Friday, July 15, 2016

Horror in France, Again

Nice. One of my favorite cities. La Promenade des Anglais. One of my favorite places. The truck was stopped and the attacker killed in front of the Hôtel Westminster, where I stayed some years ago. People fled down familiar streets. More than 80 killed, hundreds injured. France in mourning yet again, on Bastille Day, just hours after President Hollande announced an impending end to the state of emergency (now renewed for 3 months): "The police are tired," he said. Once again, a perfectly targeted attack, designed to inflict maximum ... despair.

Damage is not the point of these horrors, although there is damage enough, carnage enough, blood enough. The point is to induce desperation and trigger an emotional, irrational, disproportionate, and ill-targeted response. And I fear that the enemy is on the point of achieving its goal.

It is becoming increasingly likely that Marine Le Pen will be elected next year. The government seems helpless, and little by little minds are being prepared to accept an authoritarian xenophobic response as the only conceivable next step.

Not that a Le Pen government would be any less helpless, and not that the authoritarian manner will lessen the threat--au contraire. But for too many people, I fear, it will feel like "doing something rather than nothing"--and in these circumstances it is all too human to want to do something. We saw this in the US after 9/11.

I hope we do not see a repeat in France, but I am no longer as convinced as I once was that France will be saved from catastrophe by its two-round voting system. Fear is gaining the upper hand. This is what is truly terrifying.


Massilian said...

I buy none of that. Far too emotional for me. Emotions blind you. It is not becoming increasingly likely that MLP will be elected ! ! ! You bend to easily sir ! Straighten up please ! No prediction ! No personnal projections on the nation. I don't see dispair. I see pain and anger. We are not helpless. We shall not be saved by a two-round vote ! We shall save ourselves by acting clever. We are not blind. We are not deaf. The people are not stupid. We can think. There is a time for mourning, there is a time for anger to cool down and the proper reaction will occur once we have regained our cold blood. We shall be drenched in a torrent of political opportunistic stinking bullshit, it already started at dawn this morning but I am not too worried. We'll stand up to the hatred invitations.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Massilian. The polls show no gain for MLP with the different attacks.

Anonymous said...

United we stand. Look at the reaction of the population. Volunteers are coming from all over the place. Marine Le Pen doesn't gain any popularity on that. We all know in France that the muslim population of the country is not a horde of terrorist but peaceful people. Psychopaths belong to jail and this is what most of the people still believe, independantly from their religion.

James Conran said...

The political reverberations of these attacks are of course a source of fear in their own rights, but like the above comments I hold out some hope that this won't significantly boost MLP. Time will tell of course, but there's certainly no sign of any boost to her from the horrors of 2015:

Even if that proves correct though, there's enough to worry about in the possible reactions of the "center" - already the calls for a "permanent state of emergency" are multiplying in respectable circles:

bert said...

I was struck by some footage on the rolling news. Hollande had just finished speaking live on TV from Nice. The footage showed his motorcade driving past crowds near the promenade. There were no cheers from the crowd, and a lot of boos.
I know that prime beachfront Riviera is not natural PS territory, and that FN strength in the Côte d'Azur is offset by weaknesses elsewhere in the country, but this felt ominous.

A long time ago I had a closeup view of the reaction to the Rabin assassination. There were lots of people talking about Jewish unity. I remember thinking at the time that much of their talk sounded like an attempt to convince themselves.

Unknown said...

i mostly agree with massillian -- the french may be scared for the moment, but that does not translate into stupidity, at least not in large enough numbers to get mlp elected.

more important, in my view, will be those unemployment numbers and general desoeuvrement. 5 million unemployed is just too many in a country of 66 million, and the amount of loitering and social-political-economic uninvolvement among men 'issu d'immigration' is too high... there's your fertile ground for both more lashing out in the cruelest ways and also for voting mlp, and that may even be done by many voting age meghrebin themselves, in a form of electoral behavior that is the equivalent of writing graffiti on the back of a bus seat they didn't pay for or on the facade of their subsidized housing block; i.e., desperate self-destruction.

i plan on assigning soon 'the betrayal bond' by patrick carnes because france (mais pas seulement)needs help in 'breaking free of exploitive relationships.'

FrédéricLN said...

I fully agree with Art's post. A bit of translation of it into French, and my additional comments (rewritten from Facebook) on

CreebHills said...

its not more than 8 months since the november attack on thr country and all this since their new President elect, something does not add up anymore.

Serena Williams Racy Nipple Showing Nike Wimbledon Dress left Viewers shocked and "distracted"|CREEBHILLS

Anonymous said...

As most say I think you're wrong about Le Pen's prediction. But maybe you felt that way because you talked to people who live in Nice. In this city the far right has always been strong, you just have to listen to Estrosi, Nice's mayor.

FrédéricLN said...

BTW, weeks before this attack, polls results already said Ms Le Pen would win if opposed in the second turn to incumbent President Hollande.

So according to polls, once again (please remember they usually over-sample the center-left and the traditional right, because those voters have traditional phones and/or answer more easily to surveys), the right party LR would be the only alternative to FN. So the issue would be: do LR leaders really have the guts to win a presidential election? Do they actually represent a meaningful alternative to the incumbents?

Nationalists won in many European countries, not only in the Balkans : see Finland, Austria (49.8% and the election will be run again). And the Brexit. What kind of magic would protect France from that surge of isolationism ?

That are many "?"s. Maybe I over-weight these arguments. But I definitely can't feel any breeze of *willingness* or appetite towards the traditional right. By the way, also not towards the center (where I stand).

bert said...

Boos for Valls too.
At an equivalent stage of the previous atrocity, this:

Anonymous said...

There's a good chance that MLP can make it to the second round; but being elected seems very unlikely. (Unless both Hollande and Sarkozy get the nomination for their party, in which case people's vote will be so epidermic that forecasting becomes pointless.)

Back to the Nice attack, I don't sense around me any particular political gain for the FN from this tragedy. The Paris attacks (and to a lesser extend the New Year celebration sexual harassment in Germany) took place at a moment when TV news where still flooded with pictures of seemly unstoppable wave of migrants making it through European borders. It was easy for the FN to paint these events as "logical" consequences from more immigration.

Publications on social media widely reflected this sentiment last times, but I didn't notice similar reactions after Nice.

I see several reason for that. First, refugees immigration is not a hot topic anymore. The Euro 2016, Brexit, "le bac" & the 49.3 have crowded the headlines since then. So closing the gates doesn't seem as urgent than before.

Second, Paris & Bruxelles were carried-out by commandos using smuggled assault weapons, and with access to an international network of accomplices & safe houses.
At the opposite, Nice is the work of a (apparently) lone wolf with little equipment or training. None can claim that more border-guards could have prevented this attack. And Marine has no ground to claim that she could do things differently that would prevent this kind of attack.

Last, more than anger and hatred, there is a feeling of resignation. While very shocking, these are punctual attacks with no clear solution and very little practical consequences for the entire population. It's generally accepted that there will be more to come, and one can only carry-one with daily life and hope that their relatives will not to be "mauvais endroit, au mauvais moment".

As a closing comment, I may add that personally (I don't think that it represent the opinion of my fellow French citizens), I actually found that the lack of attack during the Euro was a clear sign of weakness from the terrorists. Of course it is highly symbolical to hit on the National Day. But an organization who claims to have hundreds of dormant agents, should have had not issue to create havoc during Euro AND Bastille day.