Update: Barbarians Beyond The Gates: New York Times Uses M Word Three Times

Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Below the reader will find an essay by our colleague truepeers, who is struggling with the very idea of assigning causation to the complex, dynamic, even chaotic (in the "science of chaos" sense) rioting in France. While I don't yet fully understand my colleague's argument, I take seriously his attempt to draw back and consider again the wisdom in even attempting to find "a cause" where there may be many causes, or there may be, in a certain sense, none.

What I am finding especially interesting in watching the unfolding of developments in France, and Europe generally, from our side of the Atlantic, is what appears to be a concerted effort not to find any causal valence, as it were, in Islam.

Today our NYT reporter Craig S. Smith is joined by Mark Landler; the two reporters' piece is entitled French Officials try To Ease Fear As Crisis Swells.

The first mention of the word Muslim appears on the article's first page:

Europe, meanwhile, watched the unfolding crisis with alarm. Copycat attacks on a few cars were reported in Brussels and Berlin, and Muslim sites on the Internet began carrying inflammatory messages.

And on the second page we read further:

While the violence has not taken on religious overtones, most of the young people involved are nominally Muslim, raising fears that Islamist groups could capitalize on the unrest to recruit new members. Internet postings from one such movement encouraged young Muslims elsewhere in Europe to riot in the name of Islam.

"Oh, you Muslim people in Europe, walk with and like your brothers in Paris and learn that these people are dogs," read a message posted on Monday on the popular Web site of a dissident based in London. "Teach them that we are a single nation and if a single member is touched, then all the others will erupt like a burning volcano."

No doubt it is wise to defer assigning any blame or causation of the rioting to Islamists at this point.

Perhaps we should just say that the Islamists are being "unhelpful" so far.

The right-of-center, thoughtful Canadian David Warren has no doubt as to what is going on, and seems entirely comfortable with assigning blame:

The rule of these [French] districts is now effectively in the hands of radical Islamists, whose central demand is that French authorities stay out of the little emirates they have declared. The very secular French government, under Jacques Chirac, offers two contradictory responses. One is that of the prime minister, de Villepin, who keeps muttering about "tolerance" and "understanding". The other is that of the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose approach is to call the youth "scum" and "rabble" and send the gendarmes in waves. Neither of these gentleman has a clew.

Both give at least lip-service to the ludicrous idea that increased spending on social programmes for these "underprivileged" districts will finally win the day. Even while the kids on the streets are purposefully destroying every physical manifestation of French state generosity (such as it is). Both speak as if they were dealing with some Marxist revolt of the proletariat against their capitalist oppressors. Instead, what they have is an Islamist revolt against French society.

The solution of the old Catholic France was, over the centuries, that of Charles Martel: victor at Tours in 732 A.D., where the advance of Islam on Western Europe was stopped. It consisted in a frank realization that two civilizations were clashing, where only one could prevail. The choice was relatively simple: victory over the invaders, or death and servitude.

The modern, enlightened alternative is "negotiation". Good luck with it.

Again, I will withhold judgment for now as to whether Islamists and Islamism are a major factor in the "causation" of these disturbances. But I myself still feel quite comfortable assigning the blame to barbarism, and labeling the rioters barbarians.


chuck said...

I find myself drifting to the Islamist conclusion. There are too many oddities in this "riot" that don't comport with the usual experience. Usually riots target the hated police and stores are looted. At least the latter shows a desire for what society offers ;) In France, confrontation with police is limited and, as far as I can see, looting is minimal, though perhaps under reported. The scope and duration of the riots are other things of note. No, I think the Islamist interpretation might veer closer to the truth. To Label them barbarians might be appropriate but doesn't serve to sharpen our analysis.

Peter UK said...

There seems to be too much control,targeting is far too specific,more like the those in Northern Ireland than Toxteth.
A report claiming that only"white" cars are torched

terrye said...

I agree, they are barbarians.

I don't doubt the French are racist but when people are afraid to venture out of their homes for fear they will be set upon...well that is barbarism, like the Tombstones on the Wild West...they need a good sheriff.