France's Anti-Crime Minister "Stoking Aggression" of Rioters?

When it comes to conveying the gritty facts of the Paris rioting, the burning cars and shattered shop windows, the mainstream media have typically downplayed the rioters' identity as Muslims. But when it's time to suggest liberal solutions, Muslims are singled out prominently as victims of French racial discrimination, lack of assimilation, and lack of jobs (yet the media are strangely muted about the high taxes and burdensome regulations that keep unemployment in France so high).

One tic particular to the Times is putting the onus for the rioting on France's interior minister and anti-crime advocate, Nicholas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy, who is angling to replace French President Jacques Chirac, got in trouble with Chirac (and the Times) for classifying the rioting thugs as, uh, "thugs."

Paris-based reporter Craig Smith has been doing the heavy lifting of the paper's coverage. His Saturday front-page story, "Angry Immigrants Embroil France in Wider Riots," blames Sarkozy: "The violence has isolated the country's tough-talking, anticrime interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, whom some people blame for having worsened the situation with his blunt statements about 'cleaning out' the 'thugs' from those neighborhoods. France has been grappling for years with growing unrest among its second- and third-generation immigrants, mostly North African Arabs, who have faced decades of high unemployment and marginalization. Critics say Mr. Sarkozy's confrontational approach has polarized the communities and the government....Many in those neighborhoods say that they are being stigmatized by the interior minister's campaign and that the increased police presence results in harassment."

Sunday's "Riots and Violence Spread From Paris to Other French Cities" makes room for more criticism: "Many immigrants and their children blame Mr. Sarkozy for alienating young people with the way he has pressed a zero-tolerance anticrime campaign, which features frequent police checks of French Arabs in poor neighborhoods."

Smith had room to take on Sarkozy again in his lead report Monday: "The youths have singled out the French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, complaining about his zero-tolerance anticrime drive and dismissive talk."

And on Tuesday, international edition reporter Katrin Bennhold joined in: "Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, whose hard-line rhetoric has been criticized even inside the police departments for stoking aggression, is also on the firing line."

The rioters seem to be doing all right stoking aggression on their own, no matter what Sarkozy says on any given day.

For further detail on the Times' biased pattern of coverage of the riots in France, as well as other instances of bias, visit TimesWatch.

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