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Claire Berlinski @ClaireBerlinski
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One thing you might not realize from the news is that mostly if you're in Paris you wouldn't know this was happening (unless you were reading the news). Of course cameras and journalists focus on the riots: "news" by definition is "things that are new."
That doesn't mean all of Paris is in flames. I just went out, kids were playing in the streets, the cafes were full, the bakery was open, so was the fromagerie and the drug store. Some of the big chain stores on the rue de Rivoli were closed---
If you look at a map, you'll see that the rue de Rivoli is the long street that links the Bastille to the Tuileries, after which, if you keep going strait, you get to the Champs Elyées. I know the police asked some of the shops in the 12th and possibly the 11th and 4th to close,
as a precaution. (They didn't demand this, they asked.) But it looks as if near me, only the big clothing stores with glass windows on the rue de Rivoli closed. There was some graffiti on the closed storefronts: nothing original.
Someone wrote, "refugees and precarity are the same." Meaning, I presume, "Poor people are all in the same boat, and they are all poor because the rich are rich." A message of class solidarity. The world's a mess because of the "system." Someone scrawled PAIX ET AMOUR on another.
"Peace and love," which is, obviously, ironic. Whether the author meant it to be, I don't know. But life is normal. There's nothing that would cause you to say, "Oh, Paris is burning!" Or "what violence!"--that's only happening in a fairly small area.
The population of the Greater Paris area is about 12 million people. They're estimating there were 3,000 rioters. What's really newsworthy is *where* they're protesting: If they'd torched a bad neighborhood--and this fact, actually, is part of the reason some are protesting--
--it wouldn't be "news." Reluctantly, I have to agree they have a point: to get anyone's attention, they have to destroy places rich people and tourists know about. (This does not mean that I think they should. Now they have everyone's attention, but in a negative way:
those who have *very* legitimate complaints--I think--about the destruction of French small town life are now associated with the kind of animal who would desecrate the Eternal Flame at the Arc de Triomphe.)

There are ways of getting attention that are much more constructive:
But certainly, the shortcut--the cheap, easy route to having the whole world's eyes on you and your grievance--is violence. And the news media is locked into this grim danse macabre with violent hooligans, terrorists, and the US president because the media's business model--
--is organized around telling the world what's new. "Nothing unusual happened in most of Paris" isn't news. But it's closer to what you'd see if you were here, unless you were in the wrong neighborhood. I'm no less a part of the problem than anyone in the media:
whenever there's a terrorist attack or a riot here, I know people will be interested in Paris and it's a good chance for me to write and sell a few articles. I've tried selling stories about life in Paris being fun and normal… --
But people love to read about violence. And they especially love reading about violence in France, because France is extremely safe, usually. Syria, on any given day, is far more violent than France. There have been a few injuries in these weeks of protests,
and four deaths, since this began, in "protest-related" accidents. But this is not a war zone, nor anything like a war zone: the words "war" and "battle" you're seeing in the news are metaphors. I know, though, that if you're not here, it could sound like they're not.
This is an actual war zone:…. It's impossible to say whether the casualty estimates are correct, but there's no doubt *many, many* more people have been killed, injured, tortured, traumatized: But that's now the status quo in Syria. Not "news."
People here who are burning things because it's the fast, easy way to draw attention to their grievance should remember that if they do too often, it won't be news anymore. Then, people will shrug off reports of injuries and death in France because "it's always been like that."
And "attention to your grievance" may seem sufficient to fix it, but it isn't. The world paid a lot of attention to Syria, at first. (I don't think France is heading in Syria's direction, but the same logic applies: violence gets people's attention--at first.
But it is very rare for it to be the first step toward solving a problem.) And it is absolutely *not* going to be the first step toward solving France's problems. France does not need to be liberated from a bloodthirsty dictator who will never leave power peacefully.
It is not under foreign occupation.

Fixing the problem will require something a lot more difficult than "seizing the media's attention for a few weeks." It won't be fixed by "a revolution" unless it's a kind of revolution that's never taken place anywhere in the world before
Literally never. Not in France: 1789 was a revolution against an absolute monarchy. France is not, now, an absolute monarchy. The cost of that revolution in blood was monstrous, and in the end it failed even on its own terms.
A communist revolution? Show me where that's ever worked and be careful what you wish for: The poorest man in France is still, by global standards, a member of the wealthy elite. People are protesting because they earn 1200 Euros a month.
And it's true: it *is* hard to make ends meet on that amount in France. The cost of living is very high. But were there to be a Revolution that redistributed the world's wealth from the rich to the poor, the French would discover that they are, actually, the rich.
The very, very rich.….

A far-right revolution? Show me where that's ever worked. No, actually, don't show me: If that's your idea of "working," I don't want to hear from you.

These protests are statements of a problem,
and it is a real problem. But they're not a solution.

What have the protesters achieved besides getting attention? Yes, violence, vandalism, and arson get everyone's attention. Concretely? The fuel tax will be lower. Maybe France will have another failed presidency.
That's not going to help.

Some reforms may help. Decentralization away from Paris and investment in other cities. Modernizing France's economy.

But these protests have only pushed France further away from that. Unhelpful.
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