Sunday, January 04, 2009

Car Burning in France: Ripe for Research

The title of the CNN report, France's New Year's Tradition: Car-Burning, says it all. There can’t be too many better examples of social epidemics.


Anonymous said...

"Social epidemic" malarkey. It's Islamic lawlessness that CNN (typically) bends over backwards to avoid clearly mentioning. The casual reader would think it was all the fault of the French and not the shiftless. Dhimmitude on CNN, now who would have guessed?

It is partly the fault of the French though. Mass unemployment is what happens when you enact labor laws that prevent companies from firing people.

Jun Okumura said...

I’ll leave to psychopathologists the exploration of the highly positive correlation between rudeness, ignorance and anonymousity.

Back to the case in point, as the report on the 2005 riots that the latest TIME offering links to make it clear, TIME, like every other mainstream media outlet that I’m aware of, has not hesitated to pinpoint Arab/black/Moslem immigrants youths as the main demographics behind the surge of violence in the suburbs (something’s definitely lost in translation there). I didn’t give much thought to why TIME decided not to touch on the religious background on this particular occasion; perhaps it, like, me thought that it was not particularly relevant to the thrust of the article, which is that the expression of their discontent/despair has taken the specific form of a huge spike in torching cars, on New Year’s Eve in particular. This is by definition a social epidemic and should be studied accordingly. Why the violence? Why this particular form? Why the recent spike? How has it spread? Questions, questions…

Here are a couple of what I think are relevant points, maybe obvious to most of you, but I’ll say them anyway: France has a history of high tolerance towards civil disobedience. This is likely to be providing an enabling environment, referred to in the report as "the Gallic shrug". The violence has been relatively isolated geographically, socially and, yes, ethnically. This is likely to have led to a lesser sense of urgency than, say, similar actions by unemployed college graduates would engender.

Finally, like most mainstream media efforts, this article strings together facts, figures, and quotes that tend to illustrate rather than illuminate (although it is more conscientious than most with regard to statistics).