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France in Flames

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From the BBC this morning:

Meanwhile a man who fell into a coma after being beaten last week is thought to be the first fatality of the unrest.

Der Speigel has extensive background:

The rioters are the children of immigrants from North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Schools have been on holiday in France, giving these youths even more time on their hands, and it’s also the end of the Ramadan fasting period, a time when nerves are already on edge. Their rebellion is directed against anything that even remotely reminds them of state authority, even the mailman. They are beyond reason, and no one, not their parents, not their teachers and least of all the authorities can get through to them.

The assumption in the U.S. media seems to be that the French police can in fact restore order, but a different result –the same sort of long running violence that eventually escalated into suicide bombing that marked the start and end of the intifada– is also a possibility.

The certainty is that the longer Chirac and the increasingly absurd-appearing de Villepin conduct meetings and issue statements as opposed to deploying their forces in strength, the greater the chance of the mob’s deepening commitment to the violence, a sort of politicization of a previously merely disaffected population.

The missing event thus far is a large public demonstration of discontent –banners, marching etc– that puts a political face on the violence. If that occurs, then France will have turned a corner.

Tips for U.S. news organizations:

How’s the hotel occupancy rate?

Have American universities with “semesters-in-Paris” ended their semesters early? How’s enrollment for the spring going?

And where is Le Pen? He was in Cyprus last week.


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