Welcome to Castle Pontourny!

 

CastleGreetings, Ricochet, and welcome to Castle Pontourny! Marie-Alphonse Gréban de Pontourny, who lies in repose in the sepulchre of the chapel, bequeathed the chateau to the cause of charity and public works. For the next ten months, this majestic chateau in the pastoral Loire valley could be yours, all expenses paid! Are you stressed? Depressed? A staff of full-time counsellors and psychotherapists will be on hand to support you. Dissatisfied with your job prospects? You can study a new trade. Out of shape? There will be daily sports and fitness activities. Having a spiritual crisis? The staff is trained to help. And to keep your mind active, there will be daily discussion groups about current events, French history, geopolitics, and theology. Doesn’t that sound nice?

It does to me, which is why I’d like you to call the French government hotline and tell them you’re worried I’m about to join ISIS.

Apparently, I could be offered — if I’m willing to take it — a chance to reintegrate myself into French society at Castle Pontourney.

pontourny_centre_0I haven’t seen it for myself. So I can’t assure you that it is not, as reported in this most-read story on The Daily Beast, an Orwellian re-education camp:

Marseille — Young men from the northern districts of this most Muslim city in France are expected be among the first to be called up when the government in Paris kicks off its Orwellian new plan to fight the so-called Islamic State.

The idea is to herd suspected extremists into mysterious “deradicalization centers” all over the country. There are an estimated 9,000 radicalized—or “potentially radicalized”—jihadis believed to be in France, officials say. Another 2,000 French nationals are thought to have gone to Syria or Iraq to fight for the Islamic State.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said last week that France will establish as many as 13 centers all over the country—picture an odd mix of halfway house, prison, and sleepover camp—where Islamist radicals or those who show signs of wanting to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq will be housed and “re-educated.” Oh, and they’ll be monitored “day and night” for 10 months while wearing special uniforms, Valls said.

But from what I can tell so far, there’s no connection between this description and reality.

You can download and read the new Action Plan Against Radicalization and Terrorism on the Interior Ministry’s website. There are 80 measures in total. Most of them are what you’d expect: The government will be bombing ISIS in Syria, reinforcing nuclear plants and other potential targets, increasing the budget and staff of the intelligence and security services, sharing intelligence more widely within the Schengen zone, and yes, creating regional centers for at-risk youth.

But “herding suspected extremists into mysterious” camps? No, there are no plans to “herd” young men anywhere. Or to herd women, for that matter, since the center will be open to them, too. Participation in the program is voluntary, a salient detail omitted from the article. The plans are not mysterious; in fact, they’ve been widely reported, as has been the point that participants can leave anytime. This is precisely why the residents of Pontourny aren’t sure that they want it there. 

Since 2014, France has had a toll-free number for people call if they’re worried that a friend or a family member is behaving oddly. If you call the number, you’ll be interviewed by specialists who will assess the situation; if the person in question is a minor, he or she will be prevented from leaving the country.

If someone is assessed to be “at risk,” but has not committed a crime, he or she will be encouraged to spend time at a “weird, Orwellian re-education camp” like this one:

There he or she will receive counselling, education, mentoring, therapy, and job-training. Staff will lead group discussions about geopolitics and religion. Participants will be eligible for a two-month job internship. Afterward, they’ll be followed up by psychologists and psychiatrists.

From what I can tell, it’s standard cult deprogramming. As Le Monde reports,

“About thirty candidates, age 18 to 30, can stay there seven days a week or 24 hours a day if they want. [My emphasis.] They will be welcomed and supervised by 25-27 people,” specified the Prefect. The aim of the centers, each of which will cost an average of one million euros, is to “permit these individuals to rebuild, restructure, to have new projects, and find a job.”

But the headline “France’s Weird Jihadi Re-Education Camps Could Become ISIS Incubators” leads to what’s now the top story on The Daily Beast.

Pontourney isn’t that far from Paris. Thanks to you, I can go there when it opens this summer and see what’s really happening there. It sounds as if it might be quite an interesting story — although I’m pretty sure it’s not the story reported in The Daily Beast.

There are 44 comments.

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  1. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I am reminded of the conspicuously unsuccessful rehabilitation of Alex in A Clockwork Orange. When nice people offer to suspend consequences normally incurred in reality and encourage sociopaths to expect such accommodation…. Oh well.

    • #1
  2. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Somehow I’ve fallen into a satire. Is there any chance I’m in a coma and this is all a fever dream?

    • #2
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Old Bathos:I am reminded of the conspicuously unsuccessful rehabilitation of Alex in A Clockwork Orange. When nice people offer to suspend consequences normally incurred in reality and encourage sociopaths to expect such accommodation…. Oh well.

    I don’t have any preconceptions. I’ll see it for myself.

    • #3
  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Austin Murrey:Somehow I’ve fallen into a satire. Is there any chance I’m in a coma and this is all a fever dream?

    While it seems at first ridiculous, what would you have France do with people who are not criminals, but who are causing concern to their family and fit a profile of people who could become jihadis? Seriously.

    • #4
  5. Ross C Member
    Ross C
    @RossC

    I like this. It is the enlightened version of the Soviet Gulag. The state will probe and excise the mind of the “insane” and make them “sane”. Claire you will be remade, not through work on the Baltic to White Sea Canal, but through modern therapy in a swanky locale. But are there healing waters from a spring or will you have to drink tap?

    Never mind, I’m calling now….

    “Yes I’m pretty sure she has made threats against Hollande.”

    ….

    “Yes, she has one cat named Allahu and another cat named Akbar.”

    ….

    “You’ll come right away?….Magnifique!”

    • #5
  6. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Austin Murrey:Somehow I’ve fallen into a satire. Is there any chance I’m in a coma and this is all a fever dream?

    While it seems at first ridiculous, what would you have France do with people who are not criminals, but who are causing concern to their family and fit a profile of people who could become jihadis? Seriously.

    Not let them in the country in the first place? I guess it is too late for that.

    The French do understand that anyone who would voluntarily enter such a camp isn’t a threat and that anyone who is a threat won’t enter such a camp voluntarily, right?

    • #6
  7. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Austin Murrey:Somehow I’ve fallen into a satire. Is there any chance I’m in a coma and this is all a fever dream?

    While it seems at first ridiculous, what would you have France do with people who are not criminals, but who are causing concern to their family and fit a profile of people who could become jihadis? Seriously.

    Start by not bringing in anymore.

    • #7
  8. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    I’m quite sure that the therapists will handle the problem of young Jihadists oh so very well. Why soon they’ll be “right as rain”.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    David Knights:Not let them in the country in the first place?

    Starting when? With the Romans?

    I guess it is too late for that.

    The French do understand that anyone who would voluntarily enter such a camp isn’t a threat and that anyone who is a threat won’t enter such a camp voluntarily, right?

    I don’t know if they’re aware and I don’t know if that’s true. I think they are aware that people don’t become jihadis overnight, and that some proportion of the people who go off to join ISIS are just aimless losers and fantasists who were easy pickings for ISIS’ recruiters. I would guess that frantically worried parents are going to be pushing their kids into these programs. And I assume it’s much easier for worried parents to call that hotline if they believe the government will make a good-faith effort to rehabilitate their kid. You probably have to get through a universe of cognitive dissonance to make parents believe what’s in front of their eyes. If they think their kids will just be imprisoned for life or shot if they report them, they’re probably more likely to tell themselves that the behavior they’re seeing is just teenage moodiness.

    • #9
  10. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    That seems not only a very expensive way to deal with a radical crisis, but its based on speculation – creepy. It reminds me of WWII and rounding people up based on their beliefs, religion etc. Why not spend that money beefing up security, screening people, and deporting those they suspect have radical leanings? Who thought this one up?

    • #10
  11. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    David Knights:

    Not let them in the country in the first place? I guess it is too late for that.

    The target audience is French – people who were born there. Not letting them immigrate is like having a post-birth abortion.

    The French do understand that anyone who would voluntarily enter such a camp isn’t a threat and that anyone who is a threat won’t enter such a camp voluntarily, right?

    There is a moment when someone who is not a threat becomes a threat – in fact there are probably a series of small and large decisions that moves them from being a rose to a thorn in the flower garden of society. (I’m paraphrasing an Iranian Mullah here, but I like the metaphor.)

    The sooner they’re diverted away from evil and back to good, the better, and probably the easier and more effective.

    Will some people end up there who don’t really need to be? Probably – if I had a kid who was at a loose end and miiiight be hanging out with the wrong crowd instead of straightening out and flying right I’d think about sending them there – whether they were protojihadis or not. (It sounds great.)

    But these centres also seem to be some equivalent of security theatre – their existence is a statement to France and the French people (of any or no religion) – and perhaps as well to France’s allies and enemies.

    • #11
  12. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I would guess that frantically worried parents are going to be pushing their kids into these programs.

    Forget the kids, if there’s going to be foie gras I’m in!

    • #12
  13. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    David Knights:Not let them in the country in the first place?

    Starting when? With the Romans?

    I guess it is too late for that.

    The French do understand that anyone who would voluntarily enter such a camp isn’t a threat and that anyone who is a threat won’t enter such a camp voluntarily, right?

    I don’t know if they’re aware and I don’t know if that’s true. I think they are aware that people don’t become jihadis overnight, and that some proportion of the people who go off to join ISIS are just aimless losers and fantasists who were easy pickings for ISIS’ recruiters.

    And the 9/11 hijackers we just poor kids whose poverty and lack of education drove them to commit the acts.

    Misunderstood

    • #13
  14. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Austin Murrey:Somehow I’ve fallen into a satire. Is there any chance I’m in a coma and this is all a fever dream?

    While it seems at first ridiculous, what would you have France do with people who are not criminals, but who are causing concern to their family and fit a profile of people who could become jihadis? Seriously.

    Being Ricochet’s resident cynic I don’t think they can do anything.

    French residents have, I presume, freedom of movement and many Jihadis and their families appear to be self-segregating from the ethnic French.

    Absent a police state that detects people prompoting extremist Islamic scholarship or Jihad and immediately exiles them and an extremely aggressive pro-France stance in media, schooling and news reporting to assimilate disaffected residents they’re stuck.

    People in the West have spent fifty years disparaging their history, culture and ethnicity; undoing that won’t happen in two months of schooling and it’s only a matter of time until one of the graduates of Chateau Pontournoy ends up on a newscast as a dead or wanted terrorist.

    In fact if I were a Jihadist I’d go there to recruit since the French government went theough all the expense of providing me with a hiring pool.

    • #14
  15. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    The Daily Beast published a sensationalised article under a click-baity headline? Stop the presses!

    • #15
  16. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Front Seat Cat:That seems not only a very expensive way to deal with a radical crisis, but its based on speculation – creepy. It reminds me of WWII and rounding people up based on their beliefs, religion etc. Why not spend that money beefing up security, screening people, and deporting those they suspect have radical leanings?

    They’re spending a lot of money to beef up security. But you can’t deport French citizens, and every terrorist in recent memory here has been a French or a Belgian citizen. And you can’t imprison or otherwise punish people because you “suspect” they have radical leanings; they have to commit a crime.

    • #16
  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Austin Murrey: I don’t think they can do anything.

    I don’t think anyone here would accept that level of fatalism. Any politician who said, “Nothing we can do about it” wouldn’t last long.

    • #17
  18. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I assume it’s much easier for worried parents to call that hotline if they believe the government will make a good-faith effort to rehabilitate their kid.

    It would be terrible if anyone did anything silly to undermine confidence in the forces of law and order in these crucial times.

    cgtposters

    • #18
  19. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    genferei:The Daily Beast published a sensationalised article under a click-baity headline? Stop the presses!

    Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t be surprised. But I was surprised when I saw that headline, to the point of clicking on it and reading the article. And then I saw “herding up young men,” and knew … that doesn’t sound right. And so I bothered to try to figure out what she was talking about, and became progressively more disturbed that this was reported that way. It’s not just “sensationalized,” it’s massively factually wrong in a morally important way. The difference between “forcibly herding people into concentration camps” and “offering people free, elective treatment” is huge. The first would be cause to start talking about R2P.

    • #19
  20. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    ….Claire…Claire….wait…Claire…

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #20
  21. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Front Seat Cat:That seems not only a very expensive way to deal with a radical crisis, but its based on speculation – creepy. It reminds me of WWII and rounding people up based on their beliefs, religion etc. Why not spend that money beefing up security, screening people, and deporting those they suspect have radical leanings? Who thought this one up?

    Where do you want to screen them?

    now they are talking about screening before you enter the airport.

    so the people will pile up there and that’s where the bombs will go off.

    its an endless regression.

    • #21
  22. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Austin Murrey: I don’t think they can do anything.

    I don’t think anyone here would accept that level of fatalism. Any politician who said, “Nothing we can do about it” wouldn’t last long.

    I’d bet you’d be surprised what’s said in private then.

    • #22
  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    genferei: It would be terrible if anyone did anything silly to undermine confidence in the forces of law and order in these crucial times.

    He’s referring to very high-profile protests against “police brutality” — sparked by an instance of real brutality, captured on video — and now become an excuse for (well-organized) thugs systematically to injure cops.

    Does this seem to you like a case of media contagion? Because to me, it looks as if the French have learned this dance and even the Internet memes from watching the US media.

    • #23
  24. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: He’s referring to very high-profile protests against “police brutality”

    In particular, the CGT (think AFL-CIO) grasping for relevance by launching a publicity campaign against ‘police brutality’ during the on-going campaign of street protests against the extremely modest labour reforms currently (not) before the legislature.

    In truly French fashion, the police are holding demonstrations today against the anti-police mood. The piece de resistance being, of course, a car being set alight.

    burningcar

    • #24
  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    genferei: In truly French fashion, the police are holding demonstrations today against the anti-police mood.

    I really feel for them. As I was walking home the day before yesterday I saw some very exhausted-looking cops, in a seriously bad mood. I looked at their faces and saw how bone-tired they were, and how demoralized — just the last thing an already exhausted and overworked police force needs.

    • #25
  26. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I really feel for [the police].

    Me too. (I should clarify that it wasn’t the police who burned their own car.)

    • #26
  27. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    James Gawron: I’m quite sure that the therapists will handle the problem of young Jihadists oh so very well. Why soon they’ll be “right as rain”.

    Probably end up with an aversion to Beethoven, though.

    • #27
  28. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Percival:

    James Gawron: I’m quite sure that the therapists will handle the problem of young Jihadists oh so very well. Why soon they’ll be “right as rain”.

    Probably end up with an aversion to Beethoven, though.

    Percival,

    In every brilliant scientific achievement, there is always a downside. Take the case of Dr. Victor Frankenstein or take my wife, please!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #28
  29. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Them: Pardonnez-moi, monsieur…. You say zee nice Jewish lady with zee kitty cats is going all Jihadi?

    Me: Yep. She was fitting them with catnip suicide belts! I swear!

    And by the end of the day you’re still in your apartment while while I’ve been hauled off to Centre d’Accueil et de Crise!

    • #29
  30. Johnny Dubya Member
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    As Dennis Prager has said, some believe that people are basically good, and some believe that people are not. Those who believe people are basically good are led to many erroneous conclusions. This is an example.

    The idea that basically good people are “radicalized” – essentially “infected” with a something akin to a foreign contagion – and can be “cured” by a stay in a jihadist sanitarium is absurd – and dangerous. An upscale Gitmo is not going to rehabilitate these people.

    • #30

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