Did video footage capture Muslims rioting in Paris?
Feb. 14, 2017
Status: Mostly False
What’s True: The riot filmed was one of many that occurred in early February 2017 in response to allegations that French police had assaulted a black man without provocation.
What’s False: The rioters were of mixed race, and there is no evidence whatsoever that any of them were Muslim refugees, or acting on any radical Islam or anti-America motivation.
On Feb. 14, 2017 an anti-Islamic hate group called Our Eye On Islam (OEOI) published a video to their Facebook and YouTube pages titled "France Has Fallen" with the following message,
"Wake up America. This is coming to US! It is just a matter of time before this is happening here. We give them refuge and this is what we get in return. They don't want to be Americans, they what Americans to become Muslims and they will do whatever is necessary to see that happen. Pull your head out of the sand and wake up before it is too late."
In it, a cameraman follows a group of allegedly Muslim men around a Paris suburb filming them as they riot, hurling epithets and destroying property. At first blush we see what appears to be a few thousand people protesting. Of these, I count... roughly 2 to 4 dozen engaged in actual rioting and property damage. The cameraman was clearly doing his best to leverage angles and editing that filtered out everyone but these rioters--no doubt in an attempt to make them appear representative of the entire protest. In this he almost succeeds... almost. Unfortunately at several points enough background imagery leaks through to show that virtually everyone else was protesting peacefully. The rioters appear to be split more or less evenly between blacks, whites, & those of middle-eastern ethnicity. All are speaking French rather than Arabic, Farsi, or any other middle-eastern language. I'm hardly fluent in French, but I hear nothing even remotely resembling radical Islam or anti-American chanting.
Not surprisingly, wider coverage by non-Islamophobic mainstream media reveals that this had nothing whatsoever to do with America, or any Islamic agenda. The riot filmed here was one of many that broke out in a number of suburbs in and around Paris, this particular one in Seine-Saint-Denis in early February in response to allegations that a black man had been sodomized with a truncheon by French police without provocation (BBC, 2017; CBS, 2017; Murray, 2017)--something that needless to say, if true, decent people would likely be upset by regardless of their race or religion. The photo below shows dozens of peaceful protesters at a march in Nantes carrying a banner that reads, "Who protects us from the police?" Multiple races are present (including a red-haired woman in a blue cap), and many more are in the background.
While violence and property damage certainly occurred in many of these protests, in every case no more than a few dozen participants at most out of thousands were involved in it. Nowhere in the video, or the main stream news coverage is there any mention of "refugees" being involved, Muslim or otherwise. And of course, a check of Snopes confirms all of the above and more (Evon, 2017).
Suppose we were to grant that every one of the middle-eastern men shown in this video is a radical Islamic refugee and it presents us with a valid representative sample of "Islam." Per Statistics 101, it would follow that at most there are roughly 200-300 Muslims alive on earth today, every single one of them lives in the neighborhood where it was shot or emmigrated there from one just like it, & they all speak French. This is straightforward to check, & per the 2010 world census there are in fact 1.5 BILLION professing Muslims--almost 1/4 of the human race. There are Muslims on every continent, speaking many languages and spanning a myriad of denominations and viewpoints... And the overwhelming, tidal wave majority of them are peace-loving, non-violent people (Wikipedia, 2017).
What we here is yet another textbook example of confirmation bias fueled not by science, but by reptile brain fear and rage.
It's worth noting that videos like this are becoming the propaganda weapon of choice for hate groups, and for the obvious reasons. Hollywood has long known that nothing circumvents reason and goes straight to the reptile brain like inflammatory images and sound. And even in the age of Photoshop and video editing software packages, people still tend to assume that the camera never lies. Supermodels really do look like their magazine covers and centerfolds... Sound bites are never out of context... if it's been "caught on film" then it must be "true." The problems with this video are obvious to anyone paying attention. But I've repeatedly pointed them out to people on Facebook only to be told, "Did you watch the video...?" [as though I could've responded to it in as much detail as I have without doing so...] "HOW can you deny it??? It's right in front of your eyes...!" Etc. etc. If a picture is worth a thousand words, video and sound are worth ten thousand... And in an uncritical age, those that are designed to inflame passions are worth millions.
To get an idea of how potent this sort of visual propaganda can be, consider a small but representative sample of the comment threads from this video's Facebook and YouTube postings;
"Then trump [sic] gets slated for wanting to build a wall? Wake up Europe they [sic] don't want to live a peaceful life majority [sic] want violence and bloodshed..."
"Send in the army and shoot to kill...!"
"F**K THESE SAND MONKIES [sic]...!"
"Are you kidding me.After [sic] covering the up [sic] they come out with this bull shit.Don't [sic] believe this I [sic] know for fact rapes happened by [sic] migrants and no bull shit story controlled by the people sucking thier[sic] nasty ('''',) [sic] can prove otherwise..."
Clearly thoughtfulness and literacy had little to do with this video's appeal, and the dangers of that are self-evident. Most of this video's Facebook comments had thousands of Likes. A few had more than ten thousand. The thought that any video as laughably flawed as this one could elicit such a viral response on passion alone, without a moment's rational thought by anyone, is sobering to say the least. It cannot be emphasized enough that cameras do lie, and far more effectively than words ever could.
BBC. 2017. "Theo 'rape' case fuels clashes with police in Paris area." BBC News Feb. 13, 2017. Available online at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38957953. Accessed Feb. 28, 2017.
CBS. 2017. "Paris suburb simmers after black man allegedly sodomized by police." CBS News Feb. 13, 2017. Available online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/france-violence-continues-after-black-man-allegedly-sodomized-by-police/. Accessed Feb. 28, 2017.
Evon, D. 2017. "Does a Video Show Muslim Refugees Rioting in France?" Snopes Feb. 15, 2017. Available online at http://www.snopes.com/muslim-refugee-france-video/. Accessed Feb. 28, 2017.
Murray, D. 2017. "L'affaire Théo: Riots against French police look familiar — so does the proposed cure." CBS News Feb. 15, 2017. Available online at http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/murray-france-affair-theo-1.3982365. Accessed Feb. 28, 2017.