France shatters the MSM template
But two short months ago, European newspapers and magazines were in full thrall over Hurricane Katrina, and the Bush Administration's flawed response.
They were joined in their journalistic ecstasy by prominent American reporters, including Brian Williams ("he owned the hurricane" remarked one elated NBC news division staffer), Anderson Cooper, Geraldo Rivera and many others. The hurricane was the tidal wave that would finally destroy the Bush Presidency,and expose America's great class and racial divide. For those who had not cracked their heads dozing off while trying to read the New York Times endless series on class in America, now it was on full display on their TV each night.
Of course, the coverage was overblown, and in many cases flat out wrong. Gangs were not running wild in New Orleans, raping and murdering innocents in the Super Dome. More whites than blacks died in Louisiana and Mississippi from the hurricane and its aftermath, even if that story has not appeared yet in your local paper. The biggest failure was the response by the Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana , two public officials who gave new meaning to the words incompetent, ineffectual and unprepared. Federal failures did not help any, but in reality the biggest federal failure was probably a delay of a day or perhaps two in arriving on the scene with major manpower. Ask any Mayor or Governor who has dealt with hurricanes before, and they will all tell you that local officials have to be prepared for the first 72 or 96 hours to handle things themselves. In New Orleans they weren't.
But the media sensationalism and frenzy around Hurricane Katrina communicated a very different story: poor blacks left behind to die and starve by an uncaring Bush Administration. That story was nonsense, but it fit the liberal politics of those who reported the story both here and internationally.
Now France has its own Katrina—type disaster, and other countries in Europe are starting to join the party. This, of course, is the firestorm of immigrant riots (better read as Muslim riots, since many of the so—called immigrants, most of whom are Muslims, were born in France). The riots started in France almost two weeks ago, and have grown by the day. Remember that the Katrina problems were getting resolved even as the media was piling on with the metaphors. In France, the situation is getting much worse by the day.
What was initially a story of unrest among a few Arab and African youths angered by the electrocution of two young men in a Paris suburb, is now 300 towns and neighborhoods on fire, with the metrics of car fires and more lethal violence increasing by the day. The violence on Monday slipped across the border into Germany and Belgium. Expect more to join the action. For Western Europe is the same story in one country after another: rich social welfare systems, aging populations, high unemployment (particularly in Germany and France), very low birthrates, and very rapid growth in largely unassimilated immigrant populations, some of it legal, some not (the illegal part aided by the new open EU borders between the 25 member countries).
And for once, there is a problem somewhere in the world that can not be blamed on President Bush. Paul Krugman has not been heard from in his New York Times op—eds on the subject of why Paris is burning despite his opportunity twice a week to "inform" his readers. When last heard from on the subject of France, in July , he was merrily extolling the French social model, particularly in comparison to America's low tax, low unemployment, high economic growth model that he finds so disturbing.
After all, if Bush cannnot be blamed, why would the subject be worth writing about? The French riots have exposed that the European cradle—to—grave social model works for some, but not all. (Does this sound familiar?) And believe it or not, the definition of the have—nots appears to have a racial and or ethnic component, the very smear that Europeans like to make about America, and reveled in during the first days after Katrina hit. The New European was to be an individual beyond the narrow confines of the nation state or any ethnic or religious identity.
Now, of course, the blame for the current depravity in France is not all on the French authorities, or the country's failure to integrate all its new members. After all, you can not integrate into your society, those who choose to stay apart. In many Muslim communities in Europe the leadership, particularly in the mosques, preaches the importance of remaining apart, and preserving an Islamic identity, which will be lost if one is assimilated into a secular Western culture. The bombings in London in July were carried out by young Islamic men who were no more materially impoverished than the al Qaeda killers on 9/11. In both cases, these killers both lived in a Western society, and also outside it.
The behavior of the rioters in France is contemptible, just as it was in this country in the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles or the various race riots decades earlier. The champions of "the rioters are the real victims" mindset, are already all over the media, blaming France for the burning cars, and for the shots fired at the police. So far, there is no evidence that the Paris rioters are loading up on Nikes or television sets, which must require a higher level of anger and grievance before this behavior pattern sets in. Burning cars seems to be the French specialty.
Of course, everything is not peaches and cream on the American immigrant front. Read Victor Davis Hanson's Mexifornia for a solid review of the subject, in particular the issues associated with the surge of enormous illegal immigration into a few southwestern states. But this country has a 400 year history of absorbing immigrants ,and by and large we have learned to do it better than anybody else.
All things being equal, in the late 20th century draft lottery, America won by getting the first pick in the immigrant draft and selecting Mexicans. Paris would not be burning if Mexicans filled their immigrant suburbs. Every nation has had poor people and groups at one time or another in its history. Not all, or even many, of these groups, behaved as France's Arabs and North Africans are today.
American liberals have looked admiringly across the Atlantic, and marveled at the new secular, post—modern societies that have been created. These are nations with no religious right to worry about, with high taxes to support big government spending programs. Little is invested in national defense, and everybody believes in peace and human rights, and thinks the UN and international courts are the way to achieve this. Tolerance is the underpinning of most belief systems. No—one is to be judged (except Texans, Israelis and observant Christians).
Suddenly, the new utopia is naked and on fire. I expect a huge step—up in the police and military response to get the situation temporarily under control. And then all the usual liberal bromides will follow — more money, some make—work jobs programs, perhaps a few Oprah—type discussion groups on how everybody can get along better if only communication lines were more open.
There will be an expressed need to start the "conversation", to use a Clinton era homily.
But Europe's problems are not going away.
And while this may shock Tim Russert and Chris Matthews, this is a bigger story than Lewis Libby's alleged perjury, or Joe Wilson's latest charges. But it puts Europe, not America or George Bush, in a bad light, so for the mainstream media, it is sheer agony for this to be the big story. On Sunday the Paris story did not make the New York Times front page.
It got one column on the front page Monday, almost unavoidable at this point. Regrettably for the Times, no CIA leaker can pin these events on Bush. It is hard not to smirk a bit at all this. Karl Rove was not indicted. A brilliant conservative judge is likely to get approved for the Supreme Court for the second time in a few months. And Europe's social and racial tensions are now on display, not America's, and the story is forcing its way onto the TV screens and front pages. All of a sudden, life is unfair for Pinch Sulzberger and his minions. George Bush was to go up in flames this Fall, not Paris.
Richard Baehr is chief political correspondent of The American Thinker.