FIGAROVOX/INTERVIEW : The essayist Guillaume Bigot observes that the struggle against terrorism is being frustrated, at the judicial level, by the ‘human-rights-above-all’ culture of the supra-national jurisdictions, as well as certain French magistrates…..
L’idéologie droit-de-l’hommiste, un obstacle à la lutte contre le terrorisme ?
Human Rights ideology, an obstacle in the fight against terrorism ?
First published 29th March 2018 in Le Figaro
Alexandre Devecchio for Figarovox interviews Guillaume Bigot
Guillaume Bigot is an essayist, member of The Orwellians, and commentator on France Libre TV and BFMBusiness. He co-wrote with Stéphane Bertomet Le Jour où la France Tremblera — Terrorisme islamique: les vrais risques pour l’Hexagone [The Day France Will Tremble — Islamic Terrorism: the real risks for France]. Ramsay, 2006.
FIGAROVOX : Armed Islamism has made its return with the attacks at Carcassonne and Trèbes. How would you dissect the reaction of the authorities?
Guillaume Bigot : The Pavlovian reaction of the political and pundit classes consists in expressing indignation that the jihadists who topple into violent action had already been flagged. Indignation that is completely illogical. If the attackers have been flagged, that’s because the intelligence agencies are effective, not lax. The system for collecting and classifying information has already been perfected: individuals are rated 1 to 16 according to the degree of danger that they represent; their close associates can be flagged; and every effort is made to avoid being choked with data. The system is a work of continual improvement. So when, for example, Yassin Sahli, the Islamist who cut his boss’s throat at Saint-Quentin-Fallavier in the suburbs of Lyon, was removed from fiche ‘S’ [the highest category] — he had been flagged for the first time in 2006 — a new category called FSPRT [for the prevention of radicalisation] was created to collect the names taken off the main register. We are, indispensably, keeping one step ahead of the enemy. Contrary to what is sometimes alleged, the police receive very good inside information from our Muslim fellow-countrymen — very fortunately so, moreover.
This difficult, shadowy work carried out by Muslim informers, undercover agents and various services allows us to forestall the worst acts, which would otherwise cause bloodshed across France. Each year since 2015, an average of somewhere between 15 and 20 attempted attacks have been frustrated: some of them would have been devastating.
The point is well made: intelligence gathering and executive action belong to two different agencies. The indignation referred to is not only illogical. On the part of political leaders who fail to act, and of the left-wing commentariat who lose no opportunity to preach appeasement, it is also hypocritical in the extreme.
FIGAROVOX : So the attacks that do take place must be considered inevitable? If we understand you correctly, everything is already being done to protect our citizens?
Guillaume Bigot : By no means. But to criticise the intelligence services is to mistake the target. Again, we rediscover the threat with each attack, and eventually we’ll have to admit that eradicating jihadism in France will be a labour of thirty years. Islamism is entrenched, and with it the risk of separatism, as Stéphane Berthomet and I have been pointing out since 2005. Zero risk is therefore an illusion. However, recognising that fact doesn’t mean to say that we should protect ourselves any less effectively than we ought. The [intelligence] services work to the best of their ability, but we’re confronted with three obstacles.
The first is very important, if I may say so: the phenomenon is of such proportions that it can’t be addressed using the means presently employed. There are twenty thousand radicalised Islamists flagged fiche ‘S’ [highest alert, ‘S’ for ‘State Security’, not in itself cause for arrest], 7,000 of whom are very dangerous. Against that, there are fewer than 8,000 agents charged with containing the threat: being 4,300 from the DGSI [internal state security service], 2,500 from the Service central du renseignement territorial [inland intelligence agency], as well as investigators from SDAT [national police force] and gendarmes of the SDAO [anti-terrorist squad]. Keeping tabs on a single target 24/7, even with the assistance of artificial intelligence, occupies a whole team of agents. Clearly, we have to recruit and train.
The second obstacle that stops us from fighting Islamic terrorism more effectively is that erected by the magistrates themselves. Beside elite judges such as Jean-Louis Bruguière, Gilbert Thiel and Marc Trévidic, as well as others less media-savvy but just as noteworthy, there are some magistrates who remain deeply imbued with what Jean-Pierre Le Goff calls ‘cultural gauchisme‘. The magistracy has often kept a doe-eyed regard for the petty gangsters of the public housing projects, who form the recruitment pool for future terrorists. Why? An undercurrent of prejudice is at work here, which explains this unwarranted indulgence: a culture of excuse, the cult of repentance for the colonial era, admiration for the anticapitalist element in Islamism. This sometimes strays very close to the rank, Vichyist France of the apologists of [Tariq] Ramadan, who affect not to hear the delinquents of the banlieues singing the praises of Radouane Lakdim [attacker of Carcassonne and assassin of the gendarme, Arnaud Beltrame].
The third obstacle is ideological. What has come to be called droit-de-l’hommisme [Human Rights as articles of faith] is paralysing French leaders. This has nothing to do with the practical defence of the rights of Man, or even with a sincere attachment to the values that form the basis of our social contract. Droit-de-l’hommisme is a cult of legal forms, regarded as sacred and placed above the sovereignty of the people. This celebration of the rights of the individual, treated as the be-all and end-all of moral values, legally locks out the will of the majority and plays into the hands of our enemies, who shelter behind procedural technicalities.
FIGAROVOX : How does what you call droit-de-l’hommisme [authoritarian cult of Human Rights] obstruct the fight against radical islamism?
The expulsion of foreigners flagged fiche ‘S’, the removal of radicalised French citizens and the re-establishment of frontiers, are three key measures that would cause the enemy to pull back. But under current law, which includes international treaties and the wider interpretation of constitutionality beyond the Constitution itself — interpretations conducted by the Council of State, the Court of Cassation, and the European Court of Human Rights — such measures are impossible. One might be tempted to respond, well then, change the law! But this is where things get tough, because our legal system raises these supreme jurisdictions and treaties above the law, above the expression of the general will. We should need to act by referendum to undo what the people have done in terms of ratified treaties or articles of the Constitution; for example, authorising access to the Constitutional Court.
The hands of the State are therefore tied by two factors. One is hard and juridical: the rule of law. To expel a foreigner is to pursue a remedy that one already anticipates will fail. The other is soft, symbolic, and cultural: the residue of soixante-huitard ideology [the student rebels of 1968], which places the constitutional State above democracy. Anticipating the outcome of legal process, together with the mentality that considers as sacrilege the desire to change the law, combine to propagate this defeatist attitude with regard to Islamism. We find ourselves faced with a governing class that believes its duty lies in resisting populism; that is, the demands of majority opinion for energetic measures to neutralise the apostles of holy war.
FIGAROVOX : Has the government got its communication all wrong with regard to the attacks?
Official pronouncements are diametrically opposed to reality, and play into the hands of the enemy. Communication propagates along three channels, the first conducting an attempt to water down the seriousness of the attacks: but in the age of social media, the information comes out and then the empire of the conspiracy-theory takes over. We’ve seen this mechanism at work in some of the ram-raids on pedestrians, as well as with the cutting of Colonel Beltrame’s throat.
The second channel of communication is applied to pre-emptively breezing Islam through customs, as it were. This is where the great mantra of pasdamalgame comes in [“do not confuse terrorism with religion”]. It’s all about preaching on behalf of ordinary Muslims in order to distance them from Islamism. Our Muslim fellow-countrymen have never asked for that! Such eagerness to exculpate the Mohammedan religion in the matter of Islamist attacks is a little suspicious. The French know how to identify their fellow-countrymen of Muslim origin who don’t wish to be bothered with this religion that they neither practise nor claim, or who practise it in a mild-mannered way that is compatible with the values of the Republic. Opinion does not conflate these categories with the provocative and vindictive Islamists who set the Sharia above French law, or with the jihadist assassins. But the French, including those of Muslim confession, are exasperated with what they consider to be a malaise affecting the authorities.
The third channel of communication is to play the ‘compassion card’. The emotional sequence goes like this: officials visit the scene; then out come the candles; a minute of silence is observed, and a tear shed.
But these three reflexes are completely inappropriate.
Islam — not only jihadism, but the whole of Arab-Muslim culture — is shot through with the cult of virility and the chivalric spirit. Showing strength wins respect. Looking like a victim breeds hatred and contempt.
The famous taqiya, the art of tactical dissimulation encouraged in the Koran, consists in coming to terms with force relations in order to adapt to a non-Muslim environment. By demonstrating our inflexibility in the matter of respect for secularism [laïcité], far from encouraging revolt or nourishing a feeling of injustice, we will instead be marshalling Islam to adapt to France, not the other way around.
The government should therefore invert its customary procedure and line up the cameras to record the expulsion of 300 Salafist imams. That would constitute a win on all counts. The government’s popularity would rise, and the youths who whoop with joy after each attack — as well as some others who sympathise with the jihad — would be found winding their necks in.
Laïcité in France — the complex legal constraints on public expressions of religious identity dating from the law on secularism of 1905 — appears to be in a parlous state. Punctiliously observed by catholics (with minor challenges here and there), it is routinely disregarded by Muslims. The law, unsurprisingly, did not anticipate the greatest challenge to its enforceability: Islam. Politicians of all stripes can already be overheard foreshadowing a loosening of the law, under pressure from Muslim clerics. It is far from obvious that this pressure can be resisted indefinitely. ♦