Civil War in … France!

Posted: Mar 20, 2006 5:47 PM

  • Oh, Mon Dieu! France is on the BRINK OF CIVIL WAR!

  • What? You haven’t heard about this? Oh, yeah. Teetering. Staggering. Wavering. But the cable nets are missing it.

  • It seems that the French government is preparing to institute a new law which will allow “businesses to fire young workers [under age 26] in the first two years on a job without giving a reason, removing them from protections that restrict layoffs of regular employees,” according to the Associated Press.

  • According to Angela Charlton’s reporting in the AP, “Companies are often reluctant to add employees because it is hard to let them go if business conditions worsen.”

  • According to the NY Times’ Elaine Sciolino, “The giant leftist CGT workers' union estimated that 1.5 million people protested nationwide; the Interior Ministry put the total at more than 500,000, with 80,000 in Paris.”

  • Imagine how breathless the coverage would be if somewhere between a half million and 1.5 million IRAQIs were running around trashing (as they did in Paris) a McDonalds restaurant and setting fire to (as they did in Paris) a Gap store.


      It was not immediately clear what the Gap store had done to irritate the protesters. Maybe it carried too many khaki slacks and blue blazers.

      Some years ago I was in Paris on an assignment and my French colleague complained to someone that I “dressed like an American.” I responded – this is true – “Yeah, well, if it weren’t for Americans, you’d be dressing in Lederhosen, mon ami.”


  • This current round of disturbances started at the Sorbonne where, according to another AP report, “Police turned water cannons on the protesters … and were seen throwing youths to the ground, hitting them and dragging them into vans.”

  • According to the NYT, “More than 100 police and 21 protesters have been injured.

  • Wait! A hundred cops hurt? Students being water cannoned and beat up by (we assume, the uninjured) cops? And no cable net is running footage over-and-over-and-over-and-over to show just how DIRE the situation is?

  • How can this be? Could it be that the Western press doesn’t want to inflame the situation by covering it too closely?

  • Nah. Could it?

  • The protesters are lacking a little something in the “Hey, hey – ho, ho – Jacques Chirac has got to go! ” department: Cops in Marseilles used tear gas against kids who had taken down the French flag at city hall and replaced it with a banner reading: "Anti-capitalism and Self-Management."

  • I’m not certain how that translates, but I’ll be it doesn’t trip off a French langue, any better than it does off an English-speaking tongue.

  • Unemployment in France is about 10 percent overall and about 24% among young people. The car-burning riots of a few months ago were largely blamed on unemployment among young people of African ancestry, about half of whom are unable to find jobs.

  • The Center-Right government of Jacques Chirac is being fronted by Prime Minister (and former Foreign Minister) Dominique de Villepin who wants to run for President when Chirac’s term expires.

  • This is interesting: In an echo of the problems American Democrats are having here in the good old U.S. of A., a Reuters dispatch claimed that:

      “Opinion polls show the main opposition Socialist Party has failed to capitalize on the protests and many student marchers said that, despite their opposition to the law, they remained wary of the Socialists.”

  • They need Nancy Pelosi.

  • According to the European Union’s analysis of the per capita Gross Domestic Product of its member nations, “If France were a state of the US, it would be the fifth poorest.”

  • The report goes on to explain that one of the big reasons for US prosperity is, “the American works more. Europeans themselves opt to work less, [thus] Europe’s lower level of material prosperity results from its own choice to have more leisure.”

  • Well, I guess you can trash a McDonalds during working hours, but ya gotta have yer spare time to burn down a Gap.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the AP and the NY Times coverage of this incipient Civil War; a Mullfoto which should get the attention of animal lovers everywhere; and a Les Miserable-esque Catchy Caption of the Day.