politics

Five Things to Know About the Yellow Vest Protests

On Saturday, February 9, 2019, the Yellow Vest protests marked their thirteenth week of marching in the streets.

American independent journalist Ford Fischer of News2Share was on the ground in Paris, where he live-streamed the protest and witnessed things that American media consumers have essentially been shut out from.

Fischer’s footage showed working-class Frenchmen doing everything from setting cars on fire and confronting the police, to monologing about the elitist tax policies pushed out by the Macron administration. So amidst the riots, the political spin from the French government, and the foreign media silence regarding this massive social movement, what is the truth about the Yellow Vest movement?

This Isn’t a Typical Left-Right Political Issue

In a recent interview on the Remso Martinez Experience podcast, Fischer explained that the Yellow Vest movement as a whole can’t be properly categorized as being Left wing or Right wing in political terms most Americans would comprehend.

“This is like if Antifa teamed up with the Charlottesville rioters” Fischer stated, continuing that while there are some limited government, anti-tax sentiments among the movement, there is also a communist/socialist element in the form of the European Black Block, showed up with “Karl Marx flags” and other communist propaganda.

These various grassroots interest groups are primarily united on their opposition to Macron’s increased gas taxes that harm the well being of the working class, and for them that is good enough to get along for the time being.

Americans Might Want to Rethink Their Support

While many Americans right-of-center have posted photos of themselves in Yellow Vests in solidarity with the movement, there seems to be something lost in translation. While American supporters provide a cultural sympathy for the anti-taxation aspect of the movement, they seem to either ignore or not know the full extent of that anti-tax aspect of things.

Fischer stated “they don’t have a problem with socialism” per se, and a majority is fine with increased taxes on the wealthiest of income earners in order to subsidize the rest, thus simply continuing the welfare state. So from this view, the movement seems more Occupy Wall Street and less Tea Party.

Macron is Worried

Criticisms of Macron and his wife’s massive spending have been a rallying cry among the movement, who claim Macron is a puppet of the rich. In order to try and ease tensions and show that he is sympathetic to the protestors, Macron has launched a series of in-person and televised town halls, but many are saying that this attempt is a cry of desperation.

According to the Guardian:

Macron’s “Great Debate” – a vast, unprecedented nationwide exercise in consulting citizens on how to fix France’s problems – is the latest attempt by the centrist president to try to bring an end to almost three months of spectacular anti-government revolt by the gilets jaunes or yellow vest movement.

Macron’s idea to run thousands of local meetings was at first likened by some critics to the ill-fated consultation exercise by King Louis XVI in 1789. The king sought to quell popular discontent but instead kickstarted the French revolution. Four years later he lost his head at the guillotine.

A Man had Their Hand Blown off

While the American public hasn’t seen much of the protests from the mainstream media, what they did see during the first few weeks of the movement was simply non-violent protests. In the last several weeks, however, property damage has increased and the number of injuries and arrests has been on the rise. An extremely graphic video was captured from this past Saturday that showed a man’s hand was blown off by an exploding smoke grenade, which no one as of now can determine if it was launched by a cop or by a protestor. This level of violence and animosity seems to increase the longer this movement continues and the government still doesn’t make any concessions.

It’s Spreading Across Europe

In the early stages of the movement, the populist connection reached across the pond to England, where Brits took the concept of the Yellow Vest protests and adopted it into more of a pro-Brexit, anti-EU movement. Unlike the protests in France, the British have seemed to take a break from hitting the streets, but the increase in violence over in France might encourage them to grab their vests once again.

If You Don’t Vote, You Can Still Complain

This article was originally published on May 3, 2016.

Ah, it’s Indiana Primary Day, baby. And as a lifelong Hoosier, I’ve never seen more yard signs, rallies, and political ads in a primary season than in 2016.

Presidential candidates on both sides have made stops across our state and it’s actually kind of cool to see Indiana come into play.

But when candidates roll in, so does political rhetoric.

In 2012, I used to be one of those people that told others that they couldn’t complain if they didn’t vote. I made the obligatory Facebook status about the importance of voting on election day. But as Indiana heats up, I’ve cooled down on groupthink rhetoric – mainly because it’s bogus.

Here’s why:

Georgetown political philosopher Jason Brennan, author of The Ethics of Voting, has an excellent post refuting the mantra that “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” As Brennan points out, this argument fails to consider the unlikelihood that your vote will actually have an effect on government policy:

The most obvious explanation is that if you don’t vote, you didn’t do something that could influence government in the way you want it to go. You didn’t put in even minimal effort into making a change…..

But voting isn’t like that! The problem is that individual votes don’t make any difference. On the most optimistic assessment of the efficacy of individual votes, votes in, say, the US presidential election can have as high as a 1 in 10 million chance of breaking a tie, but only if you vote in a swing state and vote for one of the two major candidates. Otherwise, the chances of breaking a tie or having any impact are vanishingly small….

[defenders of the argument that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain] are really saying something like this:

I ran into someone this morning who complained about how poor he is. I told him, “If you’re not playing the lottery everyday, you forfeit your right to complain about being poor.” The problem with poor people is that they don’t buy enough Powerball tickets.

In my opinion, it’s better to abstain from voting especially if you lack sufficient knowledge of the issues to vote in a minimally informed way. People shouldn’t be stigmatized for abstaining in situations where their participation is likely to make the situation worse, as well.

And unfortunately, the people who stigmatize are often the ones who further this rhetoric.

But even if you don’t vote, you can complain if you’re not happy with election results.

No matter who wins either party nomination today, or even the White House in November, every citizen is affected regardless if they vote or not. It’s not like voting is the miraculous way out of big government’s grip – we’re all still expected to pay taxes and live with outdated laws.

So, go to the polls. Or, stay at home. The choice is yours and no one should make you feel any differently.

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