Why Jesse Hughes' Statements on the Bataclan Theatre Shootings Aren't Just Wrong, but Dangerous

Politics Features
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Why Jesse Hughes' Statements on the Bataclan Theatre Shootings Aren't Just Wrong, but Dangerous

None of us can possibly imagine what it’s been like in Jesse Hughes’ head since the horrible events at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris last November. Hughes is the frontman for Eagles of Death Metal, and the pain and confusion caused by 89 of his fans being slaughtered in front of him is something that no human soul should have to bear, and something that the free world hopes and prays will never be repeated. That hope is exactly why Hughes’ recent comments—which got his band dropped from the French festivals Le Cabaret Vert and Rock en Seine—are dangerously problematic, and have no place in today’s international discourse about how best to handle religious extremists.

Jesse Hughes is not a pretender—he is a dyed-in-the-wool, absolutely original rock n’ roller that only America could produce. A living, breathing contradiction, Hughes unabashedly loves guns, Trump and Jesus with the same fervor he enjoys sex with porn stars, catchy guitar riffs and hoovering mountains of weapons-grade speed into his ever-hungry nostrils. Always an eccentric, Hughes’ statements that were once merely fantastic interview fodder for bored music journalists have taken on a new light since the Paris attacks—when Jesse Hughes speaks, the world takes note. And that is precisely why his statements to conservative webzine Taki’s Magazine are so dangerous.

In the interview with former Vice-editor-turned-conservative Gavin McInnes, Hughes blames the events of November 23rd on gun control, political correctness and fears of being labeled a racist. He says the victims “surrendered themselves to death” and lays the blame for the attack “right in the lap” of “liberal mentality” before reiterating his previous claims that the security at the Bataclan was in on the attacks—claims he apologized for and called “insane” back in March, when he blamed them on PTSD. As one survivor of the attacks pointed out in a response article, Hughes was on stage and therefore in a far more advantageous position to escape than the packed audience was, and saying the victims gave up and fell “like wheat in the wind—the way you would before a god,” is wildly inappropriate and hugely disrespectful to those who lost their lives that night.

Today, another survivor—a young Muslim man—expressed his hurt and disappointment in Hughes’ words, and related the story of a man who risked his life to get help others escape. He too, was a Muslim—as were others killed that night in the Bataclan.

After the entire free world rallied around Hughes, his band and the healing power of music, it’s disappointing—if somewhat understandable—to see his belief system take such a dark and questionable turn. Hughes is adamantly suggesting that the freedoms extended to a successful drug-snorting, gun-waving madman musician be kept from others simply because of their religion, and the Le Cabaret Vert and Rock en Seine festivals were right to drop him.

France is attempting to heal and change while strengthening its defenses against such attacks, and this type of divisive and hateful rhetoric has no place in that dialogue. Hughes and the Eagles of Death Metal returned to touring only a couple of months after the tragedy, and perhaps that was unwise. It would be a Herculean mental task for anyone to return to that life after such an event, much less a man who told Grantland last October that he does such high-grade crank that, “The only place you’re going to find the type of speed I like to do is at a gay bar at six in the morning. It’s the only place.”

Again, that’s the kind of sensational quote we journalists live for, and back in October I read that interview and chuckled. Now, Hughes’ words carry an added weight—89 perished souls worth. No one is asking or wants Jesse Hughes to be anything other than Jesse Hughes, but perhaps it’s time he to a break from the road and the public eye and process some of what happened.

In the interview, McInnes—in his typically insufferable manner—goads Hughes several times with leading questions and preposterous statements like “You never see bad guys in movies who are Arab, they’re always German or French…” after which Hughes jumps from one tenuous conspiracy after another. What Hughes’ hurt and anger seem to be clouding in his mind is the fact that his statements make him sound a lot like an unreasonable fundamentalist who is completely intolerant of those who disagree with him—not unlike the very extremists he is bemoaning in the article.

Although these statements help no one and are uninformed and baseless—it’s hard to blame Hughes for such a human reaction after what he’s been through. But with Europe on full alert and tensions high across the continent (especially at large public events), imagine EODM is playing a typically rowdy set at a festival in France. Imagine that people are imbibing a bit too much—as folks are often want to do at music festivals—and an inebriated and emotional group decides they don’t like the look of the brown couple next to them and want to do them harm. In the context of a crowded music festival, one shudders to think how quickly such a situation could escalate into very dangerous—and tragic—territory. And if such an unfortunate event were to occur, what do you think the likes of ISIS will be showing their young recruits on the news the next day? “Couple Assaulted For Being Muslim At Music Festival” would be the headline spread throughout the world.

Clearly, the vast, vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, loving people—and the separation between the devout and the extremists must be acknowledged. If not, the rest of us risk not only becoming like those we oppose, but we also risk alienating young Muslims and in turn, helping to create new extremist recruits. Aiman A. Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims illustrated the danger of such limited thought:

“I use the example of the Muslims who died in the Paris violence: Do they also need to distance themselves from their killers? Especially for young people, this feeling can be dangerous, because if they have prejudices against a society they live in and if they generalize these prejudices, then they tend towards radicalization.”

Basically what Hughes and people like Donald Trump are saying is that if we don’t start hassling Muslims then the terrorists have won—and that’s simply not true. On the contrary, if we begin oppressing and subjugating the many for the crimes of the few—then we have lowered ourselves to the extremists’ level. For what is an act of terrorism then just that: punishing many innocents for the perceived “crimes” of a few?

The main thing those of us who are not religious extremists have going for us in the on-going battle against terror is that we’re on the side of what is right and good. The side of respecting life, loving knowledge and valuing empathy. If we lose that essential part of who we are as a people, as a country, and as the freedom-loving world at large—we will have truly lost ourselves.

(For another perspective on Hughes’ remarks, read here.)