Quick Roundup 75

Monday, July 10, 2006

Did Zizou take the French intifada to the pitch?

Before the final of the World Cup yesterday, I quickly went through the rosters of the Italian and French national teams. On doing this, I noted with mild interest that France, so recently wracked with civil unrest from its unassimilated Moslem immigrant population, apparently fields a team drawn mostly from its poor, Moslem suburbs. Indeed, its captain, whose sorcery as a ball-handler had me initially pulling for France, Zinedine "Zizou" Zidane, is the son of Algerian immigrants. This was to be his last international soccer appearance.

At least before the game, Zidane was held up as an example of a quasi-assimilationist ideal of dual French-Moslem identity and had been found in a poll to be the nation's most respected Frenchmen.

[M]any French Muslims believed that they could at least strive to maintain a dual identity. Moderate Muslim leaders encouraged the youth of the banlieue to see themselves as simultaneously Muslim and French. And, to some extent, it worked. Perhaps the most prominent example is Muslim soccer star Zinedine Zidane, the child of Algerian immigrants, who was chosen in a recent national poll as the most "respected" Frenchman in the country. Salman Rushdie has said that Zidane "has done more to improve France's attitude toward its Muslim minority ... than a thousand political speeches."
This -- along with my weak allegiance to the French side -- went down the toilet yesterday when, in an inexplicable display that ranks among the worst examples of sportsmanship I have ever seen, Zinedine Zidane closed out an otherwise legendary international career by being ejected for head-butting an opponent in the chest, knocking him to the ground. This foul was nowhere near the ball, was clearly deliberate, and apparently was Zizou's response to something that had been said to him. Until that event, he had already been responding properly to his opponent's apparently ongoing taunts -- by playing very well. His outburst occurred during overtime and arguably cost his team the World Cup, which Italy went on to win in the tie-breaker.

Zizou failed as a man yesterday. In doing so, he let his teammates and his country down. I will not speculate as to why he did what he did, but it bears a very disconcerting similarity to how too many of his fellow Moslems the world over respond to taunting real or imagined -- by abandoning the rules of civilized behavior and resorting to physical force instead.

If there is to be hope for a peaceful assimilation of France's substantial immigrant population, a better positive model than Zizou will be needed. Perhaps any of the other immigrant players who maintained their composure throughout the match would serve as a better example.... As it stands, Zizou has merely shown all of us how not to behave when playing the Gentleman's Game.

Dead End for the Bush Doctrine

Drudge reports on a disgusting, gloating article by the pacifists at Time Magazine concerning the paralysis of the Bush Administration regarding North Korea.
In the span of four years, the Bush Administration has been forced to rethink the pre-emptive "Bush doctrine" by which it hoped to remake the world, as the strategy's ineffectiveness was exposed by the very policies it prescribed, TIME's Mike Allen and Romesh Ratnesar report in this week's cover story on 'The End of Cowboy Diplomacy' on newsstands Monday, July 9th.

President George W. Bush came to office pledging to focus on domestic issues and pursue a "humble" foreign policy that would avoid the entanglements of the Bill Clinton years. After Sept. 11, however, the Bush team embarked on a different path, outlining a muscular, idealistic, and unilateralist vision of American power and how to use it, TIME reports. They aimed to lay the foundation for a grand strategy to fight Islamic terrorists and rogue states, by spreading democracy around the world and pre-empting gathering threats before they materialize. And the U.S. wasn't willing to wait for others to help. The approach fit with Bush's personal style, his self-professed proclivity to dispense with the nuances of geopolitics and go with his gut. "The Bush Doctrine is actually being defined by action, as opposed to by words," Bush told Tom Brokaw aboard Air Force One in 2003.

The swaggering Commander in Chief who embodied the doctrine's aspirations has modulated himself too. At a press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in May, Bush swore off the Wild West rhetoric of getting enemies "dead or alive," conceding, "in certain parts of the world, it was misinterpreted." Bush's response to the North Korean missile test was equally revealing. Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action-or at least a tongue lashing. Instead, the Administration has mainly been talking up multilateralism and downplaying Pyongyang's provocation. As much as anything, it's confirmation of what Princeton political scientist Gary J. Bass calls "doctrinal flameout." Put another way: cowboy diplomacy, RIP.
Concerning the Bush Doctrine, Time may think it is reporting news, but it is about four years behind schedule. When has Bush preemptively invaded any country? Both Iraq and Afghanistan were already guilty of acts of war when we invaded each of them. Iran has been since 1979 and remains untouched even as it develops a nuclear capability. Only an invasion of North Korea could be arguably called "preemptive", but we're apparently going to just sit on our hands while they work out the kinks in their missile systems.

And as for the notion of spreading "democracy", that has already been shown to be flawed on more than one count by the recent elections in "Palestine". At the very least, a process analogous to the de-Nazification of Germany after WW II would be needed in any Islamic state before a secular government that respects individual rights (not a "democracy") would stand a chance.

Having said that, while I have major problems with Bush's prosecution of this war, I find Time's attack on him in poor taste. This is nothing more than a thinly-veiled swipe at American sovereignty, just as its criticism of the war effort is not of the constructive kind.

If Bush has done anything differently from Bill Clinton, it has been to bluster about our nation's right to defend itself before he asked permission from the United Dictatorships -- er, Nations -- to take small steps against only the most blatant aggressor nations. When this policy of "preemptive blustering" predictably failed, Time took it as the opportunity to declare that the whole idea of American self-defense (with the "Bush Doctrine" as proxy) is dead.

This not only shows where Time stands, it indicates the importance to those of us in favor of war of making it clear that we do not agree that Bush has been effective in asserting America's right to fight in this war, or in being "preemptive" enough. The war debate is too important to allow the likes of Time Magazine to set its terms.

The Bush Doctrine has muddied the war debate and the left is looking to cash in on the confusion. Look for more of this as Bush flails about aimlessly in the face of Kim Jong "Mentally" Il's dangerous antics.

Too Much "Bang" for the Buck?

This article, which includes a sequence of photographs of a Dell Laptop exploding in Japan, had me checking the one my wife just used to write her dissertation against a couple of old recall lists. And, since the model of the one in the story was not disclosed, my antennae will be out for news of any further laptop recalls.

Idiot Leftist "Proves" WTC Collapse not Caused by Fire

Reader Michael Gold points to a hilarious post (via LGF) about a particularly silly "experiment" involving a cinder block and some chicken wire that is supposed to "prove" that fire did not bring down the WTC towers. He also points to three sites that discuss engineering aspects of the collapse of the towers in more credible terms than "I don't think the wire structure would hold more than three of these blocks...." and a cup of kerosene spilled onto newspaper and set ablaze.

Hollywood has its hunger strike and bites it, too.

Reader Hannes Hacker writes in to inform me that Hollywood actors have decided to show their solidarity with Cindy "More Food for the Rest of Us" Sheehan by embarking on a "rolling fast". That is, they will fast for a day -- that's a whole 24 hours for anyone who found the above experiment to be convincing -- and then pass the torch to other equally "committed" actors.

The following sums it up pretty well, I think.
Americans may harbor that politically active celebrities are a lot of vain dilettantes unwilling to discombobulate their pampered lifestyles. It's unclear whether any of these celebrities will be ''starving'' long enough even to feel hungry. Bobby Sands and the IRA hunger strikers of the 1980s were never going to force Mrs. Thatcher to back down, but at least they did actually starve themselves to death.

How about if the celebs did that? Wouldn't that, after all, get right to the heart of the matter? Wouldn't that bring piercing clarity to the issue by forcing the American people to choose between tedious geopolitical responsibilities and Jennifer Aniston? Imagine if the flailing neocon warmongers had to explain to the American people why we were now down to one Dixie Chick. Bush would be cowering in the Oval Office while his spinmeisters attempted futile damage control on one horror story after another....
Half-assed backyard experiments and make-believe hunger strikes both remind me of a post about fantasy politics I read a long time back....

I may keep comment moderation ...

... but I am concerned that some people who have recently attempted to post comments have not gotten through. Please email me if this has happened to you.

-- CAV


Unknown said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "I am concerned that some people who have recently attempted to post comments have not gotten through." This happened to me, but I think it was because I got timed out or something and was supposed to enter another code for signing in--I wasn't officially signed in, I think, when I closed the browser. Fortunately, it was different enough from the last time I posted with moderation that I made a point of copying the post into email. Basically, you have to make sure you're logged in *and* you have to see a message at the top of the browser saying that your posting will be visible after moderator approval.

Gus Van Horn said...


This comment and the one you mentioned the other day made it through. I have a comment I am not going to post in my queue and wondered if, due to a bug, this might be gumming up the works. Apparantly not. Thanks for posting.


Anonymous said...

Um Gus, methinks the folks at TNRO have been misleading you a bit too much. Zinedine Zidane is NOT a muslim at all. This is something I thought was a widely known fact ... though it seems I'm mistaken. Zizou is the son of Algerian CHRISTIAN immigrants and is himself a Christian. If you're accustomed to watching some of his matches, you might have noticed him making the sign of the cross before entering the field.

The above said, I think your characterization of him as routinely violent and no dissimilar to theocratic thugs to be rather unfair (even if he actually were a muslim). This in no way should imply that I approve of his latest behavior, but I believe it should be taken into account that he was obviously PROVOKED, unlike some other "people". As someone said: clearly Materazzi wasn't bragging to him about that fine cuisine Italians are renowned for.

Gus Van Horn said...


As far as I can tell, you are mistaken. (I am open to the idea that Zidane is Christian, but I could find no evidence in favor of that.) A quick google search turns up several other sources that say Zidane is Moslem, although probably non-practicing. This article says that "Zidane's parents are Kabyles, a Muslim, non-Arabic people from the coast of Algeria. They emigrated to France in the 1960s and settled in the Arab-dominated suburbs of Marseille.

Yet unlike many other second-generation immigrants, Zidane has always enthusiastically defined himself as a true-blue French patriot. His nickname growing up in Marseille was his middle name, Yazid; since then he's become known by the more French-sounding Zizou. He is nominally Muslim, but doesn't practise. He has little interest in politics, and loathes the idea of being co-opted as a symbol for some political movement or other. "

As for his making the sign of the cross, I can't say I've ever seen that. He does have a Christian girlfriend, for what that's worth.

As for my characterization of him as "routinely violent", I did not say that at all (because it had nothing to do with my point), although this article notes that he IS prone to violence: "Zidane's red card was anything but unusual. He was sent off 14 times in his career at the club and international level.

At the 1998 World Cup, he stomped on a Saudi Arabian opponent. Sitting out a two-match ban, he came back to score two goals against Brazil in the final.

Five years ago with Juventus, he head-butted an opponent in a Champions League match against Hamburger SV after being tackled from behind."

Be that as it may, even the fact that he was PROVOKED, as you put it, does not justify what he did, which was to ASSAULT the other player. In other words, he HARMED the other player in reaction to WORDS. In this respect, what he did is in parallel to what Moslems do daily when someone "threatens" them by criticising their religion: They are reacting with violence to mere words. I was careful not to blame what Zidane did on a religious motive because I honestly don't know why he snapped. But that does not change the thuggish nature of what he did. He may be a reluctant "example" of Moslem integration in France, but he is one. And, as I said, there were quite a few better ones on the team that day. (Many white European players and fans, I am sad to say, have a habit of using racial slurs against nonwhite players. I have no doubt that the other French team members got insulted that day as well.)

I do not condone what the Italian player did, and based on a video clip I don't have time to find again, it may well be that this player, who is also rough, may have physically fouled him before the incident. I condone none of that, but it is part of the game as someone like Zidane surely knows and ought, at his level, to be able to handle.


Anonymous said...

Hey Gus, my apologies for the record late reply. Unexpected business kept me

I should begin by admitting that you were indeed right concerning Zidane's
faith. The "Google Evidence" is just overwhelming. I think I need to recheck my
definition of "widely". My mistake.

Beyond that however, I still stand by my previous disagreement with you. In
retrospect, I think I may have been unclear, so I should explain myself one
more time. I'll start with the one thing we agree upon: Zidane's actions were
absolutely unconscionable and way beyond the bounds of civilized behavior(the
same, with arguably less severity, could be said about Materazzi actions). What
I don't understand, and don't see the need for, is the allusion/reference to
his religion.

Why? Because -- expressly excluding the combat/fighting type -- violence is an
all too common occurrence in sports, and not merely in soccer -- Hockey for
example! Fights happen between, and get initiated by, players of virtually any
race, religion and creed. Heck, sometimes this isn't even confined to the
playground/field -- e.g.: Eric Cantona's assault on a spectator while at
Manchester United in 1995, or the relatively recent (2004) NBA mass brawl, with both players and fans
flexing their muscles.

I particularly "like" the first of the above examples, as it bears so much
resemblance to Zidane's actions! Here you have Cantona (another Frenchman)
leaping into the stands and landing both of his feet on a SPECTATOR's chest --
because this latter hurled insults at him. Obviously and certainly, this is
wrong -- and very possibly, much worse that Zidane's actions last week -- but
in my opinion, it does not at all warrant a reference to Cantona's
religion/philosophy as an explanation of his actions. The only thing it calls
for is a criticism and condemnation of his TEMPERAMENT.

I stand a good chance of being misinterpreted here, so let me elaborate:
surely, you are right, and I do not disagree with you: the resemblance between
Zidane's reaction to Materazzi words and the daily brouhaha we witness from
those modern-savages just seems too stark, i.e.: he "react[ed] with violence to
mere words"; but then again, so it would seem with Cantona's reaction
and with countless other acts of violence that occur on sports arenas. This is
why I think that both as an explanation of Zidane's actions and as an evaluation
of his character, this resemblance is absolutely non-essential. On that vein,
Zidane is absolutely nothing like those neanderthal thugs who see maiming,
murdering and enslaving as the sole solutions to every one of their perceived
problems -- that he may share the same religion with them notwithstanding.

It may very well have not been your aim to portray him as such, but that is the
IMPRESSION that your analysis creates. You mention that you didn't attribute
Zidane's display of violence to religious motives -- presumably because there
existed none -- but to me, that is even more reason not to consider his
religion as an explanation/cause of his actions, as it is exactly this absence
that makes Zidane's headbutt just the same as any other display of violence by
an athlete, i.e.: a momentary loss of temper, and not an accepted view, and
way, of life.

You also note that Zidane's wife is Christian (his children have Western names,
as well). This is another fact that I think is very telling ... that is, of the
glaring difference between him and those "mujahedeen", (who, by the way, don't
apologize for their horrible actions). Zidane is certainly not an example of the
ideal member of the ideal society, but as an example of the fact that people of
non-western origin can be integrated into Western society, he is someone to be
emulated. It is my belief that the way he chooses to live his life tells much
more, and with far better accuracy, about him than that ugly display of
violence we saw last Sunday -- which is why I think you should take into account
the special circumstances under which this happened and reconsider your
estimation of him.

Gus Van Horn said...


Now that you've explained what you don't like more precisely, I think you're making a good point.

I will admit that the title (and parallel I drew) gave me some pause before I published, but there were two related things about the incident that made me decide to go with it anyway. Your mention of violence in sports is good, but, considering what his actions quite possibly cost his team, Zidane's action remains extremely bizarre.

First, after having seen stories about American women marrying apprantly Westernized Moslem men only to see them transmogrify into monsters upon returning with them to their homelands, and constantly hearing about how all-encompassing Islam is, I have become very leery of Moslems. I seriously wonder whether the religion, long-enough held, can make it very difficult for people to really leave it or any aspect of it. Were we seeing, in Zidane's snap, an example of this, given the near-certainty that he had to be on the receiving end of a slur against his religion?

Second, his extreme reaction had to have been to something very inflammatory. What could be worse to most Moslems than an insult to his religion? I was frankly concerned that he was going to attempt to make a big deal of this later on, possibly using his supertar status to push for rules against "hate speech" or something similarly bad. His immediate action, the headbutt, was not necessarily "bringing the intifada to the pitch", but had he done this, it would have, in effect accomplished that very thing. To my relief, he did not. I had tentatively planned to mention that he eventually proved to be an honorable, if hot-headed man in a blog post, but only got around to commenting to that effect.

Anyway, that's why I went with the title. I'm happy to have turned out to be completely wrong in my apprehensions. I am not troubled by the title I used, although I wish I'd been clearer when I wrote the post.

In any case, I appreciate your comments. I write for the thinking man, and it would make me wonder if everyone who read this, including fellow travellers, liked everything I wrote all the time.