As we all know, Fox News will bring on any kook as long as the kook is willing to say what the conservative network wants to push for the day. So last weekend, they brought on Nolan Peterson. He doesn’t seem especially like a kook, but the nonsense he was spouting was definitely pretty kooky. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Fox News was pushing this idea that France had 741 “no-go zones” where Islamists had de facto control. According to Peterson, these areas are “pretty scary,” which says something because he’s “been to Afghanistan, Iraq.” And at times, he claimed, it felt like those places. He also said that he saw young men wearing Osama bin Laden t-shirts. And then Elisabeth Hasselbeck brought up the ridiculous poll that says that one in six French people support ISIS. Peterson said that this too was “scary.” Peterson is apparently a very frightened guy.
For the record, these supposed “no-go zones” are zones urbaines sensibles. This translates to “sensitive urban zones.” They are what we would call “urban renewal zones” or “opportunity zones.” They are, in other words, poorer areas that the government is trying to improve economically. And many of them are clearly seeing much gentrification. But in the conservative mind, poor person and terrorist are pretty much the same anyway.
The whole thing blew up in the face of Fox News. This is especially true after the French television program Le Petit Journal made fun of the whole thing. (For the video, see News Corpse.) Fox News displayed a map of the “no-go zones” in France. So, in a brilliant bit of satire, Le Petit Journal sent to people into these areas dressed like stormtroopers with motorcycle helmets. The areas — Surprise! — are very nice — even trendy. And the French people interviewed seemed to think that the comparison of their neighborhoods for Afghanistan and Iraq as pretty funny. Vive la France!
This morning, Fox News issued a apology of sorts. For the record, I think the whole “apology” and “retraction” and “update” business is a joke. A newspaper prints an above the fold story, “Obama Is Secret Terrorist.” And then, the next day, at the very bottom of page 16, they print, “Yesterday, we incorrectly claimed that Obama is a secret terrorist. We apologize for this error.” But in the case of Fox News, it is rarely even that good. In the following correction, there is no context and the apology is razor thin. The viewer is left with the idea that the only thing wrong with the story is that some of the areas labeled were wrong:
Earlier this week, Nolan Peterson wrote an article on Blue Force Tracker, To the People of France. It is not so much an apology as an apologia. But in its way, it is even worse than what Fox News did. In it, he explained that he wasn’t talking about these areas as they normally were, but rather as they were “during the 2005 riots.” But he never said anything about riots during the Fox News segment. In fact, he didn’t even provide any caveats like, “When I was there, I saw…” He was very clear: these 741 “no-go zones” were areas where Islamic extremists are able to recruit with impunity. There was no lack of clarity; he knew what Fox News want to hear and he said it.
I don’t know the details of what he thinks should be done, but Nolan Peterson has a liberal attitude about how Muslims have been marginalized in French society. He seemed very eager to talk about this, but Elisabeth Hasselbeck was not interested.
Update (19 January 2015)
Wow. Fox News put out an actual correction: