For the moment, here in France we have only a tragedy on our hands. I live over 350 miles from Paris, so obviously I’m not in a position to comment on the mood there. I have spoken to Parisian friends, and while they have been stunned by the action, I would say that categorically that they do not share the sense of horrified shock being played out by the media here, in the UK, or the US. None of them seemed surprised.
That is unquestionably true of the French in my corner of the world, where the reaction has been a quiet combination of the gallic shrug, but no sign at all of anger. I asked Pepito in the convenience store what he felt, and he just said, “Sad for the victims, but not surprised. Why would anyone be surprised?”
Equally, not a single local I’ve spoken to even contemplates the idea if this being anything other than a bona fide Jihadist attack. A Syrian passport has been found, so, well – obviously, that’s it. I will use my favourite term for this, because it applies perfectly: passive acceptance. No anger, no conspiracy theories.
Yet similarities from past events of this nature are being paralleled with every hour that passes:
- News-service coverage is predictably braindead, focusing entirely on the garbled reactions of traumatised witnesses, endless recaps, our-man-on-the-spot “behind me here on the Rue…” drivel, updates timed to keep up the suspense….the usual right-cortex sensationalisation of news at the expense of any considered, left-brain analysis.
2. The remarkable speed with which evidence is found and arrests are made is in stark contrast to the apparent inability of police and security forces to intervene before the attack takes place. Thus fairly quickly we had this on Twitter:
As I watch France2 tonight, arrests have been made in Belgium. Just after the hour, says BBCWorld, French prosecutors will address the Nation live on the subject of who “they think” was responsible for the atrocity. Yet ISIL have already claimed responsibility for it.
3. François Hollande declared a State of Emergency 90 minutes after the Stade de France incidents – including strict curfews and “such controls as may be deemed necessary to protect French citizens”. Soon afterwards, he went onto live French télé and described the attestats as “an act of war against France”. All news channels are broadcasting frantic appeals for blood donors, although beyond the 129 dead so far, only 98 others are in emergency care. While I do not wish to appear heartless, the population of Paris is 2.24 million: if the stocks of blood available are insufficient to deal with under a hundred transfusions, then the Mayor of Paris has a lot of awkward questions to answer. In summary, the overall élite reaction has been to heighten a sense of terror, not calm it down.
5. So far, I hear nothing of any terrorist being taken alive. Suicide bombers, of course, do exactly what it says on the tin, but the Belgian arrests suggest strongly that they had accomplices. Will we hear any more of them? Not if the Hebdo attacks are anything to go by: a female police officer’s unidentified boyfriend was among those arrested, but these arrests were based purely on a connection to Jihzdist killer Amedy Coulibaly,who killed four people in a Jewish market two days after the Hebdo attack. Coulibaly was shot dead by police (but wasn’t wearing a suicide belt) and his common-law wife Hayat Boumeddiene mysteriously escaped the authorities, travelling to Syria where she joined…..ISIL. Two others connected to the couple – Fritz-Joly Joachin and Cheikhou Diakhaby — were detained in Bulgaria and Turkey, respectively, after the attacks – apparently attempting to cross into Syria….and join ISIL. The last I heard of these two was in March 2015, when they were reportedly about to be extradited to France. Google them under either Web or News, and March 9th is the last reference to them. Where are they?
So tonight, I am left with an area called “reasonable doubt” in relation to what happened. I am after all an NVE: please lock me away before I kill any more certainties.
When I learned of the tragedy at 9am CET today (Saturday) I was in the middle of a Saturday Essay about the anxiety-inducing culture of uncertainty in which we live. I hope to post it tomorrow – where relevant, in relation to last night’s events. But like so many ‘news’ items these days, this one needs several overnight tests before any balanced conclusion can be reached.