Radical media, politics and culture.

Hoipolloi Cassidy, "Cliché-sous-Bois"

Hoipolloi Cassidy writes:

Hoipolloi Cassidy

"Couvre-feu ou cessez-le-feu?" Curfew or ceasefire? By reactivating a fifty-year old curfew law the French Government appears to have tamped the violence tearing apart Parisian suburbs and other parts of France for the past two weeks. Throw a few promises at the underprivileged and this could be the end of the story.

Not likely. It's more like a chess game between two skilled players where both opponents skip through the opening moves because they're all predictable. Or think of the joke about the guys who all know the same stories, so whenever someone calls out a number the rest all crack up. In a country with a political tradition as old as France the past two weeks couldn't help but follow the script. From a cycle of repression and rebellion the Right wing fashioned a narrative of France against the Un-French, order against disorder, while Center and Left begged for a return to containment, cooperation and gradual integration into "Frenchness."In the predictability sweeps the Right always wins, that's why they're called "conservatives" and "reactionaries." So the Right pulled a 3/26/71, yuk, yuk, meaning March 26, 1871, when the Right provoked a populist uprising in order to crush it, leaving the Left caught between the cabbage and the billy-goat, between turning their back on the People or going down with them. Not once, but twice in the past two weeks the Right-wing government has handed the French Left the poisoned fruit, first by leaving a political vacuum in the flaming suburbs and daring local authorities to take charge of security, and then again when it imposed a curfew but left implementation to local initiative. Someone, some time, will have to take up the job of running the suburban areas. The Right can't do it except through violence and the Left, if it dares to take it up, might find itself replaying 5/28/1871, giggle, giggle, when the Commune was crushed and many among those who weren't killed were deported to?... Algeria, actually.

How far will predictability take an overambitious politician? The common cliché in French politics is that Nicolas Sarkozy, the Minister of the Interior, acts out of personal ambition, his actions symbolic, performed for how they'll play two year from now before the French electorate. If it's all an act then Sarko lost his timing last week when he called for the immediate expulsion of all foreigners arrested in the riots. Hey, folks, wanna see me do 6/11/1968, when the Right brought closure to the May uprising by expelling "foreign" troublemakers, tee-hee?

From Sarkozy's actions it looks as if we're moving on to the low-intensity warfare of the post-May period, with the Right turning the heat up and down and the Left sputtering in the streets. That's pretty much the narrative the French media picked up over the weekend, with a few, poorly attended demonstrations in Paris against government repression. (One petition demanded that the cops use the polite, "vous" form when they beat the crap out of people, kind of like demanding that American cops call people "Sir").

Where we go from here, though, is a separate issue. As the old punch-line goes, some people don't know how to tell a good story.

Hoipolloi Cassidy