Friday, November 04, 2005

France, stuff

• I have this vague unease, that I'm missing all the jokes on "The Cobert Report" (the "t" being silent) because I don't watch O'Reilly. Possibly discussion topic: is there any sense in which the parody of O'Reilly verges on a sort of cruelty...(do we care)? Or risks being a sort of advertisement for him? (Everything hinges on the correct diagnosis: either O'Reilly is already established enough to not risk unduly dignifying him by merely talking about him, or he isn't. Then again, "The Cobert Report" is not the very deconstruction of dignity itself. Though you can tell the brand name theme music irks him. He's more mature than Stewart; it shows in the interviews.)

• The Agamben post on the theory of "Profound Boredom" has been updated.

• Pas au-delà correspondants in France...please stand up. Is Paris burning or what. Lou Dobbs, Daily Show fan and fascist pseudo-journalist liberal (these days) just called it "an insurgency." The BBC news mentioned something about an array of complaints, poverty, unemployment, police state repression. Is there about to be an anti-immigrant backlash (admittedly, not the most important question)? Are the so-called "anarchists" setting things on fire because they hate America? Important people need to know. Thanks.

Update: In addition to things linked in comments, I thought this was smart (via):
Fifty years ago, in a brilliant, premonitory book entitled France Against Herself, Herbert Luethy pointed out the incredible, contradictory existence of a fascist police state within an open, democratic society. This contradiction goes back to the French Revolution when the Republic, One and Indivisible, found it needed to reaffirm its uniqueness, its indivisibility and generosity by imprisoning, excluding or murdering off all who would threaten it, including of course its own children. A highly centralized authority balanced an iron repression of all non-assimilable elements with remarkable benevolence, arguing that it acted against a part of itself for the greater good of itself as a whole. The theories of a Robespierre are already colonialist: the "immigrant problem" is built into the French political system.

So the riots of the past few days were a matter of semantics even before they had begun: the people of the suburbs could be understood as either French or not-French, either weaker wards of a benevolent Mother France or elements deserving of exclusion because they were Africans or Muslims or immigrants. As a matter of fact the vast majority of actors in these riots are French citizens, many of them third- or second-generation at that. Then again, the French State has always been adept at alternately welcoming and disenFrenchizing various groups, like Jews, for instance.

And that is what Sarkozy had been doing for a while. His earlier promise to "mop up" the suburbs might have been acceptable if it had been directed at a slum in Haiti: more likely it would have passed unnoticed. But to treat other Frenchmen and women like colonial subjects of the State was unacceptable talk, even if it's done all the time in fact, and not to North Africans only.

Much has been written about the meaning of crowds in the French Revolution. For my money the most common form of riot is the "People's Veto:" the crowd can't tell you what it wants, it can only tell you what it doesn't. And the fear from the Left, and the hope from the Right, is that the rioters are saying: "We don't want to be French to begin with."

It's one thing to be French, and perhaps not quite French enough, and to hope your time will come, which has been overall the narrative of all would-be French people, immigrants, Jews, or Muslims. It's another thing altogether when you give up and turn to gratuitous violence.

But turn how? Against whom? Against the State? Against Being French (now redefined as being white, or being bourgeois, or having a car and a job)? Against a MacDonald's, a symbol of neo-liberalism? That is the Pander's Box Sarkozy's opened, and it may be a lot harder to close, for him or for anyone else.

Update: see also archive: s0metime3s and Amie Marker.
Update Again: As well as Badiou (translated by IT) and Negri.

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