past and the Mob could go back to business–as well as the Joker could keep doing terrorist attacks, creating chaos. Gotham citizens have a short-term view. Rather than defend Batman, who single-handedly saved them from a corrupt and destructive system, they want him to stop existing and hope chaos or corruption won’t go back after he goes away.
Later in the movie, the Joker is captured but eventually evades from his cell. He steals money from the Mob, captures the Chinese banker, pours gas on both, and burns them down. At the same time, he also feeds a Mob chief’s pooches by giving them their owner… As he describes himself, he is an “agent of chaos”. “It’s not about money… it is about sending a message”, he says, as the money from the Mob burns.
In one of the masterful traps built by the Joker, Harvey Dent ends up with half of his face burned while his girlfriend dies by the same fire. Dent awakes in a hospital, tied to a bed, a piece of gaze covering the burned half of his face. The Joker comes to meet him, tells Dent he just took his plan and “turned it on itself”, then adds:
Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just… do things.
The mob has plans, the cops have plans… You know, they’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are… It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and look where that got you. I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm?
You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!
Back from Fiction
Now you may have grasped the analogy between the Charlie Hebdo affair and the history of Gotham, first cleaned up by Batman, then thrown in terror by its own cowardice and the Joker.
Batman saved Gotham from the mafia. His shock strategy was able to reverse the fear, clean up the system, take more and more ground to give it back to normal functioning. As a masked superhero, Batman was able to do what insiders and officials could never do: single out the thugs and the corrupt, beat them–both physically and by giving them to the police with proofs of their guilt–and destroy their routines. By breaking down the paths for the dishonest, he freed territory and possibilities for the honest. In a corrupt society, Batman’s violent actions are a condition of possibility for a true liberal life. However, the plain citizens, the officials, refuse to see it: they want short-term stability without reflecting on the true conditions of a long-term stable society. They want no risk. Avoiding struggle, avoiding battles, avoiding responsibilities. No real solidarity or courage binding them together. “As long as I am sure enough to survive, things are fine.”
Many real-life people do know about the Great Replacement. They are aware of how dramatic the situation for Whites has become. They know from their own lives and testimonies how weak they appear facing thugs and immigrants who eagerly take money and power where they can. Many do have insider knowledge of corruption, power relations where only some of the Whites may have a detrimental advantage. Young White people using gangsta-rap culture, trying to conform to it, White girls raped and used by immigrant pimps, precarious works, the fall from our parents’ blissful liberals conditions…? No problem. “Incidents” of plain Whites such as Jérémy Censier or Jean-Claude Irvoas murdered by aggressive immigrants? No problem. White flight, daily “incidents”, and people secretly complaining? Young Catholics and old-fashioned, middle class citizens bludgeoned while they were peacefully demonstrating, condemned by the mainstream media and government all along, no problem. There are still possibilities of a career for some, or so it seems. There is still the Internet, video games, petty or less petty jobs, the welfare state, and, on the top of all that, personal hopes. People know in their guts tomorrow may be ugly but everyone tries to make little plans, work here, network there. Everyone wants to hope.
But add something that cannot be integrated to their plans, something that brutally intrudes into the nice official order of things, and people become afraid. They awaken, shout on social networks, flock in crowds while doing their best to stick with the official discourse. The Joker would find it very fun. And he would probably have zero compassion for the comfortable inside-the-system rebels of Charlie Hebdo. Millions of Whites are living oppressed, people are catcalled for “racism”, or smuggled in the streets without any ability to make open claims for their rights, some “incidents” and no-origin-mentioned criminals regularly kill, rape, and assault a large number of White people, demographic trends follow their course, and no one moves a bat. But put some jihadists with Kalashnikovs in the heart of bobo Paris, let them kill some famous mainstream cartoonists, and “everyone loses their minds!”
As Charlie Hebdo was born from Hara-Kiri, a really courageous and satirist journal, a nice thing to do–behind laughing at the hypocrisy and pathetic efforts for maintaining an official front many people don’t believe in at all–is treating the affair, not with the seriousness of the official front, but in the light and enlightened spirit of its beginning. As the cartoonists made a living by mocking other people, it seems fair to have same kind of fun with their story. They are not saints nor martyrs, we don’t have any reason to put a social marker of respectability on everything we do. After all, why so serious?
When Charles de Gaulle died in the city of Colombey, it happened two weeks after a fire that killed 146 people (!) in a night club. The media reacted by making a lot of fuss, an endless stream of comments, commemorations, and assembling a contest of eloquence. Hara-Kiri, the ancestor of Charlie, made an extremely sober cover with no drawing, no flowing text, just a sentence in huge letters: “Bal tragique à Colombey, 1 mort” (tragic party in Colombey, 1 casualty). The picture above is a variation around this theme. It shows the same critical distance from the mainstream discourse–and a striking, apparently careless humor–than Hara-Kiri’s original one.
Unsurprisingly, this drawing comes from a friend of Joe Le Corbeau, a pro-Muslim cartoonist who enjoys satirizing, amongst other topics, the Holocaust. In July 2013, after a shooting took place in Egypt, Charlie published a satirical cover saying “Le Coran, c’est de la merde, ça n’arrête pas les balles” (the Koran is a piece of trash, it doesn’t stop bullets). Now, instead of an anonymous Muslim, it is the dead cartoonist Charb who appears trying to take cover from bullets with a piece of paper. Should this cartoon be considered as a tribute or an offense? Commentators are allowed to answer, if they want to, in the most trollish way they can.