Jonah Goldberg
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Rather, these "youths" appear to be closer to nothing than they do to a specific something - except, of course, rioters. It is in the rioting that these kids get meaning. Rioting is how they appear on the Gallic radar system. They aren't Les Muslimerables so much as Les Invisibles.

The Islamic leadership in France would clearly and dearly love this to be a Muslim riot. They could then stop it and become true Left Bank Arafats, able to fire up a rent-a-mob whenever convenient and thereby shake down the government for one concession after another. That's why the French government is so desperate to prevent the imams from becoming middlemen. If the riots are stopped by Islamic clerics, they will become Islamic riots - even though they didn't start as that. And once the conflict is Islamified, the conservative Nostradamus scenarios kick in and we can all get ready for talk of "two-state solutions," the need to make Paris an "international city," and so forth.

Their being Muslim surely contributes to these kids' invisibility, but French racism and snobbery is more sweeping. Unlike in America, where snobbery, racism and anti-Muslim bigotry can all operate independently of each other, in France they're always linked in a menage a trois. If a resume arrives at the patisserie with the name Hamid on it, it gets trashed without the recipient wondering whether he was unfair to a Muslim, a black, an immigrant or even a French citizen.

But this type of young person is invisible for another reason. The French "social model" which pays wealthy, educated people not to work much - and prevents poor and desperate ones from working at all - simply has no solution for what to do with these surplus Frenchmen. So they get shunted off to the Islamic Bantustans surrounding the capital, where social pathologies fester.

Unfortunately, France is more likely to embrace Velveeta as the national cheese than to fix this system, and that spells long-term disaster for the country. Sarkozy had the right idea calling the rioters scum - not only because rioters tend to be exactly that, but also because calling them much of anything else would have politicized the rioters into "rebels." The long-term problem is that if you treat people like scum long enough, they'll become rebels. And that's when the battle for Gaulistan will truly begin.

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Jonah Goldberg

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