Monday, May 03, 2004

Do Questions Reveal Journalists' Curiosity, Or Their Hidden Agenda?

When interview subjects respond to anti-American diatribes with a ready answer (or if they simply fail to take the bait), French journalists... quickly change the subject.

In an interview with three reporters from Le Monde and El País (Enrico Franceschini, Jean-Pierre Langellier, and Walter Oppenheimer), Ralf Dahrendorf — German sociologist and pundit, British Lord, and a self-described European and Atlantist — states that
Europe must understand that the United States is its partner, its ally, a brother country with whom it forms the free world. And that without the United States, it would assuredly be less free.
This obviously ignorant and horrific statement is too much for one of the journalists, who immediately responds:
Even without George Bush's America, which invades Iraq on the basis of lies?
But Dahrendorf won't be baited, and he won't let that stand.
The debate on the war in Iraq is as just as animated in the United States as in Europe. One would be wrong to reduce the United States to their president or their current administration. Having said that, I remain favorable to the intervention in Iraq, for personal reasons. Saddam Hussein once owned weapons of mass destruction, and he used them. Maybe he no longer had them in 2003. But if, instead of closing their eyes, the allies had intervened against Hitler in 1938, we could have avoided the Holocaust.
One good point for Dahrendorf. And what do his interlocuteurs do at this point? They change the subject!

For what matters here is not that the German-British national responds, and does so accurately, but the extent to which the Frenchmen (and Spaniards) he is speaking to do not hear him. The extent to which they do not hear him, or hear those who are like-minded. All that seems to fit their agenda is recarping the official mantra (Le Monde's? France's? Europe's?), and pooh-poohing or minimizing anything that goes against it.

At one point they softly criticize Dahrendorf for not having always been part of the élite that knew, for a fact, that monetary union was an inestimable good for Europe — "You did not use to be very enthusiastic about the Euro" was the way one question (rather, a sly type of criticism) — is formulated. (Which means, of course, that no doubts, however small, must be harbored, when following the all-wise majority in what is undoubtedly for the common good.) When discussing the European Constitution and Tony Blair's decision to call for a (British) referendum thereupon, they ask him "Is it possible that Great Britain still isn't decided to be wholly part of Europe?" (Which means, of course, that democracy is not something that should be resorted to, if the result risks going against our common wishful thinking.)

To return to the Iraq war questions: when Dahrendorf starts speaking in a way that starts dilluting the charge against Bush (showing how the lie charge is exagerrated and how the outcome, in any case, was positive), the Europeans drop the matter. It's too bad that such an intelligent person as he, they seem to be thinking, does not realize what the élite — people such as themselves — knows, that the U.S. is a terrible country, with an inhumane system, and deserves to be unreservedly opposed.

Lire la version française sur Le Monde Watch