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November 07, 2005

The Sixties: The Only Decade You’ll Ever Need

Much like Iraq can only be understood through analogies to Vietnam, the media is moving towards the “Paris is Burning” story as another 60’s narrative.

Yesterday, Craig Smith, the Paris correspondent of our media’s bellwether, The N.Y. Times, gave us his take. While initially looking at the more recent Katrina riots, the ’92 Rodney King mayhem, Smith gets down to the heart of the matter, the 1960’s:

Although many Americans feel that their country still has a lot of work to do to close the gap between blacks and whites, the social protests and urban upheavals of the 1960's produced a stream of measures intended to increase political and economic opportunities rapidly for members of minority groups, and to stress the value of diversity to a democracy. By contrast, the French model has so far relied largely on expensive measures to keep poor Muslims fed, housed and educated, but has not effectively addressed the social or political isolation they feel from job and housing discrimination, and has actually limited their ability to define themselves as a political interest group. Affirmative action, a cornerstone of the American approach, has been a taboo here.

Okay, putting aside the media’s favorite decade/Rosetta stone for a moment, how much of this has any truth to it? How many suburban Paris car fires are the result of job and housing discrimination?


The Brussels Journal (and you really should be reading them on this Paris thang) responds:

Most observers in the mainstream media (MSM) provide an occidentocentric analysis of the facts. They depict the “youths” as outsiders who want to be brought into Western society and have the same rights as the natives of Old Europe. The MSM believe that the “youths” are being treated unjustly because they are not a functioning part of Western society. They claim that, in spite of positive discrimination, subsidies, public services, schools, and all the provisions that have been made for immigrants over the years, access has been denied them.

This is the marxist rhetoric of the West that has been predominant in the media and the chattering classes since the 1960s. But it does not fit the facts of the situation in Europe today.

And, responding directly to the N.Y. Times article:

Those media that tell us that the rioting “youths” want to be a part of our society and feel left out of it, are misrepresenting the facts. As the insurgents see it, they are not a part of our society and they want us to keep out of theirs. The violence in France is in no way comparable with that of the blacks in the U.S. in the 1960s. The Paris correspondent of The New York Times who writes that this a “variant of the same problem” is either lying or does not know what he is talking about. The violence in France is of the type one finds when one group wants to assert its authority and drive the others out of its territory. American MSM who imply that there is a direct line from Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to stand up for a white man on an American bus in 1955, to the rabble that are now throwing molotov cocktails into French buses containing passengers, are misrepresenting the facts. (The only comparison between America and France is that many of the bus drivers in the Parisian suburbs, like those in New Orleans, seem to be white women whose vulnerability attracts rioters and looters).

I won't touch that analysis of the situation. I'm not there, I don't know. But the point is, I wouldn't find out listening to our media. They're not there either. They're somewhere, trapped on some alternate dimension college campus, in the 1960's.

Seriously, how did journalists operate prior to that decade? Did they all just sit around, staring at each other, slack jawed, waiting for a 10 years span to come along and explain everything? Putting aside their conversations amongst each other (can you imagine the awkward empty gaps?), their columns, what did they pad them with? Recipes?

Or did they have another decade to romantically obsess over? Say, the 1890's? Another touchstone of “fly your own freak flag” unrest and college activism with everyone tripped out of their minds on Laudanum? Was WWI or that bastard Woodrow Wilson, all haunting echos from analogues in that bloodthirsty fascist, Grover Cleveland’s administration?

And nowadays, why do colleges, history departments, bother teaching anything else? Since all events are just ‘everything old is new again’ rehashes of the sixties, what’s the point?


Q: Dear MSM, The Colts are taking on New England at Foxborough tonight. New England’s pretty beat up, but Manning can’t seem to get past them – like they’re in his head or something. The Colts are laying 4 and ½. Who should I go with?
A: The Sixties.

Q: Dear MSM: Social Security Private Accounts seem-
A: The Sixties.

Q: My aunt has an arthritic-
A: Sixties (You people ask a lot of questions, don’cha. Oh, and um… the sixties.)

Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain. We’ve been fortunate so far. I do worry though, how long this can continue? If history will just keep repeating itself so nicely for us or will some new event come along that would require original thought, some different means of analysis?

Luckily – and I watch the news closely waiting – foretidings of such an event have not materialized in the past thirty five years. Sleep safely, America.

[Correction: AoS' resident sheep fancier, BumperStickerist, corrects my earlier, mistaken use of 'Bellweather.' Check comments for interesting etymology.]

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posted by Dr. Reo Symes at 04:07 PM

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