As least as much as anyone at the Corner on the subject of…..
French urban culture and the unrest in Paris.
I listen to a ton of French rap music. This much I can tell you- these riots have less to do with Al Qaeda than they do with beats, bass, housing shortages and unemployment. There is a huge culture of youth disenfranchisement in the suburbs of Paris, just like in the outlying neighborhoods of Detroit and Newark and Watts. It has spawned a globally influential music and art culture with acolytes in all of the Francophonic African capitals and even in the Afro-French immigrant communities in the US. These kids spend less time at the mosque than they do at the record store. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re all that different from teenagers anywhere.
I highly recommend the movie La Haine (The Hate) for some background info. If you’re really interested, you can delve into the music featured in that film and find someone to translate the lyrics to Supreme NTM’s “Nique la Police” (“Fuck the Police”). La Haine is a film made by a young French director about the 1994-95 riots in Les Cités, the giant sprawling housing projects on the outskirts of Paris. The protagonists of this film are three young residents of the Neuf-trois (the 93rd Arrondissment of Paris, one of the most notorious housing projects- basically, France’s South Central)- one black, one Arabic and one Jewish. We see the exclusionary culture of modern France through their eyes. La Haine is brilliant, but dark and grim. I think anyone who wants to understand what these young men are rioting about needs to see it.
What the French have inadvertently created in les Cités is a culture of unemployment, drugs, lawlessness and discontent. The official French policy of ignoring issues of race (which remarkably mirrors the US policy from the “official” abolition of Jim Crow laws up to the introduction of Affirmative Action) has backfired. A pressure cooker of anger has been stewing there as young men of North African and sub-Saharan descent live a life of idleness and petty crime in lieu of fulfilling work. Every now and then, an isolated event (like last week’s accidental electrocution of two Afro-French teenagers) coupled with an atmosphere of police harassment, boils over into days and days of rage. (Is any of this starting to sound familiar? Detroit, ’68, anyone?) The French have been hoping that if they ignore issues of race, that the egalitarian nature of French society will magically lift these guys up into jobs and educations and better lives. Ahem. Just because certain elements of society want to pretend the playing field is level doesn’t make it so.
This Nicholas Sarkozy, hardline anti-immigrant that he is, has spoken quite publically of his desire to “clean out the housing projects with a “Kärcher” (a high pressusre steam cleaning machine)” and he calls these kids “scum.” Then two cops chase some kids into a high voltage substation, they die, and hey, it’s “Fuck the police!” time.
You will notice that the only people focusing on the Islamic heritage of these rioters are the, uh, factually challenged, and the Hugh Hewitts (“Death to Muslims! Death to Muslims! Death to Muslims! It goes on like that.”) of the world who want to promote the outrageous theory that this is somehow Al Qaeda’s doing. I mean, hello? As Roger Stevenson said in the article I linked to up there- “Steyn’s comments make you wonder if he has even ever set foot in the country let alone done any meaningful research on the social conditions in France’s HLM housing developments.”
I mean, I guess if you want to just assume all A-rabs are scimitar-totin’, suicide bombin’, camel ridin’ jihadists, you can make up your mind to do it. However, you’re gonna be like teflon to credibility for anyone who is not blinded by bigotry.