Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Youths in Paris Riot, Identities Unclear...

Those darn 'youths' are at it again. Rioting broke out at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris after a man attacked two inspectors after being asked (and failing) to produce a train ticket. The violence quickly spread outside of the train station and into the streets, and the 'youths' took to looting stores and hurling dumpters and plants at the police who were called in to quell the unrest.

Sound similar? It should. These 'youths' bear a great deal of resemblance to the 'youths' who plunged France into civil unrest in 2005 after two 'youths' electrocuted themselves to death while running from the police.

When soccer fans riot, the press does not refrain from pointing out the common denominator. In fact, we're constantly warned about the 'football riots' of Europe and even to be wary of 'footbal fans' while we're in Europe. We don't call these folks 'youths', even though most of them are, nor do we try to protect their common denominator by calling them 'sports fans'. Yet when 'youths' riot in France, we're told that they are simply 'youths'. We're told that commentators think these 'youths' are rioting because of racism and inequality and poverty in France, despite the fact that France has one of the most accessible and rewarding welfare benefits program in the world. It's as if we're supposed to think that these 'youths' feel alienated and prone to violence because it's our fault; whereas when the football fans riot, we waste no time casting blame where blame is due. What is it about these 'youths' that makes our media so anxious to point out their common denominator?

I have a pretty good idea.

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