In his book published in early September, journalist Thierry Vincent offers an immersive story that dismantles the received ideas relayed by the media and politicians on this mode of action in demonstration
On the occasion of his visit to Montpellier to present his book “In the minds of black blocs, truths and received ideas” at the Barricade on October 14, Le Poing spoke with journalist Thierry Vincent to talk about black bloc, far-right and media discourse.
Le Poing: Can you explain to us how you came up with the idea of writing this book on the practice of black bloc?
Thierry Vincent: I’ve been interested in the ultra-left for a long time. In 2008, at the time of the Tarnac affair, I was working at Canal+ for Special investigation. I had proposed a subject because I did not believe the version of the prosecutor at the time, so I had made a report which dismantled the police thesis.
Then I was contacted by people from that milieu who wanted to talk. They are rightly wary of journalists, but some wanted to talk, I started to bond. As I have always been against the extreme right, I had made a subject on the death of Clément Méric, there too I made contacts.
In 2016, during the labor law, it was the birth of the “head procession”, we discovered in France what the black bloc was. I had made a subject for Special Envoy, which was called “We are all thugs”, so I was going to a demonstration in the block. When you’re correct, they let it happen, I asked to film from behind, then I had anonymous interviews so that people could explain their approach.
I dismantled the media story of this so-called hermetic border between nice demonstrators and thugs. It is not an organization, but a militant practice. There are people who can do it just once and stop, others who put on a balaclava but do nothing, they just mass.
When the yellow vests appeared and we still saw the black bloc, I said to myself that it was certainly a minority phenomenon, but very deep, which stems from a certain discredit of political parties and unions. So I decided to make a book out of it.
LP : You choose a form of immersive storytelling, where you use the first person singular. Why this choice ?
TV: I didn’t want to do a boring academic thing, but something easy to read to target the general public. I didn’t want to make a militant book, even if I don’t hide my own subjectivity. It’s a clinical study with a historical aspect, and witnesses who talk about this period, since the German black bloc of the 80s, to explain what it is.
LP: We feel that your goal is above all to deconstruct the clichés, especially in the media, around the black bloc.
TV: That’s kind of what made me want to write the book, the media say nonsense. Afterwards, the black bloc gives a show that the media want to see, it arouses a lot of fantasies. When we listen to them we have the impression that the black bloc is Attila, who ransacks absolutely everything in his path, whereas no, the damage is targeted on very specific things, namely the symbols of capitalism, such as banks for example. The black bloc would never break the window of the local grocer, because the militants know that he too is a proletarian who suffers from the capitalist system.
The best example of this disinformation is the pseudo-attack on the Necker hospital during the labor law, which was relayed on a loop. The hospital was actually not a target of the heist. Another example: during a Parisian demonstration against the global security law, a journalist said on a news channel that all the restaurants on a street had been ransacked. I went to see the next day in the street in question, I saw nothing like it, it’s exasperating. There is a whole media discourse to deconstruct, black blocks are only dangerous for bank windows.
Of course, there are those who attack the police, but not as individuals, rather as an enemy block which has objectives contrary to theirs in a social war.
There is also a whole conspiratorial discourse, of which Mélenchon is a specialist, which leads to say that the black blocs are in fact undercover police, but this is false. This is the only thing on which the police and black blocks agree *laughs*.
Besides, for my book, I spoke with police officers, and in fact, they are the ones who know best what black bloc is. The intelligence services do their job very well on this side, and even know how to predict a number of militants using the practice of black bloc before a demonstration. They are very well aware that they are politicized militants who have a specific mode of action. A CRS explained to me that they themselves clearly differentiated between a black bloc, politicized with specific objectives, and a thug who makes fun of the slogans and demands of the demonstration and who just comes to loot shops and sow chaos. There is a difference.
LP: You also work a lot on the extreme right. On Wednesday, October 12, you were invited to a conference on this subject at Paul Valéry University by Solidaires Étudiant.es, how were you invited?
TV: I have professional ties with local anti-fascist groups and trade unions as they are very good sources of information. I had seen an attack by the extreme right in last april at the University of Montpellier and I was invited to come and discuss it. The young guard (anti-fascist collective, editor’s note) was also present at the conference.
Far-right attacks like that, there are more in the provinces than in Paris, and in general, the media treatment is more unfavorable and stronger on the ultra-left than on the ultra-right. You in Montpellier, it is a particular climate of a violent far-right implanted in a city nevertheless on the left, in particular with The South League. The case of March 22, 2018 what happened to you is quite emblematic of a feeling of impunity among these activists.
Thierry Vincent – In the minds of black blocks, truths and received ideas. Editions of the Observatory, 208 pages.
We want to thank the writer of this write-up for this outstanding material
“In the minds of the black blocks”: interview with Thierry Vincent – Le Poing
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