“Don’t be who ISIS wants you to be”: Bloggers on Paris and Beirut

Bloggers in France, Lebanon, and beyond share their stories, analyses, and art after a week of violence.

Telling stories has power; they connect us, help us work through the raw emotion, and give us a way to make sense of events. After last week’s devastating violence in Paris and Beirut, these nine bloggers shared theirs, helping us do just that. Reading their posts may not be easy — but it is important.

Cultive le Web, “Attentats à Paris, j’étais rue de Charonne

A writer from Cultive le Web was out for an evening with friends Friday night when shooting began on the rue de Charonne. The staccato phrasing of this play-by-play post captures brings readers some tiny measure of the fear, panic, and disbelief. It’s an unvarnished outpouring we wish he had no occasion to write, but are glad he did.

9:45 p.m. Noise, screams. A fight? A rowdy crowd there at the bar? They must be drunk, like on any Friday night in Paris, right? I come closer. A group of people has formed on the other side of the sidewalk. “Kalashnikov shots.” “Casualties.” “Dozens of casualties.” “Broken glass, everywhere.” There’s a gush of details — who to believe? What to make out of this? What are they talking about? A shoot-out? Settling scores like in Marseille? But thinking about it, why not a terrorist attack? I ask, naively. “Obviously it’s a terrorist attack!” answer the patrons who’d fled running, all at once.*

*Translated from the French by WordPress.com editor Ben Huberman.

The Seventy Fifth, “Sense and Senselessness

Patrick lives in Paris’ 11e arrondissement, a short walk from Le Bataclan. Waking up the morning after Friday’s attacks, he looks for patterns in the violence that might give him hints for staying safe  — but finds none.

It makes sense, sadly, that an attack may occur at or near a French football match – the President was there, after all. We can avoid large displays of nationalism, sports, culture or otherwise. But must we also avoid all American rock bands? Was it something about the name Eagles of Death Metal? Do we stay inside on Friday the 13th? Never patronise Cambodian restaurants? How long is a piece of string?

Hummus for Thought, “Beirut, Paris

Paris isn’t the only city in mourning; bombings in Beirut last week left over 40 people dead. Lebanese blogger Joey reflects on the lack of global attention on Lebanon, with sense of resignation tempered by the hope that we can do better.

‘We’ don’t get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don’t get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.

‘We’ don’t change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees.

This could not be clearer.

I say this with no resentment whatsoever, just sadness.

A Separate State of Mind, “From Beirut, This is Paris

On A Separate State of Mind, Elie reacts with more anger than resignation — anger at the world for caring more about Paris, but also at his countrymen and women for seeming to do the same.

We can ask for the world to think Beirut is as important as Paris, or for Facebook to add a “safety check” button for us to use daily, or for people to care about us. But the truth of the matter is, we are a people that doesn’t care about itself. We call it habituation, but it’s really not. We call it the new normal, but if this [is] normality then let it go to hell.

In the world that doesn’t care about Arab lives, Arabs lead the front lines.

Everybody’s Talking at Once, “How Refusing to Be United Makes Us Stronger

Video game blogger Drew turned to more serious topics after the attacks on Paris, penning a thought-provoking post on whether being “united” against terror is a laudable goal, or a positive idea at all.

It’s a sobering (and, it must be said, fundamentally French) thought: That the people killed in Paris “had declared war” on terrorism not because they imagined themselves conscripted into a fighting force, and certainly not because they marched in cultural and rhetorical lockstep, but specifically because they weren’t in lockstep. They were living out the messier, more joyful, less “united” way of life that terrorism seeks to undermine…

We don’t have to be united. We don’t have to agree. We don’t always have to “stand together,” even. That’s precisely what makes us strong, and that’s precisely what makes our way of life worth defending.

John Scalzi, “Paris

Author John Scalzi also veered from his regular bailiwick, science-fiction. His short but impassioned piece exhorts us to avoid giving credence to the Islamic State’s black-and-white worldview by refusing to conflate “Muslim” and “terrorist.”

Don’t do what ISIS wants you to do. Don’t be who ISIS wants you to be, and to be to Muslims. Be smarter than they want you to be. All it takes is for you to imagine the average Muslim to be like you, than to be like ISIS. If you can do that, you make a better world, and a more difficult one for groups like ISIS to exist in.

Idiot Joy Showland, “How to Politicise a Tragedy

Analyses of tragic situations are quickly followed by calls to stop politicizing tragedy — i.e., to stop analyzing at all, and allow people space to grieve. Idiot Joy Showland‘s Sam Kriss rejects that request, explaining why in this cogent piece.

When it’s deployed honestly, the command to not politicise means to not make someone’s death about something else: it’s not about the issue you’ve always cared about; it’s not about you. To do this is one type of politics. But there’s another. Insisting on the humanity of the victims is also a political act, and as tragedy is spun into civilisational conflict or an excuse to victimise those who are already victims, it’s a very necessary one.

Natalia Antonova, “In Paris they ask the right questions

Natalia’s poem was written well before last week’s events but published this week, a fitting tribute to the city of love.

In Paris they ask the right questions:
“Cognac, armagnac, or calvados?”
And, “Why are your eyes so blue?”
“Do you know how to get back home?”
“Is it finally time to kiss you?”

Pascale Guillou, “Restoring Hope and Innocence

Illustrator Pascale, a Frenchwoman living in the Netherlands, reacted with pen and ink. Her lines are simple but heartbreaking, reminding us of something we all want but can’t have — whether we’re in France, Lebanon, or anywhere else.


Please feel free to share the posts that moved you and made you think in the comments. 


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  1. Emmanuelle


    Liked by 3 people

  2. Chantelle

    Truly devastating encounters and reading their experiences makes it that much more real. To see what they saw, feel what they felt. It’s a painful burden to empathize with the world every time a tragedy hits a part of our planet but what hurts more is not being able to do anything except pray, donate and hope that it helps in the slightest. There has to be more I can do. =,(
    -Feeling hopeless

    Liked by 8 people

  3. Jen H.

    Reblogged this on my three birds and commented:

    Proud of my colleague Michelle Weber for this roundup, proud of the bloggers writing these posts, and proud that WordPress.com is the platform that so many people are using for their voices to be heard. Particularly powerful, from John Scalzi:

    “Don’t do what ISIS wants you to do. Don’t be who ISIS wants you to be, and to be to Muslims. Be smarter than they want you to be. All it takes is for you to imagine the average Muslim to be like you, than to be like ISIS. If you can do that, you make a better world, and a more difficult one for groups like ISIS to exist in.”

    Please do that.

    Liked by 15 people

  4. Dream4Fun

    We are all sympathetic about those caught up in the situation. I don’t know anything about politics or about French people or about ISIS or anyone else. But at the risk of being very unpopular, there is a war going on, and all wars have casualties. Look at Dresden in WWII or Hiroshima or London or… Wars have changed in character and are now waged differently. I think I noticed the French President saying he was going to step up the bombing campaign against ISIS as a result of the Paris tragedy. I imagine there will be a lot of civilians killed as a result, as well as many legitimate fighters. But they are all people, whoever they are. I hate the tit-for-tat responses. Why don’t France, USA, Britain, etc try harder for a diplomatic solution. Why do so many people on “both sides” have to die or get maimed? Isn’t it time to stop this madness?

    Liked by 15 people

  5. gamergirl05

    I think it is really sad about what happened and it is no where near right, they don’t have the right to do that to poor innocent people 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Gwen07

    I love the idea here – sharing in the world’s tragedy in hopes of easing some of the pain with the power of the written word.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Rii the Wordsmith

    Glad to see there are others who suggested, covered, that our own individual reactions are important too, in how we handle others of a a similar religion to ISIL (I say similar the same way I’d say that a Catholic is of a similar religion to a Baptist or a Protestant since Islam, after all, has multiple sects). What’s happening around the world is terrible, but we for our part can at least be good to others. I’m glad for the bravery of those who shared.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Susan L. Feller

    A timely post. Thank you for showing the humanity of this company.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. meyan

    This is such a nice post.. I browsed through the blogs and they were beautiful.. I also shared some of my thoughts on my blog if anybody wants to read it. Quite emotional to be honest. I am just thankful that despite these terrible things, we all condemn with fierce unity, against violence and injustice. https://paperspensandperidot.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/to-paris-with-love/

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Advanced Reading Concepts

    These are wonderful.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. arth

    Good Day to You,

    A close friend of ours was in Paris, just weeks ago as part of her Bachelor’s Degree training.

    We are so grateful she is back home in Maine. Her Facebook page has a picture of her and some classmates with the famous Tower in the background.

    We plan to spend Thanksgiving with her next week, and are truly grateful.

    The drawing by Pascale Guillou is very powerful to me.

    In the not too distant past, when anti-war protesters were having “sit-ins”, we had no idea how overwhelmingly complicated and fearsome the minds of people could become.

    It used to be that Hitler seemed like the Anti-Christ, now it’s hard to know what to think, or why such violence happens, for reasons that make no sense.

    We had no idea how “innocent” our lives were, because in that moment of time life seemed so complicated.

    This violence, to innocent people, suicide bombings and the rest force us to be more careful and threaten our very way of life.

    If we don’t take the time to be thankful for the innocence in our lives, and live in the moment, our freedom of thought and individual freedoms will be compromised.

    This may not be new, but seems more powerful to me now than ever, for everyone who is compromised, wherever you are.

    “Power to the People”

    My Best to You

    Liked by 7 people


    30 years ago, I named my beautiful daughter Isis – the goddess of love and fertility. Now, she doesn’t want to listen to TV or Radio, because all she hears is her beautiful name used in the most negative way possible.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. camerapentravel

    There are some really great posts here. Poignant comes to mind.
    I was sitting in my office, my lap top at the dining room table, listening and watching Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with my 2 year old granddaughter Jazmin. She was sitting on my knee.
    As we were listening to the ipad I was also reading the posts here on word press, the Paris and Beirut round up.
    What a contrast. Jazmin, who is 2 and so sweet and innocent and has no idea of life outside her home, her mum, her cot, sleeping, having a clean bottom, a bottle to take to bed and toys to cuddle.
    Then the contrasting sorrow and grief that has struck the hearts of the world after the attacks in Paris. How can innocence and peace and love and joy exist alongside such terror and sorrow?
    I am stunned and sad and flabbergasted by the terrorist attacks and the devastation that is left behind, the aftermath. I don’t know what to say or how to make it better. I do think with the power of prayer and with such an outpouring of support for the French people, maybe, one day, we can all make a difference. If enough people believe and want and need peace, then maybe it will happen. I hope so. I wish for it with all my heart!

    Liked by 7 people

  14. Noémie

    Thank you Michelle and wordpress for providing such a great platform for people to express themselves.

    Im Noémie, I’m French. This is what I wrote today about the recent events in Paris…


    Liked by 5 people

  15. pommienana

    These beautiful comments remind me of another Innocent lost to a vile regime, Anne Frank who wrote” In spite of everything I still believe people are good at heart”
    Peace and Love to all,

    Liked by 8 people

  16. goldietock

    It is important that following tragic events people support each other. Fear is an overwhelming emotion and it can be kept at bay by strength and unity with others. It is interesting that we are in a time when we can virtually support one another. What happened in Paris is horrific and there are definitely other tragedies that took place during and around the same time. It is important to stick together through these tough times instead of tearing each other down. There has been some opinion of anger that Paris received more sympathy than others, which is a horrible thing. Every innocent life should be remembered and honoured. The above posts are both touching and heart wrenching. They display many different emotions, but the silver lining is that people want peace. It is important to know that there are fewer evil people doing these horrific acts, than there are good people who want to unite. The good will outweigh the evil.

    Liked by 12 people

  17. binisun

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for creating a place where we can share about what happens in Paris and elsewhere…
    I’m from that area. For sure, I’m moved by any place touched in the world by the attacks…still, Paris is special to me too because it’s a home, a shelter for the people i love, a whole symbolism of freedom, grace & history… every place deserves peace. And there is no excuse to any crime…
    I couldn’t just stay at home when it happened. I had to play a bit and go to Republique to lit a candle too. To pray, to write a song about my feelings… https://binisun.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/a-song-for-peace-holy-soldier/
    Still, I feel it will be a long process. It’s important to keep opening oneself in spite of fears, to keep spreading warmth in the subway in spite of the freezing atmosphere… to shine even more through that darkness because it is the only way to make it through…

    Liked by 8 people

  18. profsdiary

    truly devastating…..as always, the pen is mightier than the sword

    Liked by 5 people

  19. equinoxio21

    I live abroad. I go back to Paris once a year. To see friends and family. Was there in July-August. Needless to say I am devastated, but my compatriots’ reaction has made me proud. in less than a couple of days three words have emerged:
    “Même pas peur”
    “Not even afraid”, what someone would in the school yard to bullies who just beat the hell out of him/her. Face the bully wipe your bloody nose and say:
    Know what? I’m not even afraid.
    Vive la France.

    Liked by 6 people

  20. ayrbraeflowers

    Very thought provoking, thank you to all!

    Liked by 5 people

  21. Jean

    There’s nothing to be “proud” of tragic stories shared.
    Just sadness.

    We’re venting as bloggers-people still alive. We can do better only later after much reflection. ie. We ask others do better…sustain life with responsible actions that doesn’t further hurt others.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. ashiidea

    During these tough times following the Paris attack, I just realized why some people have different views on the empathy given towards Paris. Some may feel that it is time that the unheard voices be heard, whereas some say that is not the point of all this. I must say i agree with the latter, if we highlight the oppression in other parts of the world, the Muslim community in Paris will pay for our lack of sympathy towards them. Either ways we are at a loss. There is also news spreading on racial issues in Paris, which will only create hate towards the French, spreading hate cannot possibly bring out love. Same thing goes about revenge, an eye for an eye is not the solution, two wrongs don’t make a right. So if people are hating, don’t show hate, instead show love. We can’t possibly change the world, but we can certainly start with ourselves. Do what we want the world to do. No hate, no racism, no war.

    Liked by 5 people

  23. Karina Pinella

    When I first heard about the massacre going on in Paris, I was full of rage. I wanted so much to do something, but couldn’t think what so I wrote this:

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Dastan (Yummy)

    Jean i completely agree with what you said but if we dont share these stories, people wont ever get to know what the paris has really gone through and how this suffering not only affects the france but also the rest of the world

    Liked by 3 people

  25. raynee121315

    Really liked reading this. Everything in here is amazing! Gonna share this!

    Liked by 4 people

  26. judybinhchau

    When I heard about this news, I feel shocked like everybody else. Not only it happens in Paris but also in Lebanon as well. I don’t know how many lives that ISIS will destroy again. But it is for certain that the good will remain.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Pippa @ Mind, Body, Work, Travel

    Thank you for compiling this list and sharing a few stories. Personally I’m touched by how little islamophobia I’ve seen on my Facebook, Twitter and social media in general. I mean, there is still some, but it’s far scarcer than I would have imagined.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. ilona

    I myself wrote about this (but it’s in german, so I don’t share it here). I had to write about how much more we feel connected to people dying close to us than to those who die in farer countries. But that the mourning for Paris suddenly started to get used against those who are dying close to us, too. Thousands of them, drowing, freezing and we turn our backs on them because we are afraid. Lets Paris be a sign for Europe not to turn our backs to those fleeing terror!

    Liked by 5 people

  29. mariasachakpochard

    I also wished media and people would have paid more attention to the attacks in Beirut. I feel very loved jsut reading these blogs. Every single civilian who dies is another sacred person gone.

    Liked by 3 people

  30. Herb W Bryce

    Hi Michelle W — Thank you for this. Many thoughtful and sensitive bloggers out there. Too bad the enemy can’t be sensitive. I guess maybe they are in their own way, but something big is lost in the translation, don’t you think?
    Could I suggest you check out my own little contribution? I posted it Monday. It’s called “The Last Time I Saw Paris.” It reads “The last time I saw Paris, Paris was at peace…”

    Liked by 4 people

  31. John Schwartz

    Being a Dutchman and living in the USA, and having studied, worked and lived in Paris, I wrote my post “Black Friday in Paris” that same night at http://johnschwartzauthor.com
    I only now see the many other posts. A good compilation, Michelle, so I add mine. Meanwhile events in Paris have progressed, amazingly, while the US scene continues to perplex me.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. ananonymousoutsider

    I’m not from Paris or Beirut, but I made a post anyways, and I thought I would share it here if that is okay. On Being Human in a World of Terror


    Liked by 3 people

  33. Anna S. Kedi

    Hello Michelle,
    Thanks for sharing this. Lots of lesson to learn there. Still, i was wondering, if it was only Beirut that had happened, would you have shared this newsletter with a review of bloggers that are mourning.
    In this exercise to be united agaisnt terrorism, there remains this natural move of feeling more sorry for the ones you know about (Paris, London, etc) than the ones the news have already painted as endemic victims (Lebanon, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc).
    thanks again for sharing though.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. royha

    Beautiful thing the internet, if used correctly 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Frank

    Great post, very thought provoking. I am Jewish and completely agree with author of the Beirut post. All victims of any type of terrorists deserve our deepest sympathies.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. maureenjenner

    Just knowing you are not alone makes each and everyone stronger.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. SeeThistheWayIdo

    I kept wondering about the huge gaps between the two attacks (Paris and Beirut) shown all around the media and social networks. The only logical (somewhat) conclusion that I could manage to squeeze out is that, while both attacks SHOULD have received the same attention, the one in Paris shocked the world a lot more quite simply because it’s practically one of the main capitals of Europe. I assume that many people consider an attack in the middle east a relatively established norm by now (though, naturally, it shouldn’t be considered that way), but when an attack forms outside, especially in a western oriented country, the tables turn, flip and so do people. Despite that, I do hope the media and social media coverage will spread out more to the middle east. Though Europe is on high alert (and rightly so – better safe than sorry), people need to realise that we are far from being in a threat level that’s as extreme and devastating as it is in the middle east.
    Prayers and best thoughts to the ones who’ve suffered.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. allenrizzi

    In the end, it is we writers who have a pivotal responsibility to keep the world free by exercising our right to free speech. Words have a way of triumphing over hate and bombs.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Elise Gray

    Ah, this makes me sad. The way the world has become. Everyone has opposing views when it comes to the situation. Either way, no matter where you stand you can attest to the fact that each individual is human. And it is human to sympathize with a fallen brother due to evil in the world, no matter where or how it’s happened. No matter if you are from Paris, Germany, The United States, Beirut, Syria, etc…we all bleed the same and we all have an expiration date. It’s unfair how the media portrays these things. We all need to find a way of looking at the world in a more human perspective, like that of this post. Very insightful. I’ll be praying for all of those affected.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. heroinemama

    Thank you all for sharing all of this with us. Everyone has their own story. It’s good to know these stories vice the ones told in the media.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. RonniN

    Reblogged this on You Don't Know Me, But You Will… and commented:
    It’s awesome to see so many amazing and talented bloggers chime in on the issue of the Paris attacks this past week. I hope we can keep the conversation going about what it all really means, from our attitudes about humanitarianism to terrorism, and what will eventually help us to evolve (or implode) as human beings all sharing the same world. It is a wonderful, and at the same time wretched place. Writers are the spokespersons and keepers of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. kathyrollinson

    I agree with these comments totally. On Facebook there are a lot of similar comments, and most people have coloured their profile photo with the French flag in support of this dreadful event. Interestingly one Muslim girl showed a photo of herself, holding a placard which said all Muslims are not terrorists.

    Liked by 2 people

  43. foodiejem

    We had a memorial here in Hong Kong as well, truely a devastating event. Thanks for sharing their stories and perspective.

    Liked by 3 people

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