The Quick and the Dead
The premise of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead is that malevolence can exist in an indeterminate state, neither living nor dead. The question of what state riots in France now occupy is similarly subject to equivocation. Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters thinks the riots, though buried in the news, still live.
the measures taken by the French have had mixed results at best. Curfews have convinced the joyriders to stay home, but hardcore rioters remain out in the street. An overnight arrest total of 201 across the country has dampened but not put down the uprising, and the police expect more, not less, this weekend.
Captain's Quarters specifically refers to the fact that "the number of vehicles torched in the areas around Paris rose from 84 to 111" and attaches significance to that fact. The New York Times, Captain Ed argues, has declared the riots dead but the the NYT's "Smith fails to mention Thursday night's continuing violence, nor does he mention the increase in Paris last night".
The Brussels Journal actually claims that the French media at least, are censoring coverage of the riots.
"Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television," Jean-Claude Dassier, the director general of the rolling news service TCI, says. ... Hence Dassier’s channel, which is owned by the private broadcaster TF1, has decided not to show footage of burning cars. Dassier also criticised the “excessive” coverage of the riots by international (read: Anglo-Saxon) news networks. ... Early this week the public television station France 3 had already stopped broadcasting the daily number of torched cars, while other TV stations followed suit. "Do we send teams of journalists because cars are burning, or are the cars burning because we sent teams of journalists?"
The French channels were not of course, talking about events in Iraq. Still there's no denying that by the Car-B-Q metric, events are at a lower pitch now that a curfew has been imposed and additional police have been deployed. Yet appearances can be deceiving. Oxblog's Patrick Belton went to Paris to evaluate conditions at first hand. In the small hours of the morning of October 9, Belton cheerfully reported:
I'd arrived at Aulnay-sous-Bois yesterday expecting a seething cauldron on just the point of boiling over. What I found was quite different, and surprised me. Aulnay has seen the worst violence of any of the banlieues to date, but its housing projects had their windows open, laundry hung out to dry, music and laughter spilling out from within; the streets were filled with children playing. The only odd inkling this was a neighbourhood whose violence this week featured in the news of every newspaper in the world was the procession of the odd burnt car being towed away like a discarded effigy; or, in the case of the Hertz station which lay inconveniently by the Cité de l'Europe, a whole parking lot of them. Someone clearly had a bad experience the last time renting.
Slightly after noon that same day, Belton had some additional information to provide.
I had a little scrape in a cité in north Aulney, and so now need to modify two claims made in my previous post. I have now met some rioters, and I no longer have pictures to share, nor come to think of it, a camera. I got nothing of theirs. On the other hand, taking care of myself decently enough I rather nicely got to keep my unbacked up dissertation, wallet, and the passport and press card I'd kept with me in the off chance I had to give an accounting of myself to police. Nasty horrid villains. Pluck though being a virtue, OxBlog will be out there again tomorrow. With a disposable camera, this time. But a thousand words being worth a picture, I suspect I can make it up to you lads.
What lies beneath. And of course, the key problem with concluding that the riots have ended with the decline in Car-B-Qs is that it doesn't provide a gauge of changes to the consciousness of a specific demographic. Mark Steyn (registration required for the Spectator) at least makes an attempt to root events of the past two weeks in French demography. He makes the large claim that not only has the discontent not ended, it has only just begun, simply because a potential majority will never rest until it is in control.
Let’s take that evasive media characterisation of the rioters — ‘youths’ — at face value. What is the salient point about youths? They’re youthful. Very few octogenarians want to go torching Renaults every night. It’s not easy lobbing a Molotov cocktail into a police station and then hobbling back on your Zimmer frame across the street before the searing heat of the explosion melts your hip replacement. Civil disobedience is a young man’s game.
Now go back to that bland statistic you hear a lot these days: ‘about 10 per cent of France’s population is Muslim’. Give or take a million here, a million there, that’s broadly correct, as far as it goes. But the population spread isn’t even. And when it comes to those living in France aged 20 and under, about 30 per cent are said to be Muslim and in the major urban centres about 45 per cent. If it came down to street-by-street fighting, as Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, points out, ‘the combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one’ — already, right now, in 2005. It is not necessary, incidentally, for Islam to become a statistical majority in order to function as one. At the height of its power in the 8th century, the ‘Islamic world’ stretched from Spain to India, yet its population was only minority Muslim. Nonetheless, by 2010, more elderly white Catholic ethnic frogs will have croaked and more fit healthy Muslim youths will be hitting the streets. One day they’ll even be on the beach at St Trop, and if you and your infidel whore happen to be lying there wearing nothing but two coats of Ambre Solaire when they show up, you better hope that the BBC and CNN are right about there being no religio-ethno-cultural component to their ‘grievances’.
Essentially Steyn is arguing that we have not seen the last of the riots, though they make take another form next time.