Those violent 'yellow jacket' protests in France? Facebook's behind that, too


#21

Yes. They saw how effective that was when Israel deployed it against their nuclear programme and developed their own hacking programme as a counter. More so when they saw what happened when the worm spread to centrifuges outside the Iranian targets. Can’t blame them, although I doubt anyone outside Iran is crying about a setback in a theocracy’s nuclear weapons programme.


#22

A car (on average) produces 6 tons of CO2 a year - assuming 675 gallons of gas used.

According to this (https://insight.co2analytics.com/climatecare/calculator) it costs £ 45.00 to offset 6 tons of carbon per year. Rounding that’s around 57 dollars (to keep units similar - at today’s exchange rate). This was to put a 12 cent per gallon tax onto vehicles, and that adds up to 81 dollars, 24 dollars more than the cost to offset 6 tons of CO2 - with the tax increasing by another 2 cents a gallon in less than 2 years.

I couldn’t find anything worth linking but it is stated that taxes in Fance on gas are around 62% of the price right now - and that is supposed to include the cost on the ‘health and welfare’ of the people due to it’s use.

So not only is the tax too much to account for carbon use, the effect of carbon due to gas use really should already be factored in and if not - it’s vividly apparent that the case for why this is needed was not made or accepted.

Here we see the CO2 by source - and note that transportation also accounts for everything other than cars (planes, ships, etc): https://d33wubrfki0l68.cloudfront.net/50257f115d96abc12960d97bce4b54b1d23c9d5f/11b89/exports/global-carbon-dioxide-emissions-by-sector-gg-co_v1_850x600.svg

In my opinion, the tax could have been levied at commercial use only and had a roughly similar effect without hurting all the people frankly.


#23

The French commercial van and truck drivers (many of them sole proprietors) would have still raised a major stink, have no doubt, but not as big and widespread as we’re seeing now.

Macron and the dwindling number of somewhat responsible world leaders recognise the hard fact that eventually everyone is going to have to make hard sacrifices if we want to limit CO2 emissions. This was likely a test to see what was possible in this regard, to see where the rubber hits the road between the environment and the economy for the average Western citizen. The result doesn’t bode well for the planet, and that’s before we factor in the denialists and Know-Nothings.


#24

I hate Facebook (not on it) but this article is full of salad (to be polite). This is something that is about Macron, who is to blame for being the French Tatcher (he said he admired her and wanted to be the new Tatcher). Remember that he was elected because there was a fascist against him not because the majority wanted him president.
Remember that if you take far left and left wing, and if you think that far right (fascists) switched to a lot of social and less racism (yes it looks like socialism with nationalism, in one word national socialism), you have more than 50% of the people that voted for a non liberal candidate on the first round. Add to that the huge number of people that didn’t voted, and you have what it takes to this riots against the French Tatcher.
I’m used to more deep and sensible article about foreign countries on boing boing not this propaganda


#25

I’m all for taxes on the wealthy to pay for better public transportation. However, making it too expensive to drive gas cars seems to be one of the only even slightly effective ways to reduce driving (or to promote electric cars). You can also try other incentives, like closing lanes to non-electrics, but I suspect the same people protesting the taxes would protest this as well.

I think the way austerity has been foisted on the populace (especially by the World Bank in the 2nd and 3rd world) is despicable, but the gilets jaunes feels in many ways to me like the early days of the US Tea Party; I’d be less skeptical if the protests were triggered by something other than a gas tax.


#26

I hear you, and I don’t disagree, this can turn in wrong directions - but it’s necessary to recognize, as shown e.g. by this NYT piece I linked before, that gas price protests are not at the heart of this matter. Rather, they’re the straw that broke the camel’s back. The protests are really fueled by a deep-seated anger over a very real and harrowing deprivation in the French countryside. If this had not been the reality the gas tax landed in, it would very likely not have been controversial at all.

Which means that yes, I agree: gas prices may be one way of reducing consumption, and we all indeed need to cut back on consumption - not just of gas, but of everything. But, this could be done in a way, not so nobody is hurt, but so nobody starves and nobody gets poor. Honestly, countries like the US and the UK are very rich - if some people starve there (and they do) it’s not any kind of necessity, it’s a deliberate political choice. And something similar can be said for France.

And it’s not all that surprising if that choice comes back to bite those who made it, neoliberal buffoon and generally unpleasant person Macron among them.

PS: Edited to add this link by The Guardian’s Larry Elliott, which makes many of the same points:


#27

I’ll say it - this article is a bunch of utter bullshit. Protesters aren’t tearing France apart, wealth disparity is. Is Boing Boing really going to paint the gilets jaunes as a bunch of right-wing thugs? They’re workers; average French people trying to get by. They’re fed up with getting screwed by politicians and the rich.


#28

This is also of what happened in the US in 2016, and in the UK with Brexit. I’m all out of trust for any popular movement right now.

The Guardian’s Larry Elliott

The Guardian’s Brexit cheerleader Larry Elliott.


#29

Two fallacies at once:

Ad hominem and guilt by association.

Larry Elliott’s opinion on Brexit, whose point of departure is a correct conception of the EU as a deeply flawed project, does not invalidate his analysis of events in France.

I don’t agree that Brexit can lead to good results as it’s going to happen, but that does not make the EU ideal - I kind of agree with Richard Seymour’s points here:

The obvious question I would like to put to left Remainers is, what of the treaties of the European Union do you agree with? The answer would not be very extensive. Someone might say, “Well, the Schengen zone I agree with,” but even there you have to qualify it by saying, “But it’s a pity that it’s tied to Fortress Europe.” Someone might say they’re in favor of the social chapter, but they would also have to say that it’s a pity that the social chapter comes with neoliberal competition state aid law. And so on.

This doesn’t mean that Brexit won’t be a disaster. Everyone knows it will. But this is not because the EU is a good thing, but because of the overall situation and because it’s been handled so completely irresponsibly by the government that also gave us the cruel screwup that is Universal Credit.

(Sorry, drifting from topic.)


#30

You raised him as someone with relevant ideas about the “real” cause of the discontent in France. I was just pointing out that he has a track record of looking at popular discontent through very particular glasses. In this case, he was/is a leaver who is making exactly the same arguments about the yellow vesters as he did in support of Brexit. Articles like the one you linked to just add to my skepticism of the whole enterprise.


#31

The main cause of the riots is higher gas taxes because of the paris accords. Not exactly needless imho. We need to drive down car use in all of europe. And fast.

The yellowjackets embody a typical french spirit: “Après nous le déluge”. Literally in this case.


#32

Let me quote my own previous response:


#33

People’s ability to tell truth from fiction is based largely upon comparing each piece of information to the rest of the information they are privy to, and identifying coherence and commonalities. As such, it’s fairly obvious why sites like Facebook leads to distortion in people’s worldviews.


#34

Yes, quite. I am an expat living in France and really blaming Facebook for this is blaming the messenger. I am no Facebook fan but this would have blown up sooner or later regardless of Facebook.

The discontent has been brewing for a long time and the current government carries very little of a real blame, given they have been in power for less than 2 years. President Macron with the “president of the rich” label that mainly the left and right wing populists (Le Pen and Melenchon) tried to stick to him is only a convenient scapegoat, not the real cause.This is the past 30 years of inaction, failed policies and ignoring the rural, poorer areas rearing its ugly head.

Keep in mind that the median brutto salary in France is about 1700 euro/month. That means that half of the population takes less than that (and still have to pay taxes and mandatory social/health insurances from it so the take home is about 23% less than this). The brutto minimal legal salary (SMIC) is around 1500 euro/month. And these have not moved significantly in years while taxes have been growing, prices have risen due to inflation, jobs have been lost (French unemployment rate is around 10% - double of Germany) and various welfare programs were cut down due to the austerity programs trying to lower the unsustainable state debt.

This issue with the gas taxes was only the last straw breaking camel’s back - the impact of the new tax was about 6cents per liter of diesel and about 3 cents per liter of petrol, which is negligible (the prices move much more than that every week due to crude oil price fluctuations) but it was poorly timed (the rise was announced at the point where the fuel prices were the highest in the entire year), poorly communicated and it became a symbol of the detachment of the elites living in Paris from the reality of the poor living in the countryside or suburbs where there is little public transport and the car is the only way to get around.

This stuff is also the main reason why ultra right wing/antisemitic/racist party like Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (ex. Front National) and the ultra left wing populist Melenchon’s France Insoumise have received almost 40% of the vote in the last presidential elections. They are both at the opposing ends of the political spectrum but they both promise almost the same things and you would be hard pressed to find major differences in their economic agendas - it is cheap economic populism promising more buying power, job security, higher wages to the poor. And people are buying it because the traditional parties (which were left in tatters after the election) have completely failed them.

Macron won the election with the promise of change but now I am afraid he may not sit in the Elysee palace for long enough to have a chance to see any significant change through. When he quipped in front of the Danish Queen about having to govern “Gaulois réfractaires” (“Gals resistant to any change”), he got massively condemned for it at home but he had a point - trying to make any reforms in France is extremely difficult.

The moment the government proposes something there will be strikes, fuel depot and refinery blockades, students blocking schools and people in the streets. The violence is a French demonstration staple, they have a special word for these groups that pretty much don’t care about the cause but only attend the demonstrations in order to fight the police and wreak havoc - the “casseurs” (literally “the ones who break stuff”). But even high school kids are turning up in front of their lycees these days faces covered, carrying metal bars and rocks - fighting with the “state” is this deeply ingrained in the society that this is considered “normal”. People condemn violence but at the same time are saying “if we didn’t do this, nobody would take us seriously”.

Especially the railway workers are legendary for this - e.g. few years ago there were massive strikes when the railwaymen were banned from having a glass of wine with their lunch (yes, this was legal here - you could e.g. shunt trains after drinking alcohol …). The politicians will inevitably back off or propose something to appease the masses (a “totem”) and everything goes back to how it was before. The result is a worsening economic morass that is the direct cause of many of the today’s problems.

Then come the elections, a socialist or more populist party wins and starts giving out handouts, like the infamous 36 hour week (there were recently proposals for a 30 hour week!) that has cost the French economy terribly, making the labor code even more rigid, give even more power to the unions, tax the rich, or like recently Le Pen and Melenchon wanted to do - take the country out of the EU, institute state protectionism with tariffs and closed borders, etc. The result is that companies are fleeing out of the country because it is too difficult and too expensive to do business here -> more unemployment, lower salaries, more misery.

The biggest problem is that if nothing is done, the country will likely go bankrupt in a few years due to the mounting debt and anemic economy, along with the climate change effects.


#35

Yes, but this assumes that people take numerous needless car journeys that they can be financially incentivized not to take. When cars thong the streets early in the morning, moving like molasses, do you imagine this is people doing it for sport and need a nudge to stop? Or do they need to be at work. You can price people off the road, sure enough, but at the price at completely pauperizing them as they can no longer get to work, no longer get groceries, no longer transact their lives. I guess as homeless and starving they can die out and that, indeed, will lower carbon emissions.

I suspect they will object to this, however. Strongly.


#36

Leaving aside the fact that many people are really discontent in France, what would happen if Facebook implemented the following algorithm:

  • detect a particular color in photographs, say bright yellow
  • up or down the percentage at which these posts are presented earlier in everyone’s stream a few percents

How many percents would be necessary for the posts to go viral or disappear into oblivion?
Would we find out about Facebook manipulation and how?


#37

That’s bollocks. Sorry. The Paris accords have literally nothing to do with it. The only person trying to make this connection was Trump recently trying to justify his withdrawal from it.

I wrote elsewhere already that the gas prices were only a scapegoat issue here. The protests are mostly about the diminishing purchasing power in general, especially for the people from the rural areas where the living expenses are rising fast and incomes don’t (if they even have any job still due to factory closings).

Fuel prices obviously matter but in this case the gas price rise due to the higher tax was only about 6 cents per liter, the price fluctuates 2-3x as much every week due to crude oil price changes alone.


#38

That’s probably partly true, the french countryside is (can be) a depressing place. The same is true for the rise of the Front National. The problems are an underlying cause, and the problems should be taken seriously. Still, we need to consume less fuel, or in 20/30 years the problems in the french countryside will be seen as the good old days.


#39

Yes, there’s no arguing with that. But it should be done responsibly - always making sure nobody starves or suffers unnecessarily.


#40

absolutly. you can bet they would have.