Posts about News

The French bloggers

I’m interested in your reaction to bloggers’ relationship to the French riots (because I may be writing about it in a column) — about the bloggers who were pulled in by the cops for allegedly inciting and about the French blogosphere’s reporting and reaction to the riots. Any help appreciated. Here‘s the Guardian story:

Two bloggers have been detained by authorities in France on suspicion of encouraging people to take part in the Paris riots.

A 16-year-old French teenager and an 18-year-old of Ghanaian nationality are being questioned by Paris prosecutors, according to reports.

One of the blogs was called “sarkodead”, a reference to the interior minister and presidential contender, Nicholas Sarkozy, who referred to the rioters in disparaging terms and has been singled out for criticism by many French bloggers.

The pair have been placed under investigation, which is a step short of formal charges under French law, for “inciting harm to people and property over the internet”.

Sarkodead and the second blog – called “hardcore” – were suspended last weekend, according to judicial officials in Paris.

French bloggers have been divided over their attitude to the riots. Some have tried to calm the situation, while others have tried to inflame the situation.

“I have never got how turning where you live into a war zone proves anything,” said “bobcoloredglasses”.

“If anyone in the ghetto is reading this and is ever part of a riot, try rioting in the mayor’s neighbourhood. I bet you get a much faster reaction, and you can go back to your house that hasn’t been wrecked.”

Another blogger wrote: “It is not by firing teargas into a mosque – in Ramadan – how one restores order. Peace is gained by meeting people. Unfortunately this long-term work does not figure in the presidential planning of Mr Sarkozy. Sarkozy will never be my president.”

: See also this fascinating Business Week story on Sarkozy buying Google AdWords to try to drum up support for his side.

Welcome to the uncontrolled world of media where anybody can try to control it but can’t.

So much for the wisdom of the polls

Once again, pre-election polls were full of it. The gubernatorial race in New Jersey was supposed to be close. It was anything but.

Why they hate France

Well, at least it’s not us.

Maybe he was just calling them bloggers

In PC France, a pol got in trouble for calling rioters who burned cars scum — for calling criminals criminals. Turns out, something was gained in the translation. The Guardian blog says:

Much has been made of Nicolas Sarkozy’s description of the French rioters as “racaille”, a derogatory term held to have fuelled the nationwide spread of the violent disturbances over the past week. The term, widely translated in the British media as “scum”, actually equates more closely to “rabble”. (The Guardian, which has also used “scum” on a number of occasions, will be using “rabble” from now on.)

Laurent Greilsamer in Le Monde investigates the etymology and changing meaning of the word, which has taken on a totemic significance since its utterance by Mr Sarkozy. The word came from Provençal, was introduced into French in the 15th century, and was, he says, in common parlance until 10 days ago. It had even been appropriated by disaffected young people to describe themselves, he says – a view supported by the vivelesracailles site, which starts with the line “After all, it’s not a crime to live in your pyjamas”.

Melting pot v. bouillabaisse

There’s so much irony in The Times of London’s coverage of the French riots.

America was supposed to be the melting pot — when I was raised, color-blindness was a would-be national virtue — but instead we’ve become a multicultural chunky chicken pot pie, where everyone except for ethnically indeterminate products of the cultural crockpot (like me) maintains some measure of ethnic identity.

France, meanwhile, was supposed to be protecting its culture, so it tried to be a melting pot by having immigrants assimilate.

Now The Times says France’s “colour-blind policy has fed Muslim radicalism.” The implication is that melting pots are bad but a culture bouillabaisse is good. File that under failed policies with separate-but-equal and racial quotas. And add in France’s policy of not allowing religious headgear, which many of us in America took to be a sign of intolerance (and French critics criticized us for that at the time). Even The Times ends up confused in this house of cultural mirrors:

Under the ethnically colour-blind “French model”, the immigrant workers who came in the 1950s and 1960s from the former colonies in North and black Africa were to be regarded as equal citizens. They and their descendants would take advantage of the education system and generous welfare state to assimilate with “white” France. To promote the idea of assimilation, neither the State nor any other body publishes statistics on ethnic or national origin.

In practice, France turned its back on the minorities, shunting them into suburban cités denying access to the so-called ascenseur social (social elevator) that was supposed to lift immigrants into the mainstream. Unemployment on the estates is up to three times the 10 per cent national average. Laws supposed to promote integration and oppose multiculturalism, such as the ban on Muslim headwear in schools, have often heightened resentment and the feeling of exclusion. This has in turn fed the rise of Muslim radicalism, which has now become the dominant creed of the young in the French ghettos.

France has always deemed its model superior to the Anglo-Saxon approach of diversity, which has enabled ethnic minorities to retain strong bonds in cultural and religious communities. France calls this “comunitarism” and says that it promotes ghettos, exclusion, poverty, race riots and religious extremism that can ultimately lead to actions such as the London bombings.

Three decades on from the big inflow of immigrants, everyone now agrees that the French model has not worked, although almost no one says that the American and British approach has produced better results.

And as I heard on Brian Lehrer’s show last week (I think), a caller said it’s not right to call the rioters “immigrants” since many are second- and third-generation. They are now French. But they are, indeed, unassimilated and unwelcome. Could it just be that the French are snobs? Well, yes, and that’s not as snobbish of me as it sounds. I’ve known Americans who’ve lived in France for decades who were seen as outsiders. That’s the way France has always been, no? But prejudice is prejudice and poverty is poverty, no matter. So perhaps we’re seeing a condensed and delayed version of America’s ethnic strife: minorities are mistreated and then there are ineffective or insincere efforts at assimilation and then the minorities revolt. Is France facing its ’60s? Is Paris burning? Will Europe? And why is America still being painted as the only bad guy in the Muslim worldview? Let’s also not forget France’s own problems with 19th-century globalism and Europe’s own problems with 20-th century ethnic tolerance. In none of this am I nya-nyaing France for its problems; they are too serious. And they, like our problems, are far from simple.