Memo on French Riots to Martin Peretz, Stanley Kurtz, and other assorted wingnuts

by Henry Farrell on November 2, 2006

Just in case they were wondering. The riots in France weren’t “Muslim riots”: that are only likely to end “when the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from Notre Dame.” Nor does anyone except Stanley Kurtz and the more or less deranged (but I repeat myself) believe that France is descending into a ‘civil war’ where ‘Islamic militias [will] tear [the] capital apart.’ To quote two sources that, like, actually know what they’re talking about.

“Mitchell Cohen”: in _Dissent_.

Media often made it appear that everyone detained in last fall’s violence was North African, but recent studies complicate the picture. A study of the Yvelines suburb near Paris showed that 33 percent of those questioned by authorities were “European” in origin, 35.5 percent were North African, and 28.9 percent African.

Last week’s “Economist”:

When the riots started, they were treated in some quarters as a “suburban intifada”. “Jihad comes home”, ran one newspaper headline. Some American observers regarded the uprising as further proof of Europe’s inability to control the spread of radical Islam. … A report into the riots by the French Renseignements Généraux, the domestic intelligence-gathering service, however, found the opposite. Islamists had “no role in setting off the violence or in fanning it,” it concluded. Clichy’s mayor agrees. “I completely reject the idea that the riots were an Islamist plot,” he says. “During the rioting I never heard of a young man burning a car in the name of Allah; but I heard of plenty of Muslims saying, ‘go home in the name of Allah’.” Instead, the intelligence officers reckoned, the rioting was a “popular revolt” provoked by a toxic concentration of social problems: joblessness, poverty, illegal immigration, organised crime, family breakdown and a lack of parental authority. France had been so preoccupied with watching Islamic radicals, said the report, that it had neglected the wider problems in its banlieues.



anon 11.02.06 at 3:39 pm

To make the joke work, I think it would have to be “anyone except the more or less deranged and Stanley Kurtz (but I repeat myself).”


engels 11.02.06 at 3:42 pm

Nor does anyone except Stanley Kurtz and the more or less deranged (but I repeat myself) believe that France is descending into a ‘civil war’

About halfway through Tyler Cowan’s recent thread on the economic inadequacies of Old Europe, strangely enough, I was surprised to encounter a remarkable infestation of Murkan Nationalist trolls spouting this kind of apocalyptic rhetoric. I was wondering where they got it from. Now I know.


Gracchi 11.02.06 at 4:01 pm

Thank God for this post I’ve been waiting for someone to say this and to find the statistics to say this- I’m getting increasingly tired of these idiots spouting this nonsence.


eugene 11.02.06 at 4:23 pm

Instapundit is well known for spreading the idea that rioting in France is proof that France is succumbing to Islamic rule.


P O'Neill 11.02.06 at 4:26 pm

I think Peretz and Kurtz are both relying on the noted Europeanist, Mark Steyn, as their source material.


engels 11.02.06 at 4:37 pm

In particular, I would commend this specimen, by Mr “Pd Quig”, to your attention. If the link doesn’t work properly it’s the comment which begins “I love this whistling past the graveyard. Paris is burning, the Muslim ghettos are seething…” and ends by warning that “The only question is whether secularist-socialism will also doom the United States.”


Cryptic Ned 11.02.06 at 4:50 pm

Be that as it may…the really unsettling thing here is that religion is no longer the opiate of the masses.


Uncle Kvetch 11.02.06 at 5:03 pm

that are only likely to end “when the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from Notre Dame.”

That’s the single funniest thing I’ve heard in weeks.


engels 11.02.06 at 5:11 pm

You do wonder if a lot of these people have ever been outside of America. In fact, you wonder if they have ever been outside. Or if, rather, they have spent the last few years holed up in a bunker, somewhere in the Mid West, with nothing to read but the labels on their Meals Ready to Eat and the collected writings of Mark Steyn.


DC 11.02.06 at 5:41 pm

Not just ignorance, but racism-tinged ignorance. Mmmm.


natezuckerman 11.02.06 at 10:37 pm

I do not wish to take sides on this issue but I would like to see the stats on who it was that was doing the rioting etc. I did not think it was done by Arab teens who were doing riots in the name of Islam but still believe that most of the rioting in this instance was done by children, born in Europoe, with parents from north Africa–ie, muslim backgrounds and arab heritage. Am I wrong in this and, if sok can some one provde the figures to show me I am wrong. Again, not aMuslim outbreak but rather a teen outbreak from Arab/muslim poverty stricken poor.


JamesP 11.02.06 at 10:57 pm

But Muslims now make up nearly 5% of the population of Europe! How can our weak secular states survive beyond such a devastating demographic onslaught? FIVE PERCENT, I tell you! It’s the tipping point!


Chris Williams 11.03.06 at 5:20 am

There are some really unsettling parallels between this ludicrous fear-mongering and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, aren’t there?


Katherine F. 11.03.06 at 6:14 am

European Tribune had a diary about this. For further information, this site has a collection of sociological papers on the riots.


Brett Bellmore 11.03.06 at 6:32 am

Well, aside from the little technicality that Jews don’t really use the blood of Muslim babies in their rituals, while Muslims DO riot. Often enough, on thin enough pretext, to have a very intimidating effect in some countries.


~~~~ 11.03.06 at 7:05 am

“Well, aside from the little technicality that Jews don’t really use the blood of Muslim babies in their rituals, while Muslims DO riot.”

Yeah, right, excellent point. And Jews DO work in the media!


Barry 11.03.06 at 7:26 am

And Brett chalks up another a-hole point.

Way to go!


Henry 11.03.06 at 8:49 am

Guys, calm it down on the anti-Semitism parallels. While I do think there are some pretty nasty undertones to this debate on the right, I think that anti-Semitism isn’t a good analogy, if only because it’s hard to think about it without thinking about its culmination in the death camps. This is a very heavily loaded comparison. I think there’s a better parallel with some of the “yellow peril” fear and language about Chinese immigrants etc in the late 19th and early 20th century.


Chris Williams 11.03.06 at 9:12 am

Sorry Henry, but I’m going to run with it. What it reminds me of is the view that Hitler and other senior Nazis had of their potential enemies (UK, USA and USSR). The places was run by Jews, right, so every time that they said anything unwelcome, it was the Jews making them say it, and it should be discounted.


roger 11.03.06 at 10:58 am

I agree with Henry – except that, really, I see no reason to have to triangulate through some analogy to find the racism of Peretz et cie. immoral. The bullying, the bad taste, the lynching mentality, the open hatred – the sewer here doesn’t run underground. The effluvia is all on the surface.

On the other hand, analogy can help to place this kind of racism. The New Republic is, after all, not a French magazine, and probably has very few French readers – just as it has fewer American readers every day. What reason is there for the attack on French immigrants, and the fear of “Eurabia”, considering that even fewer of those American readers have any firm grasp of ‘French’ culture beyond the idea that it has to do with stinky cheese? It is one thing for the TNR to pursue its usual its usual modified Bell curve ideology – for at least we know what the ignoramuses are vaguely after, there – but why rally the armies of ignorance about Eurabia, of all things? And Stanley Kurz is knowledgable enough about France to know that the Notre Dame comment is almost a direct translation of old Action Francaise anti-semitic jibes – it might even have come from Drumont, with the Jewish referent suitably changed to Islam.

Anyway: is this just a side effect of TNR’s persistent bigotry against african-americans? or is it meant in some weird way to cement an alliance with other racist groups in France – looking for some pro-Israel Le Pen type? The Euston manifesto people join the skinheads in a hearty defend the Danish cartoonists type of thing?

In TNR’s case, this matters less and less, because the magazine matters less and less – Peretz is pretty much a joke across the internet. But I am curious about what’s behind the right wing American fear of an Islamic Europe.


abb1 11.03.06 at 11:20 am

or is it meant in some weird way to cement an alliance with other racist groups in France – looking for some pro-Israel Le Pen type?

No, of course not. It doesn’t have much to do with France; quite simply they are pursuing every opportunity to illustrate that the Arabs and Muslims are dangerous, untrustworthy, destructive, and basically wicked in every respect.

That the magazine is not read doesn’t matter, as long as it can function as a thinktank of a sort: linked to, quoted, provides catchphrases, examples, talking points and so on.


Steve LaBonne 11.03.06 at 11:29 am

This stuff is essentially Israel-lobby propaganda (hence Peretz’s enthusiasm for it), part of their ongoing effort to frighten Americans into supporting policies that are in direct conflict with the best interests of both the US and Israel.

(In an effort to prevent this from starting the thread on the usual downhill slide, I specifically do NOT intend this comment as an attack on the State of Israel per se. It is proverbial, in fact, that many matters relating to Israeli government policy and the Middle East in general can be and are discussed far more openly and rationally in Israel itself than they can in the US.)


engels 11.03.06 at 12:38 pm

I’m not certain how much of the fear should be taken at face value. There also seems to be a lot of wishful thinking involved. The destruction of France at the hands of the Muslim barbarians is too much of a wet dream for a certain kind of American rightwinger, hence the slavering over images of monstrous clerics looking down, Quasimodo-like, from the cathedral at the burning city. Even though they must know somewhere that it’s never going to happen, they can’t stop fantasising about it, because it would prove, once and for all, what they have always known: not only is America indisputably better than Europe, but also that Muslims are evil, and secular Europeans are guilty by association.

So while I think fear may be an important element, I also think we shouldn’t underestimate the appeal of hatred, wishful schadenfreude and a desperate desire for vindication.


Martin James 11.03.06 at 1:22 pm

In relation to immigraiton, although the demographic stakes may be higher in Europe, the cultural stakes are higher in the USA.

In other words if you a have country like the USA with a historical ideology of open immigration and a universalist political rhetoric as well as a distaste for the state regulating religion, the demographics of religion is a critical issue.

The European mindset seems so much to me like “the world will be OK as long as everyone stays in the culture where they belong.” Its very border historico-border-centric.

Yes, the Eurabia worries may be a caricature, but how else but with relatively different rates of immigration and reproduction does one explain the American influence that these same doubters dislike.

Isn’t America at 2006 proof that demographics and ideology matter?


yabonn 11.03.06 at 4:49 pm

Seems tnr is slightly on the right of Le Pen – he’s not so big on the “demographic menace” thing anymore these days. Too openly “biological racism”. You’d have to search the extreme right wing groupuscules fauna for a match to this mainstream (yes?) right wing “publication”.

What’s fascinates me here is that boundless capacity to phantasize the world. Tnr readers know that :

– France opposed the Iraq war because of its irrelevance, or lost empire, envy. Sure those reasons seem ridiculous to you, dear american, reader : it just shows how strange, foreign, arcane and exotic french minds are.

– As a consequence, Paris is now in rubbles, patrolled by muslimonazis militias, as you saw on CNN.

They live in a movie.


engels 11.03.06 at 5:28 pm

They live in a movie.

Yes, that’s exactly how I see it.

This is the normalization or routinization of chaos. The French government is at wit’s end. It is also the revenge of the colonized over the imperializers. … This is the permanent condition of France.

Maybe the rioting will stop and other forms of violent and anti-social behavior, too, when the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from Notre Dame.

This is a porn movie for people like Peretz.


Jonathan Edelstein 11.03.06 at 7:59 pm

I’m going to agree with Chris Williams on the parallels between anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic prejudices, but I’d argue that the analogy is less to Nazi anti-Semitism than to classical anti-Semitism of the Pfefferkorn-to-Protocols variety.

Race is a relatively minor component of modern anti-Islamism, so most of the Nazi pathologies don’t come into play. On the other hand, the rhetorical and stereotyping patterns of anti-Islamism have some striking parallels to the earlier, religious and culturally-based anti-Semitism. Muslims are portrayed as both dangerous radicals and the secret rulers of the world; they are stereotyped as an alien and unassimilable minority that must be made to give up its backward customs for its own good; their religious texts are cherry-picked to make them appear to be enemies of humanity; they are vengeful of slights real and imagined; they engage in shadowy conspiracies against civilization as we know it.

There’s almost a one-to-one correspondence between Bat Ye’or and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Anti-Islamism isn’t anti-Semitism, but sometimes it can be a very anti-Semitic type of prejudice.


OregonGuy 11.03.06 at 10:48 pm

Not wanting to disagree directly, I refer you to this article:

There’s plenty to be said about the apprehension that things islamic are wrong in europe. An unwillingness to call the problem “the problem” doesn’t make the problem go away for anyone. Trying to shift this into a problem with Zionism is ridiculous on its face.


Peter 11.03.06 at 11:20 pm

I did not think it was done by Arab teens who were doing riots in the name of Islam but still believe that most of the rioting in this instance was done by children, born in Europoe, with parents from north Africa—ie, muslim backgrounds and arab heritage

I have heard that Arabs were a minority among the more violent of last fall’s rioters, “more violent” meaning the ones who were stoning the police and burning cars, not just yelling and shouting. By some estimates about 60% to 70% of the violent rioters were African rather than Arab, and some of them weren’t Muslim at all.

On the bigger issue of Muslims in Europe, Spain is an interesting example. It has many Muslim immigrants, particularly from Morocco, but for the most part they are not considered much of a problem. The (non-Muslim) immigrants from Latin America, in contrast, are proving to be a major headache. al-Qaeda has very few if any followers in Spain, but the Latin Kings have thousands.


abb1 11.04.06 at 3:36 am

Race is a relatively minor component of modern anti-Islamism.

In the US mainstream media it is still a relatively minor component, but if you take a wider view – I don’t think it’s minor at all.


yabonn 11.04.06 at 6:15 am

Sorry, I overlooked this one last time, roger at 20 :

an alliance with other racist groups in France – looking for some pro-Israel Le Pen type

Mr Le Pen has a problem with Jews, not Israel. He was even saying how he liked Sharon’s style, iirc.


roy belmont 11.04.06 at 9:30 am

Mr. Le Pen has a problem with rational thought as well.
Anti-Arab racism, for all its virulent prevalence in some circles, is still too obvious and hypocritical, so it’s couched in code words like “radical Islamist” and the rest of the glossary of hatred and manipulation.
Hey, speaking of rational politicians in modern-day France – where’s Mr. Sarkozy in all this?
Having scraped the cream pie off his face, his big drum banging away…


yabonn 11.04.06 at 1:12 pm

Sarkozy’s drum is rather quiet these days.

His cops were enrolled early in his campaign – the media and Sarkozy voters love these “cops team crashing doors at dawn in some suburbs” sequences, but it seems to generate tensions rather than ease them (whoddathunk?). So people have begun to say that his police-as-spectacle is bad for the cops, and to pay attention to his – bad – results.

So he’s quiet these days : i think its because he realises that his arsonist-fireman pattern begins to show.

Of course this is only my interpretation, and I just can’t stand the guy.


astrongmaybe 11.05.06 at 5:43 am

Oregonguy @ 28. I don’t think you can really counter the various arguments given here by citing a single op-ed piece by Wolffsohn, who is more or less an exact German equivalent of the people (Stanley Kurtz et al) named in the original post. Furthermore, the article itself is slightly… slight. He claims the best and brightest of European Muslims are despairing about the continent’s future, then bases his case on 3 (three) Muslims who have left Europe because of “things Islamic”. He then names a fourth (German politician Mehmet Daimagüler), but this man’s “getting away from things Islamic” takes him from Germany to…Turkey? Is this the best evidence he can come up with? Or that you can?


bi 11.06.06 at 5:09 am

OregonGuy is right in one thing: refusing to call the problem “the problem” doesn’t make it go away. Except the problem isn’t Islam, it’s wingnuttery.

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