03 November 2005

Understatement of the week

Right, well now that I know that this blog-by-email function works just nicely, I can go right ahead and write a real blog post. I find myself reduced to this because for some reason blogger.com is playing silly buggers today and won't let me into my dashboard to compose a post. So email it is.

The prize for Understatement of the Week has to go to French President Jacques Chirac. In the face of seven consecutive nights of rioting in the Paris banlieu, in which at least 177 cars have been set alight, numerous shops and other buildings looted and/or ransacked and/or set on fire, and shots have been fired at police and firefighters, Monsieur Chirac warned yesterday of a "dangerous situation" in the Paris suburbs. Gee! Do you think? Well spotted, M. le President.

And, not to be outdone, French interior minister (who is likely to stand for President in 2007), Nicolas Sarkozy, has put in a pretty good bid for the "Dubious Approach to Solving a Problem" award. His tactics for stopping the rioting include, amongst other things, labelling the rioters as "scum." An odd tactic, I think, and not one that would seem to me to be very likely to make the rioters reassess their actions.

Not that I'm in favour of rioting, or supporting the rioters in this instance. But something tells me there might be an underlying problem here, of which the riots are merely the latest symptom. I'd have thought that a more promising solution might be a recognition that all is most definitely not well in the banlieu and an undertaking to address the fundamental issues in dialogue with the residents, just as soon as they'll stop burning cars and shooting at police thank you very much. I just can't see how alienating the disaffected youths who are causing the trouble even further with such terms of abuse, as M. Sarkozy seems determined to do, is going to help. I think I prefer Dominique de Villepin, the Prime Minister's rather more diplomatic and concilliatory approach.