Friday, 7 June 2013

The killing of Clément Méric was both predictable and inevitable

Demonstrators here in Lyon, France, yesterday (my photo)
Clément Méric, an 18-year-old hard-left militant, was killed in Paris earlier this week by extreme-right wing militants. A classic case of ultra-right violence? Not so fast. Those who attacked Méric might be guilty of the murder itself, but they are not the only ones responsible for it, and those who are ultimately responsible for the detestable climate of political hate and debate in France which inspired this crime shall never be brought to justice.

The first and most obvious culprit is the cluster of extreme-right wing groups to which Méric's alleged killers are said to belong. They have been upping the violence stakes for months in their fight against the left, homosexuals, foreigners and anybody else who does not share their opinions. An example of this can be seen here in Lyon, where the St Jean quarter has been terrorised for two years by extreme right wing groups who have been smashing up bars and businesses owned by gays and people of immigrant origins. Locals are beginning to avoid the area at night and tourism is being affected by it. But because it takes two to tango - and two to fight - a long hard look also needs to be taken at their extreme-left wing enemies, and French film director Marc-Aurèle Vecchione has done just that. His 2008 film 'Antifascist skinhead hunters' paints a grim picture of the years-long state of gang warfare between left and right wing skinheads. These groups even dress the same, with a marked preference for Dr. Martens boots and clothes from the Fred Perry and Ben Sherman brands. Shops which sell these items attract both groups, and it appears that Méric was at a private sales event involving clothes from these brands when he got into an argument with others in the shop who were members of right-wing groups. The fight which ensued left him brian-dead and he died yesterday afternoon. Méric, as it turns out, was a hard-left militant who was well known to opposing groups. Both left and right wing groups have incontestably contributed to the climate of hate which led to Méric's killing.

But these groups did not exist in a vacuum, and they were egged on by another guilty party, the organisers and supporters of the 'Manif Pour Tous', the anti-gay marriage group which has been staging inflammatory demonstrations over the last few months designed to provoke violence and the police reaction to it which ensued on several occasions. This organisation's hate-filled and violently homophobic bile was directly responsible for a spate of vicious attacks on homosexuals which hospitalised several of the victims. Just a few weeks ago the MPT's iconic figurehead - Frigide Barjot - addressed a menacing menace to President François Hollande in which she said "Hollande wants blood and he's going to get it".  She partially retracted that statement later, but it was too late. These demonstrations attracted members of extreme-right wing groups who caused much of the violence, and Méric's suspected killers - who were arrested yesterday - are said by police to be members of them. It would be naive at best and malicious at worst to suggest that the Manif Pour Tous did not contribute in its own indirect way to Méric's murder by provoking violence and civil disobedience. The killers of Méric were useful, if dangerous, idiots who were manipulated by others and Barjot finally has the blood she promised would flow.

The third group category of people responsible for the deleterious climate in France today is France's political class, which has spent years embroiled in spiteful and violent 'debate', for want of a better word, and mutual insult, all of which has triggered a mimetic reaction in French society. The biggest offenders here at the moment are certain anti-gay marriage members of the right-of-centre UMP opposition party. Some of them, including party leader Jean-François Copé, attended Manif Pour Tous demonstrations knowing full well that they were likely to end in violence, which they then blamed on 'government provocation'. They promised to scrap gay marriage if elected in 2017 and - in a break from republican tradition - some of them even called for demonstrations to continue even though the law has been voted. Some mayors have said that they will refuse to celebrate gay marriages and there have been vague calls from the right about 'continuing the resistance' and 'civil disobedience'. The left has generally been less provocative lately, although they too have a history of inflammatory statements. One example that nobody will forget here was the 2007 call by Ségolène Royal for people to "take to the streets" to protest against the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, who had just trounced her in what was after all a democratic election. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is another left-winger with a reputation for fiery provocation, and his language is peppered with words such as 'revolt', 'revolution' 'a people's uprising' and others. Hardly a week goes by without some politician using words such as 'fascist', 'Nazi', 'collaborator', 'Vichyist', 'gas chambers' and others to describe their opponents and their policies. More sickeningly still they have all, left and right, been using Méric's murder to score cheap political points and recuperate the event since it occured. The atmosphere in French politics has been getting more and more violent over time, with hate-filled diatribes and appeals for civil disobedience by politicians of the right and extreme right finally becoming the norm. They have no shame, and they refuse to accept their part of the responsibility for the social and political climate in which Méric's killing took place.

Finally, bad enough as all this is, yet another element been whipping people up into a frenzy. Its name? The French media. Extremists of all colours crave platforms of expression and media exposure - without which they would be much less effective - and the press has been generously dishing out all the coverage they desire. TV debates featuring politicians who are known to despise each other are common. Viewers lap up these vulgar spectacles, in which politicians insult and shout at each other, walk off the set, treat journalists appallingly and generally behave like the foul-mouthed louts they are. Audience figures are sky-high and everyone is happy. The press publishes sensationalist headlines and interviews with extremists of both left and right, and contentious subjects are the object of countless articles of a polarising nature. The press has also played a part in the climate of hate and fear which led to this week's murder.

The murder of Clément Méric for reasons linked to political hatred was a despicable act, but worse still, it was both predictable and ultimately inevitable due to the underlying reasons which formed the backdrop to it. If French society fails to rein in the excesses of extremist groups, French politicians and the press soon it is only a matter of time before someone else is killed for similar motives.


  1. Good post. I don't agree with everything you say, but you've got the main lines bang on as far as I'm concerned viz the media de gôche and the current batch of politichiens.

    I don't know if you read the independent internet media online and if you know all the ones I have on my blog in the right hand panel. I find it handy to keep tabs on the alternative media which is often more accurate and pertinent than the subsidised msm.

    1. "Politichiens". :)

      Yes, I do follow independant French media and some political bloggers too. I'm also a subscriber to Mediapart (oh and where are the much-promised follow-up 'devastating revelations' they promised after the Cahuzac affair). And that's why I'll be going to your blog this evening to see what you've selected. Thanks for the tip.

      Back to Méric, let's hope that his murder will make the press and politians etc think twice in the future before stirring the shit. But from what I'm reading today in terms of political weasel-worded statements I am not going to hold my breath....


    Je reçois tes commentaires sur mon téléphone et mon ordi mais ils ne s’affichent plus sur mes postes depuis 10 jours. Bizarre. Tu as envoyé un commentaire ici aujourd’hui aussi, mais il n’y est pas non plus alors je le reproduis ici afin d’y répondre.


    la manif pour tous a libéré la parole .Quand je voyais de gentils bourgeoises bon chic bon genre ,qui ne condamnaient pas, voir justifiaient la violence des groupes d,extrême droite ,on se dit qu,il n,y a rien d,étonnant que des cranes rasés qui ont des "QI d,huîtres" ne passent a l,action.Malheureusement il n,y pas que la France qui a un sérieux problème avec l,extrême droite la Grèce ,la Hongrie et ses derniers jours l,Angleterre .A vrai dire tous les pays européens vont avoir un gros problème .même si ce n,est pas pour les mêmes raisons ,le résultat va finir par nous péter a la gueule.

    Bien dit, et très pertinent. Bien que cet article concerne que la France, puisque la France est le sujet de mon blog en générale, en effet, ce problème touche beaucoup de pays de l’Europe. Oui, on risque gros en ce moment. Crise, anti-immigration, un monde qui change vite, Europe qui se casse la gueule face aux pays émergents… tout ça fait en sorte que beaucoup de gens ont ras-le-bol et veulent en découdre avec ceux qu’ils perçoivent d’être à l’origine de leurs maux.

    Sale temps……

  3. Very interesting piece, sir. I wasn't aware that Méric was in a type of skinhead clothes shop - if I may put it like that for the sake of brevity. All they said in the news was that it was a clothes shop. It somehow makes him slightly less "innocent". I don't mean innocent in the "not guilty" sense. Which he obviously is. It's a horrible crime and you should be able to buy whatever you want - even knives or guns - without being killed. No, I mean innocent in the childlike, wouldnt-hurt-a-fly sense. He was obviously passionate about his beliefs.

    Now his beliefs were, in my opinion, "good" beliefs. (There's me being brief again). He was anti-homophobia, anti-racist, anti-capitalist (OK, I don't agree with him there but we were all young once) and the people who murdered him have quite plainly "bad" beliefs. And not only do they have bad beliefs, but they are BAD people. They have killed a man for what he believed.

    But anyway, here's my point and I think it segues neatly from your last point about the media (very true, incidentally); that we all care too much, that we're all too passionate. And when I say "all", I mean the French. Of all my friends from Ireland, and I have quite a few, I don't know the left or rightedness(?) of any of them. I certainly can't say that of any of my French friends, or work collegues, or even most people that I've met casually at parties! One guy a few weeks ago said, (right at the beginning of our "five-minute outside smoke") "Je suis profondement de gauche". Now that shocked me. It's hard for me to say exactly why, but it did. Not only did he want to talk about politics but he was clearly setting out his stall from the outset. Why?

    I have a feeling that in Britain in Ireland (obviously I'm generalising here) we're not so passionate about these things. We're certainly less "revolutionary"; to use a word form your piece. Maybe a bit more world-weary and realistic that there's not much point and that you can be as passionate as you want, but nothing's really going to change.

    Mainstream politics and the politicians you get on TV are certainly way less extreme. And why is that? I dunno. Maybe we get enough misery from Eastenders! (which I don't watch)

    I just wish the whole country would take a chill pill and calm the f*** down.

    1. Hi Streaky, sorry I didn't answer before now, I've been away in the countryside for a couple of days and can't answer from my phone.

      You're certainly right about 'good' and 'bad' beliefs. Notwithstanding that some elements of both sides are prepared to use violence, that doesn't change the fact that homophobics and racists are bad. Period.

      About those who are easilly willing to declare their political allegiances, that is indeed strange, but I say that for a reason other than that there's not much point being overly-passionate about it all, although that is true in itself.

      I find it strange that people can be so ferociously pro or anti because I myself have never been either. Apart from the fact that I laughingly believed in Marx at the age of 18 I have never supported any mainstram party as a whole in all my life (although, again, I've always disapproved of extremists).

      I have voted both Labour and Tory, depending on which of them I consider to be the better adapted to running the country at a given time. Same thing for politicians. I am admirative of some from each side. Policies? That depends on the policy and the reasons for introducing it and I don't decide on ideological grounds. On the larger scale, I am a supporter of capitalism but I also support the Wesfare State for example, and I see no contradiction in doing so.

      Afer all, if one or the other of the main parties were systematically better at running the country we'd have known about it years ago.

      In my perfect political dream world we would have no governments based on ideology, and a political system based on ideological confrontation (sometimes for the sake of it), which wastes time and energy, but governments composed of the best elements from all sides who are able to work together in a consensus and represent all opinions as far as possible. A sort of permanent and cross-party national coalition if you will.

      Still, as I said, it's just a dream, even though it ain't going to happen. We need dreams....

      Have a good Sunday,


  4. Hi Fripouille,

    I hope none of your readers thought I was being callous or hard-hearted when I said that Clement Meric might have been less than totally innocent in the whole affair. Obviously, it was a tragedy.

    I remember a joke by Billy Connelly a long time ago. In the middle of a routine a politicians he said,

    "Don't vote; it only encourages them!"

    It's hard to think of a politician from our times who hasn't been totally self-serving, and yet we get all excited when someone like Hollande or Obama arrives and we think they gonna solve all our problems. Jon Oliver on the Daily Show nailed that feeling when he went to Obama's inauguration shouting,

    "Are people happy? Yes! Are they setting themselves up for inevitable disappointment? Of course they are!"

    'The Wire' showed us perfected how it happens, albeit over three seasons, when the honest Tommy Carcetti is slowly turned as corrupt as everyone else, but by the system. Try as he might, he can't help it.

    But enough cultural references. Yes, people are ferociously pro and anti. With the gay marriage thing, I could understand why people were against, I just couldn't see why they were SO against it. Other than out-and-out homophobia, albeit cloaked. I refuse to believe that in this day and age, so many people can be that homophobic, but how else do you explain that level of protest.

    What are the streets going to be like now that someone has mentioned reforming pensions: something that will actually have an impact on their lives!

    That's gonna be fun

    1. Well, if my readers think you're hard-hearted then they'll think I'm hard-hearted too. Méric might not have been ultra-violent but he was known to be involved with these groups and it appears from many witness statements that he began the argument that got him killed. That doesn't mitigate the killer's actions of course but it was a bit 6 of one half a dozen of the other, that's undeniable.

      Oh John Oliver. I much prefer him to Piers Morgan, who can be a bit smug and sanctimonious sometime, even though I often agree with his points of view. Send Connolly say I!

      Pensions is the next big deal here, and the unions are already gearing up for strike action over them. But they would wouldn't they, seeing as they are dead set on keeping their 'social acquisitions' as they call them. I call them 'their privileges'.......