Terror in Europe

What To Do With The Emotions Of Paris? A Case For Rage

In the wake of wanton terror, psychology replaces practically everything, from social life to and information. Emotion is now political — and strategic.

Paris is still in mourning
Paris is still in mourning
Roger-Pol Droit


PARIS â€" Islamists determined to impose dread, paralysis and terror. People shocked, saddened, stricken, worried. Some angry, determined to fight by any means. Since last week â€" or indeed going back months, years even â€" everybody has been looking at the same situation, one that’s become so obvious, so well-known, that we’ve ceased to notice its singularity: It’s all about emotions, feelings, sentiments.

They’ve become the causes of the tragic events, present effects, levers of the future. And never mind that these various feelings are being forced upon us, endured, rejected, created. And that we are made to react, in one way or another. Psychology transforms, overwhelms and replaces practically everything else, from social life and information to political analysis and logical action. Emotion is now political â€" and strategic.

It’s not hard to see why. Infusing fear is indeed the particularity of terrorism, its main goal, its raison d’être. Repeated attacks and murders intensify the dread, while their images, shared everywhere, spread their impact, thus affecting everyone. The hyper-mediatization of our connected society increases permanent emotionalism, the sharing of feelings even surpasses the sharing of facts.

Do live reports, day and night, bring information? More like shock, anxiety, distress, sensations. The news is engulfed, bogged down by this affective mishmash, and it seems impossible to escape it. That’s why we now have to act within it and through it. Provided we know how.

What dominates in the days after the attacks is the compassion. Candles, flowers, anonymous messages of sadness, of incomprehension. These are the gestures of people suffering, of impossible but obstinately attempted consolation. In silence and sorrow, they kiss each other, hug each other. Despondency dominates, with all its inevitability and dignity. But also with all such depression, that there is the risk that resignation and dejection are all that's left.

Affliction cannot be avoided, but if it lasts too long it can paralyze us. That’s why, without discarding the emotional ground, we also need to activate other registers. We also need rage and anger.

Scores of innocent people are being killed in the heart of Paris, and we should content ourselves with only tears? Have we become so spineless that we don’t even feel the need to crush the murderers, a duty to avenge these deaths?

Clear choice

In the face of such savagery, that lump growing in our throats isn’t just filled with distraught embraces. There’s also fury, wrath and hatred. Of course, we shouldn’t give in to these emotions, not without control and measure. But neither should we systematically suppress them in shame.

On the contrary, we should stop loathing rage as if it was always wrong. It can be legitimate and desirable to give in to it, and maintain within our hearts hatred towards the executioners, hatred towards totalitarianism, hatred towards injustice. It isn’t true that everything must be forgiven, always and everywhere, and love isn’t the universal solution. There’s no dignity in turning the other cheek to those who fired a Kalashnikov through the first one.

These assertions, which are self-evident, are not widely acknowledged nowadays. By seeing only the outpouring of nobler feelings, refusals of all aggressiveness and naive indulgence, we could also have the impression that we lack the energy necessary to resist.

If that’s really the case, then the Islamists have already won. Their victims, past and future, will be wept over by petrified survivors, but the killers won’t be taking any risks. And their Caliphate, meanwhile, will continue to grow and move closer. On the contrary, if we identify with the rage to avenge the victims and to exterminate the executioners, it becomes possible that we can prevail. As far as feelings go, it’s as simple as that.

The concrete actions that stem from this primal choice raise a number of concrete and complex issues. We all know the long list: international coalition, reversal of alliances, air strikes, ground troops in Syria, border controls, and so on. But the psychological choice, alas, is more straightforward. In the face of terror, we can either choose sadness and defeat, or rage and war.

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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