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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Jouè-lès-Tours, Dijon, Nantes : la piste psy

by Mehdi Fikri

No Terrorists, But Lunatics

Translated Monday 29 December 2014, by Isabelle Métral

A tragedy took place in Nantes on Monday, December 22nd, similar to the one in Dijon when a man drove his van through the crowd. Experts diagnose a bout of mimetic delirium in mentally frail individuals.

Three distinct dramas, looped over and over again by the media, and amplified by a contagious fear of terrorism: in Joué-lès-Tours a young bearded drifter rapper attacked policemen with a knife; in Dijon, a schizophrenic middle-aged man ran over eleven pedestrians crying “Allah Akbar”; and on Monday, December 22nd in Nantes, a driver drove his car through a Christmas market, wounding ten people. “No specific demands were voiced, so these are not terrorist attacks,” the local public prosecutor said. “In fact, this attack is considered as resulting beyond doubt from a mimetic drive,” declares Nicolas Comte, the general secretary of the SGP-FO police union.

The road-rage episode in Nantes was similar to the one in Dijon. Shortly before seven pm, he drove his white van through a chalet where hot wine was served on the Royale square in Nantes, then plunged a knife into his chest. Five of the ten other victims were severely wounded, one of whom died in the afternoon of the next day. In Nantes as in Dijon the attack has been identified as a psychiatric, not a terrorist case.

The murderer is a thirty-year-old man who lived in Berneuil, a small village in Charente-Maritime. The first findings of the investigation suggest he might have recently lost his job as a nurseryman; he had not previously been booked for psychiatric disorder by the police or the Saintes law courts. But according to a well-informed local source, his addiction to alcohol required psychiatric treatment.”

Roland Coutanceau, the court expert psychiatrist interviewed by the daily le Parisien said “the media hype around the Dijon case may have excited in the attacker a mimetic impulse to use the same operative mode in order to kill (and) if the repeating of this act by the media is not contagious, it can still produce excitement and act as a catalyzer.” Jean-Pierre Bouchard, a psychologist and criminologist, declared to the AFP (French Press Agency) that “recent research has established that far more people fare ill through Christmas and the New Year than sail happily through them. People who are deep in trouble or facing problems may be even more severely affected.”

Although these tragic acts are unlikely to be repeated, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced on December 23rd that “between 200 and 300 soldiers” would swell the Vigipirate surveillance patrols. A few days before the Nantes tragedy he declared that “the potential for terrorism has never been so high in this country.” The National Front, an expert in irrational psychosis, estimated that the Dijon and Nantes attacks were “obviously terrorist acts”. So did the daily le Figaro’s bloggers who will “hear no talk of psychiatric disorders,” the daily reports. But l’Humanité sees in these attacks what they really are, namely fits of madness that reveal the individualistic, precarious, and paranoid life that characterizes French society.

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