Friday, November 30, 2007

Who Attacks Libraries?

Rioters in France apparently do. The photos below are from Atlas Shrugs 2000:

The top picture is of a nursery school, and the bottom of a public library, in Villiers-le-Bel, a Paris suburb struck by rioting earlier this week. Ever since the 2005 Paris riots I have found it constructive to compare them to riots in American cities. They are different. American riots, before they degenerate into mere opportunistic looting (as the 1992 LA riots did after about 48 hours), tend to be exclusively tribal. Rioters are usually black, and they go out of their way to attack businesses owned by nonblacks (and avoid businesses owned by blacks), and even (in the LA case) to go to other parts of town to attack members of other groups (Korean merchants in this case). And they tend to concentrate on businesses, seen as exploitative and enriching others at their expense. Public facilities – schools and libraries certainly – are generally spared as far as I know.

But the French riots are different. Libraries and schools – the fundamental engines for preserving and transmitting knowledge – are actually targeted contemptuously. This is a disturbing feature of French rioting. It, along with attacks on organs of the state generally, suggests not mere tribal hostility but a fundamental rejection of the society around them and even the universal civilization that schools and libraries might be thought to represent, to which the rioters could belong if they wished to. Indeed, the idea of book burning has historically generated horror among Westerners, because it represents the destruction of knowledge itself (although French students apparently destroyed a number of irreplaceable historical artifacts when they took over French universities in 1968). What is going on in Paris is beyond mere anger – it is civilizational destruction writ small.

In addition, I am amazed, as I was in 2005, by the willingness and ability of rioters to attack police personnel and buildings. One police commander was beaten severely, and police stations were actually assaulted. This does not generally happen in American rioting, because the police are more than capable of fighting back with superior firepower. That the police can be attacked with such impunity also seems to be a grim portent of things to come if France does not get a handle on this problem. A phantom order has been restored for now, but this is going to get worse before it gets better.


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