Enough with the French Flag Facebook logo

Story highlights

  • James Mulvaney: French Flag logo cheapens suffering of Parisians and trivializes war on terror
  • ISIS threat needs to be treated seriously, so Facebook makeup is not correct response, he says

James Mulvaney is an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and works as a consultant for an international intelligence firm. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)Enough with the French Flag Facebook logo please.

I was as horrified as anyone when teams of ISIS terrorists ripped through Paris with bullets and bombs on Friday, killing at least 129 people. And I, too, was taken back to September 11, 2001, and the horrifying images of the collapsing World Trade Center and carnage at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
That was a life-altering morning for America. We quickly accepted the need to partially disrobe to get on airplanes, to open our purses at ballparks, to assume the government might be listening to our telephone calls and reading our emails.
    Now, the Paris attacks will change the French way of life -- substantially in the short term, and perhaps significantly in the long term, as well. And, as a fellow citizen of the free world, I offer my support to France and encourage American leaders to do everything possible to assist our friends.
    But I am not going to tricolor my face.
    The truth is that this perhaps well-intentioned show of solidarity cheapens the suffering of Parisians and trivializes the war on terror. ISIS is not a boogie man in a video game, it is a true threat to all who believe in self-evident freedoms, including the right to worship (or not) as we wish.
    Indeed, a core component of American and French democracy is freedom of religion and the rejection of theistic triumphalism. ISIS, in contrast, hides behind a religious cloak to distract attention from its self-serving lunacy. It needs to be treated seriously, and so Facebook makeup is not the correct response.
    The new cycle of response to terrorist attacks is this: Grieve loudly, adopt a symbol, justify suspicions of anyone different from ourselves and eventually go back to our relatively carefree and careless lives.
    In the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, the nation rallied around Gotham, embraced the FDNY, the NYPD and the hardhats. Yet 14 years later, there may not be the political will to even pass the Zadroga Act to extend health care benefits for people injured saving others that day. Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, went from being "America's Mayor" to someone with less political oomph than Donald Trump or Ben Carson, men who never held elected office nor stood in the pit at ground zero.
    Soon, the French flag will fade from Facebook. In another couple of news cycles, Paris will drop from the headlines. The terrorists, though, will not evaporate, and they will not be scared off by cheap symbols.
    Instead, American leadership needs to translate the requirements for the war on terror from symbols to tangible action. We will see more heavily armed police on our streets. The director of the CIA claims he needs more leeway to track terrorists, to listen to more telephone calls and capture more communications. Yet many of those Facebook patriots will claim that armored cops are polarizing, and that the privacy of our innermost thoughts shared on social media is constitutionally protected and should be exempt from scrutiny.
    An American with a French Facebook flag demeans the war on terror and is as effective as a smiley face.