Paris Riots - some important facts

Well, it was bound to happen. Americans, tiring over their own deep troubles, have suddenly noticed that people are unhappy in France.

Of course, the fact that it is France rather than any other nation gives Americans an even more perverse sense of justice - that somehow the superior attitude of the French, especially towards America, has resulted in the sweet, sweet taste of hubris.

"These Europeans think they're SO good" implies the stereotypical American commentator, "They think their system of government is better than ours! Well, look at what's going on in Paris."

Ah, those arrogant cheese eating surrender monkeys. All this time criticising America, making speeches against the Iraq war in their effeminate language - and there in their own back yard lie massive social problems and structural racism. Is this what we want for America? Is this what we want for the world?

Well, let's just move past the crap. Let's look at some facts. It might be a good idea to compare apples with apples. Let's find a comparable incident in America's history - say, the 1992 Los Angeles riots:

1992 LA Riots - 6 days
2005 Paris Riots - 9 days and counting

1992 LA Riots - Racial tensions explode after Rodney King Trial
2005 Paris Riots - Racial tensions explode after the suspicious deaths of two African teenagers

Physical Damage:
1992 LA Riots - Buildings torched, cars destroyed. $800 - $1000 million damage.
2005 Paris Riots - 1260 cars destroyed (so far)

1992 LA Riots - 10,000
2005 Paris Riots - 200 (so far)

1992 LA Riots - 50-60
2005 Paris Riots - 0 (so far) Source: Wikipedia

What do the facts say? Well, it shows that the French can be justifiably arrogant about their own problems - that whatever problem besets French society is far outdone on the other side of the Atlantic.

Let's get serious here. Why is it that after 9 days of riots, there has yet to be a single death directly attributable to the problem? While I think that fatalities in Paris are likely to occur, it is amazing that no one has died yet. And this cannot be simply by chance. It must mean that there is something structurally different that allows French riots to continue without fatalities (so far).

France's homicide rate is half that of America. Why? Maybe because a culture of violence does not exist at the same level as that in the US. France also has very strict Gun-control measures. I don't know the stats, but I would assume that many of the 50-60 people who died in the 1992 LA riots were killed as a result of gunshot wounds. The worst thing about the 2005 Paris riots is that a woman on crutches was set alight by rioters who passed a bus - she was quickly doused and taken to hospital by the bus driver.

In the Bible, Jesus warns people not to judge hypocritically. The idea being that you cannot point out the sawdust in another person's eye when you have a lump of wood in your own. There is no doubt that the problems in Paris are serious, and that French authorities need to think seriously about addressing the issues so that future problems can be averted. Nevertheless, when America points out the dust in France's eye, they ignore the lump of wood in their own.

Some comments I have received (see below) indicate that my wording seems to have implied that my criticism is of ALL America, and that I am lumping every American into a "France hating" category. That was not my intent, but I accept that my wording could have been more judicious. I was aiming at people in America who were taking interest in the Paris riots and using them as a "see, America doesn't suck as much as people think". I realise that there are many in the US who don't have this attitude, and I apologise if those people were offended. Thanks to Arabella on this one.

From the Department of Wha' happnin?

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Paul W said...
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Paul W said...


I really am not surprised these riots haven't happened earlier. The Algerian and Moroccan areas of Paris have been really squalid for years. I agree with you that Americans, or anybody for that matter, shouldn't gloat over this.

However, when the USA was planning to invade Iraq around two years ago, I couldn't help but feel that it was more than a little ironic the French were lecturing the Americans about the evils of imperialism!

Theteak said...

Neil, did America stomp on your toe and steal your playlunch when you were a kid?

One Salient Oversight said...

Actually the question is whether France and Europe stomped on American's toe:



Arabella said...

Not all Americans hate France, and not all Americans are bible thumpers. Americans are busy working to pay debts and purchase health insurance. Our news is produced by corporations who spit out propaganda and lies. Yes, lies. I imagine that the this Sunday while exhausted Dads are dozing in front of TV's, exhausted mums are putting dinner on the table with news as a background. They probably are not registering what's going on in France. They couldn't find France on a map.

Right now I am deeply ashamed of my country, but generalizations of who Americans are create an inaccurate picture. Don't forget, 50% of Americans did not vote for Bush.

Craig Schwarze said...

Comparing riots seems to be a little silly, but regardless you have let the french off too lightly.

For a start, the riots have now spread well beyond Paris. I realise you posted yesterday, but the number of cars torched is now 3500 and there have been 800 arrests.

There have also been many buildings torched - I just read about a public library, a sports arena and 2 schools in Paris that were set on fire. The final bill will obviously not be known for some time.

If I may twist this around for political purposes, one of the problems has been high unemployment amongst the muslim youth, as well as generational welfarism.

I'm certainly one of those who believe that France's highly regulated labour market is one of the factors keeping these kids from getting jobs.

Craig Schwarze said...

Latest reports are of 10 police wounded by gunfire.

Dozens of buildings have been burnt down. After 10 days the riots are escalating rather than dying down...

Craig Schwarze said...

First death in the French riots. A man was apparently beaten to death while trying to put out a trash can fire...