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November 11, 2005
American Media Quit The French Riots Story

If an American consumer read today's newspapers, he would assume that the riots in France have ended. None of the major newspapers that had covered the uprising have any specific updates today on the story, despite the continued overnight violence and an increase in the oddball metric of burnt cars in Paris. Other than an a long-overdue address to the nation by Jacques Chirac and an analysis that repeats the same line the press has taken since the beginning of the crisis, nothing would inform readers that the streets of France remained ablaze last night.

Reuters carries the more factual update:

Police went onto high alert in Paris on Friday as France began a holiday weekend likely to test a downward trend in two weeks of violence by youngsters angered by conditions in rundown suburbs.

The country's worst unrest in four decades has receded since
President Jacques Chirac's government adopted emergency measures including curfews on Tuesday, but there was a rise in violent incidents in neighborhoods around the capital overnight.

Police said 463 vehicles were set ablaze across France, a slight fall from the previous night, but the number of vehicles torched in the areas around Paris rose from 84 to 111.

Paris has attracted more attention, and yet the media have nothing much to say about it. The French authorities have heard Internet and instant-message chatter that a big demonstration designed to recharge the uprising will be held in the next couple of days. CQ received an e-mail from an anonymous source that contains a rather specific plan and date for a demonstration, although I'd prefer not to pass it along and assist in getting the word out.

Clearly, though, the measures taken by the French have had mixed results at best. Curfews have convinced the joyriders to stay home, but hardcore rioters remain out in the street. An overnight arrest total of 201 across the country has dampened but not put down the uprising, and the police expect more, not less, this weekend.

And what does our media report on the subject? Craig Smith in the New York Times provides the media's approved narrative on the subject and nothing in the way of an update on the uprising:

[M]illions of French citizens, whether immigrants or the offspring of immigrants, feel rejected by traditional French society, which has resisted adjusting a vision of itself forged in fires of the French Revolution. The concept of French identity remains rooted deep in the country's centuries-old culture, and a significant portion of the population has yet to accept the increasingly multiethnic makeup of the nation. Put simply, being French, for many people, remains a baguette-and-beret affair.

Though many countries aspire to ensure equality among their citizens and fall short, the case is complicated in France by a secular ideal that refuses to recognize ethnic and religious differences in the public domain. All citizens are French, end of story, the government insists, a lofty position that, nonetheless, has allowed discrimination to thrive.

Smith doesn't bother to even mention Islam until almost the end of the analysis, and even then does not correlate the Islamist movement nor the warnings prior to the riots by the Algerian Islamist group GSPC to the violence. Smith only concedes that in such a despairing economic climate, the "youths" in the ghettoes -- always called "suburbs" in these articles -- can be excused for finding an identity in radical Islam.

Smith also reports that Chirac will only address France after the violence dies down, a rather remarkable position for an elected head of state, and that the violence has dropped "dramatically":

But the level of urban violence has dropped dramatically since Tuesday, when the emergency measures were announced. Five of the 25 regional departments that the government permitted to impose curfews under the state of emergency have done so, including towns on the French Riviera along the Mediterranean coast and in the northern city of Amiens. While the violence had already begun to subside before the state of emergency, many people believe it has had a damping effect. Only 482 vehicles were burned Wednesday night by rioters, down from 617 the night before. There were fewer clashes with the police, Mr. Gaudin said.

But Smith fails to mention Thursday night's continuing violence, nor does he mention the increase in Paris last night. Both of Smith's stories get buried in the back of the International section of the website (the footer says they're stories 25 and 23 of 29, respectively). Molly Moore only gets page A18 for her update in the Washington Post, where she explains that parental tears stopped the riots, not the French response:

While arsons and clashes with police are continuing in dozens of cities across France, fires have not burned in Clichy-sous-Bois since Monday night.

"The tears of our mothers stopped us," said Maldini, 26, a stout, French-born son of Algerian immigrants. He declined to provide his family name for fear of police harassment. "The parents, the mothers and fathers were all crying."

In the Paris suburbs and across the country, the incendiary rage of gangs of youths appears to be slowly subsiding. Using one barometer, police said 487 cars were set alight Wednesday night, a significant decrease from the 1,408 vehicles burned at the height of the frenzy Sunday night. ...

Even though the Paris suburbs have quieted significantly, the rampages are continuing in other towns. In France's second-largest city, Lyon, in the southeast, vandals attacked two power stations and caused blackouts Wednesday night, according to police. Schools were set ablaze in several places.

Again, no notice of anything that happened last night, nor of the increase in violence from Wednesday to Thursday using the same burning-car metric the press has used all along. All Moore can sneak in at the back of the A section of the Post is that the violence has not abated in other cities and towns.

Does the American media suffer from ADHD and find themselves incapable of following an important story for longer than ten days? Or do they find themselves increasingly unable to explain the serious and continued violence despite the bribery and politically-correct strategies employed by French security forces? It seems to me that the media cannot bring themselves to admit that the uprising has more behind it than bored youths looking to blow off some steam and acting spontaneously and unilaterally. The riots have a purpose, and they have a central control structure -- and that means someone wants to make specific gains from attacking France.

Who could that be? Don't count on the Times or the Post to find that out for you.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 11, 2005 5:18 AM

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