Posted by Rafiq A. Tschannen
How a New Year’s celebration reveals France’s divided society
BY RICHARD PALMER
Fireworks are the most traditional way to celebrate the New Year. But there are other traditions. In Japan, Buddhist monks hit a gong 108 times. In Spain, people eat 12 grapes. And in certain French cities, they burn cars.
That’s right. The New Year’s Eve car burning has become so regular it is almost a tradition. Every year, youths run riot. This time, 1,193 cars were burned.
Naturally, the story has gathered a lot of media attention. But all the mainstream reports on the subject are strangely vague about one thing—who is doing the burning. Every student of journalism learns that his or her article should answer the “five Ws”: who, what, when, where and why (and sometimes “how”). Who is invariably listed first.
Why have so many journalists suddenly forgotten their basic training?
It’s tempting to look for a conspiracy, but the answer is more likely political correctness combined with laziness (or tight deadlines). Perhaps the French media are keeping quiet for fear that publishing the truth will pour oil on the flames.
Who are these rioting youths? The mainstream reports contain the hints necessary to put it all together.
“The practice reportedly began in earnest among youths—often in poor neighborhoods—in the 1990s in the region around Strasbourg in eastern France,” writes the Associated Press. Strasbourg is the home of France’s biggest mosque and a large population of Muslims.