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 have spent more time condemning the victims than the attackers and they have tended to see the massacres purely in terms of ‘blowback’, as though they were merely a reflex response to Western Islamophobia. These kinds of simplistic, victim-blaming 'anti-imperialist' readings of terrorism are, of course, widespread on the left. To take an example at random, in their book Nihilist Communism, Monsieur Dupont rightly condemn the left-wing journal Schnews's response to the 2002 Bali bombing; according to Schnews, the Islamic terrorists in Bali were attacking 'a hated symbol of western imperialism', while the victims, mostly working-class Aussies, were described as 'drunken, obnoxious, youngish Australians... (who) flaunt their money and feel like royalty for two weeks'.
Such responses will not do. 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.