Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Friday, March 17, 2006

And now, by request....

I've been asked to write something on the current round of French riots. (By someone who really, really can't stand the French, actually.) But why write anything myself when the email asking me to do it contained perfectly usable commentary?

It's so mind-blowing to Americans that people would take to the streets to protest the imposition of at-will employment, to which we can't even conceive an alternative, that it seems like the mainstream media can't even discuss why people are protesting. The NYT just talks about romantic social movements a la 1968 -- oh, the idealistic and foolish students want to change society again, except this time all they want is to overturn a little labor law. How boring. I guess times aren't what they used to be back in those revolutionary '60's. -- buried in the NYT article is someone saying that this law is the first step in doing away with the social contract. The what?

The other interesting part, of course, is the difference between the coverage of white middle to upper class young people rioting in the streets of Paris and black and Arab young people rioting in the burbs. Nothing new, really.

Yeah, in part. I mean, the patronizing, indulgent comparison to May '68 is pretty much restricted to white kids. I don't remember seeing similar comparisons made so readily about the suburban riots of the fall. And Elaine Sciolino should never, ever, ever have been allowed to make this kind of editorializing generalization (one of many):

France likes to think of itself as revolutionary. But it is run like a big corporation with a powerful president at the head. Any change in the distribution of power can set off a crisis. Parliament is seen as too weak to serve as a check to that power. Protests are one of the only ways to get the government's attention.

No facts to back that up, not one. At least not in the article. Certainly a statement like "Parliament is seen as" anything should be backed up with poll data, non?

But much of the rest of the article is of a piece with standard riot coverage, as Solomon dissected it a month ago.

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  • At 4:16 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    God, Elaine Sciolino might be the most annoying person in New York. Take this bit of editorializing in another of her news reports: "The protests are driven by two factors: domestic politics and the fear of change among France's middle and working class. This is not about promoting grand revolutionary ideals."

    Is that so, Elaine? Says who? And whoever says it, can they muster the same snide, reactionary zeal you do when you write "grand revolutionary ideals"? It must be so hard for you to type and roll your eyes at the same time.

    Of course, this is not unique to her reportage. Like you said, I pointed it out in the Lebanese "riots" coverage, and it's related to the anti-liberal bias we discussed earlier this week, the way that New Deal programs may or may not have been smeared with the "grand liberal ideals" brush (it's all so redolent of Cartman on South Park -- "stupid hippies").

    As the always incisive Jessica Winter put it last year, it's "a familiar canard ... 'Under 30 and not liberal, no heart; over 30 and still liberal, no brain.'"

    But even our near and dear can indulge in this propaganda. Take this quote from a very good friend of mine in a (retarded) New York story three years ago: "“Protests seemed so hippie, so much a part of our parents’ youth that it seemed sentimental and ultimately too idealistic,” adds [redacted]."

    It's always been easy to portray political convictions as immature and unrealistic, pace the historical record of highly influential social protest movements. Reactionaries like Elaine Sciolino will always have influential platforms ready to publish their pablum. At least now there are also blogs.


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