Hard News by Russell Brown

Mo French

There were varied responses to yesterday's post about the French riots. A couple of readers mentioned the 1995 French film La Haine ("Hate"), which explores themes of racism and violence in suburban Paris.

Reader Nick Melchior says of my line that the rioters were not mullahs but gangstas:

This seems to me to miss the point slightly. Regardless of whether or not the rioters are taking their influence from radical Islam or American hip hop, the real point is surely that there are genuine grievances here. A lack of respect from the police and authorities in general is key here. A focus of the style in which the rioters dress their protest in takes attention away from the very legitimate grievances at work here.

WH said:

Appreciate all your "socio economic" psycho-cultural blah de blah, but can't you say something more ... convincing? Like: "small proportion of anti-social fuckwits" or "there's no excusing wanton violence" or "fuck rioters". Hell I'd take a "Booker T Washington" at this point.

Jerry Sullivan made this observation:

For what it's worth, Pat Buchanan has been making that speech about Hispanics since the 1980 Republican convention. For a more serious blogger whose reaction to the French riots and "Islamofascism" is very disturbing, see andrewsullivan.com--he's gay, republican, libertarian, seriously anti-torture and cites approvingly to columns about the French and Danish riots which draw decidly Klanish responses (which Sullivan neither acknowledges nor apparently finds troubling).

Hmmm. He's right. I'm disappointed. Although Sullivan seems to have started to countenance less alarmist points of view, some of the stuff he cites is bilge. He links to this little job titled Evidence the "Paris Riots" Are Actually the "French Intifada" on the IRIS blog (home page slogan: "Because Israel is the frontline of the global intifada").

Sullivan enthusiastically declares "The guy's got links". Well, he has some links, but mostly, he's got a whole lot of selective and out-of-context quoting, including to this Boston Globe story:

Mahmoud Khabou, 20, the jobless son of Algerian immigrants, knows little of the world beyond the concrete housing projects that rise in bleak rows barely an hour's subway ride from the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and other grand monuments of Paris.

But he knows who his heroes are. ''Osama bin Laden and Rodney King," he said, referring to the Al Qaeda leader and the African-American whose videotaped beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 spawned massive racial riots.

''One because he gives pride back to the Muslims," the young man asserted as he and a trio of friends stood near the charred ruins of a carpet shop. ''The other because he was just a poor man, a 'nobody man' of color, but he caused a great city to burn."

A commenter made this observation on citing that story as "evidence":

So I guess they should add a new blog “Evidence the Paris Riots are Really The South Central LA Riots". Hey by all reports, the rioters are more into hip hop gangsta style clothes and rap music than wearing khaffiyehs and listening to traditional arab music.

I checked a few others they were similarly incomplete or out of context. Keep up the good work, and make it easy for me continue to post the links to your "evidence" …

It gets worse. If you bother to read through to the last page of the Boston Globe story, it concludes thus:

The violence exploded in this suburb Oct. 27 after two teenagers -- Ziad Benna, 17, and his friend Bouna Traore, 15 -- were electrocuted in a power substation into which they clambered to evade police. Matters were made worse when police battling rioters fired tear gas into a local mosque where more than 700 people were gathered for prayers.

French newspapers have carried speculative reports that ''hidden hands" -- meaning Islamic radical groups such as Al Qaeda -- are orchestrating the violence. Inhabitants of Clichy-sous-Bois scoffed at the suggestion.

''There's no hidden hand -- very ridiculous! -- just the fully visible discrimination that Muslims face everyday," said Zoubidia, 29, as she nervously led her two small boys past cordons of riot police guarding a fire station. She declined to give her last name.

''Just allow us the dignity of good jobs and a chance to make better lives," she said. ''Then the French will have nothing to fear from 'dangerous Muslims.' "

This doesn't really seem like a slamdunk for the clash-of-civilisations theory …

Most disappointingly, Sullivan also links to this post by the British Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips like it meant something. She concludes:

The warning for us from the disturbing events in France could not be clearer. We must end the ruinous doctrine of multiculturalism and reassert British identity and British values — and insist that although Muslims are a valued minority, they must abide by majority rules.

But if France fails to hold the line, the fall-out will be incalculable for us and for all of Europe.

Phillips (whose work was among that plagiarised by Bruce Logan of the Maxim Institute) is a lunatic of long standing - she makes Mark Steyn look measured and consistent.

Happily, in a sense, Phillips' new columns still insisting on a link between the MMR vaccine and autism give us a handy yardstick for the quality of her argument.

Here are a withering takedown of Phillips' paranoid columns, her frankly misleading response in The Guardian, and subsequent unimpressed letters to the same newspaper.

And for a final amusement, here's a backgrounder on one of the "journals" she claimed had backed her argument, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. It's not so much a medical journal as an in-house newsletter for a bunch of paranoid American conservatives. It promotes links between abortion and breast cancer, and mercury in vaccines and autism - and, unsurprisingly, features on Quackwatch's list of non-recommended journals. Oh, why do they hate science so?

So this is the kind of mindset we're dealing with. These are people who are quite prepared to create their own reality and live inside it. Meanwhile, of course, there are already jihadists looking to harness the anger in Paris - united with their right-wing foes in a common belief in some impending and epochal war between faiths. I guess I'm not the only one who feels caught in the crossfire between crazy people.