The fifteenth consecutive night of unrest in France. According to the French police 463 cars were torched last night, which is just a tad higher than the previous night. This ends the decreasing trend of the last three nights. Perhaps we are in for a status-quo. In the media, however, the decreasing trend in reporting continues. Rioting seems to have become a non-event.
In Belgium, too, the ministry of the Interior said that it has been “a relatively calm night.” Relative calmness means that in Brussels six cars and a school bus were torched, that there was an attempt to set a school on fire and that molotov cocktails were thrown at a hotel. There were also car fires and acts of vandalism in Mechelen, Liège, Frameries and Seneffe. “These were all isolated incidents that have been dealt with in an adequate way by the police and the fire brigade,” the ministry stressed in a press release. In short, it is not really worth mentioning in the media. Yesterday Patrick Dewael, the Belgian minister of the Interior, criticised the newspaper La Dernière Heure for reporting that an extremist weblog is calling upon Muslim radicals to start large-scale rioting in Brussels on Saturday. The newspaper did not make the story up, but it should not have told the public about it.
Meanwhile France’s leading news executives are censoring their coverage of the riots for fear that their viewers might turn to the right. “Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television,” Jean-Claude Dassier, the director general of the rolling news service TCI, says. Apparently Jean-Marie Le Pen, the president of the French-nationalist Front National (FN), is a bigger threat to democracy than “youths” who burn cars.
Hence Dassier’s channel, which is owned by the private broadcaster TF1, has decided not to show footage of burning cars. Dassier also criticised the “excessive” coverage of the riots by international (read: Anglo-Saxon) news networks. “Journalism is not simply a matter of switching on the cameras and letting them roll. You have to think about what you’re broadcasting.” Indeed, “think, think, think,” as Winnie the Pooh always says, and “avoid encouraging the resurgence of extreme rightwing views in France.”
Early this week the public television station France 3 had already stopped broadcasting the daily number of torched cars, while other TV stations followed suit. “Do we send teams of journalists because cars are burning, or are the cars burning because we sent teams of journalists?” Patrick Lecocq, editor-in-chief of France 2, asks. Think, Monsieur Lecocq, when people in France vote FN next year, will they be doing so because they want to have the international (read: Anglo-Saxon) media flock to France, or is it the other way round?
And what if European “youths” were to start setting cars of immigrants ablaze, would TF1, France 2 and 3 also fail to report in order not to provoke copycat actions, or would the viewers be swamped with indignation about such vile acts? Is there no paradox here? The media are literally brainwashing the public with leftist analyses of the social and economic causes of the riots (cruel capitalism, rampant racism, the “Americanisation” of society, you name it) while at the same time they are downplaying the riots by censoring pictures and statistics of burning cars and vandalism. Though this may seem contradictory there is a logic behind it. The media fear that when people see what is going on they will no longer believe the leftist explanations and France’s politics would “head to the right.”
Today a French weblog reports that the government might even be censoring the blogosphere. Several “conservative and ‘islamophobic’ sites” have been difficult to access since November 9. As I find it hard to believe that islamist websites would be left alone while conservative ones would be singled out, I am sceptical about this story. Moreover, there may be other reasons for these technical problems. Nevertheless, The Brussels Journal, too, was not accessible for some time yesterday evening – which made us fear that we were being hacked. It is not difficult, however, to see what would happen if the United Nations or the European Union were to gain control over the internet rather than the United States.
It is understandable that countries like France, where the state is no longer able to protect the property and safety of its taxpaying citizens, want to conceal this awful fact from those very citizens. There is no law and order in a country where for two whole weeks the authorities have been unable to stop widespread rioting. Now all they can think of doing is to preserve a semblance of normality by putting the press under pressure not to write about the vandalism. The public is not allowed to know that the state is impotent because it has to go on paying taxes for services which the authorities are no longer able to deliver. No matter what the coverage or the analyses may be, the harsh reality is that the police are not able to stop the rioting. A dog starved at his master’s gate, predicts the ruin of the State. (William Blake)