Cal Thomas got this much right: Paris had riots. Nothing else in his
series of commentary about the putative significance of last fall's fiery
nights in the City of Light makes much sense.
His misunderstanding of French society is a direct and deliberate
consequence of interviewing only the infamous French xenophobe, Jean-Marie Le
Pen. Although, in his January 12 column, Thomas dismisses negative characterizations
of the Front National Party leader -- �Le Pen denies he is any of the things
his detractors call him� -- the French judicial system was not fooled by
LePen�s vitriol: in 2002 it fined him a hefty $10,000 Euros for a Le Monde interview laced with his
fear-mongering and race-baiting, which smacked of the brown-shirt rhetoric of
resentment: �The day that we have in France not just 5 million but 25 million
Muslims, it will be them in charge. The French will hug their walls [in fear],
step down from the sidewalks [to the street], and lower their eyes. If they
don't, they'll be told, 'Why are you looking at me like that, buddy, you
searching for a fight?'"
This is classic Le Pen, and Thomas� column contains additional evidence
of his unrepentant, broad-brush slander: �all of Europe will be submerged by
all these people if nothing is done,� Thomas quotes Le Pen. �There are no jobs
for them and most won�t work, preferring a government check.� Worse, many of
them �live by dealing in drugs or stealing. They have created their own
A credulous Thomas thus embraces the fraudulent notion that the poor and
marginalized alone are responsible for their living conditions; on the
contrary, the Parisian banlieue
(suburbs), like the American barrio and ghetto, are largely the grim
consequence of historic inequities and destabilizing racial and ethnic
segregation. Breaking down these barriers is made ever more complex when they
are daily reinforced by disparaging epithets and denigrating speech.
And by columnists who don�t know how to compute. Dismissive of French
Prime Minister Dominique Villepin�s principled plan to offer tax breaks and
incentives to increase investment in the Paris slums, and to increase their
residents� educational opportunities, Thomas uncritically accepts Le Pen�s
startling claim that pre-riot �subsidies� of French immigrants �is costing us
the equivalent of $500 billion annually.�
Had Thomas bothered to check the French budget, figures readily
available online at the CIA�s World Factbook -- yes, it is strikingly reliable!
--he would have learned that France�s total budgetary expenditures equal $1.08
trillion. Are we to accept that essentially one-half of these funds are spent
sustaining disaffected Muslim youth and their families? Hardly.
Thomas, of course, isn�t really interested in France�s dilemmas. For
him, Le Pen is but a means to his real subject -- "immigration
reform" in the US. Like his French informer, Thomas argued in a November
2005 commentary that "melting pot" dynamics are a zero-sum loss for
any nation. Rather than admit immigration�s vital contributions to our
continuing growth, he conflates the economic migrant with the terrorist and
advocates sealing the U. S. borders. Failure to do so, he predicts, will bring
about our demise, leading him to conjure up another Le Pen-like doomsday
scenario: �the proliferation of radical Muslims� packing �weapons of mass
destruction,� ready to annihilate millions of Americans. �France will be
America�s future,� he intoned ominously, �if we don�t stop denying that this
invasion is deliberate and purposeful. If we don�t end the proliferation of
radical Muslims, it would not be out of the question to predict a terrorist
plot to blow up American cities . . ."
Too bad there is not a shred of evidence to support this wild set of
assertions. But then for Thomas and Le Pen, fact is never as riveting as
Miller is director of urban studies at Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, and a
Contributing Writer for the Texas Observer.