Don't Forget Paris

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Nov. 8 2005 5:50 PM

Don't Forget Paris

Bloggers continue to discuss the ongoing civil unrest in and around Paris. They are also all over the big races in today's off-off-year elections.

Don't forget Paris:French President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency today as rioting, vandalism, and arson continued to engulf northern France. The widespread violence, which began 12 days ago after two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted while hiding from police, has resulted in more than 1,500 arrests and brought the long-simmering grievances of the French lower classes to the international forefront. From within and without the fray, bloggers are trying to figure out what it's all about.

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Sexagenarian Adloyada dutifully collects the competing hypotheses, from those that allege al-Qaida influence to those that suggest a breakdown of the social contract. Many of the louder voices are denouncing the Islamist influence. "The disturbances are ... being portrayed as race riots caused by official discrimination and insensitivity," writes British journalist Melanie Phillips. "But this is a gross misreading of the situation. It is far more profound and intractable. What we are seeing is, in effect, a French intifada: an uprising by French Muslims against the state."

In a nostalgic turn, novelist Roger L. Simon laments the death of romantic France. That sense of resigned despair has already overtaken the French themselves, suggests Gregory Djerejian, an American and a former military adviser following the events. "I sense that there is a genuine sense of crisis and helplessness and demoralization at the current hour through the French polity," he writes at Belgravia Dispatch. "Why? Perhaps more than anything, even more than the violence itself, because there are simply no leaders to speak of on the scene who might, just perhaps, provide real confidence that the situation is under control. ... They have been tone-deaf and caught off guard by the depth of the alienation in their midst, and it has now caught them very much unawares and seemingly clueless on how next to respond."

Some observers are casting their gaze forward. "The French may hope to ride out the violence and buy off some of the leaders with a few new social programs they can ill afford," suggests American conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters. "However, the escalating violence and the direct confrontation shown towards French security forces—and the latter's unwillingness to engage—shows a serious threat to French stability that has much more than the over-eager energies of youth as a cause." Conservative contrarian Andrew Sullivan also sees significant fissures. "What we are witnessing may be the beginning of the collapse of the old regime in Europe," he writes. Patrick Belton, a graduate student in international relations, is blogging from Paris, at Oxblog. The French, he writes, "have in their way given up on the French dream, a comfortable lifestyle sheltered by an extensive and humane welfare state."

A French friend of David Smith's at Preoccupations is having visions of 1968. The riots are fundamentally political, the writer suggests, rather than ethnic or religious, and they "are going to continue, one suspects, for as long as the political establishment presumes to deliberately and systematically misunderstand why they are occurring. At the moment, the governmental call is for 'above all, the return of good order'; scant mention is yet to be made of even the possibility of making some effort to correct the absurd embedded racism of France's so-called meritocratic power-structures." New York Snarksmith Michael Weiss is experiencing a different kind of déjà vu. "Now the generation that forty years ago took to the streets takes to them again—as the authorities. Is this history's tragedy become current events' farce, or the irony of witnessing secular liberalism hoisted on its own soixante-petard?"

Blog aggregator The Truth Laid Bear has compiled a landing page. Read more blog posts about Paris.

Election Day 2005:Voters in New Jersey and Virginia went to the polls to elect their respective governors today. The two tight races for executive office have long been viewed as telling bellwethers for the relative standing of Republicans and Democrats in contested states.

"Both races share a few things in common: weak candidates, perceived fallout from Bush's unpopularity and a resigned sense of impending mediocrity no matter who wins," writes Eric Pfeiffer at Beltway gossip site Wonkette. "Technically, Democrats would only be holding ground by winning both races. Nonetheless, look for Tuesday to be both explained and understood as a referendum on the Bush agenda if Corzine/Kaine prevail."

On the Virginia election, Blue State Conservative Aaron Mathews agrees. "If Kaine wins expect the media to play this as a serious setback for Republicans despite the fact that the Dems already hold the statehouse," he writes. At the National Review's conservative clubhouse The Corner, John J. Miller regretfully predicts Democratic victories in both major gubernatorial races. On Virginia, Scott Elliott at Election Projection dissents; and Commonwealth Conservative Chad Dotson also sees a clear comeback victory for Kilgore in the cards.