The Rioters Want Liberté, éGalité, Fraternité;what They Don't Want Is an Islamic State

By Johnson, Frank | The Spectator, November 19, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Rioters Want Liberté, éGalité, Fraternité;what They Don't Want Is an Islamic State


Johnson, Frank, The Spectator


At the time of writing, after more than two weeks of it, the disturbances on the British editorial and opinion pages are still going on: 'Failure of French model of assimilatio. . . police lack of respect. . . decaying banlieues. . . alienation. . . lack of respect. . . Sarkozy populist. . . Sarkozy provocative language. . .

Villepin moderate. . . job discrimination. . .

Chirac out of touch. . .' Every time we readers think that the perpetrators must be exhausted, or there is a relatively quiet morning without such a piece, it starts up again. Just as in France, the trouble spread from Paris to take in Lille in the north, Toulouse in the south-west and Marseilles in the south; as I write, the articles have spread to the Financial Times. There was one in Tuesday's issue: 'Many causes. . .

economic exclusion. . . youth unemployment rates. . . social isolation. . . olive and black skins. . . decent education, housing and employment. . . incubators of alienation.' Why do they do it -- the alienated youths who write them day after day? Partly boredom; if it were not this, it would be the piece about when Mr Brown will succeed Mr Blair, the answer to which they do not know either. By comparison, a French riot offers a thrill. But there is also the excitement of feeling superior to French racists and indeed the French state, in so far as any effort is made to distinguish between the two. Then there is the pose, which liberals have long adopted in matters of race, of knowing what to do. The government has to give the potential rioters lots of money, it seems, either as benefits or as 'schools'.

Also, French whites have to give jobs to French Muslims even if they suspect that these potential employees might have spent many nights in a row burning cars. Then the riots will stop and the Muslims will move out of the banlieu to, say, the Avenue Foch and become important and prosperous.

None of which is consistent with anyone's experience of human nature. But taking human nature into account is inconsistent with such articles. All we know about riots is that, for the 3,000 years or so of wellrecorded European history, from time to time in all the European countries of which we have knowledge, the less well-off have indulged in them or been provoked into them by the forces of authority. Authority then suppresses them. In modern times, authority follows suppression by inquiring into the riots' causes and occasionally doing some good for the places where the riots take place. That is what happened in, among other British riot venues, Brixton, which has not rioted for a long time.

Something like that will happen in France.

It may be objected: unlike in Brixton, the French rioters are Islamists. But any reading of the French press points to the absence of Islamism as a cause of the riots. The rioters, even while proclaiming their hostility to French institutions, sounded more French than Muslim. One of them addressed a BBC Paris correspondent several times as 'Madam' during his interview with her. The rioters complain about lack of jobs and police hostility, not about the lack of Sharia law. This made them little different from racial minorities who have rioted in Los Angeles and the aforementioned Brixton. …

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