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Cal Thomas gets lost in translation
By Char Miller
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Feb 24, 2006, 22:50

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 ghettoes.�

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 fiction.

Char Miller is director of urban studies at Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, and a Contributing Writer for the Texas Observer.

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