Category Archives: arson

A burning sense of injustice

In Nantes, in response to the shooting by police of a man called Aboubakar Fofana (the subject of an arrest warrant for organised robbery, possession of stolen goods, and criminal conspiracy), who had tried to run them down in his car,

for four successive nights 100 youths with balaclavas descended into the street and burned at least 50 cars, as well as a doctors’ office and parts of a school and petrol station. Some threw Molotov cocktails at the police.

It is difficult to believe, writes Dalrymple,

that they did not take delight in the opportunity, combining delinquency with supposed moral purpose.

What could that purpose have been?

Let us grant for the sake of argument that the shooting was unjustified. Would it then make sense to burn 50 of your neighbours’ cars and destroy a doctor’s office? At the very least, this response does little credit to their thought or logic.

Dalrymple notes that the fact that Fofana had a criminal record

did not cool their ardour. As is usual in these cases, friends of the deceased could be found to say that ‘he was a smiling and intelligent young man’ who ‘never looked for problems’ (other than robbing people). We might wonder whether, if he had been shot by a member of a rival gang, there would have been any rioting.

Dalrymple says it is hard to escape the conclusion that the rioting was in part motivated by the desire that people like Fofana

should be left to carry on their depredations without hindrance.

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Les Bleus champions du monde: des photos pour l’éternité

Dalrymple lights upon this heading in the French magazine the Point. He is reminded of

Kim Il-sung, president of North Korea for eternity.

There is, he writes,

something in the modern régime of bread and circuses that encourages such stupidity, in which a minor accomplishment counts as major and serious problems go by default.

Celebratory rioting, looting and arson

His heart swelled with patriotic relief when rioting broke out in various cities in France during the celebrations of the country’s victory.

Here, at last, was evidence that the English are not uniquely stupid and that other nations are catching up.

Some of the rioters who left the Champs-Élysées in a terrible mess

came prepared, bringing balaclavas. They smashed windows, looted stores, and attacked what in France are known as the forces of order. Nearly 300 people were arrested (more than 100 in Paris), and more than 800 cars were burned out. The fact that the forces of order felt it necessary to employ water-cannon and tear-gas suggests the problem was not on a minor scale.

But the ­reporting in the French press of these happy events, and in the Western liberal media,

was muted, to say the least. Why the reticence? Riots generally make excellent copy, none better in fact.

Smash the Porsche-owning kulak electricians!

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 14.50.47The prejudice that makes hatred of wealth a generous sentiment may be expected to flourish

Every time, writes Dalrymple, the French government

tries to liberalise the sclerotic labour market, there are riots. That (considerable) part of the population which benefits from the legal privileges it enjoys is unable or unwilling to grasp that, in a market, the protections of some are the obstacles of others. Such privileges set one part of the population against another.

The loi El Khomri

would make it easier and less ruinously expensive for an employer to sack an employee, as well as cheaper for the employer to require employees to work beyond the statutory 35 hours.

The response: riots. There is deep satisfaction in destruction, so in Nantes, a Porsche was torched as a symbol of plutocracy.

What delight those who set fire to it must have felt as they saw the flames! What greater joy can there be than arson in the name of social justice?

The owner turned out to be an electrician.

Idle and incompetent police

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 14.16.20A few years ago, writes Dalrymple,

my wife called the police when she witnessed a serious crime being committed: arson. Only by persistence did she manage to get the police even to record the crime. (They had no intention of doing anything about it.)

A few minutes later an officer telephoned her

to tell her she had wasted police time; although he had time enough to telephone her to tell her so. The problem was that she had messed up his figures.

Ever since,

I have had difficulty in believing official crime statistics.

Flüchtlinge willkommen

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.48.04So, even now, say a few Germans. In Sweden they cried (until they brought in border checks),

Flyktingar välkomna.

Dalrymple turns to Max Frisch’s Biedermann und die Brandstifter (1953), written

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.48.47in the aftermath of the Second World War as an attempt to explain (and to warn) how a patent evil like Nazism can triumph in a civilised society.

The play’s protagonist, Dalrymple explains,

is a comfortable bourgeois living in a town that is beset by several mysterious acts of arson. He is visited at home by Schmitz, a hawker, who half-persuades, half-intimidates his way into an invitation to lodge in Biedermann’s attic, and who soon brings a second hawker, Eisenring, to stay in the house.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.34.08Gradually it becomes clear that Schmitz and Eisenring

are the ones setting the fires in the town, but Biedermann refuses to acknowledge it. His blindness arises from moral and physical cowardice, and from wishful thinking—the hope that what he sees does not really mean what it obviously means.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.49.23Schmitz and Eisenring bring barrels of gasoline into the house and Biedermann,

pusillanimous to the last, helps them make the fuses and gives them the matches with which they burn his house down.

Delirious joy of rioting and looting

Panama City

Panama City

A day out that combines the pleasures of destruction with those of moral indignation

Dalrymple recounts that while working as a journalist, he once reported on a riot in Panama City

in which I saw middle-class people throwing bricks through windows and making bonfires in the street. I recognised one of the rioters dining in an expensive restaurant that same night.

Baltimore

Baltimore

Rioters, writes Dalrymple, are

a self-selected group, who are fully aware of what rioters are likely to do.

He points out that in the London riots of 2011, rioters

smashed and looted every store in a street except the bookstore, the only one to remain with its windows and stock entirely intact. The rioters had no use or desire for books.

London

London

And when eventually the police,

who took a long time to intervene, arrested some of the rioters engaged in the gravest actions, it turned out that the majority had serious criminal records.

During the Parisian riots of 2005, the rioters

burned thousands of cars belonging to people very similar to themselves, and who lived in the same area as they.

Paris

Paris

This, Dalrymple points out, was hardly

the manifestation of an acute sense of injustice. If anything, it was a manifestation of wounded amour propre, for the rioters would never have rioted against the kind of injustices that people such as they committed every day.

The rioters

expect from the authorities a completely different standard of behaviour from that they exhibit themselves: they are children, the authorities parents.

 

 

Relative calm in the banlieues

Youths burned only 1,064 cars in the banlieues on New Year’s Eve, about 100 fewer than on the same night in 2012, Dalrymple reports.

Who says that there is no progress?