By on January 1, 2011

The ritual torching of cars has become a New Year’s tradition in France. Last New Year ’s Eve, 1,137 cars went up in flames in France, a tad less than the 1,147 set ablaze the year before. This year? We’ll never know.

This time around, “the French government is determined to stamp out these scenes of anarchy as part of its highly-publicized campaign against crime,” France24 announced. And that’s what they did, to great effect.

In addition to mobilizing 6,000 extra police officers (800 more than last year, and what good did that do,) France’s Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux instituted a news blackout. The number of torched cars will remain a secret. That, Hortefeux, is to stop the “unhealthy competition” which supposedly eggs on the perpetrators to set fire to more and more cars each year.

“I have decided to put an end to the competition, the sweepstakes, and will no longer publish the number of burnt vehicles,” Hortefeux said. “It is not to hide, but to disrupt a stupid contest that involves burning the cars of honest people.”

According to CNews, the numbers will be buried “as part of annual vandalism figures.”

And it works! No doubt, the French have upheld their tradition and torched now countless cars. But so far, not a single word in the press. Problem solved!

The black-out is so complete that when you google the news for  “burning cars france”, you find this story.

Over in Germany, the situation was likewise under control. The German hot-spots for car torchings used to be Berlin and Hamburg. Zero reports of inflamed cars from Berlin. Hamburg reports six. A pretty regular day in a city that counted 140 smoldering cars last year.

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42 Comments on “France’s Solution To Burning Cars Problem: Snuff The Story...”


  • avatar
    stuki

    Kind of why collection and dissemination of “statistics” was never included amongst the strictly enumerated undertakings civilized governments were supposed to involve themselves in.
     
    Wonder what “our” progressives figure “we” would be better off being kept in the dark about.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      What do you know about one Virginia Tech student being beheaded by another Virginia Tech student on campus, January 21st, 2009? All the national news stories were about the magical Obama, so there was no room for reality to intervene.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @CJinSD:

      Honestly, I don’t need to know about the VT student incident.  That one data point, however tragic or spectacular, is not relevant to my opinion about VT.  Lots of other things happened on 1/21/09 that I don’t know about.

  • avatar
    IGB

    I guess it beats outright lying. That’s the alternate reality this side of the Atlantic from your government.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    No matter how noble the expressed intention may appear, I always get a bad feeling when I see governments resorting to the ‘noble lie.’

  • avatar
    tsofting

    What a fantastic idea; when the French government can’t handle hooligans (or other shortcomings, for that matter), just place a news blackout on it! Now, the god comrades in the now defunct Soviet Union used that tactic, just think of how successful they were!

    No wonder France is ranked among “flawed democracies” in The Economist’s latest ranking, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index - Then comes the memory of the very same country doing their best to avoid introducing the internet, that was American, and by definiton evil. France had their own “internet”, the minitel, and that was of course going to be the victor, yeah, right!

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Meh,  there  are  plenty   of   news   stories, I  feel should be squashed to  prevent  copy  cats  or  that  give  people information  that  can be  used  to  create  mayhem.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      Squashed or otherwise not encouraged, I think we all at least partially agree with this, but these are two different issues:
       
      -The responsibility (or irresponsibility) of the Fourth Estate
      -The proper role of the government.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    tsofting: Many thanks for the link to the Economist rankings. For me, there were some surprises. The Czech Republic comes out ahead of the U.S., for instance. Still, the rankings pretty much conform to what one senses from reading the international news and following the likes of Sarkozy and Berlusconi, et al.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    It’s worrying to see that Chavez is not the only one trying to do this. The local state owned TV station (the main one) NEVER ever publish bad news or people protesting against the government.
     
    This world is heading toward a dark age.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Diversity is our strength.  Just keep saying it over and over.  And we’ve always been at war with Eastasia, too. But not to worry, latest official figures show that razor blade production is up, so we’ve got that going for us.
     
    Talk about a “black out!”  I wonder who could be burning all those cars?  Better if we just call them “disaffected youth,” or “hooligans.”  It’s much cleaner, that way.  Unless you happen to know Volkmar Weiss, or Thilo Sarrazan in Germany.  Then, ugly facts could get in the way.

  • avatar
    don1967

    The links don’t seem to suggest outright censorship of the vandalism; just the end of sensational “scoreboard” reporting.   What’s wrong with that?    With millions of events competing for attention every day, it’s about time we stopped giving the limelight to idiots.

    • 0 avatar

      The matter runs deeper than that. This is an intentional cover-up. There were riots in France in June where whole buildings were set on fire, and where firefighters were shot at. You did not read about it, except much later in a long article in Le Monde. Police had strict orders not to talk about fire. They weren’t even allowed to use “fire” over the police radio.

      This is not just taking away a number. It is making the whole story go away. What is a reporter supposed to write? “I heard a car was set on fire in the suburbs?” Just check the news. Anything on fire? Nope. Everything fine. Nothing happened.
      Perception is reality.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      The government-run press in the old Soviet Union was notorious for covering up things like passenger airplane crashes, industrial accidents, and civic unrest. I heard a story about a Western man who was fairly badly injured in an aircraft accident while in the USSR in the ’70s. He was treated in a Russian hospital and released, but he could never get a direct admission from the government that the accident actually happened.

    • 0 avatar
      John Fritz

      Bertel, I spent some time earlier today digging around for current information about this story and I couldn’t find much of anything. It surprises me that this isn’t being discussed on forums or blogs somewhere. Or is it? Is the complete absence of this story the result of something more nefarious than the French bureaucrats merely not reporting ‘numbers’ this year? Also, why no mention anywhere of the individuals who are specifically responsible for this mayhem? The way this story is generalized, you would think it’s just any-and-every-old-body over there in France who torches cars on New Years and not one specific cultural group.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @don1967: Agreed.  Copycatters are emboldened by such news, so I’m OK with depriving them of their fuel.  The police will prosecute the criminals just the same.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    I bet this was started by people looking to get out of their leases.

  • avatar

    “Because I’m sure that everyone who owns a car is honest. No dishonest people are allowed to own cars in France. And people burning their own cars for the insurance payout–never happens.”

  • avatar
    George B

    No ritual torching of cars here in Texas.  As Robert Heinlein wrote, “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      It’s about time we brought the same approach to air safety! “Welcome to flight 14 to Madrid. Here’s your .45.””

    • 0 avatar
      BMWfan

      I always liked Texas for exactly that reason. No BS, no hype, just “if you want to play, you are going to pay”. I used to travel a lot for business down there a number of years back, and the customers that I would visit, knowing that I would be eating in some hotel otherwise, would invite me to their house for dinner, and treat me like family. Never had that happen in the Northeast.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      It’s about time we brought the same approach to air safety! “Welcome to flight 14 to Madrid. Here’s your .45.””
       
      That made me think of the “All in the Family” episode where Archie is on TV and states that for air security, the airline should pass out pistols at the start of the flight and collect them when the plane lands.  <sigh> the more things change the more they stay the same.  While I am in full support of responsible gun ownership, upping bullying from fists to guns makes no sense.

      Hiding the real statistics is not the way to go, even though I understand why they are doing so. This is slippery slope. The ability of the news media to act as a check to government action is imperative. Losing that is far worse that the damage they are trying to stop

    • 0 avatar
      chuckR

      The ability of the news media to act as a check to government action is imperative. Losing that is far worse that the damage they are trying to stop.
      Unless the news media whore themselves out to a political philosophy. Thank you, instead I’ll take an under-regulated internet with what Glenn Reynolds calls an Army of Davids. It’s a digital samizdat system.
      Not a fan of issuing guns to airline passengers. Too hard to hit the target, too many adverse consequences for a miss. Tasers however are fine. ;) The 9/11 Flight 93 passengers and attendants thwarted the terrorists’ intent with a food service cart, pots of boiling water and courage. The government accomplished nothing of note. And today, years later, when a pilot points out serious security flaws, he is punished for his impudence. Vive La France, vive L’Amerique!

    • 0 avatar
      forraymond

      BMWFan, you are probably a christian, white, male, taller than average and straight.
       
      Your view of the world if skewed, if those things are true.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Yeah, but in places with sane levels of gun control they don’t shoot kids trick-or-treating on Hallowe’en.  That’s happened in Texas.  Twice.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Two places in the U.S. that virtually have banned private handgun ownerships – Washington, D.C., and Chicago – have some of the worst crime rates in the nation. Gun control is failed policy. It doesn’t work.

      And I want to know what the real story about the trick-or-treaters…usually, key details are left out of the reporting (like the fact that the supposedly innocent trick-or-treaters were armed with a weapon themselves). Many gun-control advocates, for example, will trot out figures on the number of “children” killed by guns every year in the U.S., while conveniently neglecting to mention that virtually all of those “children” were age 18-19 and involved in criminal activities (usually the drug trade).

  • avatar
    Wolf

    Well, it was announced in france about a year ago.
    by curiosity, i searched for “Voitures Brulées” (french term) in google news, and found a small article which is interesting :
    http://lci.tf1.fr/filnews/politique/voitures-brulees-le-silence-d-une-nuit-ne-masquera-pas-l-echec-6208909.html
    ” Silencing a night will not mask the global failure of a decenny because cars do not burn only on 31 dec in our neighbourhoods. In 2008 (last known number) there where 36700 instead 16000 in 1999 ”
    Burning cars on new year’s eve might be a sport, there’s still 364 days of fun left for some people (unfortunately) out there.
    Here, some people are betting that newspaper will gather the info by car recycling facilities/firemen/police stations, and that no official number after that will sound stupid.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    In a country like France where cars are being torched year-around by the dozens, it would seem to be a daily occurence to see their burnt-out carcasses being hauled to recycling facilities. Maybe that has to happen under cover of darkness too….

  • avatar
    jimboy

    At the risk of starting a firestorm here, I would suggest that many of these countries have a high Muslim population that feels disenfranchised from the general populace. More and more, we are seeing silence from the European media about the serious problems many countries are experiencing with large Muslim immigrant groups. Many governments fear a serious backlash if their populace was truly aware of the scope of discontent and radicalization of the local Muslims. This reminds me of the same events leading to WW2, silence and cowardice from our leaders while the enemy quietly takes over.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    If only there was some organization that enabled people to anonymously report information that governments hide!

  • avatar

    Seems to be the same approach in Germany. BTW: Last July, Hamburg was leading 30:0 against Berlin, as someone ignited a whole car train. As some considered this to be unsportsmanlike, Hamburg might get disqualified. We will have to wait for the official numbers.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    There is a way to report what govts won’t. It’s the internet, which is exactly why Comrade O’s FCC and China and other despotic socialist regimes are starting to heavily regulate it.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Oh, please.
       
      Most “socialist regimes” regulate media far less than bastions of capitalism do, and certain public media entities have shown themselves far freer of taint than many banana-republic “free” broadcasters.  Have you seen the press freedom rankings?  Notice how just about every top state is, gasp, a social democracy?
       
      Here’s a tip: learn what socialism is.  Here’s another: saying “Comrade Obama” might get you brownie points on RedState, but anywhere else it comes off as purile.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Comrade O’s FCC and China and other despotic socialist regimes are starting to heavily regulate it.
       
      Actually, it is internet service providers who want to make changes in services provided based on fee structures, source/content.  And they are all hard right profit over people types, you know the thought process that make the robber baron era great

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What happens in France is indicative of what’s happening everywhere.
     
    The media is cutting back on on-the-ground coverage and concentrating staff into aggregation centres around the world.  It’s especially bad in the developing world: no one’s on the front lines and much of what you get is heresay until by chance it gets some interesting.  Everything else is done by phone-jockeying in a hotel in the nearest major city (if you’re lucky).  Rather like auto journalism, actually.
     
    Governments know this, and the exploit it.  So do multinationals, NGOs and extemists: they all know fifth estate is slacking off badly these days.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      There is a huge difference between a national government actively suppressing information, which is what is happening in France, and old-line news organizations cutting back on reporting because of declining viewership or number of readers (which is what is happening in the U.S.).

      Information is still being circulated freely in the U.S. You don’t have to read The New York Times or Newsweek regularly to get it.  

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I always thought the annual car-b-ques were a sort of backdoor “cash for clunkers” scheme…

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    "they all know fifth estate is slacking off badly these days."

    One thing we can agree on. But not surprising when most journalism schools are more like socialist revolution labs.


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