This was the symbolism they wanted

Dorian Lynskey dissects the puritanism of the murderers.

The Parisians who left home to have a meal, drink with friends, watch a football match or see Eagles of Death Metal headline the Bataclan never thought of themselves as marked for death. It’s likely that among those who lost their lives were some who found Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet offensive and opposed military intervention in Syria. That didn’t matter to the terrorists because simply by enjoying life in Paris they deserved to die.

By choosing those communal events in those lively, multiracial arrondissements, the terrorists turned pleasure itself into a crime. The Islamic State statement claiming responsibility for the attacks said that “hundreds of pagans had gathered in a profligate prostitution party” in “the capital of prostitution and obscenity”. These weren’t representatives of the state or army. They hadn’t mocked the Prophet. They didn’t “punch” in any direction. They were young, progressive, cosmopolitan people whose only offence was having fun.

We’re not supposed to have fun. We’re worms; we’re supposed to do nothing but crawl to god, apologizing for existing and offering up our feeble compliments.

U2’s Bono, who was due to play in Paris on Saturday, called it “the first direct hit on music”, and it was: you don’t choose the Bataclan unless you despise music and those who enjoy it. But the night was also an attack on sport, drinking, eating out, friendship and laughter. Of all the people and buildings that the terrorists might have planned to attack, they chose these. All terrorism is symbolic and this was the symbolism they wanted.

No fun for you. Down on your knees, worm, and praise Allah.

Those who had limited sympathy for the Charlie Hebdo victims on the grounds that they had to some extent provoked violent retribution must now realise that no provocation is necessary, unless communal joy counts as a provocation.

It should have been obvious all along that the cartoons were merely an excuse. It flattered the terrorists and insulted their victims to pretend there was an atom of justification, and the latest attacks make fools of anyone who did.

One of the victims of the Bataclan massacre was the rock critic Guillaume B Decherf, whose final pieces for the magazine Les Inrockuptibles included an enthusiastic review of the latest album by Eagles of Death Metal. He ended it by applauding the band’s desire to please, writing: “Plaisir partagé!”, “Pleasure shared!” For Decherf, this was a life-affirming goal and a reason to celebrate music. For the terrorists in Paris, plaisir partagé was a reason to kill and kill and kill.

They’re the sworn enemies of everything good. Not just life, not just freedom, but everything we have the this-world audacity to enjoy or admire or love.

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