Jonah Goldberg

I tried. I really did. I wanted to deal dispassionately with l'affaire francaise. I even resolved to refrain, until my Schadenfreude wore off, from commenting on the situation in the country formerly known as "France." (Possible future names include: Paristine, Gaulistan, Frarabia and the Algerian North Bank.)

Schadenfreude is a German word meaning to take pleasure at the misfortune of others. And much like La Resistance in '40 (and '41, '42, '43, '44 and '45), I just can't shake off the Germans in this case. Since my Schadenfreude seems inextricably linked to the duration of the French intifada, I can't wait any longer. After all, the troubles promise to go on long enough for the French to lobby the International Olympic Committee to add the "Peugeot Burn" to the summer games.

To be fair, which I have not been so far, I don't actually believe the current riots are about Islam. This puts me to the left of a great many conservative Nostradamuses who've prophesized for so long that France's North African and other Muslim "immigrants" are going to bring Jihad to the home front. I don't think their predictions are necessarily wrong, I just believe that this is at best a dress rehearsal.

I put "immigrants" in quotation marks for the simple reason that most of the rioters are no such thing - they were born in France and hold French passports. Their parents or grandparents were from former French colonies. But the French establishment - a term I use in the most catholic sense possible, so as to include Katie Couric and her colleagues - has had a very hard time coming up with a useful vocabulary to describe these events. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy came out of the blocks with "scum," but the uncharacteristic lack of nuance didn't go over well in a culture that has always believed there are two sides of the story for every murderer, never mind every window smasher.

We seem to have settled on "youths," which is as correct as "Muslims" and marginally more accurate than "immigrants," but it will hardly do. It's not as if airport screeners are going to keep a keener eye on young, blond Frenchmen named Jacques because a bunch of guys named Abdul and Hamid looted the local brasserie. And then there's the fact that these "youths" show no signs of being particularly pious Muslims. I don't mean to say that a devout Muslim would never break the peace - I think that theory has been sufficiently falsified in recent years so as to be inoperative, no?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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