Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The World Seen From Le Monde 2

How would the French react if a play likening Jacques Chirac to a mass murdering thug opened in various French cities and it turned out that one of the sponsors was… the American embassy in Paris?

They wouldn't just scoff at the clumsy, unsuave Americans, they would scream bloody murder. And with reason. As not only would the Bush administration's opponents in America join in the fracas, but a good number of its (strongest) allies would as well.

But that's basically what the French embassy in Washington was doing a few months back, Le Monde 2 informs us, until it decided that it was perhaps not a good idea, and backed out. And the way issue 63 of Le Monde's weekly keeps us informed of Michel Vinaver's 11 September 2001 is not through self-criticism, nor by pointing out the double standards (it is unimaginable that a French embassy in Moscow, Beijing, Harare, or Saddam's Baghdad would have done the same), but because the French in America chickened out and engaged in "censorship". What a pity, tut-tuts the top editor at France's newspaper of reference.

Head over to Le Monde Watch as we continue our in-depth coverage of Le Monde 2.

Here are a few excerpts:

In issue 54, a French writer-philosopher tells of how he got lambasted (including by his American wife) for being one of the lone voices that supported the war in Iraq: "I learned what it is to get insulted in the street, threats on the telephone. My North African friends told me, 'You have brain damage', those of the Esprit review dropped me. … I felt very alone." Could Pascal Bruckner stand the heat?…

The post-election issue (# 39) had Edwy Plenel explaining that Dubya's election victory was due, basically, to Americans being frightened and/or bamboozled by Karl Rove and his ilk, comparing the discourse on moral values with the speeches of Nazi-collaborator Philippe Pétain. (When Bush isn't being compared to Hitler, he is being compared to a Stalinist or a fascist sympathizer…) The issue also features an interview with Elton John, who calls his election "one of the greatest tragedies of all time" and an American reporter (the International Herald Tribune's William Pfaff) who compares the American way of life to communist totalitarianism.

Then there is the portrait of Paul Newman in issue 48, in which the journalist of the independent newspaper recounts the actor's militancy, and starts to dream of how much the world would be in better shape had Paul Newman been elected to the White House in the 1980s. (Imagine: no Ronald Reagan!…)

Head over to Le Monde Watch now.