Nevertheless, we mustn't flip over this position and imply that a bunch of liberal French cartoonists - puerile Muslim-baiters as they no doubt were - somehow brought the tragedy upon themselves. Focusing on the racist imagery of many of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, many leftists see the massacres purely in terms of ‘blowback’, as though they were merely a reflex response to Western Islamophobia. Such simplistic 'anti-imperialist' explanations will not do, even when the Western victims of terrorism are themselves responsible for terrible atrocities. In his interesting essay 'History and Helplessness', Moishe Postone argues that those leftists who saw the 9/11 attacks in New York only as an 'understandable response' to US imperialism were in effect positing 9/11 as a 'reaction of the insulted, injured and downtrodden, not as an action'. This perspective, Postone argues, fetishises the US as the world's only geopolitical actor. Not only is this tantamount to excusing terrorism; it is also de-agentifying and racist, as it implies that 'they' are mandated to act only by 'our' oppression. And in common with the right-wing response to terrorism, the leftist blowback theory rests upon a binaristic 'them and us' framing of terrorism, which overlooks evidence of active collusion between 'our' security services and 'their' terrorists.
A principled communist approach must involve condemning both the actions (not simply reactions) of Wahhabist terrorists and the hypocrisy of the mainstream media and the world leaders, who are the principal purveyors of chaos and destruction around the planet.