Saturday, December 15, 2018

Pensées des gilets jaunes

Outline of Texas over a map of France
Being busy with projects and working for The Man has sure cut down on my blogging time.

I've been keeping an eye on the French protest movement "gilets jaunes" and it has revealed many surprising things about French society. 

The stories about the gilet jaunes always quote the people participating in the demonstrations claiming to be poor. Reminiscent of the way that it was accepted that Trump voters were economically insecure instead of racist, because all the stories about Trump supporters were basically a string of quotes from the supporters with very little context.

Of course it's easier to write a story by simply quoting one or more people than by providing context but I expect better of The New Yorker. The author of a recent New Yorker gilets jaunes story, Alexandra Schwartz doesn't bother to provide any context in her interview - she just types up her questions and the response of a gay author who grew up in a conservative French city.

And without context Louis makes things sound much worse than they might seem to a non-French person. For instance he says:
(his family) live(s) in a small village in the middle of nowhere, so for them it’s difficult to go (to the demonstrations)
But "the middle of nowhere" means something very different in France than in the US. For one thing, France is about the size of Texas - actually Texas is bigger. So that means that the farthest any place in France is from the middle of somewhere - Paris - at the Spanish border, is a mere 7 and a half hour drive - the time it takes to drive from New York City to Cleveland Ohio.

And the city that Louis grew up in, Hallencourt, is a two hour drive to Paris and a 43 minute drive to Amiens the larger city that Louis reportedly fled to when he grew up and which is also the city where Emmanuel Macron grew up. Amiens is a bustling city. It may not be Paris but it's certainly not nowhere - so in truth Louis' family lives a three-quarter of an hour drive from somewhere and two hours from Paris. That's his concept of "the middle of nowhere"???

Elsewhere he says: 
It’s the body of people who are living in precarity, people from the North of France, or from the South of France, who don’t have money, who come from the kinds of families that haven’t gotten an education in five generations—families like mine.
Is that possible they "haven't gotten an education in five generations"? But I have been told what a great education system the French have including by my most recent French teacher - she said that unlike in the US where schools vary a lot in quality because they are dependent on the local taxes, in French they are supposed to be all the same because they are administered by the central government.

Some context would have been helpful there - are the schools in the north of France worse for some reason? - but Schwartz can't be bothered. Louis managed to get a good enough education that he became a best-selling author so the education can't be all that bad.

And I've been waiting for this - Putin hates Macron and wanted far-right Marine Le Pen to become president - so of course Russia wasted no time in getting involved in the gilets jaunes movement:
In the weeks since the gilets jaunes movement took off, Ryan Fox, COO of New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company that tracks Russian-related influence operations on Twitter, has noticed a network of accounts that his organization believes is connected to Russia shift its focus to France. Since October 28, these 340 accounts have created and amplified content about the brutality of the French police, Macron’s inability to lead the nation, and anti-NATO or anti-migrant sentiments more than 20,000 times, according to New Knowledge. Among the claims: Macron’s treatment of the gilets jaunes is worse than Bashar al-Assad’s treatment of Syrian rebels.