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Native French

You’re not from around here, are you?

Did you have any travel difficulties over the festive season, readers? Well, they were as nothing compared to what Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, went through! ((Thanks to BM.))

I’ve been marooned in Paris the last three days, waiting for a plane home after the snowstorm mess (“Poor Charles,” you’re all saying). Last night, having been struck by how polyglot Paris has become, I collected data as I walked along, counting people who looked like native French (which probably added in a few Brits and other Europeans) versus everyone else. I can’t vouch for the representativeness of the sample, but at about eight o’clock last night in the St. Denis area of Paris, it worked out to about 50-50, with the non-native French half consisting, in order of proportion, of African blacks, Middle-Eastern types, and East Asians. And on December 22, I don’t think a lot of them were tourists.

Mark Steyn and Christopher Caldwell have already explained this to the rest of the world—Europe as we have known it is about to disappear — but it was still a shock to see how rapid the change has been in just the last half-dozen years.

Imagine the author, heroically collecting data by counting people who looked like native French in a dingy suburb of Paris. How, you might wonder, did he decide what native French looks like? Did he count only those men and women wearing berets and/or carrying baguettes? In that case, I’m surprised he saw so many!

Obviously it cannot possibly be, as a kneejerk librul might uncharitably suspect, that Murray just counted white faces, since of course, lots of black people, Asian-seeming folk, and even “Middle-Eastern types” ((Particularly shifty and confusing, those Middle-Eastern types, aren’t they?)) are native French, in the sense that, um, they were born in France. These foreign-looking coves can be tricky that way sometimes. So we can surely be confident that the data-collection principle employed by renowned scholar Murray, as he prowled the trottoirs of St-Denis, was not the jaw-droppingly ignorant and racist method of counting whites as French, and non-whites as not, and expressing shock at the result. The puzzle remains, then: how on earth did he do it?

  1. 1  john c. halasz  February 5, 2010, 8:19 am 

    Didn’t you already do this one before? As Yogi Berra put it, “it’s deja vu all over again.” Or, as I once over-heard it on a Chicago street corner, in the Revised Standard Edition: “Man! That’s deja vu like a motherf**ker!”

  2. 2  john c. halasz  February 5, 2010, 8:22 am 

    Oops! “Edition” should be “Version”.

  3. 3  Steven  February 5, 2010, 10:31 am 


  4. 4  Alex B  February 5, 2010, 11:17 am 

    The deja vu is from Crooked Timber:

  5. 5  eveningperson  February 5, 2010, 11:17 am 

    And that’s without even mentioning the confirmation bias inherent in counting… ermmm…. “non-French” faces in a specific suburb of a world city like Paris (or London).

  6. 6  Nathalie  February 5, 2010, 11:39 am 

    Well he does writes it himself: “It worked out to about 50-50, with the non-native French half consisting, in order of proportion, of African blacks, Middle-Eastern types, and East Asians.” I’m half Spanish, half French but I’m glad to see that I can consider my family and myself French by his standards. If he needs reassuring, perhaps he could be sent to Neuilly for instance?

  7. 7  democracy_grenade  February 5, 2010, 11:42 am 

    This is just amazing. I think my favourite part, other than maybe the use of “types” which is handled in fn2, is the casual parenthetical aside (“Europe as we have known it is about to disappear”).

    Oh. Right! OK! Thanks for the tip. Should I start looking for flats in the Oran area? I don’t want to move too far, you see.

    Definite unspeak via the insidious “we”. I’m pegging “have known it” as yer basic historical ignorance / apathy. But I’m not sure how to describe the idea that Mark Steyn has ever “explained” anything.

  8. 8  democracy_grenade  February 5, 2010, 11:51 am 

    Oh, I also like the “struck… has become”. Immigration into France from its old colonial outposts began, like, a couple of years ago right? I’m glad that someone has brought this nascent phenomenon to light. Although it is also my cautious hope that the matter will be investigated in a more extensive manner shortly. There really ought to be academic studies of this issue.

  9. 9  David  February 5, 2010, 12:53 pm 

    And why does he use the word “polyglot,” but then discuss race and ethnicity rather than language?

  10. 10  sw  February 5, 2010, 2:14 pm 

    The puzzle remains, then: how on earth did he do it?

    What you all fail to understand is that Murray is employing the scientific method – his method is transparent and replicable. This morning on the subway, in a city I’ll anonymise by using its initials, NYC, I did exactly the same study, and I collected data as I sat there, counting people who looked like native Americans (which probably added in a few Canadians and other Europeans) versus everyone else. I can’t vouch for the representativeness of the sample, but at about six o’clock this morning on the B line in NYC, it worked out to about 1-99, with the non-native American group consisting, in order of proportion, of African blacks, Hispanic types, and East Asians. And, judging by the clothing they wore and their conspicuous lack of travel guides, I don’t think a lot of them were tourists.

    If you think things are bad in Europe, well, the United States as we know it is almost gone. In fact, judging from my experience on the B train this morning – I may be the last of the native Americans!

  11. 11  Steven  February 5, 2010, 2:29 pm 

    Nice try, but I happen to know that you and Charles Murray, as well as the Queen, Bob Dylan and Morrissey, are descended from African migrants.

  12. 12  sw  February 5, 2010, 2:50 pm 

    I don’t doubt that the Queen, the members of Queen, Charles Murray, Bob Dylan and I are all descended from African migrants, but Morrissey? I think his heritage is a late night coupling between a closeted angel and the ghost of Elvis Presley.

  13. 13  Steven  February 5, 2010, 3:32 pm 


  14. 14  sw  February 5, 2010, 3:33 pm 

    Weak stomach for illicit love?

  15. 15  Bruce  February 5, 2010, 3:46 pm 

    Talking of weak stomachs, the “haven’t got the stomach for it” metaphor came up more than once on BBC’s Question Time last night, in regard to prosecuting those who compassionately assist suicides. As if we really should be prosecuting, if only we were tough enough. I recall the same metaphor being used by pro-war pundits over public revulsion towards the famous photo of someone being shot in the head in the Vietnam war. Okay, digression over – back to the French thing.

  16. 16  sw  February 5, 2010, 4:00 pm 

    I think it’s hardly fair to call this affaire de Murray the “French thing”, but if we’re not going to talk about a noticeable queasiness in the unspeak community when the subject of illicit love comes up, then perhaps I might add that the moment when I think Murray is most frankly and brazenly dishonest is when he says “And on December 22, I don’t think a lot of them were tourists.”

    It’s not like there’s a major holiday around December 22nd or that there is a sudden peak in tourism in Paris at precisely that time of year or anything.

  17. 17  Steven  February 5, 2010, 4:20 pm 

    Actually, he is probably accidentally right on that point: I doubt there were many tourists in St-Denis, not because of the date but because it is a suburb outside Paris proper, most notable for its necropolis and brothels. (Obviously I have no idea what Charles Murray was doing there before he had the idea of conducting some demographic science.)

  18. 18  richard  February 5, 2010, 4:42 pm 

    I too was struck by “on December 22, I don’t think a lot of them were tourists,” although I know picking on that phrase is starting at gnats or whatever it’s called. Does he think the date and the likelihood of tourism are correlated because it’s Christmas, and therefore “African blacks, Middle-Eastern types, and East Asians” would be less likely to travel to France? Perhaps they’re all Christians? In which case is Murray suffering from a kind of Homi Bhabha uncanny – if only they didn’t mess with his categories, these non-natives would be OK, but they’re all over his white Christmas?

    Or does France now have a policy of keeping non-Europeans from entering the country in December?

  19. 19  sw  February 5, 2010, 4:52 pm 

    Richard – I agree with you and your questions. I also like staring at gnats.

    Steve @17, well, that’s a very generous expansion – he’s “accidentally” right about an observation that he makes and incorrectly explains? Yeah, alright. Had he said, “I was trolling for squalid pleasures in a remote and forbidding suburb famed for its morbid treasures, so I don’t think a lot of them were tourists”, I would have been more compelled to agree with you, but hey, even then?

  20. 20  Steven  February 5, 2010, 5:25 pm 

    If I see a cockatoo and reason, “This is not a woodpecker, because woodpeckers have eight tentacles and breathe fire”, then I am indeed right that it is not a woodpecker, but only accidentally.

  21. 21  sw  February 5, 2010, 6:25 pm 

    *delete long, waffly discussion of “is” and “because” and the truth of “X is not Y because Z”
    Question: is “accidental” in this case unspeak (cf. “tragedy”)?

  22. 22  Steven  February 5, 2010, 7:16 pm 

    Answer: No.

  23. 23  BM  February 5, 2010, 8:01 pm 

    My pleasure, Mr Poole.

  24. 24  Vincent  February 6, 2010, 12:24 am 

    I don’t think that Charles Murray was in the dodgy suburbs of Saint Denis but in Strasbourg Saint Denis area in Central Paris.
    In Saint Denis suburbs it would be more than 50% non white in my opinion.

    Anyway I don’t see what is wrong about it ? Paris is a multicultural, multiracial city, a world city and I am prood of it.

  25. 25  Steven  February 6, 2010, 1:32 am 

    That’s possible, although it’s weird to say “the St. Denis area of Paris” if you mean Strasbourg Saint-Denis. Or he could have been creeping up and down the rue Saint-Denis, of course.

  26. 26  John Fallhammer  February 7, 2010, 3:58 pm 

    I don’t doubt that … the members of Queen … are all descended from African migrants

    If ever anyone ever looked like a full-on proper Frenchman, it was Freddie Mercury.

    The “Brits and other Europeans” says an awful lot about “the Europe we have known”. Last time I was in Paris the language I heard most after French was Russian. It looks like “we” got our ideas about Europe from 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

  27. 27  Tawfiq Chahboune  February 7, 2010, 5:01 pm 

    Victor Klemperer’s observations on the language of the Nazis would not go amiss in analyzing people like Murray, Caldwell and Steyn.

    Take Steyn for instance. Not so long ago he wrote a very long and exceptionally bigoted article-cum-diatribe about Muslims in Europe, entitled “It’s The Demography, Stupid”. As I pointed out elsewhere at the time: “Look at the stirring and blood-curdling words and phrases he uses: ‘resisting a primal force’, ‘demographic advantage’, ‘avoid collapse’, ‘stable society’, ‘burning buildings’, ‘riots’, ‘assassinations’, ‘self-extinction’, ‘races who…shaped the world’, ‘rape’, ‘European races’, ‘those lands’, ‘muster the will’, ‘change course’, ‘what do you leave behind’, ‘the only question that matters’.”

    Caldwell and Murray are guilty of the same emotive and knowingly provocative language. But what does all this blood and soil rhetoric (handing Europe over to the barbaric brown hordes) remind you of? If Victor Klemperer were alive, I think he would have a word or two to say.

  28. 28  Craig  February 8, 2010, 4:34 pm 

    Shame, don’t be so tough on the guy. I suspect Charles only counted those people that wore turtle-neck sweaters with ropes of big onions or garlic (or both) draped around their necks. Perhaps he also included ladies wearing berets. The scientific method in action.

  29. 29  Leinad  February 9, 2010, 1:22 pm 

    “If Victor Klemperer were alive, I think he would have a word or two to say.”

    And Lothrop Stoddard would be suing for plagiarism.

  30. 30  sharon  February 13, 2010, 11:31 pm 

    Murray’s use of the term “data” there is a blatant form of Unspeak, surely…

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