Identity populism

On Sunday, I wrote about the riots in the heart of Paris. As a source for how the riots disrupted life in some of the areas where they occurred, I used the report of a friend who lives in the center city.

That friend has called my attention to comments critical of my reliance on him. The complaint is that my source, because he lives in a well-to-do neighborhood, is “biased” and unable to understand the grievances of the Yellow Vests who are protesting.

This comment is typical:

So the rioting/violence is “in Paris” and not the poorer outskirts. And your source lives in the city which leads me to believe they (sic) are some of the elites who can afford to live in Paris and are not affected by the policy. Would prefer a source who is affected badly by the policies. You know, the shrinking middle class nobodies. Know any?

Yes, I do. However, they don’t live in the areas directly affected by the riots and thus couldn’t supply me with first-hand information on how the riots affected life in areas where they occurred.

But here’s the amusing thing: The reader who preferred a source from the “poorer outskirts” of Paris linked with much approval to a report from the blog No Pasarán. The author of that report, “Erik,” turns out to be a friend and neighbor of my source. Their apartment buildings are approximately 200 yards apart.

Erik’s report is, indeed, excellent. It benefits from the fact that the author was among the crowd of protesters.

But Erik definitely is not from the “poorer outskirts” of Paris. He is among the “elites” who can afford to live in Paris. He does not satisfy the reader’s preference for a source from “the shrinking middle class nobodies.”

Yet he managed to file a report, including a good analysis of the protesters’ grievances, that met with the approval of our populist commenters.

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