Ben Davis, April 18, 2019

One of the more unpleasant features of the contemporary media climate is that no event can go for very long without becoming the subject of bitter cultural debate. So it is, unfortunately, with the heartbreaking spectacle of the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral.

In the case of the blaze at Notre Dame, you might even say that it is partly because it is so senseless and removed from the obvious political narratives that it has immediately become the site of a proxy war over its meaning. The awful images are riveting; so far, there is no real explanation. There is thus a powerful current of raw emotion to be tapped into in these first moments when the rubble is still smoking, waiting for a villain, a hero, a story to latch onto—anything to give it structure.