Sic et non
November 30, 2005 5:21 PM   Subscribe

De Villepin: The French riots didn't happen. Riots? What riots? There were no riots. (Jean Baudrillard: "That's right, Dominique, you're getting the idea.)
posted by jfuller (49 comments total)

 
Yeah whatever.
posted by cillit bang at 6:03 PM on November 30, 2005


Ce n'est pas une pipe.
posted by Falconetti at 6:33 PM on November 30, 2005


He didn't say "there were no riots". See the full text of the CNN interview with Villepin.

This remark came after he mentioned the 130 police injured and the fact that there were 100 damaged buildings. He was not denying that the events took place.

What he said was, "I am not sure you can call them riots." He explained that no one died and that it was not like what we saw in Los Angeles in 1992, when 54 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured.

More interesting than whether or not they were riots was his opinion on a timetable for the US pulling out of Iraq.

Amanpour: Do you believe the United States should set a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops?

De Villepin: I believe that anything should be done coordinated with the local situation in Iraq and the regional situation. I think that the timetable should be a global timetable. The real timetable is the Iraqi situation. We should avoid at all cost the chaos in Iraq which of course would be disastrous for the whole region.

posted by notmtwain at 6:53 PM on November 30, 2005


De Villepin might want to take some reality-denying lessons from George W. Bush, who has much more experience at that sort of thing.
posted by clevershark at 6:53 PM on November 30, 2005


Technically, a riot is a violent disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled for a common purpose.

But who wouldn't prefer this definition: a wild or turbulent disturbance created by a large number of people.

In my mind its about a teeming and compact crowd, and I am not so sure that ever happened in the French occurrences.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:54 PM on November 30, 2005


We studied Baudrillard in Postmodern Theory class back in art school. He also wrote something called "The Gulf War Never Happened," a McLuhannesque/Barthesque commentary on the role of media-driven simulacra in our lives. I took him about as seriously as I took McLuhann and Barthes, i.e. quoted him extensively in my papers while giggling behind my hand.
posted by brownpau at 7:11 PM on November 30, 2005


De Villepin is ever the diplomat. It's obviously difficult for him to find the positive in this case and defend his government, but I don't think he did a bad job, really. The French government wants to make peace, move on from what happened, and ideally address some of the causes behind the riots, which is a damn sight better than what we see in the US.

That said, I think it is fair of him to point out that if this was a riot, it was a relatively minor one. Arguably there are more deadly and injurious riots that happen at WTO protests, outside of political conventions, and as a result of sport hooliganism.

Given the French propensity to take to the streets and shut down the country when things upset them, I think it's actually a positive sign that when things were at their worst, they really weren't -- comparatively speaking -- that bad.
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:22 PM on November 30, 2005


In my mind its about a teeming and compact crowd, and I am not so sure that ever happened in the French occurrences.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:54 PM EST on November 30 [!]


I'm sorry, but that's about as accurate as saying that the Vietname War wasn't a war because it was never formally declared. If you have large, angry mobs setting fire to cars and looting stores, it's a riot, regardless of whether you'd like it to be or not. The simple fact of the matter is that this was an old-fashioned race-riot. And pretending that it wasn't just because there were no fatalities is a great way to insure that there will be another riot, which could prove more lethal. You can't solve your problems by pretending that they are less than they are.
posted by unreason at 7:25 PM on November 30, 2005


He also wrote something called "The Gulf War Never Happened,"

Yeah, that was what the second link was all about.
posted by Falconetti at 7:42 PM on November 30, 2005


I took him about as seriously as I took McLuhann and Barthes, i.e. quoted him extensively in my papers while giggling behind my hand.

I'm guessing you didn't actually follow the link there. If it had actually been to something by Baudrillard, and if you'd spelled McLuhan's name correctly, then your giggling would have had a sinister tone. As it is, the truth is always funny.

As for whether you can properly call what happened "riotous", and what exactly someone whose first language isn't english thinks that word means, ... that's very close to the least-interesting question I can think of to ask about whatever-it-was. Right down there in importance with the brand of footwear worn by the most popular reporter covering the story.
posted by sfenders at 7:45 PM on November 30, 2005


Um, unreason, how on earth was this an "old fashioned race riot"? Maybe you can point to similar race riots of the past? In France? Calling these race riots is very, very misleading. There's nothing in France like the institutionalized racism that exists in the US.

These were riots, but it does make perfect sense to compare them to what happened in LA and realize that the riots were not such a massive an event. Still, I'm not sure whether he's trying to dismiss the events (unlikely) or just put them into perspective. Either way you'd think he'd be more careful with the soundbytage.

jfuller's just needing to get his kicks in, I suppose. Eh. Some people play golf and all that.
posted by nixerman at 9:19 PM on November 30, 2005


I think there's a useful distinction between unrest and riot.
posted by hattifattener at 9:52 PM on November 30, 2005


I can sum up my response to this FPP thusly:

1. Villepin is an idiot. Who gives a fuck if they're called "riots" or not? How is a comparison to the LA riots relevant? BREAKING NEWS: POLITICIAN SPINS EMBARASSING MEDIA EVENT. Please.

2. Baudrillard is an idiot. (And posting that link is pretentious name-dropping.) Congratulations, Jean, you've identified that elusive and heretofore unknown beast known as "propaganda." Hundred of people did it before you while also managing to make sense. Go drive around America and write another book about billboards, you wannabe.
posted by spiderwire at 10:08 PM on November 30, 2005


Oh, and:

I'm guessing you didn't actually follow the link there. If it had actually been to something by Baudrillard, and if you'd spelled McLuhan's name correctly, then your giggling would have had a sinister tone. As it is, the truth is always funny.

As long as we're on the subject, West's "compassion fatigue" arguments is one of the most repugnant excretions of the postmodern Left I've witnessed, and yes, your response to it should be sinister, but not in the way that you're suggesting. If you'd care to actually defend that position, please, feel free. I won't touch the McLuhan -- considering how far he predated Baudrillard and the time he was writing, he seems insightful to me -- but Baudrillar, West, and their breed are unmitigated morons pumping gullible grad students for cred, and giving them even an ounce of credit, let alone this sort of high-falutin' doomsaying, is repugnant. Say something substantive or go read a goddamn news article.
posted by spiderwire at 10:14 PM on November 30, 2005


**Baudrillard. Not Baudrillar.

And for the record, West explicitly draws on Baudrillard, here and elsewhere -- your "it's not by Baudrillard" argument is a crock.

Ok, 3 in a row. I'm out. Preview is your friend. Preview is your friend.
posted by spiderwire at 10:16 PM on November 30, 2005


The French government wants to make peace, move on from what happened, and ideally address some of the causes behind the riots, which is a damn sight better than what we see in the US.

It will be interesting to see how France advances as a country out of this situation. I've always had the impression that things get taken to heart over there and change occurs as a result.

There's nothing in France like the institutionalized racism that exists in the US.

Due in part to France's integration of the ideas of some of it's modern thinkers like Levi-Strauss(scroll down) who address the issue more directly than Baudrillard. (and still going strong!!)

And the laws it has adopted :
Prohibition from storing racial data

...an approach quite different from that in the US, with certain drawbacks, but not without merit.
posted by pwedza at 10:45 PM on November 30, 2005


How is a comparison to the LA riots relevant?

I would say because he was doing a US interview and most every article or commentary in the US has linked the event to LA, DC, or Detroit "riots." In the same way that America has largely seen it through our own "race filter."
posted by pwedza at 10:48 PM on November 30, 2005


Fine, claiming it wasn't a riot is nit picking. Saying "There is no ethnic or religious basis to this movement, as we see in other parts of the world," is remarkably off base when the very next thing he says is "Young people of immigrant background "don't want to be recognised as Muslims, or as blacks, or as people coming from north Africa. They want to be recognised as French and they want to have equal opportunity during their lives."...is that not an problem of ethnicity? Despite this, you have to commend him for realizing France has a problem concenring youth-identity among lower income nighborhoods.

Situation at hand: Parents immigrate to France. Have child. Child learns French as primary or secondary language. Has French friends. Goes to French school. Considers himself French...but the rest of France unrightfully doesn't..."Unrest" insues. Rambling? Yes. Just trying to say I'm happy that they are beginning to get the picture. Or hopefully beginning to get the picture.
posted by RobertFrost at 10:53 PM on November 30, 2005


...an approach quite different from that in the US, with certain drawbacks, but not without merit. -pwedza

The illegality of taking racial census data may in fact be part of the problem. While this law may present the idea of a "color blind" government, it doesn't allow the government to focus on the the crux of the entire issue...race. France has a massive, deep rooted issue concerning North Africans, North African immigration and, generally speaking, racial equality that it, by law, cannot address.
posted by RobertFrost at 10:59 PM on November 30, 2005


West explicitly draws on Baudrillard, here and elsewhere -- your "it's not by Baudrillard" argument is a crock.

Well, maybe he treats Baudrillard a little more fairly than you do, but not by all that much. I didn't even read the whole thing, let alone have any wish to defend it. It looked like a piece of trash. This guy named West writing about the West doesn't even seem have any of the talent for bullshit that Baudrillard is famous for.

I don't pretend to actually know all that much about Baudrillard, though I did once manage to enjoy reading Simulacra and Simulations. Can't say I take it all that seriously. I thought calling him an "idiot" was a remarkably careless mis-use of the word for a thread like this, but I suppose you actually meant it. I have to disagree. He's remarkably good at what he does.

The "riots that weren't riots did not take place" thing is pretty stupid, on that I think we can all agree. None of those famous observations about the Gulf War seem to apply there, far as I can tell. This is something that happened on the streets, not in any of our richly-decorated worlds of fantasy.
posted by sfenders at 11:14 PM on November 30, 2005


it doesn't allow the government to focus on the the crux of the entire issue...race.

The French (whether descendants from overworked miners in the North, immigrants from North Africa, or people living in Martinique) do not necessarily look at this whole issue from a racial point of view. Culture, history and sociological factors are all at play. The identity crisis Chirac addressed is not necessarily completely racial.

Why should France adopt an American race-supercedes-all style discourse?

Also, there are plenty of "white" French people living in the same kinds of conditions as the kids in the "cit├ęs." A quick drive around a city like Lens to get an idea of that.

The difference might just be in the reaction.
posted by pwedza at 11:19 PM on November 30, 2005


Paris is Burning
posted by sfenders at 11:34 PM on November 30, 2005


Some background on the prohibition from storing racial data in France:

First, racial data were used during WWII and the colonial wars to round up people of the "wrong" race and deport or jail them. It's not something that people want to happen again and the taboo against official and unofficial racial profiling is extremely strong.

Second, France has a long tradition of exogamy. Many immigrants marry outside their community, blurring the ethnic lines. In my family, of the 3 siblings that came off the boat in 1947, 2 had a French spouse a few years later. Many folks, including me, would be just pissed off is someone would ask them about their "race" because it's just meaningless.

In any case, the use of racial data for demographic studies isn't usually helpful, because race is an extremely vague concept with little factual basis. In fact, one efficient use of these data would be, for example, the study of the effect of skin colour on discrimination itself (in hiring practices etc.). On the other hand, the use of data about the country of origin of the parents is perfectly legal in France. This question has been part of the official census since 1871, and these data are being used in routine for demographic studies about immigrant populations. According to the director of the National Institute of Demographic Studies, even "touchy" questions are authorised in such studies (link in French).
posted by elgilito at 1:56 AM on December 1, 2005


Once when being driven around Paris my sister asked her Taxi driver, who was from Cameroun, "What part of Paris do the African and Camerounians live in?" The driver answered "Everywhere. In New York do black people have only cerrtain places to live?" "Pretty much Yes." "That's barbarous!"

Americans take their - extremely unique - experience of race as a universal, so they instinctively believe that the rest of the world is the same. A big mistake.
posted by zaelic at 2:00 AM on December 1, 2005


He explained that no one died and that it was not like what we saw in Los Angeles in 1992, when 54 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured.

truth hurts, jfuller. did Baudrillard say that, too?

on the other hand, maybe Villepin will soon deny that evolution ever happened, and he then will be ready for a glorious career as a US politician.
posted by matteo at 2:39 AM on December 1, 2005


;)
posted by matteo at 2:39 AM on December 1, 2005


thanks to insomnia_lj for a honest reading of what was actually said.
posted by funambulist at 3:31 AM on December 1, 2005


> did Baudrillard say that, too?

Who? No such person.


> maybe Villepin will soon deny that evolution ever happened, and he then will be
> ready for a glorious career as a US politician.

Implausible deniability is the beating heart of politics. Montesquieu should have said that, but he left it for me.


> ;)

`and I wish you wouldn't keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly,' said Alice. `You make one quite giddy.'

`All right,' said matteo; and this time he vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of his tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of him had gone.

posted by jfuller at 4:41 AM on December 1, 2005


Um, unreason, how on earth was this an "old fashioned race riot"?

It's a riot, because the people were engaging in riotous activities like throwing rocks at policemen and setting things on fire. It's a race riot because the rioters were protesting what they saw as rascist behaviour in French society.
posted by unreason at 5:36 AM on December 1, 2005


bollocks France doesn't have institutionalised racism. when you can't get a job because your name is Mohammed, what do you call that?
posted by atticus at 5:56 AM on December 1, 2005


Atticus: when you can't get a job because your name is Mohammed, what do you call that?

Institutionalised means that France never had in recent times a state policy of discriminating against people because of their race (if we except the Occupation period and the policies specific to the colonies).

Grassroots racism always existed and is annoyingly widespread today, but it didn't have the sort of official endorsement and legal status it enjoyed in the US or in South Africa. For instance, the French senate was presided from 1958 to 1968 by a black person from Guiana, Gaston Monnerville, who would have become the executive president of the country in case of a vacancy of the presidency. French blacks may have had to battle against petty harassments, but not against a state policy (enforced by righteous citizens) that told them where to pee, sit and live.

Of course for the folks named Mohammed or Mamadou who can't find a job or a decent place to live this doesn't make much practical difference, but at least the local racists don't have a golden age to dream about.
posted by elgilito at 8:53 AM on December 1, 2005


De Villepin: scum on Iraq; scum within France.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:57 AM on December 1, 2005


elgilito, I agree with you on the idea that Americans focus to much on race but at least in the US racism is out in the open. Racism is public knowledge. Both my parents are French and the majority of my family is either still in France or in the US. I can tell you that, in person to person contact, France is still remarkably racist towards anyone looking at all Middle Eastern. And you're right, ones technical racial make-up is inconsequential...if you look Middle Eastern or North African, life is going to be made tougher for you. And the focus on race is not neccesarily just an American problem. Maybe I'm too idealistic but if someone can't get a job because his name is Mamadou, there is a problem that must be addressed. And if its not addressed and worse yet people just don't listen...well it should end up in "unrest"
posted by RobertFrost at 9:14 AM on December 1, 2005


if we except ... the policies specific to the colonies

Um, that's a pretty big thing to except. Have you ever studied French colonial policy? We're talking about Algeria, here. And if you go farther back, we're talking about Haiti, which was so abusive to its African slaves that they had to keep importing more, because they were literally working their slaves to death. France never voluntarily freed those slaves, either, they were kicked out. It seems a bit disingenous to say that France was never rascist because the rascism happened outside of France's borders.
posted by unreason at 10:01 AM on December 1, 2005


elgilito, institutionalised racism doesn't mean having a state policy of discriminating against people because of their race. it means that racism is endemic in the system even in the absence of an overt discriminatory policy.

the metropolitan police force in london doesn't have a policy of discriminating against people because of their race (which would be illegal), but that doesn't stop individual police officers from discriminating on a day-to-day basis (sometimes even unconsciously)

you have to educate people out of institutionalised racism not just change your policy
posted by atticus at 10:03 AM on December 1, 2005


I think France is going down the toilet. It's taking loner than I imagined, but the whirlpoor is neigh...
posted by ParisParamus at 10:14 AM on December 1, 2005


If France is going down the toilet then so is every other once-colonial power. The colonial era resulted in what we see now, a massive racial fallout. Every nation that subjugated people (doesnt matter where from) is dealing with these same problems of race. Yes, the situation in Europe is quite dire right now. But it was the same thing in Watts, Boyle Heights and Compton in the 70s through 90s in the US. What we need to realize is that this is not just France's problem; institutionalized racism exists everywhere despite people yelling about their "color blind" societies, etc. If anybody has a solution other than a time machine....let me know
posted by RobertFrost at 10:43 AM on December 1, 2005


Atticus and Unreason: I was just focusing on the "institutional" aspect of the problem, which, in French, has the precise meaning I described. Some of the solutions that seem to work in the US (like affirmative action) are possible because racism was once institutional and would be much harder to implement in France because it wasn't : the mere idea of officially classifying French people into "caucasians", "blacks" and the like is enough to start a another round of riots (even though some of our conservatives are toying with the idea).

About excepting the colonies, it is obviously a big step to do, but the policies and attitudes regarding people from the colonies were different in mainland France (that didn't have institutional racism) and in the colonies, where these policies were institutionalised. This in turn created a particular subculture in the colonies. Even now, former colonists have trouble accepting that colonisation was not a jolly good idea. I tend to believe that a lot of the prejudices (particularly against North Africans) were brought to the mainland and made popular by colonists who had always lived in a fundamentally racist culture where the "natives" were by law second-class citizens.
posted by elgilito at 11:19 AM on December 1, 2005


and here we go with another America vs. France "less racist/colonialist/on the brink of falling into a toilet than you" contest.

Thankfully, the world is a big toilet and can hold both, and more, so there's no need to pick.
posted by funambulist at 11:49 AM on December 1, 2005


My country's more racist than your country.
posted by cillit bang at 12:13 PM on December 1, 2005


A friend professor just came back from a tour of Europe, & said he was amazed at the animosity towards de Villepin, who seems to be widely hated outside France
posted by beautifulatrocities at 12:13 PM on December 1, 2005


Yeah, it probably has to do with him being French...

Nah, it's not just the French, all of Europe is a union of countries who are widely hated outside themselves. Perfidious Albion, pompous Gauls, sour Krauts, drunken Vikings, there's something for everyone.

There, enough fun with cliches for me tonight!
posted by funambulist at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2005


Well, France tried to grab control of the EU. Recall Chirac telling the Eastern Europeans to shut up when they disagreed with him on Iraq? The Bulgarians told him shut up right back, lol. You don't survive 50 years of Soviet rule only to kowtow to Jacques Chirac
posted by beautifulatrocities at 1:19 PM on December 1, 2005


Betting pool: similar riots will recur in two years or less.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:29 PM on December 1, 2005


where? in America, Canada, France, Indonesia? where?
posted by matteo at 11:12 PM on December 1, 2005


Why pretend to be stupid matteo? You don't need to pretend.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:06 PM on December 3, 2005


Chirac became a dick when he didn't leave politics 20 years ago. But no one leave French politics "20 years ago." France has a incestual, inbred perpetual politics machine; is there another serious country in the world where mayors become President? BIZARRE....
posted by ParisParamus at 6:25 PM on December 3, 2005


PeePee: tell that to the Rudy '08 people


Why pretend to be stupid

in the (vain) hope you'll understand how laughable your argument is?

maybe somebody should explain that to you, speaking very slowly and stuff. if there's a country in grave danger of experiencing new race riots after LA '92, it's the USA. Katrina should have taught you something about that, but it flew over your head, unsurprisingly. not to mention, a Frenchman betting on when/where the next US school shooting is going to happen would be pretty tasteless. but, again, that flies over your head.

anyway, I'm still waiting for those Canadian pogroms you were sure were going to happen soon, Kkrlson. that was a good fpp, by the way. I wish I had saved it.

I suggest you meet with PeePee, pour some Burgundy down the drain or something, rename some French dish. whatever rocks your boat. I'm sure jfuller would pitch in, too, since he seems to enjoy the company of rubes.

who knows, he may even explain to you what Burgundy is.
posted by matteo at 2:21 PM on December 4, 2005


in the (vain) hope you'll understand how laughable your argument is?

Argument, eh? To recap, I said:

Betting pool: similar riots will recur in two years or less.

I suppose it makes sense that you don't know what an argument *is*, given your failure to produce anything resembling one in all your time here.

All you've got is cheap lashing out, such as your bit just above. Now if only it were funny, you'd have some redeeming qualities.

Anyway, enjoy good old Europe, and tell me what you think in a few years.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:10 PM on December 5, 2005


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