What Do the The Paris Protests Portend?

Published December 10, 2018

I have been following the unfolding Paris yellow jacket protests closely. They appear to be yet another manifestation of a primal and inchoate anger arising from a failure of too many citizens on both the left and the right of the political spectrum in a democratic republic to fully engage with the real challenges confronting France today in a calm and reflective fashion using scientific evidence and reason. The irony is that the now-suspended gasoline gas tax hike intended to further discourage fossil fuel usage in France was an unnecessary provocation. A provocation inspired by the irrational fringe within the Green movement. Since France derives well over 95% of its electrical power from nuclear power plants it already produces only very low levels of greenhouse gases. France, in fact, is a remarkable success story when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and its example deserves to be celebrated and even emulated around the world. Its existing energy model is certainly a pleasant contrast to the example of Germany where the failed wind and solar Energiewende debacle has caused a dramatic increase in greenhouse gases as ever more coal-fired plants were brought online to compensate for that failure.

The fact that the the French yellow jacket protestors appear to be leaderless is especially concerning because there is no one with whom government leaders can reliably negotiate. It appears likely that these protests are being inflamed by Russian bots operating out of the same GRU office in St. Petersburg that are also wreaking havoc in the Unites States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Some of these bots are now so arrogant that you can even tease them online about the daily weather in St. Petersburg and they do not even deny where and who they are! They know how to stir up hot-button  partisans in both the Green movement on the left and the Marine Le Pen style right-wing fascists in a way that is deeply destabilizing. The pro- and anti-Brexit protests in the UK yesterday also likely arise from a similar failure of citizens there to engage in a thoughtful reasoned dialog about the future course of the kingdom. When lobbying for passage of the Pennsylvania Common School Law in 1835 Thaddeus Stevens observed that a democratic republic cannot long survive without a well-educated electorate. This is the challenge we are facing today. All voters must be willing to educate themselves about the complex nature of life in a modern democratic republic. Our only tools to prevent blind partisan passion from demolishing our democracies are a solid grounding of all responsible citizens in both sound scientific evidence and calm reasoned debate.