Yesterdays rally in Paris.

Yesterday, as you know, an estimated 3.7 million people marched in France, ostensibly to support freedom of expression, show solidarity in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and condemn the intimidation of journalists.

But as reporters have been pointing out, the lineup included traces of hypocrisy—Turkey, Egypt, and Russia aren't exactly on the vanguard of robust and unshackled journalism. As one Gabonese journalist said about his country's president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, attending the rally:

He banned demonstrations in his own country and is coming to a demonstration in France. That’s intolerable for us. It’s a complete hypocrisy. We’re here not only to show our outrage for what happened to Charlie Hebdo, but also to show our outrage over the fact that dictators like Ali Bongo Ondimba are present here in Paris, in a country that supports human rights, at an assembly that is in fact dedicated to freedom of expression, freedom of the press.

Let's not forget David Cameron's government in the UK, which went out of its way to muzzle the Guardian and other newspapers over the Snowden leaks, going so far as to force the paper to destroy hard drives:

And then, as Jeremy Scahill points out in an interview with Amy Goodman, there's the US:

Let’s remember that the United States bombed Al Jazeera in Afghanistan very early on after 9/11, then bombed the Sheraton Hotel in Basra, Iraq, where Al Jazeera journalists were the only journalists. Then they killed one of the most famous Al Jazeera correspondents in Baghdad in April of 2003, when Victoria Clarke, George Bush’s Pentagon spokesperson at the time, basically said if you’re an unembedded journalist, you’re with the terrorists, and if you die, it’s not our fault. They shelled the Palestine Hotel, killing a Reuters cameraman and the Spanish cameraman José Couso. So, yes, we should be condemning any and all attacks, especially when they’re killing journalists, no matter who the perpetrators are, but let’s not act as though the West’s hands are clean and that any one of those world leaders marching yesterday, that their hands are clean on these matters.

One notable absence yesterday: Marine Le Pen, who was disinvited but whose National Front party—more than any other—will be the ones to watch in the aftermath of the Hebdo massacre. In cold, crass political terms, this catastrophe was a gift.

As she said shortly after the murders: "We’ve been predicting this for a long time... This attack is probably the beginning of the beginning. It’s an episode in the war that is being waged against us by Islamism. The blindness and deafness of our leaders, for years, is in part responsible for these kinds of attacks.”

This is the moment for the most manipulative kind of political theater—and it's a dangerous moment for France.