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August 31, 2012

Tribune Papers Don't I.D. Muslim Rioters

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In the best-selling “Harry Potter� novels intimidated magicians refer to the central villain, Voldemort, as “He Who Must Not Be Named.� Tribune Newspapers—including The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun—seemed equally intimidated in coverage of French riots last summer. They did not print journalism’s first “w�.

Without who, what, when, where, why and how journalism is less than gossip. Yet a Tribune Newspapers article headlined “French president pledges public security focus after riots� on The Los Angeles Times Web site August 14, linked from The Chicago Tribune site and appearing in the August 15 print edition of The Baltimore Sun under the head “French president vows crackdown after rioting� never really said who shot at police.

More than a dozen police were injured and several buildings damaged or destroyed, The Los Angeles Times’ Kim Willsher reported from Paris.

“French police said rioting youths opened fire on them amid violent clashes … on the outskirts of Amiens, which is troubled by high rates of unemployment and crime.� The disturbance, “apparently sparked by police spot checks on residents, followed outbreaks of violence last week in the southern city of Toulouse, when about 150 police and riot squad officers were sent to suburban housing estates [public housing projects] after reports of fighting between gangs of youths and bursts of gunfire.�

In Amiens, cars were stolen from their occupants and police and fire personnel obstructed “by barricades of burning cars and garbage cans ….�

Readers were told that “disaffected youth� live in “gritty suburbs� called banlieue. The banlieue “are often home to families with immigrant roots, where the number of failing schools and jobless young is especially high.�

“Disaffected youths,� “rioting youths� and “gangs of youths.� But no specific identification. “Families with immigrant backgrounds.� Immigrants from where? This too apparently must not be mentioned.

However, a reference to “more widespread rioting in 2005� in projects near Paris and to neighborhoods that “have become almost no-go areas for police� might tip off readers with decent memories. The 2005 rioters reportedly were mostly young Muslim men whose families had emigrated from Arab countries, former French possessions, in North Africa.

Another hushed clue was the mention of previous violence in Toulouse. Again, unassisted by Tribune papers, readers might recall that in March a French Muslim of Algerian descent with reported jihadist and anti-Israel motives murdered three children and a teacher at a Jewish school and, separately, two French soldiers.

The Tribune dispatch said that according to Interior Minister Maneul Valls, Amiens and 14 other “security priority zones� had been targeted for increased patrols because “acts of incivility were structurally deep-rooted� and the zones “had become havens for the ‘black market economy, the trafficking of drugs and arms’ as well as violence, thefts and gangs.�

It’s one thing for a political appointee in a country with difficulty absorbing large numbers of Muslim immigrants (an estimated five million or more, eight to nine percent of France’s 65 million people) to talk about “structurally deep-rooted acts of incivility.� It’s another for major news media to refuse—while referring to socio-economic causes—to simply identify who did what to whom.

Posted by ER at August 31, 2012 03:15 PM


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