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The Champs-Elysées Attack and the Election
I’m sure you’ve heard that last night, a terrorist opened fire on the police on the Champs-Elysées, killing a police officer and wounding three more. The security forces quickly shot him dead. The Champs-Elysées was evacuated, though it’s back to normal now. It seems there’s still a suspect at large, though news of this is only breaking now and sketchy. (Update: It’s being reported that police have detained three of the terrorist’s family members, but I haven’t seen confirmation of this.) The attacker was as usual known to police; he’d been arrested in February on suspicion of plotting to kill officers but released for of lack of evidence.
Although terrorism always takes you a bit by surprise, I’ve never been less surprised by a terrorist attack in any city I’ve ever lived in. We all knew full well this was highly likely to happen before the election on Sunday. It’s been the subject of much grim speculation here and black humor. An attack was just recently thwarted in Marseilles. I’d be equally unsurprised if there’s another one before Sunday.
ISIS claimed credit for it unusually quickly. As Rukmini Callimachi wrote on Twitter, “They claimed this attack in circa 2.5 hours. As far as attacks in West, this may be a record. Only 1 that comes close is Brussels airport. As far as attacks in West, this may be a record. Only 1 that comes close is Brussels airport. Despite popular perception, ISIS does *not* claim everything & they typically take up to 12 hrs.” I’d guess they claimed it quickly to be sure their name would be in the news for as many hours as possible before the election.
ISIS, it’s fairly clear, wants Marine Le Pen to win; at least, this is what French intelligence officials believe, and it makes sense in the context of what ISIS says about its view of the world. The timing of the attack (obviously) wasn’t random. They’ve made their strategy very clear and they explain it patiently and repeatedly: They’re seeking to eliminate what they call the grey zone. They almost certainly believe Le Pen will make life miserable for ordinary Muslims and so prove to those Muslims who live in this grey zone that they have no future in France. This, ISIS hopes in turn, will inspire them to join the Caliphate’s (diminishing) ranks, sparking civil war on French soil, which they hope to broaden to Europe at large.
Their hope is misplaced. In the first place, the French know very well that this is their strategy — it’s the subject of endless discussion here — and know this is why they attacked when they did. So I expect that for every voter who decides to vote for Le Pen as a result, another who might have considered it, perhaps for unrelated reasons, will now refuse out of determination not to give ISIS the satisfaction or allow them to direct events.
Polling stops today, per electoral law, so we won’t have any clue from that how this is apt to affect the outcome. My instinct is that it won’t. No French voter could have been be surprised by this, nor could it have changed their minds about the gravity of the threat. No one is suddenly going to realize that terrorism is a problem for France; either they knew that already or nothing will persuade them. I don’t see why this attack should change the priority voters assign to the issue, or how it would change their appraisal of the candidates’ plans for addressing the problem, or how it would affect their view of the candidates’ respective abilities to do so. I assume it will reinforce people in what they believe already.
The main risk for the candidates, it seems to me, is that if they put their foot it in it today — if they say or do something stupid; if they appear unpresidential; if they strike the wrong note — they can’t recover, because after midnight tonight, campaigning is banned. Fillon already stupidly repeated a rumor that there had been other attacks in Paris, after which he cancelled campaigning “out of respect for the victims.” I presume he calculated he had more to lose by continuing to speak than by saying nothing. Interestingly, Le Pen likewise cancelled a campaign event. Perhaps she thinks her views on the matter are well known, and that she too has more to lose by aggressively restating them — aggravating those who see her as ISIS’s candidate — than by holding her tongue.
So I expect what we’ll hear today are expressions of sympathy for the victims, resolutions never to give in to terrorism, and — among those still campaigning — a rapid return to other key campaign points. The risk of saying the wrong thing exceeds any possible gain that could be accrued from deviating from the script. Besides, they only have the rest of today to make their case about any of the other issues that distinguish them. They haven’t time to waste.
Still, there’s another actor here to keep in mind. Three of the four candidates are pro-Putin. I’m sure the advance to the next round of any one of those three (and one certainly will advance) would be to Putin’s satisfaction. But best for him would be for two of his preferred candidates to advance. The only candidate whose success on Sunday would displease him is Macron. Putin and his troll farms don’t care about laws against campaigning after midnight tonight, and they certainly don’t care about laws against polling. So I would expect that whatever Macron says or does today, the trolls will be out in force from here on in to crush him, and they may even be working off polling data to which the rest of us aren’t party.
I’m trying to think as Putin would and wondering how the Kremlin is most apt to try to exploit this. The EUObserver has a brief guide to their efforts thus far. The themes that seem to work best for them are “in the French identity, anti-Islam, and anti-globalisation areas, as well as in the areas of ‘confusion’ and ‘conspiratorial/anti-system’ sources shared in the alternative segment.” (The usual, in other words.)
So if I were Putin, what information would I release this weekend, what rumors could I start, that might so change the way Macron’s supporters think of him as to cause them to vote instead for Fillon, Le Pen, or Mélenchon? Which way would I try to push them — and how — and why?
Frankly, it’s going so well for the Kremlin as it is that perhaps they, too, will decide that they now have more to lose by saying anything then they might gain from just keeping it shut. I wonder if they might think that way.
Or maybe not. How would you play this if you were a Chekist?
Published in General
A Le Pen presidency is looking ever more likely.
If there is rampant speculation about Putin’s role, and if you’re Putin, you don’t want to be seen doing anything … because it would prove you’re trying to meddle. At this point, I think the die is cast. You’ve done all you can do.
Then again, you have to look at the Russians gaining leverage as a result of the threat from ISIS … so you actually benefit from ISIS’s viability as a threat. It sets up a classic protection racket. Going forward, that’s where I’d expect Putin to focus his efforts.
The unchanging Russian goal is to weaken and disrupt. It is difficult to troll people away from better choices when things are going well economically and otherwise. When things are going badly, the trolling only marginally affects discontent.
I think of the effective Soviet campaign to foster the antiwar movement in the Vietnam years. Had there been clear objectives and concrete signs of progress towards those objectives (in lieu of silly body count metrics and no program of territorial security) the bizarre spin in the US media that the Tet Offensive was actually a military defeat for the US would have been much harder for committed leftists to effect.
The current Russian program of media manipulations creates only secondary infections where serious dysfunction has already appeared. That program is not a driving political force.
None of the candidates has a program of serious entitlement reform. Only Le Pen admits there is a death struggle for the survival of French culture and she does not have the political wherewithal to fix that. Things will continue to devolve no matter who wins.
I wonder if the Russian ‘interference’ in the French election will amount to 1% of the European ‘interference’ in the upcoming British election.
Excuse me, isn’t it about time to stop treating terrorism as law-enforcement and start treating it as war? Lack of evidence? Tommyrot! Start treating this as a war of Islam against all, and get down to military business.
Hi Claire. Not being familiar with the candidates, I’m wondering if this means ‘favor positions that you believe suit the Kremlin’ or rather an outright ‘I’m with Vlad’?
If I was a Chekist I’d organise some more ISIS attacks.
Go Le Pen!
Things are so close that I think you are wrong. A slight change in preference or turnout could easily flip 2nd and 3rd place and that makes all the difference in this election
Just before the attack (and I not suggesting the timing is related), we got cancelled from our AirBnB reservation for Paris in August. My wife, hearing about the attack, is suggesting we cancel our Paris visit. We will be visiting our daughter & family in Lyon and planned to stay a couple of days in Paris on the way back, flying out of CDG. The attack would not affect my decision were I making it on my own, but the all t00 frequent Jihadist attacks in Paris of late have made my wife, who is more cautious than I, nervous.
I wonder what Paris is experiencing in the way of a tourism drop. Of course, while it is a big tourist destination, Paris does not live or die on tourism.
My wife is following the election. She will feel safer in Paris if Marine Le Pen wins. Feelings are not rational, but they are a form of reality.
With Muslims killing people, Claire proves she is truly Claire de Loon by worrying about Putin.
Ah yes, nothing says “good idea” like declaring war on over a billion people in dozens of different countries, many of whom are our allies. Also we should definitely give the government more emergency wartime powers, as they’re known for their responsibility, competence when using them, and returning them after the crisis is over.
“I’m with Vlad.” In all three cases.
This is what I think Claire doesn’t consider. The illiberal EU is threatening Poland and Hungary over migrants. The illiberal unelected EU chief executive is insulting Britain’s elected Prime Minister and America’s elected President. Erdogan is an obvious authoritarian but how can we question his new constitution when the EU parliament is a rubber stamp and Juncker isn’t even elected?
Meanwhile, a foreign power ISIS who has sworn an oath to destroy France (and more) has police officers assassinated in the center of Paris and lays boastful claim to it in a few hours. How is Putin involved? How is the twisted view of France that the twisted ISIS holds relevant to anything? The average Frenchman & Frenchwoman see mad murderers and are disgusted by it. Macron appears as a liberal/libertarian middle of the road unconnected candidate. Does he project enough gravitas to make the French voter feel secure? Fillon might have but he is no longer viable. The Communist will only steal votes from the left. Marine may be the choice not because she represents French virulent ethnocentrism but because she is all that seems serious in response to the obvious evil.
I’ll be in Paris this summer for the huge Paris Air Show. Whatever goes on in the world, travel by aircraft continues to grow on a steady trajectory.
I go incognito (i.e. not visibly Jewish).
Stop The Bleeding
She advocates for them. I think she thinks they will be lenient with her because some of her best friends are Muslim. I know, doesn’t make sense to me either.
Remember the Cold War?
No of course not, your name explains why.
Gee, another “Lone Wolf” who “doesn’t represent the values” of Islam. How many “Lone Wolf” attacks does that make this year? 10? 20? Oh yeah, there have been 634 Islamic attacks so far this year, in which 4,403 people were killed and 5,018 injured.
Two sentences in this post really caught me by surprise: “polling stops today, per electoral law” and “because after midnight tonight, campaigning is banned”
This makes me appreciate our First Amendment all over again, and helps me to understand how Socialism uses speech and the lack of speech as a weapon. So, “campaigning is banned”? By who? What happens if Fillon starts hitting the towns tomorrow, and refuses to stop? Will French Police pull out their Uzis and chain him up and take him to jail?
It’s recovered recently to the usual levels, and businesses are very happy about that.
I understand that feelings about risk aren’t rational, but I promise your wife that it’s fine to visit Paris. The risk of dying in your bathtub really does remain greater than that of dying in a terrorist attack here. I feel no sense at all of ambivalence or uncertainty in saying, “Come to Paris, don’t deprive yourself of the pleasure, the risk is real, but it is tiny.” It really is. There’s no way to say, “The risk is zero,” but I’m sure you’d go to New York, or to the Pacific Northwest (Cascadia Subduction Zone — which is no joke), and you’d get into a car, and you’d go hiking … the risks are on that order. The media makes people lose their minds about these things.
As for feeling safer if Marine Le Pen wins … well, her election (or Meluche’s) would, I think, objectively, make France much, much less safe. Not just from terrorism. The election of either one would lead — in pretty short order — to France becoming Europe’s Venezuela. I’m very frightened of either outcome, though still think both are unlikely. The middle class here has a lot to lose, and for all the big talk, I suspect people here do deep down know that figures like Le Pen and Mélenchon have never in history caused anything but poverty, misery, and regret.
But we’ll see.
That is probably wise, and that sucks.
EDIT: I should expand. The Air Show is a pretty big deal. The French have no problem providing security for Big Deals, in fact they excel at it. If you spend any time wandering around off-site it is probably better to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Personally, I’d leave my “Reagan Old-School Conservative” sweatshirt at home.
If by this you mean the one who was shot and not the one on the loose, I have read that not only was he known to the police, but that in 2003 he went to prison for 20 years for wounding two police officers in a 2001 attack but was subsequently released on appeal.
Don’t know if that will affect things much, or even whether that’s been confirmed.
Not to mention the Soviet role in Arafat’s rise or the activities of other Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Claire & all,
We are down to the question who will the voters buy?
French Presidential Favourite Macron: Terrorism ‘Part of Our Daily Lives for Years to Come’ After Paris Shooting
I am not in France nor am I French so the seat of my pants is rather uncommunicative (did I really say that?). However, apparently, 40% of French voters are not communicating their preference yet either. We shall be forced to wait for election day. Well in France that’s two rounds of election day. You know perhaps there is something very good about this. We are forced to give our old neglected friend democracy the respect she so deserves.
This dismisses that we have some control over mitigating the risk of dying in the bathtub. We have absolutely no way to control the risks of a terrorist attack except to trust in elected politicians to deal with it (which has been found wanting… severely).
People do not like assuming risk they have no control over. We are only comfortable with risk we willfully accept.
The only way to avoid a terrorist attack in Paris is to not go to Paris.
He doesn’t believe that the french people exist, so why should he care if they are being killed? They aren’t people in his sick evil little mind.
The beatings will continue until morale improves?
Thank you for saying what needed to be said. I can put down non-slip bath tub appliques and even design some cushions for the edges of the tub to greatly reduce, perhaps even close enough to zero to BE zero, my chances of “dying in the bathtub”. What can I do to reduce my chances of being murdered by Islam? It appears that in Paris, all that appears that can be done is lighting candles and Facebook posts of support.
Even if I do nothing, my chances of dying in the bathtub remain about the same throughout my life. The chances of Parisians dying from terrorism increase every day.
At the other end of the spectrum, even if we installed a beer fridge in in every bathroom, your chance of being killed would be low and the chance of half the country being killed would still be nonexistent. Not so with Islamists. We let our guard down and we’re all dead.
We can stop importing more of them into our country.