The Problem with No Name

 

Confused about what is going on in France?  You should be.

Fortunately, former Ricochet editor @claire has made an ambitious and, in my view, largely successful attempt to clarify the who, what, when, where, why and how dare you of the Yellow Vest Revolution and has published the article in The American Interest, I strongly recommend reading it.

This is not to say I go along with all her conclusions.

She is quite right to point out that basically, the French don’t have much to complain about.  We Brits, who are mostly descendants of King Henry II Plantagenet, who was as French as they come (Count of Anjou and Maine), and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and are therefore French through and through, have tried for 700 years to bring our Continental cousins up correctly, but complain they always have done and complain they always will.

The statistics quoted by @claire in support of her argument are national and do not reflect the unevenness in the distribution of France’s wealth.  She has herself opined that the great American divide is urban/rural rather than conservative/liberal, and this observation, probably correct, applies to France as much as to the US.  The original protest about gas taxes was entirely justified, as the flight from rural to urban living has left many isolated and dependent on vehicular transport.

The main point on which I disagree with @claire’s analysis is her insistence that ‘they voted for Macron’ and that ‘he has a mandate’.  They didn’t and he doesn’t.

‘They voted primarily against Marine Le Pen.  We don’t know how much of the vote was against Le Pen and how much for Macron, and never will, but cast your minds back to the presidential election of 2002, when the run-off was between Marine’s father Jean-Marie and Jacques Chirac. Chirac won by a landslide but never claimed he had a mandate. He couldn’t. A huge part of his votes came from Socialists and Communists who swallowed their pride just to ensure Le Pen’s defeat.

Do read the section entitled Useful Idiots.  Although @claire’s articles, like the chapters in her books, are interminable, she does sub-divide and label them clearly.  Here she is at her strongest with the ‘convergence’ argument.

She also makes the important point: ‘There has never been a fully honest reckoning here with the Revolution [of 1789].  This is true, and it always puzzled me when I lived in France.  The violence of the Terror always seemed so out of kilter with the avowed ‘nobility’ of the revolutionary aims: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

I am less pessimistic than @claire when it comes to her conclusion.  I do not deny that the risk of extremist Left-Right violence exists, but Le Pen doesn’t have a Sturmabteilung to pit against ANTIFA. The greater risk is that she herself would be deposed by a French Gauleiter who might create one. But I still believe that this movement will peter out sooner or later, though Macron might have to dissolve parliament and call new elections for a semblance of normality to be restored.

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  1. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    fidelio102: ‘They’ voted primarily against Marine Le Pen. We don’t know how much of the vote was against Le Pen and how much for Macron, and never will

    This is a good point. When you have to choose between two terrible leaders, one does not feel represented nor even liberated, but rather boxed in.

    Claire’s “Their appearance of disorganization permits everyone in France to project their fantasies upon them”

    I will project my fantasies here. Perhaps the problem is that the people as well-off financially and medically as they are, are feeling, knowingly or not, subconsciously or not, less and less free within their confinement. Taxes do restrict what you can do financially and the choices you can make, and this may not be made up for by having more good stuff given to you, or more time at your disposal.

    Perhaps the Problem with No Name is really Being Dictated to by Others, rather than Having Freedom to choose your own way of life. It’s possible.

    • #1
  2. DonG Coolidge
    DonG
    @DonG

    The Road to Serfdom is playing out all over the globe.  Shall I get a yellow vest or stick with my MAGA hat?

    • #2
  3. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    DonG (View Comment):

    The Road to Serfdom is playing out all over the globe. Shall I get a yellow vest or stick with my MAGA hat?

    Stop being narrow minded you can do both.

    • #3
  4. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    As antidote, I recommend Pat Buchanan’s When Democracy Fails to Deliver.

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable,” said John F. Kennedy.

    In 2016, the U.S. and Britain were both witness to peaceful revolutions.

    The British voted 52-to-48 to sever ties to the European Union, restore their full sovereignty, declare independence, and go their own way in the world. Trade and immigration policy would henceforth be decided by a parliament elected by the people, not by bureaucrats in Brussels.

    “Brexit” it was called. And British defiance stunned global elites.

    Two and a half years later, Britain is still inside the EU, and no one seems to know when or whether the divorce will take place—a victory for London and European elites over the expressed will of the British people.

    Appalled by the Brexit vote, these elites played a waiting game, broadcasting warnings of what could happen to panic the British public into reconsidering and reversing its democratic decision.

    Losing candidates and losing parties accept defeat and yield power.

    Establishments have agendas they do not regard as subject to electoral repudiation or repeal. Defeated, they use their non-electoral powers to prevent unwanted policies from ever being implemented.

     

    • #4
  5. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    Would that she went after jihadists with such verve!

    Gatestone Institute has a better piece here: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13500/france-in-free-fall

    • #5
  6. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    From Claire’s writing and the Gatestone piece, my takeaway is that it’s an all-of-the-above problem or, what my less-delicate friends would describe as a cluster****.

    Has anyone come across a perspective that convincingly reveals anything but that Macron (recently) and the French elites (over time) have made a huge and tangled mess? Or that a solution (preferably not stupid, meaningless violence) is available? 

    • #6
  7. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    fidelio102: The violence of the Terror always seemed so out of kilter with the avowed ‘nobility’ of the revolutionary aims: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

    Why so surprised?  With rare exceptions ( America being one) revolutions almost always start with noble goals and devolve into horrible violence.  France, Russia, Haiti, China, etc etc etc.

    It’s the rule, not the exception.  To think otherwise is to be very confused or naive about human nature.

    • #7
  8. fidelio102 Inactive
    fidelio102
    @fidelio102

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Would that she went after jihadists with such verve!

    Gatestone Institute has a better piece here: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13500/france-in-free-fall

    You’re right.  The GI piece was also excellent.

    • #8
  9. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    fidelio102 (View Comment):

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Would that she went after jihadists with such verve!

    Gatestone Institute has a better piece here: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13500/france-in-free-fall

    You’re right. The GI piece was also excellent.

    Claire is part of the elite, i.e., the problem.

    • #9
  10. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Hang On (View Comment):

    fidelio102 (View Comment):

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Would that she went after jihadists with such verve!

    Gatestone Institute has a better piece here: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13500/france-in-free-fall

    You’re right. The GI piece was also excellent.

    Claire is part of the elite, i.e., the problem.

    I think there are too many commentators and pundits who personalize this stuff to the point where you have to take everything they say with a grain of salt. Claire seems to see pogroms around every corner, and for some reason she seems to think Trump is an anti-Semite, when the home of anti-Semitism is the Democrat Party and really all of the Left. Why she embraces them I don’t know.

    • #10
  11. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Here’s the bit I found most insightful:

    In this respect, the Gilets Jaunes have already solved their problem: loneliness. Getting together every Saturday meets needs that have gone unmet, not for greater “purchasing power,” but for companionship and a sense of purpose.

    The Gilets Jaunes’ complaints are incoherent because they do not, truly, have a complaint that the government could possibly solve.The Gilets Jaunes’ complaints are incoherent because they do not, truly, have a complaint that the government could possibly solve.They are consumed by resentment and the sense that other people are having a better time than they are. Getting together once a week to be a cheerful mob is an end in itself. They love their Saturday get-togethers. They are like play-dates.

    The colère makes much more sense if we assume that the issue is psychological, not economic.

    I never really gave much thought to protesting as an end-in-itself, as a way to bring a feeling of purpose, meaning, and solidarity to an otherwise empty and lonely lifestyle.  It explains a whole lot really, from the yellow jackets to the pink hat brigade.

    • #11
  12. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Here’s the bit I found most insightful:

    In this respect, the Gilets Jaunes have already solved their problem: loneliness. Getting together every Saturday meets needs that have gone unmet, not for greater “purchasing power,” but for companionship and a sense of purpose.

    The Gilets Jaunes’ complaints are incoherent because they do not, truly, have a complaint that the government could possibly solve.The Gilets Jaunes’ complaints are incoherent because they do not, truly, have a complaint that the government could possibly solve.They are consumed by resentment and the sense that other people are having a better time than they are. Getting together once a week to be a cheerful mob is an end in itself. They love their Saturday get-togethers. They are like play-dates.

    The colère makes much more sense if we assume that the issue is psychological, not economic.

    I never really gave much thought to protesting as an end-in-itself, as a way to bring a feeling of purpose, meaning, and solidarity to an otherwise empty and lonely lifestyle. It explains a whole lot really, from the yellow jackets to the pink hat brigade.

    That’s almost like, “Emily, put down that phone and join that antifah thing tonight.  I swear you’re into that thing more than living life.”

    • #12
  13. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    fidelio102 (View Comment):

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Would that she went after jihadists with such verve!

    Gatestone Institute has a better piece here: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13500/france-in-free-fall

    You’re right. The GI piece was also excellent.

    Claire is part of the elite, i.e., the problem.

    I think there are too many commentators and pundits who personalize this stuff to the point where you have to take everything they say with a grain of salt. Claire seems to see pogroms around every corner, and for some reason she seems to think Trump is an anti-Semite, when the home of anti-Semitism is the Democrat Party and really all of the Left. Why she embraces them I don’t know.

    Claire is no dummy.  Is it possible living abroad for so long has made her forget about what it’s like to live in the US?  Made her personally out of touch with what we average folks have endured living under the conditions we have since she left?  Gone somewhat native in the foreign lands she’s inhabited these years?

    Maybe yes, maybe no.  But Claire provides a different and necessary viewpoint about first-hand events from where she is (such as the horrific Charlie Hebdo attacks), and we need to understand what she says given her perspective.

    Does this make sense?  I’ve had a few beers . . . (hic)

    • #13
  14. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    The problem is Europe’s political super structures are completely overwrought. The elites are unresponsive and they don’t know what they are doing.

    The EMU is just a bad idea from start to finish. It isn’t going to work, ever. 

    The EU became completely overwrought by the 1980s. That is not my opinion; I got that from Harald Malmgren, who has just epic experience in this stuff. George Freidman says the same thing. 

    They need more freedom, more decentralized power, and less central bank easy money. This is only going to happen the hard way. They are all very over the barrel with a screwed up banking system and massive government debt.

    And then the elites say everyone needs to just behave and submit. It’s a joke.

     

    • #14
  15. Joshua Bissey Inactive
    Joshua Bissey
    @TheSockMonkey

    The Gilets Jaunes insist they are apolitical and disorganized. No one speaks for them. They have no internal elections. They do not support a political party. The French police, however, say there is “nothing amateurish” about them; they believe the ostensible disorganization of the movement is strategic. The protesters aim, the police say, to “shake up the rules, destabilize the Republic and create the conditions for an insurrection.” The movement has been entirely infiltrated, according to the police, by red-brown thugs who evade their surveillance by communicating on encrypted networks before setting the streets on fire.

    Can anyone inform me what a red-brown thug might be?

    • #15
  16. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Fidelio,

    Of course, Claire’s talent always delights me. However, like you, I don’t always agree with all of it. Here is a quote that she put in enlarged letters to stand out in her article.

    Violence is not at all part of the normal effervescence of a vibrant democracy. It is antithetical to democracy’s ultimate norm: Governments change by elections, not force

    For me, the real question is how does one go about changing the government of the “United States of Europe”. The EU is not a democracy, at least not like any democracy that I’m familiar with. The EU massively affects life in France and the policies that the French government enforces. You can’t vote for Juncker’s competitor because you can’t vote for Juncker period. Voting for your EU parliamentarian is useless because the EU Parliament can’t initiate legislation. They are a rubber stamp. Because of this, the political debate in France is distorted. No matter what the political alignment in France is, it can be overridden by Brussels. Claire can remind us of the ideal of democracy when it comes to the Yellow Vests. However, she has nothing to say about vibrant democracy vibrantly voting Juncker out of office.

    As for events as they are reported in France, they have as much trouble with the distorted media as we do. Recently, Alain Finkielkraut, a famous French Philosopher was accosted by someone in a yellow vest on the street. Anti-Semitic slurs were shouted at Finkielkraut. This was reported by the media as an example of the proto-fascist anti-Semitic Yellow Vests. As it turns out, anybody can put a yellow vest on. The person who did it was an Islamist with a pure anti-Semitic motive that had nothing to do with the Yellow Vests.

    ‘Yellow Vest’ Islamist Caught Hurling Anti-Semitic Abuse At French Jewish Intellectual

    The abuse of Alain Finkielkraut, a Jewish intellectual who has railed against the policies of multiculturalism in the past, was caught on video and showed a man with shouting, “You racist, you’re a hater, you’re going to die, you’re going to hell, you Zionist,” Le Parisien reports.

    …According to a police source, the man in the video has been identified as a radical Islamic extremist who has been under the watch of security services since being identified in the Salafist scene in 2014.

    BTW, the link to Finkielkraut’s interview about multiculturalism is well worth reading.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #16
  17. fidelio102 Inactive
    fidelio102
    @fidelio102

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):

    Can anyone inform me what a red-brown thug might be?

    ⋅Police code for communists and fascists.  As in the USA, French fascists are on the Left of the political spectrum (as was Hitler, although many historically illiterate Democrats seem to believe he was AltRight).

     

    • #17
  18. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I’m not that interest in French politics to read such a long winded article – but scanning it, it’s still the same malarkey. I’m sorry the 62 year old doesn’t have any money to go out and socialize, maybe she should have saved more.  Line after line says the French are doing better than ever.  Claire’s first paragraph is the typical Trump swipe.  France and Paris in the spring…..  Will it still have the same romantic attraction ( a big income from tourism) after these yellow hornets or jackets or insects are through with it?  If you don’t like the direction your country is going, vote differently – use the 2016 US election as an example and quit whining.

    • #18
  19. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
     I’m sorry the 62 year old doesn’t have any money to go out and socialize, maybe she should have saved more.

    What currency do you recommend?

    • #19
  20. jeannebodine Member
    jeannebodine
    @jeannebodine

    Having followed Claire’s tweets (long series of tweets) about the Yellow Jackets during the first 6 months or so, I won’t believe her take on anything. So much spinning I was dizzy: the demonstrations were nothing,  the media was merely over-hyping, the protests were going to end by next week (then the next week,, then the next), French people didn’t support the protester’s complaints, the French people were content, and on and on it went. Months later, it’s morphed into infiltration.

    It seems to me that so much of Claire’s reporting is based on what Claire wants to be true. Remember her reporting on the Arab Spring? How about when she assured us that Turkey would always be moderate? Add to that the fact that Claire, by her own admission, lives on a private income and resides in a Paris appartement surrounded by fashionable people and shops and you may understand why I don’t find her take on things to be insightful. She’s an elite’s elite.

    As for Claire’s thoughts on America and Americans, they are laughable. She hasn’t resided in America for the last 20+ years and. even when she did, she led the life of an elite intellectual from a very distinguished family, hardly the man on the street. She still pines for some imaginary “America we knew” which never existed except in her mind.

    Oh, and above all else, Orange Man Bad.

     

     

    • #20
  21. fidelio102 Inactive
    fidelio102
    @fidelio102

    jeannebodine (View Comment):
    Oh, and above all else, Orange Man Bad.

    The election result in 2016 almost gave her a nervous breakdown and she has been suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome ever since.

    This doesn’t detract from the fact that her 2008 book There Is No Alternative was, from the perspective of the Thatcher admirer and nationalist Brit that I am, extremely perceptive.

    • #21
  22. fidelio102 Inactive
    fidelio102
    @fidelio102

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    I’m sorry the 62 year old

    She told me she was born in 1968, which I believe.

    • #22
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