Why No Deaths in the French Rioting?

Despite widespread violence including numerous shooting incidents it appears that no one has yet been killed. Why is this? The linked article and others suggest that the rioters are going for maximum damage short of the level that would provoke a decisive response from the French government. Wretchard comments:

Belmont Club commenter Red River makes the interesting conjecture that rioting “youths” in Paris have confined their primary mode of attack to car burning as part of a deliberate brinkmanship. Car burning is spectacular, serious enough to get attention yet — and this is the vital point — not serious enough to provoke lethal force. By staying just shy of the threshold, the rioters can maximize their rate of propagation at minimum danger to themselves.

(The link to Red River is worth following. Go to the linked thread and search on his name. He posted several insightful comments.)

The use of car burning and shotguns fired from a distance are reminiscent of the first Intifada against Israel. Then as now provocateurs used weapons that were extremely dangerous but not consistently lethal. In the Intifada Palestinians’ slings and fire bombs were effective because they did not kill enough Israeli troops for the Israeli leadership to be willing to bear the high domestic and international political cost of responding with overwhelming force. Yet the Israelis couldn’t do nothing in response to constant provocations, and the drumbeat of apparently pointless IDF and civilian casualties, and seemingly no-win nature of the “situation,” eventually demoralized Israeli society and made Palestinian victory possible (until the Israelis developed new tactics and the Palestinians overplayed their hand).

The French government isn’t as constrained as the Israelis were, since a lot of French citizens probably favor a harsh response to the rioters and other countries aren’t likely to interfere. Nonetheless the French rioters, like the Palestinians, appear to be getting the result they want. By keeping their violence to a level just below that which would provoke a real crackdown they have paralyzed the government and made their own victory — which appears to consist, initially, of the formal partition of metropolitan France into Muslim and non-Muslim areas — more likely.

UPDATE: Ralf notes that someone has been killed, but I don’t think that weakens my argument.

UPDATE 2: I hope we’re all wrong about the seriousness of these events, but I doubt it.

Even if the riots began opportunistically, the French govt’s reaction has provided fuel by making clear that substantial political gains for the Muslims are attainable by force. The sky’s the limit now. I didn’t see the WSJ article yet, but concession talk was foreordained by the leftist political culture which knows only to appease in response to attacks. God help them, and us, if they give in and grant the Muslims some kind of formal autonomy within France. It would be like the beach head of an invasion where the nation being invaded didn’t realize that it was at war.

Or maybe enough French realize what’s going on that they will eventually vote for leaders who will do something about it. But in the meantime, to paraphrase Red River, the Muslims are operating within French society’s OODA loop.

17 thoughts on “Why No Deaths in the French Rioting?”

  1. The first death has just occured.

    The rioters aren’t as representative for French Muslims like the terrorists are for the Palestinians. The people, inclusing the Muslims, most affected riots are throughly fed up and are staging protest marches.

    Don’t forget, the LA riots hit balck areas most severely. Apart from some excursions by young rioters, the same is true for Muslim areas in France.

  2. If the rioters are intentionally restraining themselves, that suggest a widespread political sophistication and discipline of a high order. It means the riots are not emotional outburst but rationally calculated acts of aggression. This could be the start of powerful political movement who is not afraid to use violence.

    On the other hand, France has a long history of massive civil disturbances. Perhaps there is just a cultural understanding of how far one goes in such circumstances. Perhaps the riots are more ritual that anarchy.

  3. Kind of OT, The American Thinker has this, via Lucianne:

    Joseph C. Wilson IV: The French Connection
    The American Thinker, by James Lewis

    More conspiracy theories.

  4. This seemingly odd fact, I suspect, demonstrates what it seems to: Political sophistication and organization. This does not appear to be a spontaneous riot like the LA riots were. The first Intifada was effective precisely because it used rocks against tanks, for the TV cameras. This seems to be roughly similar, with allowances for the different setting. The French are stumped about how to respond, since a serious response will certainly lead to some number of deaths. The French are going to be asked to make “land for peace” concessions, turning these areas over to a separate “government”. See todays first page WSJ story. France is going to have its own “Gaza Archipelago” all over the place. Sad for them if so. This political sophistication is consistent with the tactical sophistication I referred to in this post.

    (Or is this all conspiracy theorizing? Too soon to say.)

  5. The cameras are not as far in as they have always been in Palestine because the media, this being nearer home, is not so sympathetic.

    Some of the pictures show some non-North Africans being arrested, which prompts the question who else is joining in. And, moving on from there, who is rioting in other places, like Evreux? I would genuinely like to know the answer. The journos seem to be staying in Paris.

  6. PS Sorry, posted before I remembered this. To support Ralf’s point, there are also pictures of Muslim demonstrating against the violence on the streets of those rather ghastly banlieus. I don’t remember any demonstrations of that kind in Palestinian towns.

  7. Not that surprising that the man who died was elderly, 61, and was killed for trying to put out a trashcan fire. Numerous articles (including the legendary Theodore Dalrymple one) indicated that the elderly were the only ones who had really been willing to protest some of the “youths” previous actions.

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  9. Dr Victorino: You got it! I am waiting for my headphones to tell me how to respond to your imaginative criticisms. But will the instructions come from Dick Cheney or Prince Bandar? The suspense is killing me!

    Anyone who wants to see where Doctor Vic is coming from should check out his blog. Or better yet, read the Wikipedia entry he cites and see if it really says that during the 1992 LA riots “more than 60 ‘n******’ [were] executed on the spot” or that “US Marines massacred their way into the remnants of the Black ghetto.”

    To address the substance of his argument, such as it is: Young muslims have torched thousands of cars and assaulted police in apparently related riots in numerous French cities. What does he think is going on and why does he think the rioters are using the tactics they are using? Or are these uninteresting questions so long as it can be pointed out that there have been bad riots in the USA.

  10. Thanks to Jonathan for this fine post. I have also been struck by — if press accounts are even roughly accurate — by how little looting there has been, as compared to the big American riots. That, too, suggests centralized control.

    And thanks to Dr. Victorino de la Vega for the civil and well-informed comment. (I have been collecting evidence for my argument that some departments in our colleges and universities should simply be closed. It is always helpful to have another example to illustrate my argument.)

  11. I knew I should have copied the url, but I read on a blog last night that cars which showed bumper stickers or decals with Arabic script, other Muslim symbols, or African references were being bypassed by the arsonists–only “French” cars are being torched. This too would appear to show discipline and organization, no?

  12. John wrote: “cars which showed bumper stickers or decals with Arabic script, other Muslim symbols, or African references were being bypassed by the arsonists–only “French” cars are being torched.”

    LGF quotes the NY Sun on that point:

    How ethnic is the present violence in France? Liberal commentators, both in France and abroad, tend to say that poverty and unemployment, rather than race or religion, are the driving force behind the riots. Mr. Villepin himself tends to share this view, at least in part. He said yesterday on TV that he is earmarking enormous credits for housing rehabilitation, education, and state-supported jobs in the areas where the unrest has developed. But the fact remains that only ethnic youths are rioting, that most of them explicitly pledge allegiance to Islam and such Muslim heroes as Osama bin Laden, that the Islamic motto – Allahu Akbar – is usually their war cry, and that they submit only to archconservative or radical imams.

    The fact also remains, according to many witnesses, that the rioters torch only “white” cars, meaning white owned cars, and spare “Islamic” or “black” ones. One way to discriminate between them is to look for ethnic signs like a sticker with Koranic verses or a picture of the Kaaba in Mekka or a stylized map of Africa. Further evidence of the animating influence in the riots lies with the French rap music to which the perpetrators listen. Such music obsessively describes White France as a sexual prey.

  13. The reason that the post by Dr Victorino De La Vega, to which I and Jim Miller respond above, is absent is that I inadvertently deleted it. Fortunately, the missing comment is essentially identical to a blog post that is available here.

    My apologies for deleting the comment.

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