Wednesday, November 09, 2005

There is NO revolution in France

Yesterday evening, I pointed out that "what's going on in France is complicated" and that [m]ultiple triggers have sent alienated and in some cases highly politicized youth into the streets". An obvious observation, I thought, but that hasn't stopped some observers from engaging in astonishing exaggeration and misrepresentation.

I hesitate to quote such stupidity, but here's what Daniel Pipes has to say about the French riots:

The rioting by Muslim youth that began October 27 in France to calls of "Allahu Akbar" may be a turning point in European history...

End of an era: The time of cultural innocence and political naïveté, when the French could blunder without seeing or feeling the consequences, is drawing to a close. As in other European countries (notably Denmark and Spain), a bundle of related issues, all touching on the Muslim presence, has now moved to the top of the policy agenda in France, where it likely will remain for decades.

These issues include a decline of Christian faith and the attendant demographic collapse; a cradle-to-grave welfare system that lures immigrants even as it saps long-term economic viability; an alienation from historic customs in favor of lifestyle experimentation and vapid multiculturalism; an inability to control borders or assimilate immigrants; a pattern of criminality that finds European cities far more violent than American ones, and a surge in Islam and radical Islam.

Europe certainly has problems. It needs to think about how well (or how poorly) it has integrated its immigrant populations into its national communities and it needs to consider the long-term viability of its largely socialist welfare systems.

But come on. Is this really "a turning point in European history"? Like the fall of Constantinople, or Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of that church in Wittenburg, or the storming of the Bastille, or the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, or the Battle of the Somme?


Or not. Pipes blames everything on "the Muslim presence" and on, to quote Ratzinger-cum-Benedict, the tyranny of relativism. Ah, conservatives are so subtle, aren't they?

Here's an antidote. Mark Goldberg at Tapped:

Could it be that in France the teenage children of unemployed, poorly educated immigrants are rebelling against a system that purports to call them citizens but treats them as less than that? Could it be that lighting cars on fire is a way teenage boys express anger when they suddenly realize that the reality of their day-to-day experience belies the promises of a system that calls them equal in the eyes of the republic?

And could it be that the reason the French press doesn't consider these riots to be part and parcel of a Muslim fifth column's plan to take over the country is because how the rioters dress, the hip-hop they listen to, the films they relate to -- these are not reflective of Islamist culture at all, but rather a culture indigenous to these banlieues.

Well, exactly. Pipes and his ilk are spinning the riots through their own anti-Europeanism and through the distorted prism of a "clash of civilizations" worldview. But what if it's just a major outburst of anger that has little or nothing to do with al Qaeda and jihad?

The riots are awful, but they'll end. And France and the rest of Europe will move on. Hopefully having learned something, hopefully doing something to confront its admittedly serious challenges.

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  • Excellent point, Nate. Didn't Rumsfeld say that democracy is messy? Sure, France is an established democracy, whereas Iraq is barely a democracy, but it seems to me that many (not all, but many) conservative commentators are looking at these riots through a pre-conceived anti-French prejudice.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:10 AM  

  • Pipes is an example of how an ideologue can fit any facts into his particular world view. Pipes has spent several years,like many of the neocons, railing against the decline of western civilization and the threat posed by Islam. Not everything he writes is wrong, but, like ideologues of left and right, he ignores any competing interpretation and presents a simplistic analysis. And this is about more than just Islam in France; I think it's about Pipes'and the neocons' general attitude about the bankruptcy of Liberalism. In other words, he wants to believe in the decline of France because he wants to believe in the decline of Liberalism. In the same way that the left wants to attribute all the ills of the world to US-led globalization.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:03 PM  

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