October 2000, Place de la République in Paris: the first of what would become an endless series of ambiguous pro-Palestinian demonstrations welcomed the snake of anti-Semitism into its heart. “Death to the Jews” rang out loud and clear that day as policemen stood by, journalists watched with apparent indifference, and the mass of demonstrators thronged and thrust as demonstrators do.
8 March 2005, Place de la République: a thousand young toughs pierced the heart of a student demonstration and unleashed their rage…not against the police but against the “privileged classes” in their own age group—the protesting lycée students. Operating in gangs of ten and twenty, the casseurs (smashers) in brand-name sweat suits swept through the march like pirate ships, zeroed in on their prey, attacked from behind. They threw kids to the ground, gratuitously beating and kicking them, snatching handbags, ipods, wallets, and cell phones. Riot police looking like robots with their thick leather padding stood by as the predators cut through the crowd wielding knives, clubs, and tear gas bombs.
In the space of a few hours the hallowed tradition of student protest imploded. But trouble had been brewing since January when the lycée students started organizing to oppose la loi Fillon, an umpteenth educational reform project proposed by the current Minister of Education, François Fillon. The previous minister was brought down by similar protests against a different sort of reform. This is the way the system goes, educational reform followed by protest and so on and so forth, while no one is offering any project that could address the acute crisis that is shaking the very foundations of the French educational system. And, precisely, the lycée--which is the equivalent of high school with regard to the age of the students (roughly 15-18) but closer to the first year of college in terms of the level of instruction—is collapsing under the weight of a large population of no longer elite kids who are being pushed through to earn a downgraded baccalauréat, while the occupational-training lycées siphon off the losers, condemned to flounder in a distressed job market.
Since January, plainclothesmen had been tracing the smasher contingent as it trickled and then spilled into the center of town from outlying arrondissements and banlieues to do mischief on the fringes of the protest movement. The numbers swelled from one demonstration to the next, the mischief increased accordingly. And yet the police were caught off guard when a thousand smashers moved into action against the students on March 8th. A police spokesman later explained that they could not go after the gangs in the midst of the crowd without causing collateral damage. They did arrest at least 80 suspects on the edges of the march and in the side streets where the troublemakers pursued their punitive expedition.
When the student protestors took to the streets again on March 15th they marched arm in arm in square dance formations, protected by a cordon sanitaire of husky union members, and massive squadrons of riot police. The ranks of demonstrators had dwindled to a piddling leftover, the smashers were kept at bay, but sirens wailed all that afternoon as riot control vehicles with cattle catchers trundled between La République and la Nation, giving the impression that all hell was breaking loose.
French media dutifully reported the March 8th incidents, a few shocking images of bloodied and battered students were shown on TV, but there doesn’t seem to be any serious reflection about this striking development—a real clash of civilizations. Student street protests are a mainstay of French life, no less important than sidewalk cafés, long vacations, bare breast advertisements, and Doctors without Borders. And smashers are part and parcel of the international street protest tradition. They are the alter ego of the misguided do-gooders who are only asking for peace and justice for the Palestinians, for the environment, for indigenous tribes, for African cotton planters. The smashers are the attack dogs launched against public order. They smash shop windows, bank façades, cars, and policemen. From 2000 to 2003, Pro-Palestinian / anti-war demonstrations in Paris habitually ended with flag burnings, destruction of public property, and Hamas salutes. The jihadi contingent, the Saddamites, the apologists for terrorism came to dominate the peace movement. When President Bush came to France for the June 2004 D-Day commemoration he was treated to a tremendous anti-Bush demonstration; in addition to the usual jihad contingent, a horde of skuzzy beer-drinking anarchists paraded with their pitbulls and rotweilers, promising “à Paris comme à Falluja la guerilla vaincra [in Paris, in Falluja, guerilla warriors will win].”
The guerilla warriors did show up in March, but they didn’t attack the established order, they beat up and plundered kids their own age who have a brighter future and a fancier brand of running shoes. The mentality of these French adolescents--whose parents come from Africa or the Maghreb--is a mixture of common ordinary delinquency, jihad against the infidels, blind revolt of the wretched of the earth, and stupid antics of spoiled kids.
The violent eruption of the Third World in the midst of a time-honored French protest tradition is the very emblem of what is going wrong in French society at the dawn of the 21st century. All the more noteworthy when the Paris street is compared to the Lebanese street, where close to a million demonstrators braving danger of another magnitude thronged the streets of Beirut that same week, determined to wrest their Islamized Middle Eastern country from the stranglehold of a Syrian occupant who had seemed—until recently—invulnerable.
What does it mean when the smashers start smashing the demonstrators? Voices have been warning that the passions unleashed by the virulent anti-Zionism fostered at all levels of French society since the autumn of 2000 would not stop with Zionists and Jews; they would turn against the society as a whole. The warning was majestically ignored. As anti-Zionism morphed into anti-Semitism and joined hands with anti-Americanism, we witnessed an increasing trend to self-destructive histrionics. The connection with reality is easily damaged in a culture that tends to take the word for the deed, the posture for the position, the pretension for power. The public has been fed heavy doses of propaganda from the very media that should have been helping responsible citizens understand the great upheavals taking place in the Middle East, with repercussions in their own daily lives. Instead, conflict is blamed on Israel and the United States, while conflict in Europe is stubbornly denied. Only recently French PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin, campaigning in support of the proposed European Constitution, declared in his inimitable 1950s radio voice: “Europe means peace.”
And what do the lycéens of France want? Some observers say the kids don’t even know themselves. While a small minority may have good arguments against the reform, most have nothing more than the word NO painted on their foreheads and hands. They are against the reform the same way they are against “the war”: in a vacuum. The inevitable rainbow PACE [peace in Italian] flags were flying in the demonstrations, even as the predators bore down on the hapless victims.
How much further can romanticized revolution go? The pro-Palestinian movement that has sullied huge swathes of French society culminated in the shamefully orchestrated death in Paris of Yasser Arafat. The banana republic anti-American anti-war movement deflated when jihadi peace marchers beat up youths from the leftist Zionist Hashomer Hazair movement in the last great Parisian peace demonstration in March 2003. And now the grandchildren of May ’68 can’t enjoy their ritual protest movement in peace. The Palestinians revered by European humanitarianists are kept at a safe distance; but on March 8th the children of the Third World, the punks and the dropouts, the hoodlums and the lost souls crashed the party and spoke for themselves with kicks and hammerlocks.
While the editorial director of the let-it-all-hang-out daily Libération, Grandpa Serge July with his grisly beard, was thumping around Baghdad trying to retrieve his reporter Florence Aubenas held hostage in Lebanon since January 5th, his newspaper was gushing over the student movement personified in the figure of Morgane Moalic, a 17 year-old Lolita revolutionary photographed against a backdrop of a Marx-Hegel-Lenin calendar. The young lady won’t listen to American pop music, because “America is the cradle of evil.” She prefers Noir Désir, a group that disbanded a few years ago when bandleader Bertrand Cantat went to jail for beating his sweetheart Marie Trintignant to death…in Vilnius. Not to look like an old fuddy-duddy, the intellectually pretentious newspaper of record, Le Monde, featured its own 17 year-old: Constance Blanchard, president of the National Union of Lycéens. In between the portrait of Morgane, published on the eve of the March 8th protest, and the portrait of Constance, featured the day after, fell the shadow of violence that ripped apart their demonstration and left the movement, at least for the moment, in tatters.
Not a hint of that shadow on the portraits of Morgane and Constance. Pouting and triumphant with youthful exasperation they stand firm against the system, the no-future, the very unfairness of life and studies.
26 March 2005: Any doubt that may have lingered about the importance of the March 8th incidents is now dispelled by an equally momentous event: Le Monde, France’s newspaper of record, has admitted—after several weeks of soul-searching and honest investigative journalism—to an across the board, deliberate, longstanding refusal to acknowledge the existence of anti-white anti-French racism. Ombudsman Robert Solé strings together a series of letters from readers, interspersed with vivid details on the violence of the attacks, and concludes that the paper has been treating the issue with politically correct kid gloves and a dearth of investigation. When Le Monde wakes up, other French media might just open one eye. Stay tuned for further developments.