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Into the Third Week

Nov
9
2005

There’s not much more to say about the uprising in France. It drags on into its third week despite the invocation of a 1955 Algerian War-era law expanding state powers to enforce public order — an irony not lost on the nihilist youth bent on smashing the land that gave their parents some refuge from the poverty, tyranny and bloodshed back home. And it drags on despite claims to the contrary. (The French elite, so used to be on the dispensing end of unwelcome criticism, are desperate to escape being its recipients.) Things in France are so bad that a mere reduction in torched vehicles (from the low thousands to the high hundreds) qualifies as a “lull.” But what a lull: the French economy is beginning to suffer — and as it goes, so will go Europe. Meanwhile, unrest continues across the country, and hundreds of neighborhoods are essentially beyond the control of the state.

It’s worth repeating that the Muslim revolt in France is entering its third week. Contrast with the duration of other major riots:

  • Cincinnati, 2001 — 2 days

  • Seattle, 1999 — 1 day
  • Los Angeles, 1992 — 6 days
  • Crown Heights, 1991 — 3 days
  • Washington, DC, 1968 — 5 days
  • Newark, 1967 — 6 days
  • Watts, 1965 — 6 days
  • Detroit, 1943 — 2 days
  • Tulsa, 1921 — 2 days
  • New York City, 1863 — 4 days
  • Is this a unique event? Is it uniquely troubling? Is it uniquely durable and dangerous? Yes, yes, and yes.

    The state is reacting as best it can — which is not terribly well, but when one starts from zero, any improvement is by orders of magnitude. There are already troubling signs that the much-maligned Sarkozy will crack down in ways that will proving troubling once the crisis is past: his personnel are deporting non-French rioters, apparently promoting summary justice for detainees, and targeting online freedom of speech in an effort to quell incitement. The first and last of these things are not indefensible in themselves — but the summary justice brings to mind murderous Versaillais shooting down suspected Communard prisoners by the hundreds.

    Of course that’s neither an exact nor terribly fair parallel. The Versaillais, after all, solved their problems.

    Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 5:18 PM | Permalink

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