Worse than a crime

Yesterday I discovered via Twitter that Notre Dame cathedral in Paris had caught fire, and not long after this photo was circulating:

The reason 9/11 had such an effect, at least on me, was the visual impact of the towers falling in real time. It was surreal, and the next morning I woke up wondering if it really happened. The death toll was appalling, but it was watching the towers collapse on live TV which made it an event equivalent to previous generations’ shooting of JFK whereby we’ll always remember where we were when the news broke.

I felt a similar sensation yesterday watching the spire of Notre Dame fall, knowing things will never quite be the same again. It sometimes takes a lot to move me – I can walk around concentration camps and WWI trenches and not feel anything other than the wind – but the sight of a monument to western civilisation, over 800 years old and the survivor of wars, invasions, revolutions, plagues, and occupations, going up in flames left me incredibly sad.

It also left me angry. This should never have happened. Fires during construction and renovations are common, and renovation work recently started on Notre Dame. There are hundreds if not thousands of rules, regulations, standards, and best practices which exist precisely to prevent fires breaking out on building sites. I know this because when you do work on an oil and gas installation with hundreds of tonnes of pressurised hydrocarbons all around you, you pay attention to them. It seems someone working on Notre Dame didn’t. I doubt this was arson, despite the increasing number of arson attacks on churches in France, not to mention a priest getting his throat cut by Islamists.

I expect the investigation will find the cause was either someone not making his equipment safe before leaving for the day, e.g. he didn’t switch it off or put something hot on something flammable (in the offshore oil industry, someone must stand watch for an hour after work stops to make sure nothing spontaneously combusts), or it was an electrical fire. When renovation work is going on there are a lot of cables lying around, temporary junction boxes, and other equipment which gets bashed around and overloaded. That a fire risk is well known on such sites ought to have led those in charge to apply prevention and mitigation measures to 150% considering the importance of the building. I expect cost was one reason they didn’t, and I’d be willing to bet the modern managerial technique of loafing around in offices at the expense of employing good quality tradesmen and supervising them properly also played its part as well. I expect the investigation will state the technical facts of how the fire started and say little about organisational failings, especially if there’s someone important or a union involved. This is the modern way, an inevitable result of the utterly shameless being put in charge of a no-blame policy.

I also noticed what is probably a minority of morons on social media celebrating the destruction as just desserts for a hodge-podge of alleged sins on the part of the French including colonialism, antisemitism, slavery, and every other grievance they think they can make a buck out of mongering. A lot of them seem to be from the former French colonies, particularly Algeria. I’m not surprised by their remarks, but the question I have for those people wringing their hands is where did these attitudes come from? Who has been banging on about the evils of colonialism, Christianity, western civilisation, and European history for decades? Who have made whole careers out of telling non-Europeans they have been and continue to be oppressed, enslaved, and exploited by the evil white man? The answer is western institutions which have been captured by Marxists and other lefties who hate our civilisation, culture, and history and want the whole lot destroyed. I wonder, how many professors at the Sorbonne who this morning look across the Seine at the blackened, roofless masonry of Notre Dame perpetuated the mindset which is now upsetting them so?

I have no doubt Notre Dame will be restored, but there will be small but noisy campaigns for the money to be used elsewhere or the building replaced with something “more inclusive”. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider that a sizeable chunk of Britain’s ruling classes think ISIS butchers should be welcomed into Britain and given free housing and the western response to terrorist attacks is to arrest those who talk about them in an unapproved manner. The fire at Notre Dame is a tragedy because a wonderful monument to an incredible civilisation almost got destroyed. The greater tragedy is that the civilisation itself is almost destroyed, and few have the courage or desire to put the fire out.

Liked it? Take a second to support Tim Newman on Patreon!
Share

41 thoughts on “Worse than a crime

  1. I do find it depressing that, when tv pictures from fires in buildings such as this are screened , they inevitably have scaffolding alongside them. As you say it is eminently avoidable – the source of the fire will most likely come from your list of possible causes – and I find it hard to understand how this sort of building could be entrusted to people who take risks that could endanger it.

  2. I expect we’ll hear the words “systemic failure” at some point.

    Yup, but it’ll be failure by committee. There will be speeches in the passive voice the effect that “mistakes were made” and “lessons have been learned”. At no point will we hear “This individual who was paid 150k euros per year was negligent in carrying out his responsibilities, resulting in X, Y, and Z which directly led to the fire.” This is because management and decision-making is carefully structured to ensure the finger can’t be pointed at anybody in particular, even if negligence abounds.

  3. The other depressing thing I saw on social media was how many people immediately wondered if it was arson and, if so, whether it was caused by the “religion of peace”.

    Many of them of course headed immediately into conspiracy theory territory by then saying that “of course the French authorities and MSM will deny that and blame it on the renovations anyway”

    Now the problem I have is that while I’m going to bet 99% on the cause being some idiot worker doing something sloppy and it not being caught, I have to admit that I would also be unsurprised for such blame shifting to occur in the event that the investigation found out that it was arson.

  4. Yup, but it’ll be failure by committee. There will be speeches in the passive voice the effect that “mistakes were made” and “lessons have been learned”.

    cf. Grenfell.

  5. The police, and hence the media, did call it, within seconds, as an accident. Surprisingly fast.

    While I think that’s the most likely explanation, the same happened with 9/11. My abiding memory was of watching the first tower burn with the reporters assuming, as we all did, that it was a dreadful accident. And then the second tower got hit.

    I would also assume that there must have been adherents among those working on the site. If that is the case, the suspicion in certain quarters will never die.

  6. The police, and hence the media, did call it, within seconds, as an accident. Surprisingly fast.

    I don’t trust the authorities one bit. If it was terrorism, the authorities would fall over themselves to tell us it wasn’t. But I reckon it was an accident because security is pretty tight around Notre Dame these days, and fires during renovations are pretty common.

  7. The islamists who perpetrated the 2017 Barcelona Ramblas attack in which 13 people died were originally going to set off a bomb in the Sagrada Familia temple. They switched to plan b when their bomb making exploits sent a few to meet their virgins prematurely.

  8. Considering the recent spate of arson attacks on (and desecration of) churches in France, there is every reason to believe that this was one such attack – and the timing, during this Holy week, is too coincidental.
    The fact that the authorities were claiming that it was an accident so early on is a big red flag. I’m not saying that it was definitely arson, but I’m saying that it very well could be and that there will be an awful lot of pressure to rule it an accident.

    I only hope that, if evidence of arson is discovered, somebody leaks that information.

  9. It would be amazing if this kind of event leaves anything much in the way of evidence. Is the forensic investigation of an inferno like this really any more useful than tea-leaf reading? Especially as, given the building site on the roof, there will have been plenty of inflammable materials and potential ignition sources lying around.

  10. “If you think I’m exaggerating, consider that a sizeable chunk of Britain’s ruling classes think ISIS butchers should be welcomed into Britain and given free housing and the western response to terrorist attacks is to arrest those who talk about them in an unapproved manner.”

    This comment reminds me of what I thought was one of the oddest headlines I’ve seen in some time;

    “Dozens of British children stranded in Syrian camps after growing up under rule of Islamic State”

    It did not seem to address exactly why these ‘British’ children were living in the Islamic State in the first place..

  11. I read somewhere that the spire which fell was a 19th century renovation. Might be worth checking…

  12. Under the law (1904? 1911?) upkeep of major religious sites is assured by the state for major works and national culture and the church for day to day maintenance and religion. You have the makings of dispersion of responsibility right there at the start.
    The state will pay for repairs but there will be a lot of scrutiny to ensure that it only subs the cultural and structural part, in tune with its duty of laicity.
    Welcome to Our New Lady of Disneyland.

  13. Lead welding or leading in iron work has done for quite a few old buildings, bad practise means gas burners left on in between pours with the result being instant ignition of very old dry and sometimes wormy wood.

  14. Jonathan – “I read somewhere that the spire which fell was a 19th century renovation.”

    And my grandfather’s axe has a new head and handle – but it’s still my grandfather’s axe.

  15. ” {In the oil industry] someone must stand watch for an hour after work stops to make sure nothing spontaneously combusts”

    Exactly! We take precautions, because we know mistakes happen and things go wrong. This fire may have been started by an individual making a mistake, but the fire getting out of hand was a system failure — a management failure. But we know that no manager will pay any significant price.

    Strange that, in an age when China has flooded the market with cheap electronics, there were not IR detectors and smoke detectors all over the construction site. Strange that there were no temporary dry risers erected as part of the scaffolding to work on the roof — especially when the height of the roof was known to exceed the reach of fire department ladder trucks. Strange that there were no foam generators standing by at the base of those non-existent dry risers, since everyone knows that fire department water often does more damage to structures than the fire itself. And where were the night watchmen on such a unique site?

    All of that would have cost money, of course. Bureaucrats who spend their lives in air-conditioned offices think about the money, not the risks. And then they escape blame when the predictable risks come to pass. Maybe this fire does crystallize what has gone wrong in our society.

  16. @gavin
    ” We take precautions, because we know mistakes happen and things go wrong. This fire may have been started by an individual making a mistake, but the fire getting out of hand was a system failure — a management failure. But we know that no manager will pay any significant price….”

    The lack of any of these preparedness features is definitely telling, IMHO about the priorities placed on the importance of the historic building. If some (any?) of the features mentioned in the comment had been implemented than fires from all sorts of causes – from intentional arson to worker having a sneaky smoke break to electrical fire or any of the other 1001 ways fires get started by accident on a building site could have been mitigated without so much loss. And the costs of most of them would have been – in the context of the millions of Euros for the original renovations, let along the hundreds of millions or billions needed now – trivial.

  17. Gavin,

    But, let me project here, were it to be enshrined in EU law that building sites on listed monuments of historical importance have to have night watch at all times it would be condemned as undemocratic bureaucratic meddling by idiots distant from the coalface blindly increasing costs and tipping the scales in favour of global multinationals and against everyday local salt of the earth mom’n’pop cathedral restorers?

    Ultimately this is a civil matter between the building’s owners, their contractors, and the insurers of both. It does annoy me that the owner (the world’s wealthiest institution ever) is soliticing proletarian donations for the restoration, while some reinsurance executives in Zürich and Munich will, perhaps, have to show their contrition by travelling with the proles in business class for a few weeks.

  18. Bloke in Germany: are you assuming that the ‘building’s owners’ is the Catholic Church? In France, all ecclesiastical buildings are owned by the state, and I don’t think that France is ‘the world’s wealthiest institution ever’, especially with M. Macron at the helm.

  19. a sizeable chunk of Britain’s ruling classes think ISIS butchers should be welcomed into Britain and given free housing and the western response to terrorist attacks is to arrest those who talk about them in an unapproved manner.

    Sadly very true.

    Fire: imo French firemen – lots of them, but dearth of effective equipment and constructive action.

    I see Macron is now demanding International Aid to rebuild; no doubt May & Trudeau will “donate” £millions of taxpayers money – Macron should be told to sod off and allow RC Churches/Vatican to fund it.

    .
    Humour

    Quasimodo: The bells, the bells…….

    Esmeralda: Run like **** Quasimodo, It’s the fire alarm!

    More Humour

  20. Jonathan, yes that spire was constructed by Viollet-le-duc in the 19thc, while he was also “repairing” the fortress of Carcassonne and innumerable other French mediaeval buildings.

    But those mediaeval cathedrals tend to make you wonder about authenticity.

    Glos cathedral burned down once
    St Albans burned twice
    They started building Cologne in the 14thc, ran out of money and completed it in the 19thc.
    For modern examples, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Was begun in the 19thc, stopped in the 1930s and only recommenced in the 1980s, using techniques the original architect would have hated.
    York Minster burned down in the 1980s

    Cathedrals are like living organisms. Only if they were built in one epoch and never subsequently altered would they be otherwise. Your example is?

  21. The spire dates from the 19th century, but it was a replica of a previous spire which had been there in the middle ages but got removed some time during the interim.

  22. Bloke in Germany: “… bureaucratic meddling by idiots distant from the coalface blindly increasing costs and tipping the scales in favour of global multinationals and against everyday local salt of the earth mom’n’pop cathedral restorers?”

    That is a good point. Makes one wonder what were the liability provisions in the contract for the restoration. Did the French State assume all the risks? That would have made it easier for those mom’n’pop cathedral restorers to bid on the job.

    As an aside, in my day job, I have been involved from time to time in securing multiple bids for jobs. It can be tough to find potential contractors for unusual jobs (jobs much less unusual than restoring a cathedral), and even tougher to get those potential contractors to submit a bid, once they see the standard Terms & Conditions. I can’t imagine any contractor being willing to make a fixed price bid for a job like restoring a very old historic building. It would have to be time & materials, following the directions provided by the client.

    As another aside, there is a story that the guy in charge of the Notre Dame restoration job is 32 years old — which suggests this was probably his first cathedral restoration. On the other hand, at 32 years old, Alexander the Great had just about conquered the known world, and was getting ready to move on to the next world, so who knows?

  23. It’s nice to see the cognitive dissonance on the “right” for a change. We’ve had far too many “left” examples recently.

    The conspiracy theories about it being an Islamic terrorism act subsequently covered up by the dhimmis in the French government are hilarious.

    Because that’s what terrorists do, isn’t it; successfully destroy a cultural icon and then not tell anyone.

  24. “Because that’s what terrorists do, isn’t it; successfully destroy a cultural icon and then not tell anyone.”

    As a kid it always puzzled me why terrorists or such would take “credit” for their awful deeds. I still think it’s the kinds of egos that originally drove them to commit such acts in the first place that cause them to claim credit. If I had the power to attack my enemy at will in their own backyard, virtually anywhere, I would do it surreptitiously. Perhaps leave a few slightly ambiguous clues to get them paranoid and possibly even fighting amongst themselves. But meh. Maybe that’s just me.

    To be clear, as I believe I said elsewhere (probably on Thompson’s blog as I don’t see it here), my money is on “systemic” failure of the bureaucratic nature.

  25. William of Ockham on April 17, 2019 at 1:28 am said: …”The conspiracy theories about it being an Islamic terrorism act subsequently covered up by the dhimmis in the French government are hilarious.”

    I strongly suspect arson due to the fact that something like 10 French churches have been vandalised/burned in recent weeks and the famous Saint Sulplice almost razed just 4 weeks ago. You’re going to have a very hard time persuading me that it was a just a series of unfortunate accidents.

    But, as with everything else, people will choose to believe what they want and need to believe. Even if it was arson, does anybody believe that they will publicly admit it? Our masters lie about everything else so why are they suddenly going to be gripped by an unquenchable desire for truth in this case? Even if Ahmed the Islamist came out and publicly boasted about starting the fire, it will be dismissed with the customary, head-shaking bromides about “mental illness” and some brief calls for more public spending to combat it.

    Therein lies the real conspiracy and there’s nothing theoretical about it. The truth is too ugly and too unsettling so just avert your gaze and carry on shopping. Nothing to see here, folks. Just an industrial accident. Happens all the time. Celebrate adversity!!

    My advice is to save yourselves some grief and just memory-hole it now. Nothing that unfolds over the coming weeks and months will do anything to reshape the lines that have already been drawn. Poor old Notre Dame; she survived plagues, famines, wars, revolutions and invasions but she could not survive the nihilism and moral cowardice that we spawned in the 1960’s and which we now worship as “common sense”.

    And look on the bright side. When Notre Dame has been rebuilt as a plexiglass, multifaith diversity museum in the shape of a pregnant, disabled lesbian, we can snap selfies while tucking into the excellent spinach croissants that they serve in the cafeteria and then post them on Instagram. What better way to tell the terrorists that they will never defeat us?

  26. @ Guy Montag, you are a bit behind the times – it is TWELVE a week and don’t forget the French priest that was virtually decapitated after mass a while ago. Now, tell me, which holy book of which religion exhorts their faith brethren to decapitate the infidels?

    The take away line of the linked article is the final paragraph:

    In 2018, the Ministry of the Interior recorded 541 anti-Semitic acts, 100 anti-Muslim acts, and 1063 anti-Christian acts.

    Now, the Jews and Christians seem to be targeted at a rate of 16 times more than Muslims … but who is being persecuted here?

  27. Sue, I stand corrected. I think the state is insane to take responsibility for buildings like that when the tenant has a rather more direct interest.

    ” It would have to be time & materials, following the directions provided by the client.”

    Yet you will be amazed how many clients insist on a fixed price, or if T&M, capped contract. Which means that I have to waste my time writing sufficient change-order tripwires to cover the inevitable budget overrun, rather than spending the time more efficiently fixing my client’s cathedral.

    The only thing that worries me about the arson angle is that the state declared it an accident within minutes of it starting. That doesn’t prove it was arson, merely that the state had decided the moment it knew of the blaze to cover up any other possible explanation. Our betters lying to us over such matters is arguably worse than any number of burned cathedrals or acts of peace swept under the carpet.

  28. One of the most Holy places in the Christian world burns down in the week to Good Friday–caused by third world levels of incompetence. They want us to believe.

    The bullshitting French state–which couldn’t stop or arrive in good time to minimise the damage–CAN declare in a couple of hours what it –by implication–doesn’t want you to believe. That it was anything other than an accident.

    Doesn’t wash with me. Wait for evidence? But with the lying bullshiting scum now supposedly at the head of society who thinks the actual truth is even an option?

    The Heads of Society are now rotten fish-heads ( esp appropriate in the case of that absolute and brazen liar Treason May the Fish Faced Cow) who lie as easily as they breathe. Who cannot stop lying. You may have on this blog those foolish enough to believe official tripe but hopefully enough people have seen enough to make Trust No One the watchword.

  29. Ecksy, a terrorist act would have been claimed. The only exception I can imagine would be if it was a lone wolf who died in the inferno.

    That ISIS haven’t claimed it (remember, they used to regularly claim responsibility for everything, even when it was blatantly obvious they had no hand in it) speaks to the extent to which that organisation has been destroyed.

  30. The bullshitting French state–which couldn’t stop or arrive in good time to minimise the damage–CAN declare in a couple of hours what it –by implication–doesn’t want you to believe.

    I don’t believe a word the authorities say (French or otherwise), and if it was terrorism they’d say it wasn’t. But I think it was an accident not because the French authorities have said so, but because I know how easily fires start during renovations and how negligent modern management companies have become.

  31. Maybe so Tim–but the timing is suspect indeed.

    Biggie–a proper terrorist group would claim it. But what if it was one idiot thinking he was going to do a little low level harassment/ vandalism before the authorities put it out–and who is now hiding under his mattress shitting himself at how events turned out and terrified of every knock on the door?

  32. If it was arson, it was most likely the act of one person with a hatred of what the cathedral stands for. Most likely a Muslim but possibly a leftist. They wouldn’t necessarily take credit. Who took credit for 9/11? Nobody really, unless you accept that video of Bin Laden which appeared much later.

    I read earlier that nobody was working on the site that day, but I’m not 100% sure of this as I don’t speak French, so it’s worth further investigation.

  33. Where I work there have been serious hot work accidents. In order to try and lower the number of incidents/ encourage people not to do stupid things Safety decided that any use of a fire extinguisher requires an investigation and if stupidity was involved in the incident then punishment will be issued. This resulted in workers’ realization that using a fire extinguisher will get you punished and a consequent avoidance of using a fire extinguisher.

    One might think that mistakes can happen and stopping a fire would be the first priority but Safety’s response was to hold a meeting to assure everyone that no one will be punished for using a fire extinguisher…but if one does get used someone will probably get punished for failing to clear the area.

  34. the France that never was — a non-secular, white European France

    A quick rewrite of 99% of French history.

    BiG – you say it can’t be terrorism because no-one’s claimed it. But no-one had claimed the other attacks on churches in France. This is just a different form of terrorism.

  35. At least they saved those amusing bronzes on the tower, and the internal damage isn’t that great. If this was a deliberate act, surely the damage would have been planned to be much greater.

    My vote goes to cock up, not terrorism or conspiracy.

  36. Col. Milquetoast: “… Safety decided that any use of a fire extinguisher requires an investigation and if stupidity was involved in the incident then punishment will be issued.”

    Yes, I have seen the same thing in my line of work, where accidents can happen (especially in inclement weather) and fluids can very occasionally get spilled. There is an unspoken understanding by everyone on site, from the Big Boss down to the cleaners: NEVER OPEN THE SPILL RESPONSE TRAILER! Problem gets fixed by everyone pulling together with buckets, kitchen towels, smart ideas, and hard work. Breaking the seal on the Spill Response Trailer would provide access to better tools & equipment, but would trigger an even worse disaster in terms of endless paperwork, investigations, tribunals, and eventual punishment.

    Problem is that the Politically Correct denizens of distant air-conditioned offices do not understand human nature. People respond to incentives, both sticks & carrots, and alter their behavior accordingly. And look after the planet carefully in their own way.

  37. I’m with Mr Ecks – just because no one has claimed responsibility does not mean its not arson. Organised terrorist attackers would claim for sure, but an opportunist arsonist (for whatever reason – could be religious/political/work related, like that bloke who trashed a hotel he’d been working on with an excavator because he’d not been paid) would have no reason afterwards to claim responsibility, especially if he hadn’t expected it to get out of hand, so to speak.

  38. @Jim

    +1 Arsonists get their kicks from setting then watching the fire and msm reporting, they don’t want public fame.

    RoP arson, aided by box ticking rather than effective security & prevention, is my opinion

    .
    Paris Fire Brigade: seems they had to hire cherry-pickers, then send fireman + hose up – result “oh expletive, not enough water pressure”. True or not, it’s what I would expect in France.

Comments are closed.