On the third of October, 2019, Mickael Harpon went to work at police headquarters on the Île de la Cité in Paris and slaughtered four of his work colleagues.
He knifed three men and one woman as they went about their daily business. These are the hard facts. The shock and sadness was felt in Australia, on the other side of the world, so it’s not hard to imagine how news of the attack affected Parisians. The savagery and brutality of what occurred on 3 October is hard to comprehend, but it’s one more heart-breaking incident in the litany of tragedy that has affected Paris in recent years.
There were only two explanations for what occurred. One, that an individual unhinged by personal stress or loss had committed the deed; or two, it was an act of terrorism.
It was hoped that the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner would be able to clarify which one it was when he fronted the press and spoke to Parisians. What transpired was an exercise in double-speak to put it mildly. He said initially that what had happened was an enigma, a completely unforeseen act which was out of character for the perpetrator Harpon, who was an IT specialist working in the police department. Harpon was apparently a model citizen, a virtual boy scout who had never shown any violent tendencies nor caused any problems during his employment in the department. According to Castaner, 45-year-old Harpon had no history to suggest he would take this course of action. It was all unpredictable and a complete mystery as to why he would suddenly snap.
Only problem was, it wasn’t true.
It only took around twenty-four hours for this to be exposed for the falsehood it was.
Far from being a model citizen, Harpon had expressed support for the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and his social media showed he was virulently anti-Semitic. His posts revealed that for years he had extolled the virtues of extremism and far from being a quiet model worker beavering away in a back room, he was an adherent of Salafism, a strict form of Sunni belief, quite incompatible with the job he was ostensibly hired to do. When this history became known (it only took a quick internet search) Castanet was under attack, with a petition calling for his sacking attracting thousands of signatures.
The fox had been in the henhouse for years, but no one had said anything for fear of offending the fox, even when Harpon had exhibited behaviour consistent with radicalisation.
Was there no handbook in the department that could have been helpful in avoiding this tragedy – a few hints about what a radicalised individual looks like, what he or she says or posts on social media, or how they interact with others? The attack took place a day after a large demonstration in Paris by police men and women who were fed up with their working conditions and in response to a record number of suicides among officers. The demoralisation must be profound.
When Harpon expressed support for the perpetrators of Charlie Hebdo no one said anything or reported what he had said to anyone higher up. And why would they? To do so would be to invite accusations of discrimination or hate speech – a one-way ticket to re-education or sensitivity training and a forced admission of some heinous unconscious bias. All the sophisticated surveillance and intelligence gathering in the world counts for nothing when the gaping hole of political correctness is allowed to reign supreme and undo any progress in dealing with terrorism. As fast as the intelligence is gathered, it leaks like a sieve through the Harpons and other opportunists who have infiltrated the police and intelligence services. They must be amazed at the gullibility of those in charge, but they know they can count on the protection of political correctness. All the counter-terrorism efforts are futile when those charged with protecting ordinary citizens couldn’t prevent an attack from occurring right under their noses. All the signs were there but nothing was done. Why?
Events like the atrocity of 3 October are emblematic of the reasons people have lost faith in the political class. When issuing false information in the aftermath of a tragedy is the preferred response on the part of the minister responsible, immense damage is done to the fragile contract between those being governed and those doing the governing.
A policy that allows an obvious security risk to go unchallenged, with a tragic but preventable outcome, is indefensible. Fake information is not a response. It’s interesting to note the difference in response to what happened on 3 October and the manner in which the gilets jaunes have been treated. There has been no attempt by the elites to portray that mostly working-class movement as anything other than a violent rabble, rather than as casualties of an economic system that has put them on the scrap heap. They’re on the wrong side of the political divide, they’re the lumpen-proletariat, who normally wouldn’t know the Champs-Élysées from Mars.
Political correctness is selective in bestowing victimhood; ordinary French workers demonstrating in lycra vests don’t make the grade, but favoured groups do. By attempting to cover up the motivation of Harpon, Castanet compounded the anger and frustration felt by ordinary people, who know the only option is to change the faces that front the press, in the hope that one of them might tell the truth. Populism stems from a desire to be heard.
The French people deserve the truth; namely, that all the electronic and other surveillance equipment in the world is a waste of time without policies that allow threats to be acted on before they’re acted out. If political correctness takes precedence over all else it’s an exercise in futility – it’s window dressing that has the appearance of preventing terror attacks and fighting terrorism, but is really a feint, a ploy, to cover a lack of heart for the task by parts of the elite. As for the truthfulness of the political class, well if the events of October are anything to go by, it’s not worth a sou.
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