Friday, August 27, 2010

The Dilemma

Reading the various comments on yesterday's post and my Libé interview, I am forced once again to recognize Nicolas Sarkozy's tactical brilliance as a politician. The Roma expulsions are the perfect issue to distract and divide. The dilemma for critics is to avoid becoming entangled in a debate about minutiae and to refrain from overreacting to provocation. It's not an easy task. If one defends human rights and due process of law, one is accused of turning a blind eye to the problem of illegal immigration. If one defends the innocent, one is accused of championing the guilty. If one defends a "community," one is accused of being unrepublican and by ricochet reinforces the stigmatization of an entire group of people, willy nilly, that is at the root of the whole issue.

My problem is only a petty version of the larger problem of the Left. The Left has not been any less successful than the Right of dealing with these issues, but it has constantly been wrongfooted by clever demagoguery. To oppose xenophobia is branded "angélisme." To recoil from heavy-handed police tactics, mass expulsions, the use of bulldozers to raze camps, and the mediatization of private calamity for political gain is to be accused of promoting anarchy. On the other hand, to countenance any enforcement of immigration laws is seized upon by ultras as proof that one is really, secretly, in league with sinister traffickers in human chattel.

So, bien joué, Sarkozy, Hortefeux, Besson, et cie. For the moment. But this is a dangerous game.


Boz said...

Good interview. I haven't followed this issue nearly as closely as I should, but I get the impression that this is roughly the equivalent of the Bush Justice Department's high-profile raids on employers of illegal immigrants. It's not extraordinary, in that the Obama DoJ is doing the same thing (just more quietly and efficiently), but it was the exploitation of a somewhat normal occurrence for pure politics.

The same "distract and divide" tactic is being used magnificently in the mosque 'debate'. Seize a seemingly mundane issue and rile people up. Can it get dangerous? Sure. But so did some of the overblown populism during the financial mess, especially the whole AIG bonus scandal. Politics is a contact sport, and unfortunately there's often collateral damage. That doesn't excuse the behavior, but as you say, in its own twisted way, it can be admirable.

FrédéricLN said...

A very "dangerous game" indeed. Cornering the human rights advocates, that means undermining the national democratic capabilities, instead of investing in them.

Looking at the HR advocates, indeed many of them are newbies on the political stage, and easily cornered. I listened yesterday to the interview of a renowned actress (probably Josiane Balasko) on France Inter, on this topic Roms/deportations: she said something false every two phrases and an exxageration every second one.

References to WWII don't help, indeed.

But other sectors in the HR movement have been more effective, or I suspect them to be (and Josiane Balasko was there too!). With less arguments, and more personal involvement: Réseau Education Sans Frontières, Cercles de Silence at Toulouse, or the camp along the Canal Saint-Martin.

The abstract Roms crowd, the thieves on markets or the "bidonvilles" along our roads are rather freakening for ordinary people - but the "real" Roms are usually smiling, warm and humorous people, as far as I know of some of them (not much, actually). Don't look like any major menace2society.

JDM said...

The US example is highly flawed: Obama has no intention of "permanently excluding" anyone - just like Bush, he wants them to serve as an underpaid underclass, undercutting unions and main stream labor even more. It may be effective in the short term, but it is won't wash when people realize that no one actually winds up leaving: they either come back (as the Rom will) or they are replaced by more and diffrerent Mexicans, Dominicans and the like. Lots of US citizens also have no idea at all that Puerto Ricans are already US citizens. If the Left addresses the issue - here or in France - they have to say that the answer is social support and assimilation for the US immigrants or the Roms. Otherwise, they're better off letting Sarkozy look like a brute or Obama look like the Bushco fascist he actually is on this issue. BTW, no one in the US ever points out how many non US citizens are in the US "volunteer" army - that's substantial number of US soldiers who aren't citizens. God knows how many non citizens are in the mercenary "contractor" groups like XE/Blackwater, which is now actually headquartered in Dubai. There are and always have been more "contractors" in US employ in Iraq than there are US soldiers.