As member of the French media, and as a French resident and immigrant, last week's terrorist attack in Paris targeting the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo hit home literally and figuratively. Hopefully the political climate in the aftermath of the deadly attack can be leveraged to enact change on several fronts -- change that, up until now, has been resisted.
France has a cultural problem: one of entitlement. In some cases, it simply leads to whining; in others, to jihad. The prevalence of various ethnic subsets within the French population is a matter of ongoing debate, with increasingly extremist voices perceiving this multiculturalism as a problem spiraling out of control. What's being viewed as an ethnic problem is really, at its core, an entitlement problem.
Should the makeup of France be controlled by more selective immigration? Yes, and by basing immigration on merit, regardless of ethnicity. Merit-based immigration has the added benefit of screening out entitlement. France has enough of that already and doesn't need to import it.
France has long fostered a policy of disproportionate mass immigration from terrorism-plagued, French-speaking African countries (called the "Françafrique" sphere) in exchange for economic and diplomatic cooperation. France is also able to use the militaries of these African nations as proxies, as we're currently seeing with the French counterterrorism initiative Operation Barkhane in Mali and four other African nations, for example. Enough foreign aid is flowing into these countries from France that their citizens shouldn't be exempt from demonstrating a basic level of actual achievement before being considered for integration into French society. Right now, it's enough to just be related to someone.
Islamic terrorists living in Europe tend to fall into two categories: rich entitled trust funders, or hoodlums with a sense of entitlement. Merit-based immigration would exclude both. I say this as someone who was mugged four years ago in the Paris subway by two punks who felt entitled to relieve me of my iPhone.
Many of these kids from well-to-do families (like some of the 9/11 hijackers, for example, and the communist guerrillas from a previous era) and these thugs without jobs are essentially bored, and so they often seek trouble. They're bored enough, in some cases, to start fantasizing about ways in which they could commit spectacular suicide-by-SWAT in a shortcut to infamy. To some of them, going out in a blaze of self-perceived glory is a more attractive option than putting in the time, effort and hard work to make their lives meaningful.
It's worth noting that the brothers who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo attack were not immigrants. Their entitlement was homegrown. They were bored, entitled hoodlums who happened to identify with a French subculture that co-opts elements of radical Islam, rap music and the bastardization of the French language to foster an identity. Many end up in prison, where they're further fueled by like-minded radical Islamists. Their vacation plans take them to jihadist tourism destinations.
Meanwhile, French leftists are quick to shout down, marginalize, fire or prosecute anyone who might infringe on the self-esteem of these thugs. There are so many punks in the revolving door of the French judicial system that authorities end up playing a game of Whack-A-Mole in which the volume and speed of play ultimately becomes unmanageable. This is why it's understandable that French intelligence services let the Charlie Hebdo attackers slip through the cracks. At least French intelligence services aren't handicapped by the "civil liberties vs. security" debate that exists in America. Otherwise, the situation would be far worse.
How to remedy the problem? Start with the relentless official denunciation of any kind of thuggish or jihadist behavior, and the full public support of anyone who speaks out against it, however awkwardly. There can be no equivalence between denouncing jihadism and speaking out in support of it. The idea that any democracy must entertain calls for jihad under the guise of free speech is absurd. Don't like it? Then move to a country more aligned with your jihadist values.
The leftists now lamenting last week's attack can blame themselves for fostering a culture in which entitled jihadists feel they have the right never to be offended in public discourse. They're also to blame for locking up the French economy in a socialist straitjacket rife with union roadblocks and arcane, restrictive labor laws that stifle initiative and people's ability to work, giving some of them further excuse to sit around on their entitled behinds and focus on destruction instead.
I am Charlie. And hopefully the Charlie Hebdo attack inspires the French leftists currently in power to enact some real reforms.