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Context: OnTerrorism

A French satirical magazine was attacked by Islamist terrorists claiming outrage about it publishing cartoons of their prophet.

Quora Answer : Why is there so much publicity surrounding the Charlie Hebdo civilian deaths in Paris, when hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered in Syria with far less coverage?

Jan 17, 2015

The attack in Paris was part of a symbolic war that's going on. It was done to make a point. The point was "You assert that your demand for 'freedom of expression' trumps our demand that our most sacrosanct icons are respected. And we refute that assertion, thus."

It highlights a huge difference in values and mindset between two cultures which are being sucked into conflict with each other. And it highlights what is "at stake" in their disagreement. The attacks were intended to demonstrate that "we" can't take the invulnerability of this kind of "freedom of expression" for granted. Instead of it being a brute "given" in our negotiation with the Islamist world, the attack puts it back into play, making it an uncertain tactical goal that we have to decide to fight to defend (and to decide whether its worth fighting to defend.)

It's extremely significant and important.

OTOH : the war in Syria is largely about ... well, whether yet another rather banal, generic, local dictator stays in power or not. It's horrible, but it doesn't carry any extra weight. And we already know that all our options are bad.

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