by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
September 21 (hello autumn) was the worst day of violence in Paris since May 1st. That day is best remembered for when “centrist” politicians and citizens were enraged that Yellow Vest/union/old lady demonstrators would dare to seek refuge in a hospital rather than stand there and get tear gassed prior to getting charged and beaten by cops.
President Emmanuel Macron knew a black mark day was coming – not just Yellow Vests but unions and climate change protesters would also be marching – so he made a major concession: he gave a public interview. Noblesse oblige!
Macron waited two years before giving his first press conference, so we shouldn’t have expected a miracle, but France’s #1 public servant could have considered to talking to French media, at least. Instead he spoke with US magazine Time.
In the land of Ayn Rand, where the petit bourgeois boss is the undisputed chief in a million hillbilly fiefs, Macron may have been playing to his audience when he said: “In our country, we want leadership, but we also want to kill the leaders.” Who can forget Louis XVI?
However, I thought of all the French leaders who weren’t hacked to death by a vengeful populace. Louis I, for example. Louis II – there’s another one. Louis III, him too. In fact, Louis IV through Louis XV all were not assassinated, so why is Macron so worried about public retribution?
Look deeper into French history – despite #MeToo claims of universality it’s not even a gender thing: (2018’s 43,434th-most popular name) Ermentrude of Orléans, (don’t call me “Big”) Bertha of Burgundy and that lousy job-stealing immigrant Clementia of Hungary all escaped assassination despite being the nation’s #1 lady. Joan the Lame was a regent, and thus held the real power, and yet she wasn’t beheaded even though she must have been pretty easy to catch. They did destroy Joan’s tomb during the French revolution – she couldn’t run forever.
I also note that way back in the Merovingian era Engelbert the Humperdinck was not assassinated either, despite his many crimes which fell harshly on the ears of his suffering subjects.
To clarify for Macron: France wants leadership but they also want to kill their leaders sometimes. Other times they build huge statues to their leaders, like Charles de Gaulle and Joan of Arc. It seems to rather depend on the leader, and I thus think this allegedly French sentiment may actually be universal.
Jokes aside, Macron is obviously not trying to get re-elected, and thus he shows the biggest loophole in Western bourgeois democracy: the one in which opportunists temporarily accept public service in order to exploit it for personal gains.
(Contrarily, I’m not sure Iran’s Supreme Leader is even allowed to resign? He is there expressly to be a permanent patriotic force within a democratic system – presidents came and go but the Leader does not – and to mediate among different societal groups for the good of the national well-being.)
I look at Macron’s cover of Time and I see Brazil’s Michel Temer.
There is a clear contradiction between the image and caption on the cover of Time: Macron is frankly and aggressively rolling up his sleeves, yet the words about his “troubled presidency” indicate contrition, guilt and a desire for reconciliation. Anybody need to roll up their sleeves before a fraternal embrace? Anyway, Time got it fundamentally wrong: In June Macron declared he was on “Act 2” of his presidency, which is not at all a reset but an advance, a progression. Macron is rolling up his sleeves because his current pension and unemployment system rollbacks are the most divisive and most sweeping of his presidency. Like Temer, he couldn’t care less about the consequences – he has work to do, and the work is the social dismantling ordered by neoliberal austerity ideology and Brussels. Both Macron and Temer act on the orders of their 1% friends – the only reset for them is personal and after their terms, when they get the cushy lives and private, ego-stroking conferences where their hurt, under-appreciated egos can be revived.
But why should Time journalists have any real idea about what the “French Street” thinks? They aren’t there, haven’t been there and ain’t gonna be there – they hold the Yellow Vests in the same contempt as US Zionists do the “Arab Street”.
What Time would have seen on the worst day of violence since May 1
The tear gas and police brutality started at 10 am. I’m not sure what time it was in Hong Kong?
The first tear gas always provokes the most dramatic symptoms – I imagine it is because your body is telling you, “What the hell is this you’re inhaling now? Get it out of here.” Your skin burns more, you are expectorating excessively via the mouth and nose, your heart rate is elevated well after the “conflict adrenaline” has worn off. The next gassings are much easier, provided you are not at ground zero of course.
I have taken so much tear gas in “the birthplace of human rights” I wonder just how much poison I have built up in my bloodstream? I wonder if I can sue the French government for creating a hazardous work environment after organ failure from cyanide poisoning? Probably not.
Tear gas was falling from the skies regularly, and especially loud Yellow Vests were being individually targeted for violent arrest, but for whatever reasons – programming, shift change, etc. – after my 12pm live interview PressTV didn’t want another interview until 2pm. Being the die-hard activist journalist me and my cameramen are, we went on lunch break.
Hey, we gotta eat sometime. We’re workers, and Macron hasn’t revoked our right to a lunch break yet. And we can’t be there for every gassing/beating/rubber bullet – it’s not possible; furthermore, if we, did eventually our time would come and then there’d be no more reports at all. Gotta play the long game.
By the time we returned the Champs the crowds had really thinned out, after looking like there would be enough to hold it all day. Cops were being totally brutal: gas, confuse and punish, push people off the Champs, and then don’t allowing them back in, thus locking down the world’s greatest mall/boulevard. But we had an interview scheduled, so we stuck around with the perhaps 500 die-harders still hoping unionists, climate changers and Black Bloc would show up to retake this iconic mall-evard from the hated regime.
So we go live and do our interview, and we probably contributed to the violence. This is what often happens: The Yellow Vests know they’re on TV all of a sudden, cuz some monkey with a microphone is yammering in front of a camera, and they want to represent. They get loud and rowdy. In this way the presence of journalists hypes up the crowd in a way similar to, but actually very different, the presence of hyper-armed cops agitates a crowd. For political protesters journalist coverage is a sign that they matter and that they are doing something right and worthy of comment: that’s what makes it so sad that my French media colleagues are never covering the Yellow Vests – if they were, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people would join the protests again. Of course, the vast police repression since late March is the main reason the average Frenchmen isn’t showing up.
We finish live French protest interview #481 (I truly and humbly contend that no journalist in France has covered as many demonstrations as I have in the past decade – that number I gave is my honest estimate) and the little crowd is back to being the Yellow Vest engine that could.
Heartwarming… let’s get out of here. And we left because we had to go find another demonstration to cover – newsroom bosses want you to be where the action is, and there was a huge climate change protest there. Frankly, and sadly, I think much of the crowd had dissipated because they wanted to go join the eco-nuts, who are have as much backbone for a political fight as tofu.
Why was I going to the climate change protest and not the union demonstration? Because only one of the nine major unions ultimately decided to demonstrate that day – total betrayal of a day which was supposed to be so huge, but that’s the “virtue” of “independent” trade unions, right?
As we are leaving and I take one last look and – the tear gas is flying again. Of course it was: cops fear rowdy protesters whom they haven’t totally beaten into silence and submission, thus – launch some more gas.
Nothing we can do for ya, Vesters. We gotta think of where the action will be 45 minutes from now, and y’all had been kettled (boxed in by cops) and y’all knew they were going to gas you, drive you out and put the Champs on lockdown and if ya didn’t know then now ya know.
What teases we journalists are! Get ‘em all excited, and then leave ‘em in their moment of need. Don’t blame me, lady – blame the system.
The alternative hypothesis is that the cops saw that the only camera-wielding journalists around were leaving, and that the coast was clear for more gassing. Then it is still our presence which provoked it, and more shame on my well-heeled French media colleagues for not being there.
The final hypothesis is that the cops were about to gas them anyway and the timing of our leaving was purely coincidental. That is certainly mathematically logical, given the rates of tear gassing by French cops on Saturdays.
Regardless, that was an interesting anecdote which proves the journalistic corollary to quantum mechanics – the mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon. Again, what would the effects be if the French media were actually there? Or even journalists from Time?
The eco-kooks: fake-leftist politics at its most pathetic
I can’t stand covering ecological protests – what a waste of time.
Firstly, climate change requires a cooperative solution on an international level, and obviously capitalism is predicated on competition at an international level. Therefore, there is no reason at all to do a damned thing about environmental issues – the only solution is to get socialism first. No socialism? Then no possible climate solution.
Secondly, is climate change a news beat which is not being covered enough already? Hardly – there are 900 billion Western journalists who simply adore covering this story. I note that the roughly 900 billion climate change articles in Western media on any given Tuesday hasn’t done much good. Don’t tell that to the eco-freaks, though – they think they’re God’s favourite servants.
Definitely don’t point out to them that the 1% just adores you wasting your political energy on climate change instead of class issues. Climate change is inherently neutered of any class aspect: billionaires and homeless alike all litter or leave a “climate impact” (or whatever) or don’t compost properly.
Climate change protests are thus so very, very useless that I cannot give a damn, and the protesters directly acknowledged this: they had one big ballon, which read “Give a f***”. Classy. And they’re the only ones who give a f***, right?
Smug punks. And climate change protesters are punks with a capital P – too many examples to list, but here’s a quick few:
The presence of alcohol at French political demonstrations is lamentable – this is not a party – but only at eco-protests do you see Champagne.
The presence of loud music at protests – instead of loudly-chanted slogans or even silence – is… acceptable, I guess. But for many people Saturday wasn’t a protest but a rave, celebrating Mother Earth – techno music boomed it’s 4-on-the-floor “pound my tiny soul into submission” with the idiot hipster/bobo DJ calmly, slowly saying (for the people there on ecstasy or MDMA) “Feeeeeeeeeeel the earth…. don’t let it die.” Nothing says “I protest” like dancing during a protest march.
The presence of mimes at protests… can only happen in France, of course. I have no idea what political purpose they served, but I must admit they were amusing. I must also admit I was hoping they would also be tackled by cops for their very minor vandalisms, because they they would have to say something. Mimes are a good symbol for ecological protesters in general: they are there to be seen. And, I’d add, to feel good about and receive praise for their nonsensical works.
The presence of tear gas at ecological protests is not expected because WHAT a buzzkill, amirite? When the first tear gas flew the eco-warriors were so panicked thousands of them all ran in the wrong direction… and just kept marching that way. LOL, later comrades!
That was a new one. But I was hopeful, because instead of heading in the exact opposite direction of the Champs (as the eco-route had planned), they were now heading toward it – let’s retake the Champs, yes!
No, eco-warriors planned to march in the exact opposite direction of the Champs (east, not west) and they were determined to make sure they stayed away from any possible conflict with cops that could create bad karma/force them to shower (the tear gas off) later. Eventually, the thousands all just turned around and marched in the proper direction. Inwardly, they were likely too egotistical to ask themselves if they looked like idiots.
Black Bloc must have got the address wrong
The violence which spooked the eco-kooks was provided by Black Bloc. We had arrived just in time to see it happen:
The usual. Targeted vandalism against banks, real estate agencies (10,000 euros per square meter now in Paris, so believe me when I say that my landlord – whom I have made rich – can take a long walk off a short pier), and sexist ads (lotta Black Bloc are women).
There was a twist, and you gotta admit Black Bloc is up on things: they attacked the Egyptian Central Centre… obviously in solidarity with the anti-Sisi protests in Egypt going on that day. These Blocers were up on the news, found out the Egyptian Cultural Centre was on the eco-route, and took action. I got that wrong in this live interview from the scene among the debris – maybe Black Blocers could do my job better? Cut me some slack – live interviews are hard: I got it right in time for the day’s official report.
(I talked with the lone Egyptian worker at the Centre, and whom you can see in that video – he said the Centre was clearly targeted. He showed me an empty vodka bottle they had thrown inside, but Black Bloc isn’t a bunch of drunks. I felt bad for the poor guy – who knows if he supports Sisi or not? He’s just manning a cultural centre in some far away place – Egyptians need cultural centres, after all.)
Ok, there was some damage which was not purely political – two motorcycles were set on fire. However, when I claw my way to the top and become dictator of France the first thing I will do is ban those damned loud lawnmowers they call transportation. You have to live in Paris to understand just how much extra reverberations motorcycles make in this walled city – noise pollution is a much bigger problem than regular pollution (which is also a problem) – so I personally view anti-motorcycle actions as 100% justified; it is social, if not necessarily political. On top of their annoying and perpetual noise, motorcycle riders do nothing but drive between car lanes and break every law imaginable. I truly believe Paris has become more dangerous to drive in than Tehran, and that is pretty amazing. (Of course, in the past few decades Iran has actually invested in driver infrastructure whereas Paris just makes more bike lanes; Iran now has many more traffic cops, which is a type of public worker you’ll never seen in Paris – maybe they were there pre-austerity?)
Seeing as how our job is to be at the front line, we had to be at the front line fire. I made a rookie mistake – never be in a situation where you have to flee down a side street, always stay on the main thoroughfares and close to the wall. So, they gassed us (women, elderly, children) to clear way for the fire trucks to put out the fire. Here’s the thing: the crowd was already moving back to clear a way – the gassing was not at all necessary but punitive. The tear gas cans exploded mid-air so close to me I could see them ignite clearly, and that’s when you lose an eye. Alhamdulillah, me and my colleague were ok. Pretty badly gassed, but we’ve had worse. The worst part? I was only so close because I was scheduled to do a live interview from the craziness, but our damned connection wasn’t good enough! So I was gassed, crying, running and yelling at Tehran to put me on the damned air all at the same time. It happens.
But I admit it humbly: with my awesome-sounding French in my PressTV Français recap at the end of the day (not posted yet), I was not critical enough of Black Bloc – they can do more harm than good. Mainly when they go where they are not wanted – like that ecological protest instead of the Champs.
Immediately after the violence and mid-demonstration Greenpeace and Youth for Climate tweeted that they were revoking their leadership of the march and that everyone should leave the protest. Tough kids, eh?
I talked with a Black Blocer just prior to the gassing: a woman who was very voluptuously built. She was probably one of those defacing sexist ads, as she is likely subject to constant objectification when walking down the street (a hejab undoubtedly gives women a break from that, but let’s leave that issue there): heaven forbid she violently object to female nudity in public advertising, because that’s proof France is so “sexually progressive” and “respectful of women”, right? She took off her mask when she saw I was one of the good journalists – her pretty young face was flushed from leftist exertion. Dressed head to toe in black, she said she wasn’t Black Bloc but merely rocking the “Goth” look. A lovely figure, pretty face, guts and a sense of humour? Of course I was so smitten I could not identify her to authorities if ever forced to do so, such was the mass of stars, hearts and bright lights swirling around her.
I would have talked to a Youth for Climateer but they were retreating too fast… yet somehow they were able to tweet at the same time? Millennials – so talented!
Another Saturday in France, more long-term lung damage
The reality, which is still difficult to grasp as we left Yellow Vest #45 and filmed an old man whose face was red and bloodied from cops, as well as a bleeding, handcuffed old woman, is that things are only going to get worse: As I wrote, the pension and unemployment systems will have the broadest immediate impact of any of Macron’s “deforms”, thus they will provoke the broadest protests.
Such protests go beyond the Yellow Vests’ capability. September 21 was significant because it was the “Yellow Vest Day Without the Yellow Vests” – most did not wear them. The idea was to finally converge the Vesters with the various social struggles (unions, NGOs, mainstream leftist political parties, even eco-kooks, etc.). After 10 months, they have to join forces with the right groups.
They are talking about an unlimited transport strike in December, and I never recall hearing that before. No Christmas vacation for me, I guess.
The only TV media openly covering the Yellow Vests remains Iran (in English, French, Spanish and Farsi) and RT. I have seen France’s LCI (the government channel) openly there for about 6 weeks, and once or twice last month I saw TF1, but that’s it. I’m sure the fake-leftist MSM was all over the climate change march – because they always are – and I hope they got more tear gas than I did.
However, the process of lasting revolution is long – it takes years of struggle, and victory is not assured until households and families are forced to choose sides against each other. I am not promoting familial disharmony, just reporting what I have read of previous revolutions – the simplest, most moral and most effective choice, of course, is to side with the lower classes.
The thing about a “reset” in a video game is that you just go right back to the same beginning, and you have totally erased from memory all the bad you did. Why would Macron deserve a reset from the French public?
Too bad for Macron that civil service and politics are not a video game, or a hippie rave. Too bad for everyone in the global economy that austerity continues.
The reality is that Macron doesn’t even know his own country’s history: since the 9th century less than five of France’s just over 100 leaders have been killed. France doesn’t kill their leaders – they exile them, even those of the First Republic (1792-1804). This is another false cliche Macron has accepted as fact which is mainly promoted by fearful, reactionary English monarchists. Beheadings aren’t necessary – just ask any Frenchman: what could be a worse fate than to not live in France?
Macron will likely wind up exiled as well – who doesn’t imagine the young Macron being feted like an emperor in the Anglophone business world after he isn’t re-elected in 2022?
So Macron needn’t worry – he’ll probably just have his tomb desecrated like Joan the Lame. Probably a lot of other similarities between Macron and Joan the Lame, I imagine….
The question Macron should ask himself is: what is it that he is doing which is causing him to have regicide on his mind?
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of “I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China”.