There was further rioting in a string of French cities and towns over the weekend, but the overall level of violence continues to decline. It looks as if the worst is over; this morning’s Australianreports that the French are already starting to complain about the way the riots have been sensationalised by foreign media.
Riots certainly provide good television, and the French themselves have
agonised, in a very French sort of way, about how they should be
covered. Last Thursday The Guardian
quoted Patrick Lecocq, editor-in-chief of France 2: “Do we send teams
of journalists because cars are burning, or are the cars burning
because we sent teams of journalists?”
But most media comment has focused on the underlying causes of the
violence. The more thoughtful American commentators, such as this piece
yesterday in the New York Times,
realise that they are not in any position to lecture other countries
about race riots. And what has happened in France looks a lot like
America in the 1960s (although much less violent): unemployment,
racism, disaffected youth, trashy public housing.
The minority of commentators who tried to spin it as a story about war
between Islam and Western civilisation are now looking a bit silly.
Tony Parkinson in The Age last
week was among the worst, talking of an “intifada” and of “urban
guerilla warfare, borrowing from the textbooks of the Middle East.”
Against all the evidence that the rioters want jobs and an end to
discrimination, he called the violence “a defiant declaration of their
separate cultural identity.”
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Further out on the right, of course, the opportunity to beat up on both
the Muslims and the French has been irresistible. Amanda Marcotte at
the Pandagon blog
summed up beautifully: “there’s disagreement on the right – should the
gloating be over the fact that rioting is ‘proof’ that Muslims are Pure
Evil That Must Be Purged or is it ‘proof’ that Europeans are softie
liberals who need to sharpen their oppression skills, lest the
underclass get uppity? … Oh, so many people to gloat at, so little