Working On A Groovy Thing

by Belle Waring on November 8, 2005

It’s a bit silly to link to things b0ingb0ing has already linked to, but I saw this awesome Guinness ad and—-had you going there, didn’t I? No, actually, here’s a link to The Fifth Dimension performing what may be my favorite of their songs, the transcendently weird “Paper Cup.” It’s about how cool it is to become homeless, or something (lyrics. OMG I can get a polyphonic Fifth Dimension ringtone!). The outfits, the painfully amateurish dancing, the backdrop; it’s beautiful. As discussed in the comments at Bedazzled, the Fifth Dimension was a band for white people who were afraid of real black musicians. Totally safe for you to listen to some of that crazy Negro music the kids are into these days! Just look at these guys; they’re not about to break the white man off something lovely, at all! They’re more about to float up into the sky in a beautiful balloon, wearing matching yellow Wild-West outfits with foot-long fringe, and warbling incoherently about the glory hole in my mind! By any groovy means necessary!

Now, I hope I’m not going to hear any rock snob grumbling about liking the Fifth Dimension. I have gone into the realm of rock snobbery beyond good and evil, where I like the America song “Sister Golden Hair”, and Rush songs and the Shirley Bassey cover of “Spinning Wheel”. Sometimes, just for a laff, I listen to the music that plays in the background in Rocky IV during the cross-cut work-out scene, where Dolph Lundgen is all on a treadmill with commie scientists monitoring him, and Rocky is out on the Siberian tundra chopping wood and growing a beard and digging the Byelamor canal with his teeth, and ironically understanding the great Russian soul way better than the actual Russian people—because that’s what America is all about. Yeah, that song. I mean, it sucks, obviously, but in a cool way.

Now, why don’t I have anything to say about the rioting in France? Well, I sort of don’t understand what the hell is going on. I’m reluctant to embrace the Victor Steyn Hinderaker death-throes of Eurabia thing, since it looks more like your run-of-the-mill broke people rioting, combined with massive state incompetence. The cheerful schadenfreude on this issue from the right is unseemly. “Remember when they mocked our social system because something terrible happened to us? Now something terrible is happening to France! I bet they wish they could go cry on the shoulder of their old friend—Saddam Hussein!” I am surprised to learn that les flics are crippled by their mushy multicultural love all all things Islam; the blogosphere really can turn you on to new ideas. Obviously, though, the French government has screwed this up royally; it’s ludicrous that it would go on this long, and that it would take Chirac more than a week to even deign to notice the situation. Some forceful police action is obviously needed; it’s not right for citizens to be cowering in their homes while every car in France is set on fire right outside. (And, damn, those things are more flammable than I ever thought. Suddenly all those 80’s TV scenes where a car going 12 mph noses into a fence and blazes up like a Pinto inferno seem realistic.) Finally, and I mean this in the nicest way, and I don’t want people to die, but doesn’t this seem like some kind of pussy rioting, frankly? It’s been going on for almost two weeks and only one or two people have died? If American people had been rioting that long the death toll would be in the three digits, for sure. Don’t mess with American pride.

UPDATE: it isn’t very helpful or accurate to call this rioting “run-of-the-mill” when it’s so obviously serious and strange in a possibly epochal way. So, retract that. What I meant to say is that from what I have seen, ordinary underclass alienation, reaction to percieved racism, massive unempolyment among bored young men, cack-handed government responses, etc. seem to be playing the largest role, vs. the “let’s reduce impotent France to dhimmi status and take over the world with the evil powers of Islam” fantasizing one sees at many right blogs.

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inductio :: citoyens à la guerre :: November :: 2005
11.08.05 at 10:38 am
Positive Liberty » Blog Archive » More Notes on the Rioting in France
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{ 73 comments }

1

abb1 11.08.05 at 7:34 am

Hey, burning cars has got to be good for the economy. Burn a few cars – get a good job on an assembly line.

Oh, and here’s Slate explaining how to torch a car.

2

Slocum 11.08.05 at 7:44 am

I’m reluctant to embrace the Victor Steyn Hinderaker death-throes of Eurabia thing, since it looks more like your run-of-the-mill broke people rioting, combined with massive state incompetence. The cheerful schadenfreude on this issue from the right is unseemly. “Remember when they mocked our social system because something terrible happened to us? Now something terrible is happening to France! I bet they wish they could go cry on the shoulder of their old friend—Saddam Hussein!”

Hang on, didn’t you get the CT talking points? The approved rhetorical judo is to claim that Chirac and Bush can’t stand each other because they’re so much alike, you see, and that the only reason France, as a whole, doesn’t act like the U.S. is because they lack the man and firepower–but in their dark imperialist hearts you know they want to. France is to be pitched over the transom, not defended (even obliquely).

Sorry — sudden, uncontrollable snark attack.

OK, no I don’t accept the ‘death throes of Eurabia’ thesis or the ‘run-of-the-mill broke people rioting’ thesis either. These are weird riots — riots without crowds that are not confined to any geographic area. Hit-and-run, guerrilla riots, you could say. And the riots themselves don’t seem to be Islamist in nature, but depending upon how they are resolved, they may end up benefitting conservative Islamic elements in the Banlieus if order ends up being reimposed through some kind of arrangement with the mosques or ‘community leaders’.

Whatever happens, though, I don’t see France emerging from this experience unchanged. Whatever you want to call this episode, I don’t think it will turn out to have a been a run-of-the-mill anything.

3

GP 11.08.05 at 7:50 am

French integration model fails
“They don’t form part of our universe.” — National Assembly Speaker Jean-Louis Debre

I’m disappointed that CT has nothing to say about this. The breakdown of apartheid in France is a slap in the face of French cultural elitism, and a warning for conservative European leaders. Embrace change now, or it will engulf you. For decades, France has said, “come on in and be just like us, and we’ll all get along just fine.” While they got away with it, they thought it was the most wonderful social engineering victory. Now, we see the real sentiment from Debre: these people are not French and we renounce them, now get back to your ghettos.

We might wonder, what took the underclass so long? Obviously, it’s been brewing for a while and all it needed was a tiny spark. If you wander around France, it’s easy to see how repressed the underclass is. Everything is very stable and the class lines are clear and regimented. If you don’t leave the tourist centers, you won’t even see many dark-skinned people, except in the hallways of your hotel. Much of France is truly provincial, with towns full of people that have never travelled more than 200 km from home. Nobody, not even the immigrants, wants to destroy the pretty picture. It really is postcard perfect in a way that only old-world decadence can enforce.

I’m not suggesting that the U.S. is any better or worse, only that we never tried to pretend that we could be one people, so we never stumbled into the French model.

4

Stephen 11.08.05 at 8:23 am

I think the schadenfreude you describe is a perfectly understandable response to the reaction of many europeans to US difficulties such as Katrina, though I’m not excusing it.

Coming from Britain I am not sure exactly what to make of the French riots– and I am especially suspicious of hasty judgements about cultural factors. I would like to make 1 small point about economics however.

I think we can agree that long term youth unemployment is an important contributory factor. This is much higher in France than in the UK, and I would contend that this is because their social model protects the rights of those in work but makes employment very expensive.

Whilst the French eschew globalisation and Anglo-Saxon economics, I would argue that their own model is not entirely progressive as it serves the middle classes (can I say bourgeois?) at the expense of the socially excluded (I don’t think I can say working class).

Anyway I don’t want to say that is the whole problem– just a strand, and I don’t want to sound preachy though Im not sure how to avoid that.

5

Nabakov 11.08.05 at 8:32 am

“the U.S. is any better or worse, only that we never tried to pretend that we could be one people…”

E Pluribus Unum?

6

ajay 11.08.05 at 8:36 am

“we never tried to pretend that we could be one people, so we never stumbled into the French model.”

E pluribus unum? Must have been some other guys.
English tests for immigrants (the Marvellous H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N), citizenship classes, melting pot, one nation under God…

(also: giggles hysterically at spectacle of American lambasting France for its racial segregation)

7

y81 11.08.05 at 8:45 am

Well, “death throes of Eurabia” is pretty silly; on the other hand, I presume it will be at least a few months before Kieran again links to a NYR article on how much better the European economic model is: their per hour productivity is just as good as ours, and their young people don’t have to work as hard as ours do! In fact, they don’t have to work at all.

8

Stephen 11.08.05 at 8:47 am

“In fact, they don’t have to work at all.”

Very droll.

9

Belle Waring 11.08.05 at 8:55 am

I will say, in favor of the “US never pretended to be one people thing” that the French government has always flatly refused to gather even the most basic sorts of information about its citizens, such as ethnic background or religious affiliation. their argument: why should we? we’re all French regardless. on some strange axis, laudable, but a strange stance to take, and one which makes it imopssible for the government (or ordinary citizens) to grasp the scope of serious social problems. what if young Muslim men in France have an overall 45% unemployment rate (not that I’m saying they do, after all, since no one knows). but if that were true, then the French polity might want to try and do something about it. they won’t even let think tanks from fellow EU countries try to amass such data by random polling; I know because a friend worked for many years at an Italian private organization which performs many of the functions of the US census, on an ad hoc basis for limited government contracts (Italy: libertarian utopia! ish.) the US has a model of “being American” which includes being someone who is primarily a Baptist from South Carolina, or an Arab Christian from Detroit. france explicitly rules such conceptual identities out of bounds in favor of notional Frenchness, while being in practice ruled by white énarques. it’s not crazy to say that this might be a serious problem when stretched to the breaking point by an ever-increasing group of alienated french citizens.

10

Maria 11.08.05 at 9:02 am

Just a random question: how many countries do NOT have an official language that is used in all official documents and the like? I come from a nation of immigrants and no-one has ever thought that children of immigrants should have the right to receive (public) education in their own language, or parents to receive communications in a language other than Spanish. Schools are widely known to be the way immigrants are incorporated into the (somewhat precarious) “nation”.

So, what is the most common policy?

11

Belle Waring 11.08.05 at 9:13 am

english is not actually the official language of the US, though people are always agitating for it to be so declared. some states have it as an “official language”. for the most part, if you live in a state with enough language-X speakers, you can perfectly well demand electoral materials in hmong, or whatever. poll workers speaking cantonese in chinatowns? yup. driver’s tests in spanish (but including the english language road signs)? sure, welcome to california. bilingual education? yes. (a good idea in all cases, or well-executed? not so much.) smell the freedom, baby.

12

abb1 11.08.05 at 9:19 am

what if young Muslim men in France have an overall 45% unemployment rate (not that I’m saying they do, after all, since no one knows). but if that were true, then the French polity might want to try and do something about it.

Why would they want to do something about specifically Muslim unemployed men and not about unemployed people in general? I don’t understand.

What if, say, middle-aged women who like science fiction have 45% unemployment rate?

13

Uncle Kvetch 11.08.05 at 9:21 am

it’s not crazy to say that this might be a serious problem when stretched to the breaking point by an ever-increasing group of alienated french citizens.

What struck me when I last visited in early June (immediately after the “no” vote on the EU constitution) was the degree of alienation I encountered among comfortable, “white,” middle-class French folk. Whatever people felt about the constitution, without exception they were thoroughly exasperated by the feckless, out-of-touch political elites of both left & right–i.e., the énarques that Belle refers to. I guess that might make them less receptive to an all-stick-no-carrot reponse to the riots, of the kind Sarkozy is seen as offering. On the other hand, this kind of free-floating revulsion makes a country ripe for all kinds of demagoguery. It’s very troubling.

Since Schadenfreude has already been mentioned, I will say this: If the current unrest ends up sounding the death knell for the political career of Jacques Chirac–or, at the very least, if it ends up being a defining part of his enduring “legacy”–I will consider it a silver lining.

14

Belle Waring 11.08.05 at 9:22 am

hey, abb1, I totally have a job—blogging!

15

abb1 11.08.05 at 9:26 am

No, seriously, why should the government care about our silly identities?

16

Will Wilkinson 11.08.05 at 9:35 am

Belle, Why are you so great!?

17

Stephen 11.08.05 at 9:44 am

No, seriously, why should the government care about our silly identities?

In a utopia the government ideally shouldn’t care. But it seems ironic that you should ask this question on “Crooked Timber”-

– the monicker surely recognises the quote “out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made” (from memory so apologies if I’ve misremembered a bit).

This I take to mean that we don’t live in a utopia and have to take human differences and frailties this into account in our politics (this is how Isaiah Berlin used the phrase).

18

Ben Alpers 11.08.05 at 9:47 am

FWIW, “E pluribus unum” refers not to a melting pot image of different peoples becoming one in America, but rather to the thirteen colonies / states becoming a single country.

On the other hand, at various times, the melting pot image — in which many different peoples are forged into a single American people — has been the dominant way in which Americans have understood how immigrants are supposed to fit into the American experience.

The highwater mark for this kind of thing was probably the 1910s, as the Great War was beginning in Europe and the the huge wave of transatlantic immigration was entering its fourth decade. Here, for example, is Woodrow Wilson on immigrants and their national cultures:
A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American. And the man who goes among you to trade upon your nationality is no worthy son to live under the Stars and Stripes.

But at least since the 1940s, the very “hyphenated Americanism” that folks like Wilson were railing against in the 1910s has become the dominant way many Americans think of themselves. (This change was in part underwritten by the virtual ending of European immigration in the 1920s.) And less homogenizing metaphors — e.g. America as an ethnic quilt — have become popular in recent decades. Still, concerns about the cultural integration of immigrants are alive and well, especially concerning latinos from South of the border (which was, not coincidentally, the most important group whose immigration was basically unrestricted in the 1920s).

One other thought: I’m puzzled by all this talk about a “European model.” On this issue of multiculturalism, despite European integration, different countries have had wildly different policies and attitudes. To begin with, Europe is still divided between countries with an explicitly ethnic notion of citizenship (e.g. Germany), and countries with a more ideological notion (e.g. France). And of course beyond the question of citizenship lie a host of other attitudes and policies. Thus France, which in principal accepts people of all backgrounds as French, has in fact grappled less with questions of multiculturalism than just about any other Western European nation.

19

Slocum 11.08.05 at 9:55 am

What I meant to say is that from what I have seen, ordinary underclass alienation, reaction to percieved racism, massive unempolyment among bored young men, cack-handed government responses, etc. seem to be playing the largest role, vs. the “let’s reduce impotent France to dhimmi status and take over the world with the evil powers of Islam” fantasizing one sees at many right blogs.

But even if ordinary underclass alienation are playing the major role, that does not mean that it won’t result in a more pronounced turn toward conservative Islam in the Banlieus. If the Imams are smart and the French authorities are stupid (or even if both just play to their bases), that may be the result. After all, even with no Muslim immigration to speak of, there was a turn to ‘Black Muslim’ organizations by civil rights protesters in the 60’s in the U.S. The chances of that happening and of that being a more important phenomenon in France now are much greater, no?

Yes, the ‘dhimmi’ comments on the right-wing blogs are overblown, but to argue that this is just ‘ordinary underclass alienation’ and that Islam is irrelevant is an equally large mistake, I think.

20

Sam Dodsworth 11.08.05 at 9:58 am

Why would they want to do something about specifically Muslim unemployed men and not about unemployed people in general? I don’t understand.

Because it’s a possible indicator of discrimination.

21

abb1 11.08.05 at 10:08 am

…we don’t live in a utopia and have to take human differences and frailties this into account in our politics…

Fair enough. Still… Some of these stats tend to imply causation where there’s none.

22

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.08.05 at 10:26 am

First, after reports from Katrina (many now proven false) proved to Europe that the US was a third world country after a storm larger than all of the UK hit–it is rather unshocking to find people in the US a bit less than sympathetic.

Second, this is missing something rather importnat: “Finally, and I mean this in the nicest way, and I don’t want people to die, but doesn’t this seem like some kind of pussy rioting, frankly?”

This is the model of the start of the intifada against Israel. Violent enough to get lots of media attention but not quite violent enough to ‘justify’ a crushing police/military response. Violent enough to recruit more to the violence with your success, without being violent enough to have the police crack down on your neighborhoods while the world watches. This is a tactical replay of 1987 Israel. It wasn’t called the “war of stones” for nothing. France had best hope that no Arafat emerges.

23

Belle Waring 11.08.05 at 10:37 am

to be fair, sebastian, that was a pretty offhand sarcastic comment. but I see your point. abb1: even if you don’t think there’s any need for tailored policies to address social problems differentially affecting different social sub-groups (and I’m not sure why you would think this), surely there could be no harm in finding out what the hell is going on from that perspective. refusing to learn facts about your society on high-minded theoretical grounds seems like a pretty stupid idea.

24

KCinDC 11.08.05 at 10:46 am

I think the schadenfreude you describe is a perfectly understandable response to the reaction of many europeans to US difficulties such as Katrina, though I’m not excusing it.

Was that reaction in turn perfectly understandable because of the US reaction to the deaths in the French heat wave in 2003?

25

Chris Bertram 11.08.05 at 10:48 am

Wow, that last comment from Sebastian was priceless …

Being old enough to remember the mid-1980s riots in England and stupid enough (at the time) to have greeted them as youff rebellions (or whatever), these French riots look pretty similar to me. Whether the French political class get down to things with a Scarman-style inquiry remains to be seen.

One thing about those 1980s riots was this: there were some big ones: Handsworth, St Pauls, Brixton. But when the wave of copy-catting took hold — in a similar manner to what’s happening in France — so did media exaggeration. So there were some other little riots here and there, but there were also your “normal” instances of drunken fighting + destruction of property which got reported as the Leicester/Taunton/Chippenham/Sleepyville riot. I suspect that many of the “riots” now reported in France are of this character.

26

Belle Waring 11.08.05 at 10:53 am

yeah, because otherwise where are all the dead people? french people can’t even riot properly, and I blame socialism.

27

a 11.08.05 at 10:55 am

Uncle: Chirac was dead politically since the vote on the Constitution. So the riots don’t serve as a death knell. To be fair, they also don’t serve as his legacy. The President is not responsible for domestic policy, the government is. Chirac has been President 10 years and during that time, both left and right have led the government and none have succeeded in doing much for the banlieu. The major reason is that most French, when faced with the choice of legal protection for workers and less unemployment, choose the former. (And rarely are they even presented with that choice; I’d say that many if not most French think you can keep laws that make employment expensive and still have less employment.)

Sebastien: I disagree with your analysis. The major difference is that those in the banlieu want to be French and identify themselves as French. The Palestinians did not identify themselves as Israelis.

28

Dan Hardie 11.08.05 at 10:55 am

You’re all missing the real point, which is that Daniel Davies got it completely, howlingly wrong when he wrote, back on September 18th, 2003:
‘ Friedman is possibly wrong, by the way, in claiming that “France, with its large Muslim minority”, would necessarily see its “social fabric” hugely affected by Islamic militancy; as a French acquaintance pointed out to me recently, the Islamic population of France is heavily concentrated in metropolitan Paris and Lyon, and France is actually a country of small towns.’

(http://crookedtimber.org/2003/09/18/war-on-france-huzza/ )

Of course, I agree that the current rioting has a damn sight more causes than ‘Islamic militancy’, but the idea that France could just shrug off a lot of riots so long as they were concentrated in its urban areas was always a silly one, as some wise fellow noted at the time.

29

Chris Bertram 11.08.05 at 11:05 am

The “real point” is that Daniel got something wrong?

Even allowing that he did, this comment suggests that what we write on Crooked Timber has assumed altogether too much significance in your view of the world Dan.

30

Dan Hardie 11.08.05 at 11:14 am

Jesus H. Christ. I assume that that is the real Chris Bertram and not some cruel rightwinger holding him up to ridicule.

Chris, when making mildly ironic remarks in future, shall I:
a) Individually email each member of the CT collective alerting them to the presence of a possible joke?
b) Write ‘!IRONY! IRONY! IRONY!’ at the beginning and end of each sentence?
c)Travel down to Bristol with a magic marker and write the dictionary definition of irony on your freaking forehead?

31

Seth Edenbaum 11.08.05 at 11:16 am

INTIFADA
Atrios had the best response, on Sunday: “I bounce back and forth between amusement and disgust at the right wing’s bizarre and uninformed reaction to the events in Paris. Without getting into the of course important subtleties, think “60s race riots” as your comparison point, not “al Qaeda terrorists.”

France treats its immigrant populations (which include, of course, 2nd and 3rd generation “immigrants”) like shit. This isn’t a “clash of cultures” it’s rebellion by a repressed and marginalized underclass.”

I’ve been amazed lack of response.

32

a 11.08.05 at 11:23 am

Seth: represssion is, of course, relative. This underclass has better health care provided to it than at least half of America – and it is free.

33

Chris Bertram 11.08.05 at 11:23 am

Dan, it isn’t the definition of irony that I have trouble grasping but rather your attempts to be ironic. But if that’s the way you meant it, fair enough.

34

Dan Hardie 11.08.05 at 11:26 am

Chris Bertram continues: ‘I don’t even know why anyone is commenting here anyway, this post is written by an evil woman who is bemoaning the lack of riot-related deaths. (Brow furrows)…You’re saying she maybe didn’t mean it? Life is strange…’

35

Chris Bertram 11.08.05 at 11:33 am

No Dan, I had no difficulty in detecting Belle’s attempts at irony. You, on the other hand, are far too subtle for me. [This petty exchange ends here, unless Dan wants the last word.]

36

Dan Hardie 11.08.05 at 11:40 am

Petty? Why do you say a squabble about a semi-literate misunderstanding of a weak joke is ‘petty’? Would you rather we talked about such trivia as the massive wave of riots gripping France? Talk about missing the real point…

37

Belle Waring 11.08.05 at 11:53 am

also, I need to point out that while I am rubber, the rest of you bastards are glue. draw your own conclusions.

38

Slocum 11.08.05 at 11:57 am

Atrios had the best response, on Sunday: “I bounce back and forth between amusement and disgust at the right wing’s bizarre and uninformed reaction to the events in Paris. Without getting into the of course important subtleties, think “60s race riots” as your comparison point, not “al Qaeda terrorists.”

Put it this way — in a year or two or five, after these riots are history, will we see Banlieus that are more or less influenced by conservative Islam? Greater integration? Or beur communities that are even more isolated? Will it be safe for an uncovered woman to walk the streets? From last year:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/05/13/60minutes/main617270.shtml

To pretend this is only about race and economic opportunity and that Islam is not an important part of the explosive mix is just ridiculous however overblown the rhetoric of some right blogs may be.

39

Dan Hardie 11.08.05 at 11:59 am

Btw, data point. Back in the ’90s I spent a very pleasant year as an English teacher in Paris. I had over one hundred adult pupils from a wide range of businesses. I had one (1) black and one (1) Arab pupil.

40

abb1 11.08.05 at 12:37 pm

Because it’s a possible indicator of discrimination.

Everyone knows there’s plenty of discrimination and racism. If I could have a dime every time I heard “we have a lot of problems with these people” from a French, I’d have a 5-course dinner tonight.

Now what? I know it’s useful to drill down to education level, age, local community, social status, etc., but how do stats based on ethnic or religious idenitity help?

41

Belle Waring 11.08.05 at 12:43 pm

c’mon, abb1. grant that the extra effort required to gather such data would be minimal; grant that the french gov’t actively precludes people from doing so. what’s wrong with finding this shit out? do you think the US gov’t and all US independent researchers should be actively prohibited from finding out who’s a pentecostal, who a jew, and so on? might this information not possibly come in handy sometime, ever?

42

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.08.05 at 12:59 pm

“Wow, that last comment from Sebastian was priceless …”

Wow your analysis is even more priceless. Or might be if you had any.

I don’t want to get sucked too much into the kind of unproductive discussion that can happen whenever Israel comes up, so I will try to be very narrow in my discussion of it.

In very brief, the general understanding on crookedtimber about Israel/Palestine is that if you want to talk about motivations for violence against Israel by the Palestinians the following tend to be considered more important:

Restrictions which cripple the economy of the Palestinian territories;

Racial animosity played out against Palestinians;

The physical separation of Palestinians into non-contiguous and non-autonomous areas (often called apartheid by commentors here);

while other factors tend to be considered not that important for analysis, like:

Palestinians might want to destroy all of Israel;

Many Muslim sects in the Middle East demonize Jews enough that killing them might be a religious ‘good’;

A clash of civilizations style problem where Muslim cultures feel a need to explain their ‘apparent’ lack of success compared to decadent Western Cultures–of which Israel is the nearest example.

I’m not going to try to attack or defend these positions, but I do think it is fair to note that on Crooked Timber the first set is considered much more important than the second.

With respect to France, problems in the realm of the first set are also present. The degree of the problems may be relatively less, but in absolute terms the problems of the first set in France are still found in a very high degree. In other words, an analysis of Israel for the types of things that are typically considered legitimate analysis in wondering about violent unrest leads to similar underlying issues existing in France.

Furthermore, calling it an ‘intifada’ is not a description solely of motivation, but of tactical effectiveness. An innovation can be adopted in an arena somewhat different from its first instance. Like the early intifada, the French ‘riots’ rarely interface directly with large numbers of police or troops. Like the early intifada, violence is used to a degree that it provokes notice without quite ‘justifying’ a harsh crack-down response. Like the early intifada, violence is used to a degree which attracts new recruits without getting many of the recruits killed. Like the early intifada the response shows the new recruits that it isn’t really that personally dangerous to enage in the violence.

Unlike the early intifada, this is taking place in Europe.

(I presume a possible objection to this analysis is that the Palestinians have a ‘right’ to the land). This may or may not be true from an international law perspective, but I suspect that the distinction of international legal rights isn’t that important to a 2nd generation immigrant to France. He has his complaints, and they are deeply important to him.)

43

abb1 11.08.05 at 1:17 pm

Fair enough, actively precluding people from collecting data is a monstrosity. I’m a database guy after all; there’s always room for a couple of additional attributes.

44

Grand Moff Texan 11.08.05 at 1:28 pm

I do think it is fair to note that on Crooked Timber the first set is considered much more important than the second.

Probably because the “first set” contains demonstrable government policies while the second set involves speculation and ignores issues of how representitive an idea or sect might be.

To say that the CT crowd isn’t sufficiently bowled over by the emotional impact of the potentially marginal isn’t exactly an indictment. That our critics have missed this (repeatedly) is why we’re unimpressed with their criticism.

Actually, truth be told, we’re unimpressed with them personally. .

45

abb1 11.08.05 at 1:30 pm

Um, Sebastian, I know you don’t want to get sucked, but restrictions which cripple the economy?

What about military occupation and building those, you know, Jews-only settlements all over the place?

46

Grand Moff Texan 11.08.05 at 1:32 pm

Sorry, for “representitive,” read “representative,” and for “critics” read “critics” read “people who can’t fathom why we don’t want to be as systematically wrong as they have been for the past several years.”
.

47

Shelby 11.08.05 at 1:37 pm

Though I agree that the riots in France are more like Watts than “intifada”, there are signs of coordination. Even on a single night the timing and location of different outbreaks is highly coincidental, and France has been arresting “bloggers” who post encouragement to run riot at particular places and times. There are also reports that so-called leaders in different communities were exchanging cell-phone messages early in the whole process.

It’s not clear what, if anything, all this means, but it does suggest that some people are at least trying to shape or influence the violence in pursuit of a political agenda — and I don’t mean Sarkozy.

48

Grand Moff Texan 11.08.05 at 1:45 pm

France has been arresting “bloggers” who post encouragement to run riot at particular places and times.

Watts meets flash-mobs? Neato! Now: what are they after?
.

49

roger 11.08.05 at 2:16 pm

It is funny that for the rightwing to jihad against their traditional (since 2002)enemy, France, they have to crow about the failure of a policy that the rightwing embraces in the U.S. — that is, one without affirmative action or any acknowledgement of two centuries of prejudice.

The oddest symbolic thing about the riots so far is the position of Sarkozy — the man is almost literally embracing a Nixonian politics. Like Nixon, he is pressing the law and order button with talk about ‘scum.” But also, like Nixon, he is the only politician to advocate affirmative action.

There are obviously a lot of dangers to the latter course in a country that seeks to preserve its social welfare system — it is important not to create a bond of identity between social welfare and race, as has been done in the U.S. But something like what Sarkozy has proposed has to happen — the people of the banlieues need the upward social mobility that affirmative action has successfully created in the U.S. — vide Nick Lehman’s book.

So one hopes that the rightwing gets at least one of the changes in France they seemingly hope for — affirmative action. And let’s protect it in the U.S., too.

50

yabonn 11.08.05 at 2:23 pm

massive unempolyment among bored young men,

Ok for the massive unemployment, but they are not really bored young men. It’s just that it says “french” on their i.d., and it’s always these ones that the cops search in the subway -on top of everything you said. They’re rathe fed up young men that a minister just called “scum”.

Well ok, maybe they are bored sometimes, but then they go play PES4 on their friend’s Playstation. Those youngs don’t play on ‘puters anymore. Sheesh. But i digress.

By the way, could someone tell the intifada/muslims-from-hell bozos that the Uoif (french muslims organisation) issued a fatwa against the riots? So they can, like, stop being knowledgable and all about the situation? Can’t mouse-wheel out of their peoductions fast enough. … Or maybe ask them about the wmd? Always fun, that.

51

q 11.08.05 at 2:40 pm

For those that haven’t been to France recently, you should know that the French Police set up random checkpoints in random streets around Paris on a daily basis, which even for the “innocent” are a great irritation as they form big traffic queues. One could imagine that certain groups are targeted at the checkpoint, and recent immigrants both legal and illegal might find this very wearing. Overall, the effect of these checkpoints is, I believe, quite “in your face” and oppressive, which might be deliberate.

Presumably a key reason for all these checkpoints is the open French borders.

52

engels 11.08.05 at 2:42 pm

Apparently, for American rightwingers hatred of France now trumps substantive policy concerns and even ideology.

53

Dan Simon 11.08.05 at 3:25 pm

As I pointed out earlier this year, at the time of the van Gogh murder, Europe seems to be at roughly the same stage, with respect to its major minority group, as America circa 1965.

The subsequent thirty years were not pleasant for American race relations. During that period, the nation’s entire political spectrum was in the grip of a collection of essentially racist assumptions about its troublesome minority–assumptions that are being mirrored today in Europe, in the characterizations of rioting gangs of young hoodlums, alternatively, as justifiably outraged social reformers or as typical representatives of a violent, depraved and possibly incorrigible race/nation/culture. The result was entirely predictable: continuing violence, economic stagnation and racial animosity.

It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that America finally reached something of a consensus around the idea that violent young hoodlums are, well, just that–regardless of race. The result has been an enormous improvement in the quality of life of everyone, and a healthy decline in racial tensions. I wonder if it will take three decades for Europeans to reach the same conclusion.

54

abb1 11.08.05 at 3:47 pm

Well, you can take violent young hoodlums and lock them up and that will work for a while, but if the cause is still there then eventually you’ll start running out of jail cells. Around that time your former education secretary and the author of “The Children’s Book of Virtues” will start fantasizing about aborting every black baby in the country. Now what?

55

bierce 11.08.05 at 3:47 pm

Problem for the French is they haven’t got any real low-lying ghettos where they can drown their underclass before they start burning cars.

56

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.08.05 at 3:57 pm

“Around that time your former education secretary and the author of “The Children’s Book of Virtues” will start fantasizing about aborting every black baby in the country. “

Funny how showing how awful purely utilitarian decision-making could be turns into ‘fantasizing about’.

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Dan Simon 11.08.05 at 4:01 pm

Well, you can take violent young hoodlums and lock them up and that will work for a while, but if the cause is still there then eventually you’ll start running out of jail cells.

You build more. That’s what the US did–and crime rates plummeted. The major beneficiaries, I might add, are poor members of minority groups–who are, after all, the most frequent and most vulnerable victims of violent young hoodlums.

As for the “cause”, I’m under no illusions as to how many of the youths in my neighborhood would be violent young hoodlums, were they given the opportunity to organize into gangs and terrorize anyone they pleased with impunity. Fortunately, the police around here are pretty good about nipping that sort of thing in the bud.

58

Linca 11.08.05 at 4:04 pm

About the gathering of racial data in France :

Don’t forget that the last time such a thing was done was in 1941.

I prefer the monstrosity of forbidding race-mentioning population files.

59

abb1 11.08.05 at 4:24 pm

What about all that midnight basketball stuff and other liberal solutions? Certainly there are ways to spend all that hoodlum energy other than terrorizing people and torching vehicles.

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Dan Simon 11.08.05 at 4:38 pm

What about all that midnight basketball stuff and other liberal solutions? Certainly there are ways to spend all that hoodlum energy other than terrorizing people and torching vehicles.

Personally, I can’t stand basketball, but evidently there are lots of people who prefer it to blogging–that’s why lots of kids play basketball even though Blogger is free.

Likewise, there are evidently a great many youths who prefer terrorizing people and torching vehicles to playing basketball. Offering them free alternatives simply isn’t enough to dissuade them–you need substantial disincentives.

61

jet 11.08.05 at 4:44 pm

Funny how showing how awful purely utilitarian decision-making could be turns into ‘fantasizing about’.

Thanks Sebastian, you were much nicer than I was going to be, while showing how completely idiotic that statement was.

62

Chris Bertram 11.08.05 at 4:56 pm

Europe seems to be at roughly the same stage, with respect to its major minority group, as America circa 1965.

A breataking statement since

(1) Europe is lots of different places with lots of different attitudes to ethnic and religious minorities. Hence the French _horreur_ at the _communitarisme_ supposedly adopted by the _Brittaniques_ .

(2) The “major minority group” is actually lots of different groups and only appears as one group through the prism of paranoia about Muslims.

63

agm 11.08.05 at 4:58 pm

Hmm, seems some people have forgotten/never saw the Freakonomics discussions…

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Daniel 11.08.05 at 5:03 pm

Dan H: I would only be wrong if riots were something completely alien to French culture, which they are not; they’re an essential feature of French society and the only innovation here appears to be that the rioters are brown.

Meanwhile, this is beyond priceless at #39

Put it this way—in a year or two or five, after these riots are history, will we see Banlieus that are more or less influenced by conservative Islam? Greater integration? Or beur communities that are even more isolated? Will it be safe for an uncovered woman to walk the streets?

Ohmigod. We’re being menaced by French Islamofascist terrorists … FROM THE FUTURE!!!

65

Uncle Kvetch 11.08.05 at 5:21 pm

Ohmigod. We’re being menaced by French Islamofascist terrorists … FROM THE FUTURE

LOL. I must offer kudos where kudos is due, Daniel.

66

Blar 11.08.05 at 5:52 pm

Affirmative action is appeasement.

If the French fix their social welfare system and adopt policies to reduce unemployment and promote social mobility, then the rioters will have won.

67

catherine liu 11.08.05 at 8:37 pm

I’m tired of boing boing — I know they’re they ueber blog and beyond reproach, I’ve appreciated recent expressions of dissent regarding the nearly universal apprecation of boing boing, above called oink oink dot net.

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Dan Simon 11.08.05 at 8:41 pm

(1) Europe is lots of different places with lots of different attitudes to ethnic and religious minorities.

…As is America, as a matter of fact. In practice, though, the process of resolving the “race issue” was remarkably similar across the US. I conjecture that Europe will similarly evolve in approximate lockstep–whether at the same pace, I don’t yet know. (I hope it will be faster, and fear that it will be even slower.)

The “major minority group” is actually lots of different groups and only appears as one group through the prism of paranoia about Muslims.

….Again, as with American “Blacks”. Since I was talking about the evolution of majority attitudes to the minority group(s) in question, though, this detail isn’t particularly relevant. In Europe today, as in America in 1965, such subtleties are completely lost on most people.

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Maria 11.08.05 at 10:52 pm

“Comment voulez-vous, qu’un travailleur français qui travaille avc sa femme et qui ensemble gagnent environs 15 000 F, et qui voit sur le palier de son HLM, entassé une famille, avec un père de famille, 3 ou 4 épouses et une vingtaine de gosses et qui gagne 50 000F de prestations sociales sans naturellement travailler!! (applaudisement) Si vous ajoutez à cela, le bruit et l’odeur, et bien le travailleur français sur le palier devient fou et ce n’est pas être raciste de dire cela, nous n’avons plus les moyens de sauver le regroupement familiale et il faut enfin ouvrir le grand débat qui s’impose dans notre pays, qui est un vrai débat moral, pour savoir si il est naturel que des étranger puisse bénéficier au même titre que les français d’une solidarité nationale à laquelle il ne participent pas puisqu’il ne paie pas d’impôts”
J.Chirac

I think part of the riots has to do with this kind of discourse. The “noise and smell” part never ceases to amaze me.

I first listened to this in a CD by a French Arab band (Zebda). This is not a recent situation. It apparently needed a spark to ignite.

70

Dan Simon 11.09.05 at 3:22 am

I think part of the riots has to do with this kind of discourse. The “noise and smell” part never ceases to amaze me.

The problem with this reasoning is that M. Chirac has said some very objectionable things about a great many different groups of people. The vast majority of those groups of people, however, have not reacted by rioting.

In fact, even the current flock (pack? herd?) of rioters are obviously a tiny percentage of the population of which M. Chirac spoke so unkindly–a percentage consisting overwhelmingly of young unemployed males, many of them already involved in crime. Why, if M. Chirac’s insults are the cause of the rioting, are there hardly any middle-aged women rioting in the streets? Oughtn’t they feel at least as insulted as a scattered few of their teenaged sons by Chirac’s remarks?

A simple alternative hypothesis: people riot because they like to riot, and because they have reason to believe that nobody’s going to stop them. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that nobody is going to stop them–especially if it’s widely believed that rioting is a quasi-legitimate response to perceived slights, and therefore ought to be at least somewhat indulged.

In short, Maria, if you want to understand why these riots are taking place, perhaps you might first look in the mirror.

71

Doug 11.09.05 at 4:27 am

Re #10 My local “foreigner’s office” in Germany has all the documents in German, but also translations posted in, iirc, Turkish, English, Polish, Russian, the language formerly known as Serbo-Croat and very possibly several more.

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thibaud 11.13.05 at 10:39 pm

What about all that midnight basketball stuff and other liberal solutions? Certainly there are ways to spend all that hoodlum energy other than terrorizing people and torching vehicles.

My vote’s for a new video game called Grand Torch Auto, distributed gratis by the French government.

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thibaud 11.13.05 at 10:58 pm

I’d side with Chris B on the point that there’s a great deal of diversity in European approches to muslim minorities, with one caveat: most Europeans retain an essentially racialist conception of national identity. Asian-americans will tell you of European shock at learning that they’re American, not “Chinese”; the notion of a hyphenated citizen, one who embraces both his ethnic heritage and the nation adopted by his parents or grandparents (or him), elicits not shock but incomprehension. Under this view, one can’t be simultaneously “african” and truly French, or “turkish” and truly German, or “asian” and Dutch (let alone jewish and truly Russian).

Ironically, it’s the kids themselves who grasp the solution for France, which is the slogan parodying the Red-White-Blue! chant that was shouted by fans of France’s multiracial championship team at the World Cup final in 2000: “Beur! Blanc! Noir!”

When the French realize that most of the beurs and noirs want nothing more than to be proud of being French and beur or noir, then France will be on its way toward a solution.

Re affirmative action, it has become a joke in the US– note that its partisans are now clamoring for de facto quotas limiting the share asian-americans entering UC Berkeley, in a state where intermarriage is inexorably rendering ridiculous the notion of discrete racial identities…. What next, partial credit for applicants who are verified quadroons and octoroons?

That said, given how deeply entrenched discrimination is in French hiring practices, and how completely shut out of the power elite are the beurs and noirs, affirmative action may well be essential in certain areas of French hiring– probably in the police force at a minimum, maybe also (quel horreur!) ENA and the Grandes Ecoles.

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