Thursday, November 19, 2015

Interview with Jeff Spross



bernard said...

I agree with what you said in this interview in the sense that France has produced the right conditions for a substantial part of its youth to be disaffected. A disaffected youth is not however a youth made up of socio paths. And what we need to explain is why a tiny fraction of the youth are turning socio paths. It is a tiny fraction but still numbers a few thousands and can do severe damage in this asymmetric war including of course to our politics.

I have seen essentially two explanations that could perhaps convincingly shed some light on this:

1. the 55 years old war in Algeria has never been digested, both in "French" and in "Algerian" society. There is peace, there are good institutional relations between France and Algeria, but the hearts are not really reconciled. Supporting this is that the terrorists, at least those that were caught, have been mostly of Algerian extraction.

2. There are socio-paths and the present generation have found the means to satisfy their murder instinct with radical Islamism. It looks like the guys involved in recent years were almost systematically pathetically small neighbourhood hoodlums who discovered big time crime through this and loved it. Other generations of socio-paths had different outlets for their fascination with violence. I am talking here of the French sub-group of socio-paths, not the Iraqis who are visibly the disaffected Al Tikritis who lost their nice army and police jobs some 15 years ago when their boss ate a bullet and the US chose to put Shias in control.

christopher delogu said...

Hello, I think both of Bernard's items are worth considering, especially #1. I see evidence that the national conversation about the French-Algerian war has not advanced far, and of course one must remember that openly calling it "war" has only been the case since 1999, I believe. Another piece of unfinished business is the reconciliation with and education about the Harkis, especially their internment in France after the war. Of course there are all kinds of legitimate reasons (excuses?) that have caused the F-A war to be pushed lower among French national priorities, but the scant attention paid to it in French public schools or, say, the persistent difficulty of acquiring a copy on DVD of "The Battle of Algiers", even for home viewing in France without even asking for public screenings, are not good signs. It would be most helpful if this conversation could advance further before the generation of those directly involved passes away. It seems commonly accepted that once witnesses are dead the repressed events are even more difficult to discuss and process and then trauma festers in all kinds of potentially harmful ways. I take it that was one of the motives behind the timing of C. Lanzmann's "Shoah" and the same urgency should be applied here. Tokenism or outsourcing the working of mourning to "experts" like Benjamin Stora, as much as I admire the care and caring of his testimony, will not get the job done. said...

MOST WANTED FOR YOUR HAPPINESS - fitness you x - sex xxx life - fat loss sexy - sex xx - orchids orchidaceae phalaenopsis care - dog food xx - baby potty xx - options trading xx - forex fx xx - fat loss xx -- betting money xx
mesothelioma master xx pupuk organik zpt jagotani jimmy hantu 08111109900 xx

bert said...

I haven't posted since Friday - I figured I was more likely to learn by listening. But from a non-French perspective, both commentators above strike me as making an important point. I was surprised to see (via Art's link) Kamel Daoud confine himself exclusively to a discussion of "the global September 11". He was writing from New York, which may explain why he neglected any other framing. But it felt like an odd omission from an Algerian writer.

If you want an American analogy of why this is such a big problem in France, try combining the 9/11 attacks with the Birmingham Alabama church bombings of the 1960s, or some similar piece of race-related terrorism. Global jihad is an essential part of the picture, of course. Alongside it though is a longstanding set of social problems with their roots tangled up in historic injustices and resentments.
Art gives some numbers in his interview, which point at the problem indirectly. More direct (and from which unofficial source I don't know) is this statistic: around 7% of the general population in France is Muslim, and around 70% of the prison population. If accurate, very relevant. (from

christopher delogu said...

FYI, the go-to-person about French prisons is Didier Fassin, who was featured in a special edition of Liberation (2015 but don't have exact date) concerning the questionable French policy of not collecting key census data on its citizens on the theory that they are all "French" no matter what their skin color or religious self-description, etc. Fassin, apparently, gets special permission to collect such data as a researcher, but I don't know how complete or accurate it is. His book about prisons is this:
L’Ombre du monde. Une anthropologie de la condition carcérale, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, coll. « La Couleur des idées », 2015, 468 p. (ISBN 978-2-02-117957-6)

Unknown said...

@cristopher delogu

thanks for your kind comment re-my comment. Being sloppy and not very academic these days, I should point out that both hypothesis have been promoted by heavy-duty intellectuals specialists of the subject (I'm sure Art recognised who I have in mind, Stora and the other one whose name eludes me at the moment).

I should also point out that I, instinctively, would assign a somewhat larger importance to point 2 compared to point 1, actually.

My basis would be remembering how my generation felt attracted to revolution, hopefully the more violent the better. The good news of course for everyone was that we had extremely few sociopaths amongst us (the nutters from action directe) and a lot of seriously moral people such as Beny Levy or Alain Geismar.

Point 1 on the other hand gets complicated by the Algerian civil war of the 1990s where France provided substantial support (intelligence and more I suppose) to Algerian authorities (I mean the army of course, civilian authorities were not authorities at all) who, as is amply known, were not and are not especially tender footed.

bernard said...

unknown above is bernard of course, sorry.

FrédéricLN said...

This paper of "The Week" is very sensible and to-the-point, congratulations!

I don't find the title by "The Week" so relevant; I would not have written "roots" but rather "loam" (as Mr Macron did) or "engrais" ("fertilizer" in English). But that is a matter of opinion.

Regarding "There's much less spending on suburban schools, the quality of teaching there is often not so good, and the physical state of school buildings in the suburbs is frequently dilapidated": very important topic actually.

> The spending is lower just because the teachers are younger — when they gain enough seniority to be allowed to choose their school, most of them prefer calmer places and pupils of higher level. The quality of teaching may be lower, not because teachers would be worse (maybe their methods and knowledge are more up-to-date, actually), but because the pupils groups are more noisy, and the like.

> The physical state of elementary schools (ages up to 10/11) will actually be worse than elsewhere, because they depend on the municipalities, who are poor in poor suburbs ;-) (It's the case for many schools in Argenteuil). But "collèges" and "lycées" are most often beautiful and meet high standards, as they depend on broader and wealthier entities ("départements" and "régions") and many have been completely rebuilt in the 90's-00's, in order to replace "emergency building" of the 60's, the well-known "CES Pailleron".

Your point on job discrimination is very important; the last research of Institut Montaigne assessed that: a) there is a specifically high discrimination on religion (as opposed to origin and ethnicity — they used fake Lebanese-like profiles to assessed that), b) it exists regarding Jews, compared to Christians ; it is (much) worse regarding Muslims, c) very high credentials *don't help* is you are a Muslim male (despite they work if you are a female Muslim candidate, or a male Jew).

That's the limit to "school as the social elevator": brilliant success at school, if you are a Muslim male, only helps you to prepare the admission tests to become a public servant.

I consider that report a masterpiece

MCG said...

Here in the U.S., for a long time, brilliant success at school might also qualify a black candidate for a job in the civil service. I seem to recall a lot of black librarians. That's not everything we'd like to see in "school as the social elevator," but it is a step, is it not? As a question of fact, what about shop-keeping and other traditional first steps into the middle class in the U.S.? Do they work for Muslim males in France?

MCG said...

Again @FrédéricLN, to argue by demonstration for the role of students' behavior in school outcomes, consider students' behavior in the film Entre les murs ("The Class"), written by a former teacher, François Bégaudeau who plays a version of himself.