I'm confused...no surprise. But isn't the gas tax that everyone is protesting supposed to be used to help the environment? When the French rise up to protest these changes and have them cancelled it's "democracy at work". But when the elected officials in the US say our people don't want more taxes and don't impose them we say they are being anti-environmental. Isn't this a bit of a double standard? Isn't what's happening in the US really democracy at work?
That doesn’t seem very likely…
Anyhoo, I think as usual, the Media is responsible for your (and everyone else’s) confusion.
Here’s a different narrative to anything you’d read in a paper or see on those rapid-fire, “Rolling News” broadcasts.
In the Beginning…
There was a French woman who felt that the rises in fuel tax being proposed by the French Government, unfairly disadvantaged French people living in rural France, who absolutely rely on their vehicles for their work, and for running about generally… And who don’t earn the same kind of money as Parisians (and other non-specific Metropolitan types).
And so this woman started an on-line petition in May 2018, inviting other Frenchies to join with her in objecting to the proposed rise in fuel tax.
In a democracy, people are allowed to think different things, and believe in different ideas.
So whilst some people in a democracy think that raising duty on fuel will disincentivise unnecessary vehicle usage; other people in the same democracy are allowed to think that whilst this is all well and good for people living in towns and cities with excellent Mass Transit Systems, it doesn’t work so well for those who have no alternatives to using their own vehicles to get around.
And it is the job of a democratic Government to balance such conflicting views – for better or for worse.
Within a few months, something like 300,000 signatures had been collected for this woman’s online petition. And that (apparently) is enough these days to declare a “Movement”.
This Movement then had the idea of organising co-ordinated protests throughout France, still at this stage to protest against the proposed hike in fuel tax. And since all French car drivers are required by law to carry a high-visibility safety jacket in their car, it was decided that the wearing of these vests would be a good way to identify the supporters of the Movement. And this in turn gave the Movement its name.
Once the Movement became, umm, highly visible… Other Frenchies who weren’t particularly fussed about the proposed fuel tax rise, saw the Yellow-Jacket Movement as an opportunity to register and protest their general dissatisfaction with a number of French Government policies, and general disaffection with President Macron’s “Hopey-Changey” stuff…
Which is the stage at which the Yellow-Jacket Movement became about more than simply protesting the fuel tax increase.
Popular Protest Movements (vital in any society that wants to call itself democratic) usually begin with a single issue, then expand to include any number of other perceived grievances, and often culminate in a general displeasure at “The Way Things Are”.
The current President of the United States of America tapped into populist resentment with the U.S. Political Industry (“Beltway Insiders”/”Ivory Towers”/”The Swamp” &c.) and the generally deplorable treatment of most U.S. Citizens by “their [sic]” government.
Same thing with Brexit: what started as a single issue about membership of the E.U., soon encompassed all manner of other grievances, especially from those who have no real understanding of what E.U. Membership actually entails.
For example, I’m not a xenophobe, nativist, or economically insecure. And yet, I voted “Leave” in the Brexit Referendum. What’s *THAT* all about?
Well… If instead of just the two options, “Remain” or “Leave”, there had been a third option: “Leave because… [fill in reasons below, using no more than 500 characters]”... Well, I’m sure you can guess which of the three options I’d have gone for.
So by the time all the Yellow-Jacketeers hit the streets in November, the Movement had become about so much more than just the proposed fuel tax increase.
And of course, there’s never any shortage of young men with too much time on their hands, who see the opportunity in a popular protest movement, to advance their own personal circumstances, with a bit of rioting and looting.
Generally speaking, Governments don’t *NEED* to employ agents provocateur to stir up violence during popular protests. There are always plenty of useful idiots prepared to do same under their own recognisance.
If and when Governments ever did/do deliberately provoke violence to delegitimise a popular protest movement, they certainly wouldn’t be foolish enough to leave any trails they cannot plausibly deny.
So either way, not much point speculating about whether a government may or may not have deliberately provoked violence during a popular protest.
What *IS* undeniable, of course, is that howsoever violence originates during a protest, politicians under pressure from those protests *WILL* use any violence to delegitimise the protestors’ complaints.
So technically speaking, that *SHOULD* have meant that the French Government could ignore the protests and press on with the rise in Fuel Tax.
However, Emmanuel Macron and his ministers are not as stupid as the people who voted for him.
The French Government quickly recognised that the Yellow-Jacket Movement could very easily become like the Five Star Movement
in Italy, Podemos
in Spain, or Syriza
Or indeed (and worse), like the Trumpette Movement in the United States.
And so the French Government calculated that it would be better to postpone the fuel tax rise, in order to, uh, “draw the sting” out of the Yellow-Jacket Movement.
All of which could and should have been easily (if less prosaically) explained to you by your local Newspaper of Record, and/or whichever “News” network least challenges your preconceptions about the World.
However, without an emphasis on (and visual “evidence [sic]” of) the despicable and unwarranted violence instigated by this Citizen’s Movement, and with its reliance on self-sustaining and coherent logic, my explanation wouldn’t help sell any products advertised in newspapers or on television.
So you’re unlikely to read an explanation like the above, anywhere but here.