I’ve been saying this for a while, but: if we really want to understand right-wing politics today, we first have to understand baking. In a recent editorial, Charlie Hebdo – the racist, right-wing ‘satirical magazine’ – asks what the causes of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels are. Were they caused by police blunders? Immigration? The long-term effects of colonialism or ghettoisation? No. Charlie Hebdo is utterly disparaging of any suggestion that they might be. What actually caused these attacks, Charlie Hebdo thinks, is the Muslims’ attitudes to our baked goods.
For Charlie Hebdo, there is a giant conspiracy insidiously working its way across Europe, seeping into our democracy through every pore. On the one hand you’ve got, of course, the Muslims – Charlie Hebdo’s favourite gaggle of pantomime villains. I’m not sure how many Muslims Charlie Hebdo thinks there are: it might be a lot (and they do seem to be everywhere), or it might just be two or three. There’s definitely a girl Muslim (clad in a veil), and I think there’s a sort of Dick Dastardly Muslim doing most of the plotting, and a slightly detached sidekick Muslim always ready to snigger when the Dick Dastardly Muslim’s home-made bombs blow up in his face.
At any rate, the Muslims hate our western pattiserie. This must have started out as jealousy. The Qu’ran having banned all sweet baked goods, the Muslims envy our croissants, stare green-eyed at our macaroons, and this has led to their developing a terrible, black hate for every pastry, every cupcake, every turnover, every pie they see. They want to snatch them from our open, honest western mouths while they’re still fresh out of the oven, throw them to the ground, and see them turned to crumbs beneath their feet!
Thus, the plot: the Muslims are working to take over our baking institutions, which they will do in two distinct stages. First, Charlie Hebdo claims, the Muslims will take over our baking at an elite level, in the context of the university. The magazine points to the example of Tariq Ramadan, who they describe as a “professor of pies who is also a pie-maker”, currently a guest lecturer at Sciences-Po. In his work Ramadan, a Muslim, addresses the issue of pastry in secular western democracies, given its particular religious connotations; he thinks that European public discourse needs to do more to promote savoury pies in order to help a growing Muslim population assimilate. On paper there is nothing, Charlie Hebdo admits, ‘wrong with this’. Ramadan has a particular view informed by his religious convictions, and he is working, quite peacefully to promote it. What Charlie Hebdo is more concerned about is what they perceive as the knock-on effect of Ramadan’s being given a public platform. Over time, Muslim pie-scholars like Ramadan will create an intellectual space in which it becomes impossible to speak up for sweet pastry over the savoury, lest one be seen as ‘Islamophobic’. Croissants, brioche will become un-PC, and all we will be left with is meat pies and brown bread.
Having thus taken control of our discourse around baking, the Muslims will then descend upon our bakeries themselves. As old white bakers die or retire (possibly in mysterious, unsolved circumstances), Muslim bakers will emerge to replace them. Suspiciously pious, these bakers will refuse to bake anything un-Islamic. Suddenly, all sweet patisserie will be unavailable. And not just that, either: you won’t even be able to get the savoury pastries which contain ingredients prohibited in Islam either! No more bacon sandwiches for you, no more pork pies. But of course, Charlie Hebdo says, the PC left won’t mind, because there are still plenty of options available: you can still have beef in your pie, you can still have chicken, you can still have fish.
Which brings us on to the other participant in this conspiracy. Because aside from the Muslims, the other key perpetrator here is of course you. All of you, hapless, PC white secular folk, who refuse to speak out for your culture against the Islamic peril! Who are playing right into their hands! Charlie Hebdo wants to wake you to race-consciousness. Stop being so afraid of being labelled a racist, just because you want a croissant, or a bacon bun! Stop being so afraid of being labeled Islamophobic, just because you tear Muslim womens’ veils off their faces while they are out with their children! Stop letting your white guilt prevent you from refusing to give that swarthy-looking fellow with the bomb belt directions to the bus station!
The consequences, if we don’t all start acting like swaggering Rod Liddle arseholes, will be dire. Having assumed control of our bakeries and baked goods, the Muslims will be able to launch the most terrible terrorist attack in the history of the world. On a certain day, giant birthday cakes will be delivered to every major transport hub in western Europe: every airport, every railway terminal, every busy metro stop. Unable to resist the lure of the beautifully-decorated cake, oozing with sugar and cream, whoever is in charge that day will place the cake in whatever the busiest, most central, most prominent area of their station happens to be. And then, just as everyone is gathered round singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to no-one in particular (I don’t know, maybe the person in charge will lie and say it is their birthday, so enamored are they by the cake), all the terrorists will burst out of the cakes and mow everyone down with AK-47s, before detonating their suicide bombs.
Admittedly, I’ve somewhat exaggerated the emphasis that Charlie Hebdo places on baking in relation to the Islamic terror threat. But baking and baked goods continually recur in that editorial as an image, and I think this is illuminating.
The causes of the recent attacks in Brussels and Paris are of course terrifyingly complex – and any possible solution that might be worked out, still more so. In order to find one, we’re going to need to ask some deep existential questions about who we are as a society, and almost certainly we’re going to have to do some things that we don’t like. In short: we might have to stop eating the sweet thing. If we keep on doing so, it’s going to make us throw up. I’m sorry but mummy knows that’s what’s going to happen darling.
The liberal right, exemplified by Charlie Hebdo, can’t countenance this. They want to keep on eating the sweet pastry. Of course, Charlie Hebdo have been victims themselves, so perhaps in their case this mentality is understandable – although that doesn’t make their cartoons any less racist, or their editorial line any less dangerous. It can’t possibly, the line of argument they pursue goes, be our fault. Western, liberal, secular society – despite what those PC academics say, it’s the best in the world. No: it’s clear, that for the liberal right, what’s happening here is that Islam, as a religion, is evil; and so anyone who subscribes to its tenets must be evil too. Thus, Islam has no place in western society. It’s not the sweet thing. Actually the problem is them plotting to take the sweet thing away from us. They’re threatening our way of life! Don’t give in! Start a war, get police to arrest small children at their schools, throw bacon at your local mosque…
Charlie Hebdo’s response to the Brussels attack isn’t just fascist, it’s also incredibly infantile. Although maybe those are just two sides of the same coin.